Archives For October 2016

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks began their new season with a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards at Philips Arena. Let’s dive right in.

Fourth quarter burst led by Tim Hardaway Jr.

Wow, those are words I didn’t think I’d type this season…

The Hawks led this game by one point (81-80) heading into the fourth quarter but a 20-4 run — with a lineup Paul Millsap and the second unit — in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quickly turned this game from a tight one to a near blowout. But it was Tim Hardaway Jr. who absolutely exploded in the fourth, scoring 12 of those 20 points during that decisive run. He shot 5-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 from behind the arc in the fourth, it was so good to see Tim have a game like this. He had a bad, very bad, beginning to the preseason but started to turn it around near the end of preseason and he showed up last night when the Hawks really needed some offense because it wasn’t looking pretty at time with Dennis Schröder running the point.

That lineup that led the fourth quarter charge — Delaney, THJ, Sefolosha, Millsap and Moose — had astronomical offensive ratings (points per 100 possessions). Malcolm Delaney, 121. Tim Hardaway Jr., 135. Thabos Sefolosha, 126. Paul Millsap, 115. And Mike Muscala, 116. And all of these guys played over 20 minutes too, not garbage time. Well, except for Malcolm Delaney, he played 19 minutes and 58 seconds…

Regardless, THJ provided the Hawks with the spark they needed in the fourth, he was fantastic. More of this, please!

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ATLANTA — Two thirds of the Hawks’ newly minted $70 million trio — Dwight Howard (11 points, 19 rebounds), Dennis Schroder (14 points) and Kent Bazemore (7 points, one for seven shooting) — played admirably on Thursday night, but it was the play of two bench players — quintessential Hawks basketball — that triggered a 24-4 run in the fourth quarter that sealed, then sent, the proverbial letter to give Atlanta a 114-99 opening night victory over the Washington Wizards.

The game was close throughout — neither side held a lead larger than eight — until the fourth quarter. The aforementioned bench players, Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points, eight for 13 shooting) and Thabo Sefolosha (13 points, six for eight shooting), wreaked havoc on defense along the perimeter, relentlessly pressuring the Wizards into a series of bad passes and poor shot selections in a fourth quarter that the Hawks entered with a mere one point lead.

“Even I could figure out [Sefolosha and Hardaway Jr.] were playing pretty decent,” Coach Mike Budenholzer said. “There would have been like 18 hands and arms pulling me back if I tried to take them out.”

Dwight Howard’s regular season homecoming debut was a fruitful showing. Besides grabbing his customary double-digit rebounds, he navigated the post with some nimble back-to-the-basket moves — but it was his presence on defense that manifested to be his greatest contribution. Howard’s defensive presence in the paint was palpable, contesting shots to a tune of only three fouls in 30 minutes of play, proving to be every bit the interior threat that the Hawks wanted him to be when they signed him to a three-year, $70.5 million deal in the offseason.

But, evidently it was the amount of rebounds Howard notched that impressed him the most.

“I got boards in Atlanta,” exclaimed Howard to no one in particular, in the tune of Desiigner’s “Panda,” as he readied for a shower post-game.

The steady hand of Paul Millsap proved, as he always does, why he may be the most underrated player in the NBA. Millsap aptly exploited the poor defense of Markieff Morris to the tune of an easy 28 points to go along with seven rebounds on 55 percent shooting. Morris was no match for Millsap’s potpourri of spin and hesitation moves, which were often started on the perimeter, where Millsap was able to bait Morris too close with pump fakes from three, giving Millsap ample time to drive past and directly towards the hoop.

Ultimately, there were a few signs of the early-season rust that can be easily rinsed away — if all goes right — as the season progresses.

“This was our first game [but] our spacing wasn’t great tonight on the break,” Korver said. “I think we executed pretty well, but we’ve seen practices where outlets are getting further out there — they’re getting up the floor faster.”

If Thursday’s night triumph served as any indication, there isn’t much rust for the Hawks to scrub off as they adjust to the beginning of another arduous season. But, even a small amount of rust on a metal pipe requires the time, the tools and the persistence to remove it completely.

The Hawks play next at Philadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 12:00 p.m.

 Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America

It’s time. After a whole summer of talking and a little bit of action in the preseason, it’s time for Atlanta Hawks basketball — proper. This Thursday, at Philips Arena, the Hawks tip off their season against the Washington Wizards. And let’s be honest, we have no idea how this Hawks team is going to fare this season in the Eastern Conference. We’ll get to why that is in a bit, but first let’s go over what the Hawks did this summer and we’ll take it from there.

In: Dwight Howard, Malcolm Delaney

Out: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich,

Drafted: Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry

For better or for worse?

Al Horford is gone — gone because the Hawks didn’t want to max him (and not even the max as it turned out) for five years and gone because he wasn’t the front office’s top priority. It’s as simple as that. Jeff Teague requested a trade, that was granted and now he resides in Indiana. The two most important positions on the court are, arguably, the point guard and center positions and now the Hawks have to plug in new players into those respective positions. That’s always a concern heading into a new season, especially for a team that preached continuity at the end of the season.

To replace Horford and Teague the Hawks added Dwight Howard and gave the point guard reigns to Dennis Schröder.

I still believe that Schröder is not ready to be a starting point guard in this league. I feel he’s still too erratic and one of those players where he’ll do something and you’ll sit there and think “What the flip was that, Dennis???”. And that happens often too. I also worry about his shooting. One of the better things Teague did last year was shoot 40 % from behind the arc — a team best. Schröder shot 32% from behind the arc. Offensively, Jeff just makes better decisions and is a better offensive player than Dennis. But the one thing Dennis does have going for him is his defense — his defense is absolutely ready for a starting role and he should improve the team at the point guard position from a defensive point of view. I still think it’s too soon though…

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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Hawks picked up their second victory of the preseason with a 99-93 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wait… The Hawks actually beat the Cavaliers?? The 11 game losing streak that has run since the 2015 Conference Finals is over?? What’s that? It doesn’t actually count because no relevant Cavalier played and it’s only a preseason game? Oh…

Anyways, they picked up the win and it was so good to finally be able to watch the Hawks in action after their first two games of the preseason (against the Grizzlies and the Spurs) were not televised.

Let’s just get stuck in, shall we?

Dwight Howard shines in Philips debut

Dwight Howard’s first competitive game at Philips Arena was a decent one, you could say. He scored 26 points (on 11-of-15 shooting), collected eight rebounds, and blocked two shots in just under 24 minutes of action.

He was so dominant in the first quarter and there’s so much to digest, I don’t know where to start. But before we get stuck into the footage, do — please — keep in mind that this is preseason and the opposition Dwight was playing against was not of the highest quality. Important to note, as some tend to get carried away after one game.

Defensively, we always knew what Dwight we were going to see — so long as he was locked in. But we all knew if he was locked in that Dwight was always going to be a force to be reckoned with at the rim. As Jordan McRae found out the hard way…

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Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

Oh my goodness, it’s finally here. Even if it’s only preseason, Atlanta Hawks basketball is back!

Tipping off in Memphis on Thursday, we’ll finally be able to get a look at the Hawks in a — somewhat — competitive environment. This is definitely the most I, and I’m sure many others, have been looking forward to seeing the Hawks in action in a while given the summer they had — letting Al Horford go, trading Jeff Teague, signing Dwight Howard and giving the point guard reigns to Dennis Schröder. I am fascinated to see how the overall jigsaw is going to assemble on the court.

I’m not sure how many preseason games are actually going to be broadcasted (be it from the Hawks’ side or from their opposition’s side), but here are some things to look out for when you are watching them in action.

How Dwight Howard fits into the offense

On the face of it, I would not call Dwight Howard a Hawks-y type of player. He’s not a very diverse player on the offensive end (limited to mostly dunks and post moves, the latter seeing varying levels of success), he’s not the greatest passer of the ball (certainly not as a good of a passer than Al Horford was/is), he can’t stretch the floor like Horford did with his mid-range/three-point shot and he bogs down his team’s offensive flow when he is hacked, due to teams wanting to take advantage of his very poor free throw shooting percentages.

I was shocked when the I heard the Hawks had agreed a deal to sign Dwight and I’ve tried to talk myself into the thought of him as a Hawk and there’s certainly a decent case to make for Dwight Howard as a Hawk. We’ve talked about it to no end but now it’s finally time to see it in action.

I have so many questions:

How will Dwight actually fit into this complex offense that the Hawks run? Is he going to be as willing of a passer as Horford was? Is he going to be invested into the system where it’s about “we” not “I”? Will we see him dip into that expanded mid-range game we’ve seen him practise all summer with his shooting coach, Lethal Shooter? Can he knock down that shot in real game situations? Undoubtedly — not through “hack-a” mind you, unless teams are feeling very mean in preseason — we will see Dwight at the free throw line at some stage. Will he give any indication, any confidence, that his free throw percentage is going to increase this season, enough to the point where teams think twice about hacking him? How will his rim-rolling help the Hawks’ offense? What will it open up for his teammates? Will pick-and-rolls involving him help free up the shooters, like Kyle Korver?

We’re not going have all our Dwight Howard questions answered right now, but the picture should be a little clearer once preseason is over.

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