Archives For March 2013

With only 12 games left in the season for Atlanta, this seems important to note: Al Horford is on pace to be the first Hawk to average a double-double over a season since Dikembe Mutombo in the 1999-00 season.

The milestone would be a fitting way to cap-off a career season from Horford, who currently has career highs in points per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, and shot attempts. He could also become the first Hawk to lead the team in both PPG and RPG since Antoine Walker in the dreadful 2004-05 season. (Josh Smith was .04 PPG from doing it last season) All of this has been a function of Horford’s post All-Star break explosion, during which he is averaging 20.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.

Just to add a little perspective on Horford’s monster season, he’s currently averaging over 17 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists per game, while being a shade under 55% shooting. If he can bump the shooting percentage over 55%, all while maintaining the other averages, he will become just the 12th player in NBA history to hit those marks over an entire season, and the first since Carlos Boozer in 2009-10. Some of the names on that list: Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, Charles… not a bad list to be a part of at all.

While Al’s season shouldn’t be compared to some on that list (Kareem’s 1971-72 season is just insane), it should serve as an indicator of just how good Al has been this season, especially when considering that he’s still been recovering from his pectoral injury from last season. Hawks’ fans should be extremely proud to have this guy on their team.

RECAP: Hawks 104, Bucks 99

Bo Churney —  March 25, 2013

FINAL

MIL  (34-35) 99 – 104 (39-31) ATL

Key Performers:
A. Horford (ATL): 24 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast, 2 stl
L. Sanders (MIL): 15 pts, 12 reb, 3 blk
[FULL BOX SCORE]

This was a HUGE game for the Hawks to take. They survived Monta Ellis’ three-point barrage in the fourth quarter to comeback and win in Milwaukee, giving the Hawks a 4.5 game cushion over the eighth-seeded Bucks. The key in this game was mismatches, as Ersan Ilyasova couldn’t handle Josh Smith, and there was no way Larry Sanders was going to be able to make up for the mistakes of the guys around him. And despite Monta’s three threes in the fourth, the Bucks only went 5-21 from three-point range, as the Hawks looked invigorated after that terrible defensive effort against the Trail Blazers on Friday night. The Hawks have now won the season series with Milwaukee and only have 12 games remaining on the season; Atlanta would have to lose at least five of their remaining games for the Bucks to even have a shot to catch up.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: AJC reporter Chris Vivlamore asked Josh Smith about his career-high in seasonal three-point attempts on Saturday, and Josh responded in an even bigger way on Sunday… by taking five three pointers IN THE FIRST HALF! He didn’t take any in the second half, however, and Josh actually did a good job of attacking the basket when he saw he had a weak defender on him. His eight fourth quarter points were also very critical in surviving Monta’s consecutive threes. 8/10

Al Horford: Like Josh, Horford also helped out in closing the deal in the fourth quarter, as he had 10 points in the final period. This might have been one of his best all-around nights, as he also had zero turnovers to go with his six assists and he converted all of his foul shots. Well, now that I actually look at it, Josh had zero turnovers as well… HOW WAS THAT POSSIBLE??? 9.5/10

Kyle Korver: His three-pointer streak of 63 games is now the fifth longest in NBA history. He had a trio of triples in this game, and made of couple of key passes and hustle plays on defense. Pretty much par for the course: nothing really flashy, but a lot of key plays made in small areas to help propel the team to victory. 6.5/10

Devin Harris: Guess who’s hurt? Hurt again? Devin’s hurt… tell a friend. Devin did hurt his foot again in this one (an issue that Larry Drew said shouldn’t be too serious), but before that, we was tearing it up in his home state once again. In just 29 minutes of action, he had 16 points, including four triples. Hopefully, this injury doesn’t linger, because the Hawks can’t exactly make up for injuries any more. 7/10

Jeff Teague: Are the Hawks not allowed to have both of their point guards excelling at the same time? Jeff struggled mightily in the first three quarters, but as soon as Devin went out in the fourth, it was a completely different ball game. After starting out 3-for-9 with five turnovers, Jeff didn’t turn the ball over all in the final 12 minutes, and added six points and three assists. While I’m glad we finally got to see aggressive Teague… it would be nice if he could play that way more when Devin is also on the floor and attacking. 6.5/10

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Welcome to our new segment here at HawksHoop. These weekly posts will be looking into the Southeastern Division and go over each team’s record, position in the standings, record for the week, and anything special about them from the week.

 

MIAMiami Heat, 1st, 54-14, 4-0 this week
The Miami Heat are the best looking team in basketball right now as they end the week with a win against the Detroit Pistons to extend their win streak to 25 games (second longest in NBA history). The Heat look unstoppable right now and I’m not sure if anybody has the ability to beat them.

 

ATLAtlanta Hawks, 2nd, 38-31, 2-2 this week
The Atlanta Hawks are currently sitting 2nd in the division that the Heat have ran away with. They’ve had a fairly successful season as far as expectations go, but injuries have derailed what could have been a better season. The Hawks continue to miss Zaza Pachulia and Lou Williams, as their two losses on the week (Dallas and Portland) showed their bench and defensive weaknesses that have formed with those players being sidelined.

  Continue Reading…

FINAL

POR(33-36) 104 – 93 (38-31) ATL

Key Performers:
W. Matthews (PDX): 28 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast
J. Teague (ATL): 21 pts, 7 ast, 2 stl
[FULL BOX SCORE]

I guess the Hawks do read my stuff, because they did the same thing that I did in my recent three game recap: completely skip over the Blazers.

“Breakdowns” was the word for Larry Drew in post game when talking about the 2nd half, as he was completely disgusted with his team’s effort on the defensive end. Portland shot 8-for-11 from behind the arc in the 2nd half, largely due to missed defensive assignments and slow rotations. While the Atlanta offense was able to keep up during the third, they just couldn’t keep it going, and were outscored 31-17 over the final period. Lack of fourth quarter offense and a sieve of a defense? Sounds like the Hawks are really missing Lou Williams and Zaza Pachulia.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Once upon a time, after three quarters, Josh Smith was shooting 9-for-16 from the field and was getting a lot of good looks near the basket. (aka: DUNKS!) However, in the fourth quarter, it was… bleh! Josh was 0-for-5 in the fourth quarter, and took some of the most head-scratching jumpers that I’ve ever seen him take. He did make all four of his foul shots in the final period (ending up 6-for-10 for the night), but for an important stretch of the game, Josh actively shot the Hawks into a loss. 5/10

Al Horford: As inefficient as Josh was, it wasn’t like Al was doing him any favors with the shooting. The Hawks were aggressively looking to get Horford open looks, but Al left a lot of them short. He wound up with one of his worst shooting nights of the year, going 7-for-18 from the floor. However, Al was the team’s strongest rebounder, coming down with 17 rebounds. He also was an extremely active passer, which his five assists don’t adequately reflect. 7.5/10

Kyle Korver: If he’s not making shots, then Korver really isn’t helping you that much. He did get one three-pointer to drive his streak to 62 games, but overall, he missed quite a few easy looks that led to the Hawks offense stalling. 3/10

DeShawn Stevenson: Speaking of missed open shots, DeShawn Stevenson, everybody! And his defense was exactly helping either, as he let Wes Matthews (!) go off on him for 14 in the third quarter; not what you want out of your defensive stopper. 2/10

Jeff Teague: JT was the best player on the floor tonight for the Hawks, but he made a few key turnovers in the fourth quarter, including one where it didn’t even look like he was paying attention when Al Horford passed him the ball. This shouldn’t completely take away from Jeff’s night, because he was the only effective scorer in the fourth quarter. However, like Josh’s jumpers late in the fourth, those TOs came at a critical time in the fourth that make you wonder what the Hawks could have done if they were avoided. 8.5/10

Continue Reading…

FINAL

MIL (34-33) 90 – 98 (38-30) ATL

Key Performers:
A. Horford (ATL): 26 pts, 15 reb, 1ast, 2 stl, 2 blk
L. Sanders (MIL): 19 pts, 14 reb, 2 ast, 4 blk
[FULL BOX SCORE]

If you look at the box score of this game, the first thing that stands out is how many players had seven or more rebounds– there were seven (three of which who had 14 or over), and one who had six in 11 minutes of play. The reason, mainly, is that there were a lot of missed shots, especially by Milwaukee. The interesting thing about this game, however, was that, defensively, it was the complete opposite of Monday night’s effort against Dallas, where the Hawks seemingly hit a wall and allowed a barrage of perimeter scoring. Wednesday night was different: Milwaukee shot 37% from the field as opposed to Dallas’s 60+%, they shot 42% from beyond the arc as opposed to 59%, and they were out-rebounded by the Hawks 47-46 as opposed to out-rebounding them by 13. In short, the Hawks took note of their recent shortcomings, and made a concerted, whether conscious or not, effort to turn them around.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: The field goal percentage was ugly. It’s always ugly. Whatever, I’m going to move past that. You could probably guess the kind of shots he took without even watching the game, anyway. And, just like almost every game, I start out with some negative comment on shot selection or something or another, but then I move on to say that he did his part in other areas. And boy did he on Wednesday. He hauled in 16 rebounds over Milwaukee’s super-lengthy front court and also dished out six assists. But because this is Josh Smith, something had to offset those positive markings, so just to troll everyone, he also had six turnovers. 5/10

Al Horford: There’s so much to be said about how well Horford understands the spacing in the Hawks’ offense. He flashes to the right spots every time Teague penetrates the lane, whether that be to the top of the key or out to the wing, and it really opens things up when he’s connecting on his jumper. He was doing so tonight, and was once again a man amongst boys. He scored 26 points on 11-20 shooting and hauled in 14 rebounds. 10/10

Kyle Korver: He was 3-6 from beyond the arc and kept the streak of games with a made three-pointer alive. He’s only 25 or so games away from breaking the record. His streak is clearly more impressive than the other streak that continued Wednesday night (pshhhh 24 wins is supposed to be good or something?). Anyways, Korver wasn’t exactly a defensive stopper as he struggled to stay with both Redick and Dunleavy most of the night. 4/10

Devin Harris: He was the first quarter offense, scoring 10 points early to keep the Bucks from building any sort of lead when the Hawks just seemed out of sorts offensively. He was the only one attacking the lane and getting to the line at the start of the game, and he also had an awesome fake pass that opened up him for a made three-pointer. He finished the night with 15 points and was active on defense, even if he was beaten off the dribble a few times.  6/10

Jeff Teague: That’s another 20-10 game for Teague, who now has eight of those by my unofficial count, and 12 double-doubles on the season. He also has six games where he’s been either one or two assists away from having a 20-10 game. So, in essence, he finds himself with this sort of stat line a lot, which is clearly good for the Hawks. He was a lightning rod Wednesday night, getting into the lane with ease and finishing on some floaters and runners. He was one point away from his career high and tallied 11 assists to go along with those 27 points.   10/10

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Calling regular season games “must win” when your team is essentially guaranteed a playoff spot may seem silly. It gets even sillier when you’re reminded that the same team has a second-round ceiling in the postseason at best.

However, the Hawks next three games are vitally important for one reason: they need to stay above the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Well, it’s only important if they want to avoid getting bounced in four games by the Miami Heat in the first round.

One of these next three games is at home against a Portland team that habitually struggles on the road. (they’re 9-25 on the road!) The other two, the more important ones, are against the current eighth-seed in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks.

By winning all three of these games, the Hawks can create a sizable cushion between the eighth-seed and themselves. Of course, how do they do it?

Focusing on Milwaukee, the Bucks present an interesting matchup against the Hawks because they have players who can both shoot the ball (Redick, Ilyasova, and Dunleavy) and players that can create off the dribble. (Ellis and Jennings) To top that off, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Larry Sanders give them each an elite wing and post defender.

EDIT: Both Ilyasove and Mbah a Moute will miss tonight’s game.

However, the Bucks have two very exploitable weaknesses. The first, both Jennings and Ellis are awful defenders that will force Larry Sanders to help on a lot of plays. While Sanders is very good at help defense, this will still leave too many open passing lanes for Teague and Harris. Like the last game between these two teams (which the Hawks won, 103-102) expect a lot of passing from the Hawks and big night from Al Horford.

The second major weakness, again, lies with Jennings and Ellis. Both of these guys are volume scorers that aren’t very efficient. Continue Reading…

FINAL

DAL(32-35) 117 – 103 (37-30) ATL

Key Performers:
J. Teague (ATL): 19 pts, 2 reb, 7 asts, 2 stl
D. Collison (DAL): 24 pts, 5 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

Larry Drew’s overriding theme for the Hawks is energy. Whether that be energy on offense, energy on defense, or just a non-stop stream of movement on both ends of the floor that induces a controlled chaos, the Hawks had none of it to begin the game. Defensively, the effort was nearly nonexistent: rotations were poor, the pick-and-roll coverage was weak, and the lack of defensive rebounding opened up Dallas’s perimeter shooting even more. In short, 103 points should be enough to win any game or at least be competitive in any game, but it wasn’t for this game. The Mavericks scored 117 points and at least 30 in each of the first three quarters as they blitzed a lifeless Hawks team, clinging to the second night of a back-to-back, in what was a blowout or at least thoroughly controlled game from the beginning.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Statistically, Smith had a solid game. He scored 13 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and passed for 6 assists– those are good numbers, but sometimes those stat lines are empty.The emptiest category in that stat line is rebounding, which is not-so-coincidentally the same category the Hawks were destroyed in on Monday night. Dallas had 8 more rebounds on the night and doubled Atlanta in offensive boards. Smith, who was playing the four almost the entire night, was not an active participant on the glass, and that truly had a significant impact. Furthermore, it’s nights like these when the jumpers don’t fly. Settling, pulling up– you name it, he did it. He did make some nice plays in transition and also had a few buckets in the paint, but the areas in which he usually ameliorates his shortcomings are the ones in which he struggled: rebounding and defensive intensity. 4.5/10

Al Horford: Bob Rathbun tossed a stat on the screen last night that said Horford is the only player in the NBA who has averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds since the all-star break– that should provide everyone with a decent understanding of his constant production. On Monday night, that production was once again prevalent, but offset by a lackluster and lackadaisical team defensive performance. (It’s worth noting that the Hawks offense actually played pretty well last night. They got most of the looks they wanted, they just couldn’t string together a few stops in a row to pull the game within 10 points.) Anyway, Horford’s pick-and-pop jumpers seemed a little short, which might be a product of fatigue. This was the second of a back-to-back, but Horford still gave it a solid go and had a strong night rebounding (the only Hawk to do so); he finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists. 7.5/10

Kyle Korver: Defensively, Korver was lost like a needle in a haystack in pick-and-roll coverage. I believe Larry Drew mentioned before the game that Dallas loves to run pick-and-rolls, and they sure do. Vince Carter showed up Korver early and often with a bevy of drives and open jumpers. On offense, Korver gave his usual production: two three-pointers, over 50% shooting, 11 points. 4/10

Devin Harris: Nothing spectacular from Devin on Monday night– 10 points, 2 assists, and some mediocre defense. There really isn’t much more to it than that. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Teague’s offensive performance was the only real positive for the Hawks on Monday night. Aggressive Teague showed up as he attacked the basket and was relentless in transition. Dallas tried to slow him by icing his pick-and-rolls a few times– they experienced minor success, but on the whole Teague’s ability to get to the hoop was a major reason Atlanta was able to keep the game from being a full-fledged blowout. For all the good he brought offensively, however, he brought almost as much bad defensively. He, like Korver, struggled in covering Dallas’s pick-and-roll as Darren Collison broke down Atlanta’s defense seemingly play after play in the first half. Jeff couldn’t stay in front of him, and the help was ineffective. 6.5/10 Continue Reading…