With the Atlanta Hawks in the midst of their longest losing slip of the season, the question is whether they can challenge for the NBA championship.
The Hawks lost 104-101 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, despite having a 16-point lead. They suffered their third straight loss and dropped to eighth in the East with an 11-10 record.
During this losing skid, they couldn’t find a way to close their matches. They had a double-digit lead in every game but lost all three of them.
At the Wells Fargo Center, turnovers hurt Atlanta. They made 20, which led to 19 Sixers points. Seven of those 20 came in the fourth quarter, including three by Dejounte Murray.
“That’s where execution comes in,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said Monday. “We had some costly turnovers late in the game.”
Clint Capela’s consistency and presence key to Atlanta Hawks status
Trae Young leads the team in scoring at 27.7 points per game, on 31% from beyond the arc. However, he’s been limited to just 22 and 18 points in the past two games, after scoring 44 against the Houston Rockets on Friday.
Dejounte Murray is averaging 20.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.8 steals over Atlanta’s last 10 games.
Clint Capela is central to team tactics and is averaging 11.0 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. He missed games against Houston and Miami (tooth pain) and his absence was evident as Atlanta lost both games.
Without Capela protecting the rim, the Rockets grabbed 22 offensive rebounds and recorded 37 second-chance points, the most for any team in a game in the last 13 seasons.
Miami, meanwhile, edged the Hawks by 20 points (42-22) inside the paint. With Clint Capela and John Collins on the floor, the Hawks outscored their opponents by 5.0 points per 100 possessions.
Atlanta is 20th in offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) with 110.4 and 14th in defensive rating with 111.1. At the same time, they are 20th in the net ranking (-0.7) and play in eighth pace with 102 points.
After their loss to the Heat and Sixers, the Hawks are 8-8 against Eastern Conference opponents and are also 2-1 in games decided by under four points.
The Hawks ended two of the league’s four longest winning streaks this season. They beat the Milwaukee Bucks (nine straight wins) and the Sacramento Kings (seven straight wins) respectively. However, they failed to build momentum and are still looking for consistency.
The Atlanta Hawks have a great chance of getting back on track and climbing higher in the standings. They will play 12 of their next 15 games against sub-0.500 teams, against whom they are currently 5-3.
All in all, the Atlanta Hawks have what it takes to enter title contention and become a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
The addition of Dejounte Murray bolstered the roster. However, the franchise needs to put an end to its ups and downs and build a winning streak that will solidify its place in the top echelon of the Eastern Conference.
In doing so, they will try to get back on track when they play at the Orlando Magic (5-16) on Wednesday.