After taking crippling losses to the Cavaliers and Lakers in the past week, the Hawks finally got back on the right track with a 99-89 win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Jeff Teague was magnificent, particularly in the second half. Teague scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half and absolutely dominated Brandon Jennings and DJ Augustin on both ends of the floor. “His defense on the other end of the court [was good],” said head coach Mike Budenholzer on his starting point guard. “A lot of people talk about his points and his offense, but I thought his defense was very good on the ball. They run a ton of pick-and-rolls. I’m really please with Jeff’s effort, particularly on the defensive end of the court.”

In addition to the 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting, Teague also recorded four rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks. It seems that Teague always gives extra effort against Brandon Jennings and the result was one of the best games of Teague’s career.

Although the Hawks had control for most of the game, they did run into some trouble at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth. The Piston completely wiped out a 19-point Atlanta lead to tie the game at 74 with eight minutes left. The Hawks then used a group effort to drive back into the lead, as each starter scored in the final eight minutes to get the lead back into double digits. Continue Reading…

Hawks Assign Payne to D-League

Jeff Siegel —  November 20, 2014 — 1 Comment

The Hawks sent 2014 first-round big man Adreian Payne to the D-League on Thursday. Payne will play with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants this weekend in their two games against the Erie BayHawks.

Payne was drafted 15th overall but has yet to play for Atlanta this year, due to injury and the depth the Hawks have at forward and center. He was inactive for the first five games of the season due to plantar fasciitis, an injury that also plagued him at Michigan State. Once healthy, he couldn’t crack the rotation at forward or center, so the D-League should give him the opportunity to test his skills against top competition and prove that his plantar fasciitis has healed.

Budenholzer said before the season that he planned to use the D-League this year, recognizing that the playing time young players receive at that level is crucial to their development.

After their two games against Erie, Fort Wayne doesn’t play again until November 28 and 29, so it remains to be seen whether Payne will stay with the Mad Ants next week or be called back up to the Hawks.

If not for questionable referee decisions in three of the Hawks’ first 10 games, the Hawks could easily be 8-2 right now and within striking distance of the top seed in the East. If such were the case, it pains me to report that it would vastly overstate where the Hawks are as a team. The Hawks are presently 23rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing 106.5 points per 100 possessions, and look nothing like a contender. What follows is a look at where the Hawks are, speculation on where the franchise is headed and what role exiled general manager Danny Ferry might play.

The Hawks’ five worst shooters thus far have been Kent Bazemore (26%), Pero Antic (37%), Thabo Sefolosha (38%), Shelvin Mack (41%) and Mike Scott (44%). In spite of the early shooting struggles, these five players combined to take 38 shots against the Lakers, making only 11 (29%). Al Horford, who is second on the team in field goal percentage among players with at least six games played (54%), took only eight shots against the Lakers, making seven (88%). Why did Mike Budenholzer allow his worst shooters to chuck with reckless abandon when Horford was on fire? Could it be that Atlanta’s coaching staff is concerned about placing too great an offensive burden on Horford, in light of his injury history?

I spent most of the summer pleading with the Hawks to add a difference maker in the front court. I stated the case for Greg Monroe before Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that the Hawks had in fact engaged the Pistons in trade discussions. I argued for Aron Baynes. The Hawks have been out-rebounded by eight of ten opponents this season. Horford is an undersized center who has been asking for help in the front court for years. Paul Millsap is an undersized power forward. The Hawks are currently getting nothing from reserve big men Elton Brand, Mike Muscala and rookie Adreian Payne, none of whom are the rim protector the Hawks need. Gorgui Dieng, presently tied with Al Jefferson for the 6th-best PER among centers (20.83), ahead of notables Roy Hibbert (9th), Dwight Howard (11th) and Horford (14th), could have been that player. But Ferry passed on him, not once, but twice in the 2013 NBA Draft. Continue Reading…

After getting dismantled by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, the Atlanta Hawks returned home to face the 1-9 Lakers. Los Angeles has been terrible on the season, and their league-worst defense offered an easy opportunity for the Hawks to bounce back. That wasn’t the case, as the Lakers came out firing, and put Atlanta at a disadvantage early.

The Hawks defense was awful, allowing Kobe Bryant and company to get whatever they wanted on the offensive end. LA dropped 31 points in the first quarter, and they had one of their most efficient halves of the young season. Paul Millsap scored 13 of the Hawks’ first 15 points, but had to go to the bench due to foul trouble. The rest of the team could only muster up seven points in the first period.

Things didn’t get much better for the Hawks in the second, as the Lakers started to pile on. The Hawks started to show some life on the offensive end, but defensively they struggled for the second straight game. The Lakers were moving the ball more than they had all season, and Atlanta’s rotations weren’t sharp. Nick Young came off the bench in his first game and burned the Hawks, seemingly hitting every shot he took. The Hawks trailed 67-52 at the half, and things weren’t looking good for the home team. Continue Reading…

This week in the Southeast, the Washington Wizards are handling their easy schedule as they should, leading the division. They’re still missing Bradley Beal, so there’s no way to get a read on how good they are early. After the Wizards, we have the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks. Currently tied at second, Miami is trying to figure out how to make the best of their new roster, and the Hawks are just trying to earn a little respect. Meanwhile, Charlotte was the first team in the division to go west and lets just say it wasn’t ideal. Finally we have the Orlando Magic. A competitive team, but they can’t seem to stay healthy.

Washington Wizards, 7-2, 2nd in the East, 2-0 this week WAS

The Wizards only had two games this week, with neither team being very good, and both at home. Once again, it’s hard to get fully on board with this team until we see them get some quality wins against good teams. That said, it’s hard to knock on a team that’s 7-2. Not everybody wins the games they’re supposed to win, and the Wizards are doing that, without Bradley Beal no less.

Atlanta Hawks, 5-4, 5th in the East, 3-1 this week ATL

The Hawks responded to their slow start, by ripping off three straight wins in a row. One of those was against the Knicks, but they beat a decent Jazz team, and a legitimately good Miami Heat team. They did however take a pounding against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In their defense, it was a back to back on the road, but points get knocked off for getting dominated the way they did. Even so, Atlanta is starting to figure out how to play with Al Horford in the lineup. Now if they can just start getting some respect from the general public… Continue Reading…

In front of a sellout crowd of 20,562, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Atlanta Hawks 127-94.

Mike Budenholzer and the Hawks came into the game with a better record than the Cavs, but it didn’t take long to see who the better team really was. The Cavs went on a 21-1 run in through the middle of the second quarter, which turned a 16-point lead into an insurmountable 35-point deficit.

Paul Millsap led the Hawks in scoring with 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting to go along with seven boards, four helpers, a steal and a block. Sadly for Atlanta, only he and Al Horford seemed like they were ready for the game. Horford scored 12 points on 6-10 shooting in 19 minutes. In a surprising twist, Kyle Korver — who is one of the best shooters in the NBA — only had one shot attempt and added one assist. It’s strange to see a Korver stat line full of zeros.

Hawks were out of the game so early that coach Budenholzer decided to sit Korver for the entire second half. “Korver is fine, the game was out of reach so we wanted to try some other guys out there,” said Budenholzer after the game.

Cavs hit their first 11 3-pointers, including a fadeaway 3 at the end of the first quarter by rookie Joe Harris. “There isn’t much you can do when a guy is hitting shots like that at end of the quarter,” said Jeff Teague, who scored five points and tallied three assists. “We got discouraged out there when they started hitting those shots, we started putting our heads down and it just got worse.” Continue Reading…

Al Horford had one of the worst games of his career on Wednesday night against the Jazz. He was missing shots and playing terrible defense; nothing was working for the two-time All Star. Horford quickly redeemed himself on Friday night, scoring the first seven points of the game to spark a wire-to-wire victory for the Hawks over the Miami Heat.

Horford opened up with two jumpers, including a corner 3 to get the game going. He then drew a foul on James Ennis — who was starting for the injured Dwyane Wade — and converted both free throws. The Hawks then followed with a Kyle Korver 3-pointer and a Thabo Sefolosha dunk, opening a 12-1 lead on the Heat and setting the tone for the entire game.

“We came out with a sense of urgency and played well in the first quarter,” said Jeff Teague, in what is probably the most generic Jeff Teague quote of all time.

The real story from the Hawks in this game was the superb balance that was exhibited on offense. Eight different players scored at least 10 points, including a 12-point, 5-for-5 performance from Shelvin Mack off the bench. This was a much needed performance from Mack, who had scored just 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting all season before his mini-explosion. Continue Reading…

Paul Millsap needs to undergo a name change.

The Hawks starting forward had a slight wardrobe malfunction on Wednesday night, which saw his jersey initially misspell his last name as “Milsap”. His jersey was replaced with a correct one before the first quarter ended, but the damage had been done and this would forever be the night that Paul was known as “Milsap”. He made sure that the fans would not forget it either, as Millsap had recorded a double-double by halftime, recorded a huge dunk that ended up on Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays, and finished with a monster stat line of 30 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks to lead the Hawks to a 100-97 victory over the Utah Jazz.

The first half saw little to no effective defense being played, as both the Hawks and Jazz were getting whatever they wanted on offense. The Hawks were more dependent on jumpshots, while the Jazz were being extremely effective at clearing out Millsap and Al Horford from under the basket to get easy shots at the rim. Halftime saw Mike Budenholzer adjust against his former assistant Quin Snyder, as the Hawks were able to more effectively shut off the lane and force the Jazz out into long 2s, of which the Jazz still made relatively often.

The two teams continued to go back and forth all the way until the final minute, where Kyle Korver hit a deep 3 out of isolation to give Atlanta a 98-97 lead. The remaining three Jazz possessions ended with a blocked shot attempt, a turnover, and a horribly missed 3-pointer thanks to great defense from Korver, and the result was an Atlanta Hawks win that put them over the .500 mark at 4-3. Continue Reading…

Dennis Schröder’s play so far in the 2014-15 season has been a revelation.

Schröder scored 12 points in the fourth quarter as Jeff Teague sat on the bench to lead the Hawks to a 91-85 victory over the Knicks. Schröder also chipped in four dimes and four rebounds in 28 minutes of play, the most playing time he has received all season.

Paul Millsap finally snapped out of his offensive woes, scoring 19 points on 3-for-4 shooting from 3. Millsap’s play was particularly strong in the the third quarter, where he scored 12 of the Hawks’ 26 points to help give the Hawks a 64-59 lead.

The Knicks out-shot the Hawks from the field, but the Hawks continously attacked New York’s interior, resulting in a 28-12 free throw advantage for Atlanta. More impressive was that the Hawks made 27 of their 28 attempts from the charity stripe, which has been a spot where the team has struggled over the last several seasons. The Knicks, on the other hand, compounded their lack of attempts by only making seven of their 12 attempts.

Kyle Korver survived an 0-for-8 shooting stretch to tally 17 points on the night. Continue Reading…

As you might have read by now, Dennis Schröder is leading the NBA with a 36.76 PER. He’s enjoying the best stretch of his young career. Meanwhile Thabo Sefolosha, a career 44% shooter from the field (34.6% from three), who shot better than 40% from 3-point range in two of the preceding three seasons, is shooting 22% from the field and has missed all six of his 3-point attempts this season.

Early-season statistical anomalies are always a source of talking points until the new season ages enough to spot real trends. In this case, however, the early contrast between Schröder and Sefolosha gives me an opportunity to point out why I place so much emphasis on plus-minus. For the season, despite his horrid shooting, Sefolosha is an aggregate plus-6 (click the “team” column and the Hawks will be sorted at the top). Despite spectacular per-minute numbers that currently have Schröder sitting atop the PER rankings, looking down on players such as Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry, the Hawks have been outscored by a total of nine points during his time on the floor.

For me, this confirms the eye test. My eyes tell me that, even though Sefolosha will turn 31 in May, he’s still a well-above-average on-ball defender. When Sefolosha’s shooting numbers start to regress back toward his career averages, I expect the value of his minutes to increase dramatically. The Hawks appear to be a perfect situation for Sefolosha, a willing passer who has labored in Oklahoma City’s isolation-heavy system for years. Continue Reading…