Here is my updated game story from the Hawks lost to the Knicks Wednesday.
NEW YORK — How would the Hawks respond without Joe Johnson?
They stayed with the Knicks for 7 minutes, 16 seconds — and then they melted. The Knicks used a 16-0 run to end the first quarter and went on to a 99-82 victory over the Hawks on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Forget Lin-sanity. The Hawks are caught up in adversity.
With Johnson back in Atlanta nursing tendinitis in his left knee, he became the second All-Star the Hawks have been without this season. Al Horford is out with a torn pectoral muscle. While Johnson should not be out for an extended period of time, his loss compounded what has been a troublesome stint.
The Hawks (19-14) lost their third consecutive game on a just-completed 1-4 road trip. It was their eighth loss in the past 11 games. In those 11 games the Hawks have trailed by 30 points three times — including Wednesday — and by 20 points four other times.
“I want to see us respond to the fact that we have two All-Stars who won’t be here,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said before the game. “… I just personally feel that this is a true test to see what our team is made of, where we are at this point.”
After the Hawks took a 16-14 lead with 4:44 left in the first quarter, the Knicks went on the decisive run. They led 30-16 following the opening quarter. The Hawks turned the ball over eight times while making only seven field goals (7-for-20, 35 percent). With less than a minute to go in the first half, the Hawks trailed by 27 points. The Knicks’ lead was 30 points by early in the third quarter.
“We didn’t respond,” Drew said. “Particularly when they made a little push and pressured us a little bit we didn’t respond the way we should have. A game like tonight is one of those games you are going to have to bounce back from because we will have another game without Joe [Thursday] night. We have to play a little bit better each quarter, each guy has to give a little bit more.”
The Hawks went on a 19-2 run in the third quarter to close the gap to 13 points, 69-56. Jerry Stackhouse and Jeff Teague each made two 3-pointers in the run. But that has been the problem as of late. Such big runs don’t put the opposition away, they only make a blowout a little less ugly.
It was as close as the Hawks would get. The Knicks answered with a 17-2 run to take back control.
“We just got outplayed from the start,” Tracy McGrady said. “We just didn’t match their intensity. I think the first half we dug ourselves a deep hole. The second half we came out with a lot more intensity, a lot more energy but by that time it was too late.
Jeremy Lin, who has led the Knicks to wins in nine of their past 11 games and has become a city-wide sensation, scored a team-high 17 points with nine assists. He watched most of the fourth quarter from the bench. In the past 11 games (10 starts), Lin has averaged 23.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 2.8 steals and 5.5 turnovers.
“It’s tough to guard him,” Teague said. “They play a thousand pick and rolls. It’s always going to be tough coming off a pick and roll.”
The Knicks, who got points from nine players, also got double-figures scoring from Steve Novak (17), Landry Fields (16), Carmelo Anthony (15), and J.R. Smith (12).
Teague led the Hawks with a game-high 18 points. Willie Green scored 15 points and Josh Smith added 13 points.
“We were a little careless in the first half with the ball,” Smith said. “We had opportunities in the fast break and the half court to score the basketball but we turned the ball over too many times. It seemed like every time we did that, they capitalized on it.”
The Hawks host the Magic on Thursday night before beginning the All-Star break. It will be another game without Johnson.
“It’s definitely tough,” Smith said of missing the six-time All-Star and the team’s leading scorer. “You are taking away 18 points a game. The defense concentrates so hard on trying to stop him that it opens a lot of stuff with everybody else. We definitely missed him tonight.”