Young Hawks learn an important lesson in State Farm Arena debut

Forward Kent Bazemore played against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Photo by Jerell Rushin | The Signal

The Atlanta Hawks home opener was, to say the least, lackluster during the first half. Spectators at State Farm Arena’s NBA debut had little to cheer for as their Hawks trailed by as many as 26 points behind the Dallas Mavericks early in the second quarter.

Yet that disappointment turned into a thriller, and Atlanta steadily rallied to defeat Dallas 111-104. High focus defense midway through the second quarter sparked the comeback, and the Hawks maintained its flame for the rest of the game.

“It was just personal pride on our defensive end,” head coach Lloyd Pierce said after the game. “They knew that Dallas was getting whatever they wanted offensively and we wanted to just turn it up a little bit. Our offense wasn’t the issue, we just couldn’t stop them from scoring.”

Kent Bazemore led the game with 32 points and had a 14-point second quarter. The young Hawks players took advantage of the opportunity to build hard-playing habits regardless of the score. Usually, playing from behind 25 points or more is for good practice, but last night it was enough for a win.

“That’s where it starts, with the heart, playing through no matter what,” Bazemore said. “We got a lot of guys that all have their stores, all have their ups and downs and been through stuff as young men. It’s no different out there on the floor. [It] was just a little adversity that you got to overcome. You can’t lay down. You can’t stop fighting.”

Atlanta rookie Trae Young took zero points and three personal fouls into halftime, but the Hawks were only down 58-48. The entire team began to play with more confidence and intent after the break. Young began the Hawks’ 11-2 run to start the third quarter with an alley-oop pass to Taurean Prince. Just as the Hawks’ energy seemed to switch in the second half, as did the crowd’s.

“We don’t like to start third quarters slow,” Prince said. “We’re trying to do it as best as possible. It’s very important you try to start the first five minutes of the third quarter off very fast so you don’t get yourself into a bind. That was the mindset I had.”

Prince finished with 24 points and went 5-9 on 3-pointers. Atlanta outscored Dallas 63-46 in the second half, and Pierce cited Deandre Bembry’s versatile defense as a big part of their turnaround.

“It’s about what happens when everything goes bad and you saw our character rise when things were tough and we were down 20,” Prince said. “All we did was get tougher, stronger and smarter … Going through those type of things lets you know you’re in the right place.”

Young scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and gave the Hawks their first lead of the game in the period. Atlanta plays the Chicago Bulls, another young Eastern Conference team, at State Farm Arena on Saturday, Oct. 27.