Looking to tighten up defense, Hawks open two-game set vs. Pistons

Doubleheaders are a rarity in the NBA. The Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons won’t play two games in one night, but they’ll face each other in back-to-back games at the same venue.

The Hawks will play at Detroit on Wednesday in the first meeting of the two-game set as they look to rebound from their first loss of the season.

Atlanta defeated Houston and Orlando in its first two games, then lost to Charlotte 126-109 on Sunday. The Hawks’ trip to Detroit will be their first road test this season.

Charlotte picked apart the Hawks’ defense, shooting 52.2 percent and scoring 82 points during the second and third quarters.

“When you’re not making shots, you can’t drop your head. You have to get back and play defense,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “I felt like our lack of shot-making (Sunday), we took that to the defensive end of the floor. We didn’t play (expletive) defense.”

The Hawks shot 41.1 percent overall but made just 22.9 percent of their 3-point attempts. Forward John Collins misfired on all seven of his long-range attempts.

“I think they just came here wanting the game more, showing more effort,” guard Dejounte Murray said. “They were ready to play. We weren’t ready to play, to start on myself. That’s really what we take from it.”

Thus far, the Hawks have been reliant on their starters for most of their scoring punch. Trae Young, as usual, leads the club in scoring (25.3 points per game) and assists (11.7). Backcourt partner Murray is second in both categories (19.7, 8.3) while grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game and nabbing 3.3 steals per outing.

Collins is averaging a double-double (19.0 points, 10.3 rebounds), but the highest-scoring reserve, Onyeka Okongwu, is averaging just 8.7 points. Charlotte’s reserves outscored Atlanta’s bench 52-28.

“That’s going to happen, these situations like that, where one or two of the starters may not get going and you’re going to need some help from the bench,” McMillan said. “I just didn’t feel like we were connected out there (Sunday).”

The Pistons will be trying to bounce back from three consecutive road losses. They’ll be playing the tail end of a back-to-back after losing to Washington 120-99 on Tuesday.

Detroit was outscored 64-50 after the break.

“We didn’t come out in the second half with the proper approach,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I take the ball for that, for not getting them ready at halftime. We came out and they attacked us. In the first half, it was nip and tuck. I thought we competed at the proper level. We didn’t come out with any force in the second half.”

Bojan Bogdanovic was the most consistent offensive threat, scoring 25 points and going 4-for-7 on 3-point attempts. The rest of the team shot 4-for-21 from deep.

Franchise player Cade Cunningham had another subpar night, shooting 7-for-19 while scoring 19 points. He had as many turnovers (three) as assists. Cunningham is shooting 38.6 percent through the first four games.

Detroit won its lone home game, 113-109, against Orlando, when it recorded 31 assists.

“We had three assists in the second half (against the Wizards),” Casey said. “From (31) the first night to three assists in one half — that won’t cut it.”

–Field Level Media