This is the second game in a row that the Atlanta Hawks failed to close an opponent out after having the lead in the fourth quarter. The Hawks took an 11-point lead into the fourth against the Toronto Raptors this afternoon just to watch it fade away due to poor execution on both ends of the floor. While the offense certainly played their part in both defeats, the defense has been the real problem late in games.
Atlanta is allowing teams to score at will towards the end when they should be focusing on buckling down and closing out opponents defensively. Look no further than their contest the other day against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans scored a remarkable 41 points in the fourth quarter, and that was in front of the home crowd at Philips Arena. The 41 points allowed by the Hawks’ defense was also the most points that they have allowed all season in the fourth quarter.
However, instead of fixing this problem against the Raptors today, Atlanta failed to execute on defense late in the game once again. Toronto scored 36 points in the fourth quarter this time around and walked off the floor with a big 96-86 comeback win over the Hawks. Players such as DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry had no trouble getting almost anything they wanted. Whether it was an open three or drive to the lane, the Hawks never really challenged them on defense, which is why they deserved to lose this game.
Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend for an Atlanta team fighting to hold on to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. This team has come too far to let a good season slip away down the stretch. Not a lot of teams in the NBA have suffered as many injuries this year as the Hawks have which would make their inclusion in the playoffs even better.