Vivlamore reporting from Oakland.
The Hawks, minus Al Horford, had little inside presence against the Warriors. It showed – on the scoreboard and in the stat sheet.
The Warriors handed the Hawks a 92-88 defeat Wednesday night at the Oracle Arena. Horford, the Hawks starting center, leading scorer and rebounder, was unable to play due to a stomach illness that has swept through the team on their West coast trip. Also unable to play was guard Devin Harris. Two days earlier, against the Trail Blazers, Josh Smith and Lou Williams played despite suffering from the ailment.
A look inside the numbers showed where Wednesday’s game went wrong for the Hawks. They were bettered in these key areas thanks, in large part, to the Warriors’ dribble penetration:
* Total rebounds: 44-29
* Defensive rebounds: 34-24
* Points in the paint: 46-20
* Second-chance points: 14-4
“We definitely could have used Al, without a doubt,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “He’s a big piece to what we do. We certainly could have used him tonight. As you know, this league is about guys not being able to play, whether its illness or injury, and you have to step up.”
The Hawks (3-4) are now 1-2 on the road trip which ends Friday against the Kings. Despite trailing by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, after a miserable third quarter, the Hawks made the game interesting with a late run. Williams hit three straight 3-pointers, the last with 11.2 seconds remaining, to make it 90-88. However, Jarrett Jack sank a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
After the deficit reached 13 points, the Hawks went on an 11-4 run to close within four points. Ivan Johnson came off the bench to score 15 points, eight in the final quarter, in Horford’s absence. The Hawks could never make up the entire deficit.
“We’ve got to get this bug away from our team,” said Kyle Kover, who had 14 points, all in the first half. “It’s holding everybody down right now. I thought Ivan had a really great night. Obviously, his minutes have been up and down. He’s been working hard on his game. Tonight he got his opportunity and he took advantage of it.”
The Warriors (4-4) snapped a two-game losing streak. While Drew was concerned with Stephen Curry (12 points) and Klay Thomspon (seven), the Hawks got beat by another tandem. Harrison Barnes had 19 points and 13 rebounds and David Lee had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Barnes’ dunk of a missed shot in the third quarter, with three Hawks standing underneath the basket, typified the evening.
Williams led the Hawks with 18 points. Smith added 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.
Despite the poor shooting in the decisive quarter, several Hawks players, notably Smith and Williams, were clearly frustrated with the issues on defense. The main problem was stopping the Warriors’ attack, according to Smith.
“Dribble penetration,” Smith said of the source of frustration. “We have to do a better job of playing on the perimeter. When people get into our paint, bigs are forced to help and contest shots. Normally when we take the challenge defensively on the perimeter and play with a chip on our shoulders I think that we are a good basketball team. We have to do that on a consistent basis.
“We have to focus more. We’ve been having some third-quarter letdowns. We wanted to do some policing and get guys focused on the task. We have a lot of guys who can score the ball offensively extremely well but we have to be able to sit down on the defensive end and take that challenge.”
The Warriors took a lead they wouldn’t relinquish with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter, 22-21. Their advantage ballooned in the third when the Hawks shot a miserable 31.6 percent (6 of 19), 71-60.
Zaza Pachulia, who started in place of Horford, missed time in the first half after receiving a laceration above his right eye that required five stitches.
“It was a combination of things,” Drew said of the frustrations. “They recognized the breakdown. I like the fact that they showed some concern about that. A breakdown from dribble penetration, where bigs have to help. The ball goes up on the glass now there is nobody to block their bigs out. Not getting into our stuff quick enough. Not setting screens. Not getting a body on rebounding. I like it when they can keep it among themselves and talk about it. Frustration is going to set in. It’s an emotional game. We came out of that (fourth-quarter) timeout and we got back to playing our brand of basketball.”
It was just a little too late.
- Chris Vivlamore