Al Horford scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to help the Hawks pull away in a tight game in Memphis with the Grizzlies. The final score of 116-101 belies how tense this game was, and every point from Horford was needed.

Horford got a layup off a gorgeous pick-and-roll with Jeff Teague and followed with a corner three to put the Hawks in front 94-87 with 8:10 to play. Horford’s second three of the quarter (he was 2-for-3 on the night) stretched the lead to 103-95 with 4:26 to play. The Hawks set a season-high in 3-point attempts with 39, shooting 36% for the game. Horford added four rebounds and two assists as coach Mike Budenholzer shuffled him in and out of the lineup throughout the fourth due to foul trouble.

Mike Muscala shuttled in for defensive possessions as Bud saved the hot Horford for the offensive end. During one shift, Paul Millsap collected an offensive rebound and got it to Muscala who found Teague open for a straight-away three and a 108-97 Hawks lead with 3:36 to play. Teague then faked another three, got a step on Mike Conley and hit a runner to put the Hawks up 110-99. Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks (10-7) traveled to Minnesota (7-8) looking to build upon a strong win against Boston and exorcise demons from their earlier loss to the Timberwolves. They failed to do so in a 99-95 loss in Target Arena.

The T’Wolves bench accounted for 58 of their 99 point total. Minnesota was led by 13 points on just five shots from Damjan Rudez and Zach LaVine’s 18 points, six assist and five rebound night.

Reigning rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins was kept in check most of the night with an inefficient line of 15 points on 17 shots, but muscled up a bucket in the lane after taking body contact from Paul Millsap to put the Timberwolves up 98-94 with 1:24 left to go. The Hawks only netted one point in the final two minutes amid turnovers and bad shots, sealing the game for the home team.

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Jeff Teague capped an 18-3 run with a 3-point play with 6:20 to play in the fourth quarter as the Hawks beat the visiting Boston Celtics 121-97. After losing four of five games, the Hawks showed signs of possibly breaking out of their recent slump with a convincing performance.

Paul Millsap matched Avery Bradley with a game-high 25 points while adding nine rebounds and three assists. Millsap (plus-20), Al Horford (plus-25) and Kyle Korver (plus-24) were all plus-20 or better. Aside from Millsap’s offensive outburst, scoring was balanced among the remaining starters as all five scored in double figures. Horford had 11 points with four rebounds and four assists. Korver scored 15 on 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range with seven rebounds and three assists. Jeff Teague scored 16 points with nine assists and two steals.

Thabo Sefolosha, in his second start for the year, scored a season-high 15 points with seven rebounds and three assists, steals and blocks. He has set season highs in scoring in consecutive games after scoring 13 points in Cleveland on Saturday.

“I thought Thabo came out and set a tone,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “He was active and he was everywhere.” Continue Reading…

When it comes to confidence, there’s an age-old saying in sports: “never get to high, never get too low.” That’s something Mike Scott talked to me about last year when he was going through a rough shooting spell in December. Just keep on pushing. With the Atlanta Hawks, there certainly haven’t been any dramatically high points this season. No big low points either (unless you want to say the outlier that was the Minnesota game). Coach Mike Budenholzer preaches patience on offense. Finding the best look possible. Giving up a good shot for a great shot. That’s the Atlanta Hawks basketball we’ve become accustomed to over the past few seasons.

So what’s with the recent struggle? Sure, every team faces rough patches in their season – especially early on, right Houston? – which lead fans and pundits alike to ask questions. Skeptics have taken a look at this Hawks team and asked:

“Do they have what it takes to replace DeMarre Carroll?”

“Can the Hawks get over the hump that was in their way last season?”

“Are they regressing to the mean?”

To be completely honest, the offense has been largely unimpressive at times. The Hawks have displayed a lack of ball movement, spacing, and just a bumbling collection of careless mistakes and typical early-season errors. Going into that would take a chapter-book that will have to be illustrated another time.

But wait. It’s not like the offense is bad. We’re in the top 10 in the league with an offensive rating of 103.2 and putting up 101.4 points per game. I’m sure a bunch of teams would be thrilled to produce like the Hawks offensively.

I get the feeling watching these guys that they’re close to reaching their peak. Close, but not there yet. The ideals are there, the Bud system is there, but there are moving parts coming in this season that have forced adjustments. We’re treated to vintage Hawks basketball for a few minutes each game, such as the electric 2nd half against Minnesota (which is something the Hawks are capable of producing against any opponent), but there’s a sloppiness and lack of execution showing through the cracks.

We came into this season thinking that the Hawks would seamlessly adjust to the new roster additions and returning injured players. But some parts of the personnel adjustments this year have been like putting a square peg in a round hole. Other parts have worked better than I thought. And some have the potential to grow into prospering offensive weapons. Some of these examples include Kent Bazemore’s rise as a starter, my affinity for Lamar Patterson as a playmaker and basketball player, and, especially, the adjustments the offense with the addition of Tiago Splitter.

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I joined ESPN Miami’s Controlled Discourse (@DiscourseMSL) with host Dylan Goldman and guest Stephanie Diaz to talk NBA. Following is a slightly condensed transcript. You can also listen here at the 23 minute mark.

Dylan Goldman: You actually were the one who brought this to my attention about the terrorist threat that was directed at Philips Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks at tomorrow’s WWE event, the Survivor Series. Do you have any info?

Buddy Grizzard: Well Chris Vivlamore, who is the Hawks beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he’s reporting that the FBI is saying that there’s no credible threat against Philips Arena or the WWE event. So apparently what it looks like is this is sort of a copycat thing. It’s somebody on the Internet stirring up fear. But the FBI has no credible information that ISIS is in point of fact looking to target Philips Arena. But, I tell you what, the Hawks host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday and I will be there just like I always am. And if I gotta die for basketball at least I’ll die doing what I love. Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks returned to the place their breakout 2014-15 season ended and suffered a similar fate in a 109-97 loss. In front of a sellout Quicken Loans Arena crowd, Kevin Love led the Cavs with 25 points and 11 rebounds and LeBron James added 19 points and 11 rebounds. The Hawks only had one lead and were never really in the game past the opening minutes.

The big story was the ejection of coach Mike Budenholzer after just one technical foul. Coach Bud was giving Ben Taylor some words after Justin Holiday was hit in the face on a drive without a whistle, and he appeared to make contact with the fifth year referee, which would warrant the immediate ejection. After the game, coach Bud stated that he did not immediately realize he bumped Taylor and that the contact was unintentional.

Kenny Atkinson took over the coaching duties from there but there would be no emotional rally from Atlanta.

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Paul Millsap sank a one-handed running shot with 15.7 seconds remaining to put the Hawks up 101-97 and Atlanta (9-5) was able to hang onto the lead against the Sacramento Kings (4-8) in what felt like a must-win game for both teams. Millsap’s 23 points (9-for-19), 16 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks were just enough to stop the bleeding for his shorthanded team, which had lost three straight, in a 103-97 win at Philips Arena.

“Paul really stood out,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer during the postgame media availability. “I think our focus, our attention to detail was closer to where we need it to be. It’s good to get a win. I think we obviously needed that.”

Sacramento has been facing issues of their own, evident during several moments of on-court bickering in the third quarter between DeMarcus Cousins (24 points, 12 rebounds), Rudy Gay (14 points, six rebounds) and Rajon Rondo, who recorded a triple-double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. The Kings still managed to outscore Atlanta 27-19 during that period and entered the final quarter down only 81-79. Continue Reading…

If you’ve followed my writing for TrueHoop Network then you probably know I’m a big plus-minus guy. Mark Cuban told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that advanced plus-minus was a key factor in decisions about playing time during the Mavericks’ run to the 2011 NBA championship. Even in the age of advanced stats there are still many basketball fans who place too great an emphasis on per-game counting stats such as points and rebounds per game. If a player scores 30 points but his team is outscored by 20 while he is on the floor, did that player contribute to winning basketball?

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is if your team scores more points than the opponent. Critics claim that it’s impractical to draw conclusions about individual players from plus-minus because the actions of nine other players impact a player’s individual number. The old saying is “a rising tide lifts all boats.” If a player happens to be on the court when his star teammate scores 10 unanswered points, all of a sudden that player is plus-10 and they haven’t scored a single basket.

I have a couple of counters to this. First, if a player’s plus-minus for a given game is dramatically different than everyone else on his team, it tells you something. And secondly, the “rising tide lifts all boats” argument is more relevant in wins than losses. If a team wins, it’s most likely that several players performed well enough to inflate the plus-minus of teammates that didn’t perform as well but shared court time with them. Therefore, I believe that plus-minus tells us more about how players performed in losses than it does in wins. If a team loses, especially by a close margin, then any single player might have changed the outcome if they had performed slightly better. Continue Reading…

Thaddeus Young was fouled by Kyle Korver with 1.4 seconds to play and hit a pair of free throws to lift the host Brooklyn Nets to a 90-88 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks called timeout to advance the ball to half court but were unable to get a shot off on the game’s final play.

Brook Lopez led the Nets, which won only its second game of the season, with 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Young added 11 rebounds and five steals. Jarrett Jack had 14 points and eight assists while Joe Johnson scored 13 points on 14 shots and added seven rebounds and nine assists with no turnovers. Shane Larkin shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range off the bench and scored 14 points with two steals.

As a team, the Nets shot 9-for-20 (45%) from 3-point range compared to 12-for-29 (41%) for the Hawks. Rebounds (44) and assists (22) were even but the Hawks committed 20 turnovers compared to only 11 for the hosts.

Al Horford led the Hawks with 18 points but collected only five rebounds while adding a pair of blocks. Paul Millsap had 17 points and six rebounds but committed five turnovers and was a game-worst minus-16. Dennis Schröder scored eight points with 10 assists while Korver scored 13 with five rebounds.

The Hawks have now lost four of their last five games. The losses have come to teams with a combined 15-20 record. Atlanta returns home tonight for the second of a back-to-back as they host the 4-7 Sacramento Kings.

While the start of Atlanta’s season has been fairly strong, stronger than last year’s 7-6 prelude to the franchise’s first 60 win season, there are a few notable areas for improvement. The most glaring of that group has to be rebounding, which helped foil the Hawks’ attempts to reach the NBA Finals just a few months ago and is currently foiling their endeavors to retain the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Most attribute the Hawks’ struggles in this area to a lack of size on the roster but it has become clear that most of the blame falls squarely on the overall scheme of the team. It matters less the stature of the players and more how hard the players crash the glass.

The below is a table of the Hawks’ rebounding performance in every year since coach Mike Budenholzer has taken the helm. I’ve listed the league finish in each rebounding percentage estimate via Basketball Reference.

OReb% DReb%
2013-14 28th 17th
2014-15 30th 22nd
2015-16 28th 29th

In fairness, in every year of Larry Drew’s tenure from 2010 to 2013 his teams finished in the bottom five of offensive rebounding percentage, but those teams were above average on the other end of the floor in each of those three seasons. The trend under the current regime is discouraging, nonetheless. Continue Reading…