The Hawks clinched the 1-seed in the East on Friday night after beating the Miami Heat and after the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Brooklyn Nets. On Saturday night with a back-to-back, Coach Budenholzer decided to rest a guy or two.

…Or three. Or four… or the entire starting lineup.

Dennis Schröder, John Jenkins, Kent Bazemore, Elton Brand, and Mike Muscala comprised the Hawks’ starting lineup on Saturday night as they fell to the Charlotte Hornets by a score of 115-100. Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams, and Mo Williams all scored at least 17 points to lead the Hornets to their 31th victory on the season.

The mindset among some Hawks fans while this game was taking place was questioning why the Hawks would essentially just throwaway a game like this by resting all five starters at once, even with the 1-seed clinched. However, there are plenty of reasons why this made sense, with the most subtle reason being that the Hornets are one of the teams behind the Brooklyn Nets in the standings. Since the Hawks have the right to swap picks with the Nets, it definitely did not hurt that the Hawks let this game go.

It also did not hurt to give guys like Mike Muscala some playing time. Muscala, who is held in high regard by members of the front office, capitalized on his extended playing time by notching his first career double double: 18 points and 10 rebounds with four assists and two blocks in 34 minutes. He also hit two 3-pointers to up his season total to 4-for-11 from behind the arc. Continue Reading…

DeMarre Carroll scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half to help stake the Hawks to a 55-37 lead on the way to a 99-86 win over the visiting Miami Heat. The victory, combined with Cleveland’s loss in Brooklyn, clinched the regular-season Eastern Conference championship for the Hawks for the first time since 1994 and assured Atlanta of home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“It’s a great accomplishment but I think we’ve got bigger goals,” said Carroll with a shrug after he was informed by Fox Sports South’s Olivia Harlan that the Hawks had clinched the East. “We’ve just got to keep playing the right way and keep playing Hawks basketball.”

The victory moved the Hawks to 55-17 for the season, ensuring Atlanta will finish with no worse than the fifth-highest win total in franchise history. Paul Millsap added 11 points and seven rebounds in the first half on the way to 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks. Dennis Schröder started in place of Jeff Teague, who sat out after rolling his ankle in Orlando. Schröder finished with 12 points, 11 assists, one steal and just two turnovers. He continued a month-long tear. He entered the game averaging 14.6 points, 5.6 assists, 2.2 turnovers and 36.6% shooting from 3-point range in March. Continue Reading…

The Hawks allowed the Magic to score 31 points in the opening quarter, showing signs that Atlanta’s prolonged defensive slump may still be alive and result in the team’s first four-game losing streak of the year.

Thankfully for the Atlanta fans, the Hawks’ defense finally showed up in the second half, as Orlando was held to just 31 points over the final 24 minutes of the game as Atlanta cruised to a 95-83 victory.

Paul Millsap finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and four blocks in leading the Hawks to the win. Millsap’s play was extremely vital in the first half when the Hawks were struggling; the power forward had 18 points and eight rebounds in that half alone, which helped keep the Hawks within five points when the buzzer sounded to end the second quarter.

In the third quarter, the Hawks’ defense really started getting the Magic’s offense out of rhythm by forcing bad shots. Orlando became so frustrated that they started taking almost any shot they could get, which resulted in 3-point attempts early in the shot clock by shooters who probably are not suited to take those attempts. However, thanks to some good defense of their own, the Magic maintained a three-point lead heading into the final period.

After Dennis Schroder hit a 3 to open the period and tie the game, Orlando went on a 7-0 run and things were looking bleak for the Hawks. However, the offense that the Hawks have been winning games off of all season finally showed up in the fourth quarter, as Atlanta got the ball moving, created open shots, and connected on those opportunities to open up a 24-3 run that finally buried the Magic. Continue Reading…

Thabo Sefolosha hasn’t played since January 30 — a win against the Portland Trailblazers. It also happened to be the second to last game of the 19-game winning streak. Now, Sefolosha returns tonight versus the Orlando Magic. Although Sefolosha has only averaged a tad under 20 minutes a game, he has a large impact when playing.

For the season, Sefolosha is playing 72 percent of his minutes at the Small Forward position, with Korver at Shooting Guard. While Sefolosha is guarding Small Forward’s, he is only allowing an insane 5.7 PER, according to 82games.com. For comparison, Kawhi Leonard is allowing a 12.6 PER, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gives up 10.2. Those are two of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and Sefolosha blows them out of the water. Now, Thabo has only played a total of 853 minutes, so he’s only played about 614 minutes at the position, which isn’t a very large sample size. Last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, opponents PER against Sefolosha was 10.7, so the defensive impact is definitely there. Sefolosha also gets to boast a 35.3 Effective Field Goal Percentage that his opponents shoot when he guards them.

With the added defensive ability that comes with Thabo Sefolosha, it allows the Hawks more leeway with their lineups. If Sefolosha starts alongside Korver, it allows Demarre Carroll to come off the bench, like the Thunder did with James Harden (no, I’m not comparing Carroll to Harden). Schroder, Carroll, and Scott of the bench in the playoffs can be very good, even if Carroll ends up playing more minutes than Sefolosha.

Continue Reading…

With the Atlanta Hawks trailing 68-43 with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, coach Mike Budenholzer received his second technical foul and first ejection as a head coach for arguing a non-call on an Al Horford layup attempt. The Hawks were briefly energized, closing the quarter on a 22-14 run, but it wasn’t enough. Boris Diaw trolled the Hawks with 15 fourth-quarter points as the Spurs held off Atlanta for a 114-95 win at Philips Arena.

Diaw was drafted by the Hawks with the 21st pick in the 2003 NBA draft and became an enigma in Atlanta. Coach Mike Woodson implored Diaw to focus on scoring, but his nature was to play point-forward. The Hawks later packaged Diaw with a pair of first round draft picks in the trade that landed Joe Johnson from the Suns. Diaw eventually found a home in San Antonio, where his ball distribution was welcomed and he helped the Spurs re-emerge as champions. Today he seemed to send a message to Hawks fans by looking for his own shot in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of his 17 points on eight shots in the period to stamp out the Hawks’ rally.

After the game, Kyle Korver had this to say:

“I think at this point in the season, it’s not about little things anymore, it’s bigger picture stuff. I think we’re at a point in the season where we have a good lead in the standings and we know the playoffs are coming. We’ve had this long roadtrip and it’s easy to kind of relax a little bit, but the good teams are able to keep their foot on the pedal.”

Continue Reading…

Hawks Collapse in OKC

Bo Churney —  March 21, 2015 — 3 Comments

It was the end of the west coast road trip. The Hawks were down three key rotation players with the absences of Mike Scott, Kyle Korver, and Thabo Sefolosha. And most importantly, individual regular season games are not that vital when you have clinched the division and are likely to take the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.

But boy was this game a stinker.

Russell Westbrook and Anthony Morrow ran wild on the Hawks in the fourth quarter, scoring 27 of Oklahoma City’s 33 fourth quarter points on their way to completing a comeback over Atlanta to win 123-115. Westbrook coordinated a 23-6 run in the quarter that was a result of great execution by Oklahoma City and non-existent execution by the Hawks.

The first half started off extremely hot, as both teams were shooting a high percentage from the field. Even Pero Antic woke up from his shooting slump, tying a career-high 18 points before the half had even ended. Antic finished the game with 22 points, and overall, the Hawks shot 58% in the half and maintained a 68-61 lead into the intermission.

The Hawks started to show some cracks in the third quarter, but were able to keep their lead thanks to some great play from Paul Millsap. Millsap was 4-for-5 from the field in the quarter with nine points, which were enough to keep the Hawks afloat. Millsap finished the game with a line of 19 points, three rebounds, three assists, four steals, and two blocks.

Continue Reading…

Joe Johnson’s last few seasons in Atlanta have been stained by poor playoff performances, his “untradeable contract” (thanks Danny Ferry), and his seemingly emotionless persona. The guy frustrated many with his Iso-Joe offense that Mike Woodson was so willing to let happen.

I was never a huge fan of Johnson, partly because the dull possessions irritated me, no matter what the result was. Bret LaGree, the man who got me interested in putting my Hawks thoughts to words as he entertained me with his recaps/analysis while I was in middle school, once wrote a lovely piece about Joe Johnson after Game 5 of the 2012 playoff series versus the Celtics:

Joe Johnson’s touches, a word picture by Bret LaGree

Remain stationary
Receive the ball
(beat)
Dribble laterally to or away from the basket
(second Boston defender arrives)
Take contested jump shot or pass to teammate Boston purposely leaves open

Perfectly sums up the part of Joe Johnson’s Atlanta tenure that had fans so disgusted at the lucrative deal he signed.

However, sometimes we forget that the Armadillo Cowboy (yes, this is an actual nickname for Joe Johnson, according to Basketball Reference) was actually a great player that had some great all-around performances as a member of the Hawks. Allow me to go all 30-for-30 on you for a moment…

What if I told you that Atlanta has a new, big-man version of Joe Johnson? What if I told you that this version of Joe Johnson was far less frustrating to watch? What if I told you that this new version of Joe Johnson could score in a variety of ways and lead the team to one of the NBA’s best records?

What if I told you that this version of Joe Johnson was named Paul Millsap? Continue Reading…

A Festus Ezeli dunk with 3:23 remaining in the third quarter was part of a 13-3 run to close the quarter, leaving Golden State up 83-64 en route to a 114-95 victory over the Hawks in Oakland, Ca. Prior to Ezeli’s dunk, Draymond Green dropped off a pass before bowling over a stationary Pero Antic. The absense of a whistle would be a theme throughout the night.

Throughout the first half, the Hawks were plagued by defensive miscues. Golden State’s first basket came on a Justin Holiday layup. Kent Bazemore worked a give-and-go with Al Horford for a layup and nobody picked up Bazemore’s man, Holiday, in transition. With the Warriors up 5-4 with 8:45 remaining in the first, the Hawks were confused about assignments on an inbounds play. DeMarre Carroll left Harrison Barnes to pick up Steph Curry, who was completely unguarded at the 3-point line. Curry got it to Barnes for a corner three and an 8-4 Warriors lead.

With 6:15 remaining in the first, Jeff Teague made zero effort to get around a Bogut pick, and Curry hit the resulting wide-open three to put the Warriors in front 17-13. Then, with 2:53 left in the first, Barnes got a dunk off an inbounds play as Paul Millsap was caught unaware by a back screen. That put Golden State up 22-18. On the very next Warriors possession, Carroll picked up Andre Iguodala in transition. Millsap stood around guarding nobody as Barnes cut down the lane for another dunk and a 24-18 GSW lead with 2:30 remaining in the first. Moments later, Antic cheated toward the three point line as Curry came off a Marreese Speights pindown screen and Iguodala instead passed it to Speights for an uncontested dunk and a 26-22 Golden State lead with 1:15 to play in the first. Continue Reading…

It was announced last weekend that Mike Scott will miss 4-6 weeks (the remainder of the regular season, possibly into the beginning of the NBA playoffs) with a broken toe on his left foot. Thabo Sefolosha is close to returning from a calf strain that he suffered January 30th against Portland. The Hawks don’t plan on bringing back 10-day contract signee Jarell Eddie and instead have signed Austin Daye to the same short-term deal.

Coach Mike Budenholzer has been resting starters on a game-by-game basis, preparing for a run deep into the playoffs. They seem content on using the players they have and not any major outside help, as shown with the silent trade deadline last month.

But with all of this talk of injuries and sitting starters, don’t you still feel good about these Hawks?

Compared to last season, the Hawks are a completely different squad – except for the fact that they really aren’t. Sure, they signed Kent Bazemore and the aforementioned Sefolosha. Yeah, they’ve had time to gel and find more of a rhythm in Coach Bud’s offense. Sure, they are winning games at a much higher clip this season. But, the biggest change this season – something that seemed so great earlier on in the year – was the health.

Here they are, sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference on the ides of March and they have had only had one major injury to this Mike Scott announcement. Look at the rest of the conference – the rest of the league, for that matter – and you see key players going down.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were without LeBron for eight games at the turn of the new calendar year. Kevin Love has been in and out of the lineup with back issues. The Raptors missed DeMar DeRozan during the month of December. The Pistons lost Brandon Jennings for the season to an Achilles injury. Blake Griffin was out of the Clippers’ lineup for a little over a month. Wesley Matthews is no longer a factor for the Trail Blazers due to a season-ending torn Achilles. Paul George hasn’t played for the Pacers this season due to the gruesome leg injury suffered while playing for Team USA last summer.

Continue Reading…

Even with Kyle Korver out to injury and Al Horford out for rest purposes, the Atlanta Hawks hung on to Monday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings to get the 110-103 victory.

The first quarter of this game helped signify that it would be a close affair all night. The Kings were shooting well and playing with pace on offense. DeMarcus Cousins was a load early on both offensively and defensively; at one point, he blocked shots on consecutive Atlanta possessions and simply made the Hawks look silly in their offensive attempts. Thankfully for the Hawks, DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap were able to make shots and take advantage of some mismatches, leading to the two scoring eight points a piece in the quarter.

The Hawks started to pull away in the second quarter, largely thanks to the play of one Jeffrey DeMarco Teague. Teague’s agressive play, combined with the defensive intensity of Kent Bazemore, allowed the Hawks get an advantage, resulting in a 53-47 lead at halftime.

The third quarter was a repeat of the first… almost literally. The Kings won the first quarter 29-28 and they won the third quarter by the same score. Jason Thompson and Andre Miller started making their impacts in this period, as their play sparked a 16-7 mini-run by Sacramento that allowed the Kings to stay in the game. This run was despite DeMarcus Cousins nearly having a meltdown, as the former Kentucky product recorded four turnovers, four fouls, and one technical foul in the period. Continue Reading…