Archives For December 2016

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks missed their chance to return to the top of the Southwest division after falling 107-99 at home against the Charlotte Hornets on the second night of a back-to-back. Kemba Walker led the way for the Hornets with 18 points and 10 assists. Former Hawk Marvin Williams scored a team high 19 points. With this latest victory over the Hawks, the Hornets now own a 2-0 season series lead against the Hawks.

Decisive sequence in the fourth

Having trailed by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, the Hawks fought back and found themselves right in contention to win this game, twice taking the lead in the fourth quarter. People are pinpointing the Hawks’ so-and-so second quarter — where they were outscored 31-20 by the Hornets — as the reason they lost this game but, at least in my opinion, that reason went out the window once the Hawks took the lead again — it’s a new game at that point, everything else prior to that almost doesn’t matter. You’re back in front, momentum is on your side. However, the lead the Hawks enjoyed was brief, the Hornets seemingly held answers for every little run the Hawks made and they quickly bounced back with two Marco Belinelli three-pointers to put them back up again. In the end this game was decided in, roughly, 20 seconds of gameplay.

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Ron Turenne/NBAE

Ron Turenne/NBAE

The Atlanta Hawks avenged their 44 point loss that they suffered against the Toronto Raptors — 13 days ago — with a 125-121 victory in Toronto. The Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan’s 34 points while his running mate, Kyle Lowry, added another 27, including a 6-for-8 performance from three-point range. Impressive.

Avenging the loss

13 days can a long time in this league and the Hawks proved that last night with a full circle-like performance, bouncing back against the Raptors with a big road win following their 44 point loss at the Air Canada Centre 13 days ago. What was the difference this time around? Well, it’s pretty simple, the Hawks just played much, much better than they did last time out.

Let’s start with scoring, last time out, the Hawks only scored 84 points on just under 40% shooting while shooting 25% from three and attempting 14 free throws, making just seven. The starters combined for just 46 points on 41% shooting with only two starters scored in double-digits (Dennis Schröder scoring 15 points, Dwight Howard scoring 10). Last night the staters scored 83 points (one less than the total number of points the Hawks scored in their last meeting with the Raptors) on 52.7% shooting with four starters scoring in double digits.

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Defeating the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers and competing step for step with Steph Curry and company seems like a far cry compared to the Hawks’ performances this season against sub .500 ball clubs. Just last Wednesday, they struggled to put away a Heat team that was missing several of its key contributors, then traveled to Milwaukee and barely gritted out a win after trailing by 20 points at halftime. Tonight, they continued their woes against sub .500 teams by trailing as much as 12 in the first half in a 131-120 loss to the 11-16 Orlando Magic.

“We have to find a way,” Tim Hardaway said. “This is not the first loss we’ve had to an under 500 team. It’s the NBA though — everybody at this level is a pro. Anybody can get 20 or 30 on any given night. We can’t look at the record, you have to instead look at the personnel. They are competing just as much as you are.”

When you trail the New Orleans Pelicans by 35 midway through an eventual 112-94 blowout , there is cause for pause. They’ve struggled against some of the worst defenses — scoring just 94 points against a 24th ranked Knicks defense — and allowing otherwise inadequate offenses to look unstoppable — Orlando averages 95 points a game despite scoring 131 on Atlanta’s defense.

You can point to several reasons as to why this has become an issue, whether it’s the 16.6 turnovers per game, 32 percent three point shooting or Coach Budenholzer’s constant lineup switch in search for reliable offensive production.

Tonight’s 15 turnovers  —resulting in 26 points for the Magic — was the biggest difference in the game and has been in several of their losses to bottom ranked teams. In the Hawks’ loss against the Suns they accumulated 20, they had 18 against the Lakers in Los Angeles and had 15 versus the Pelicans. Every team in the league loves facing a turnover prone bunch like these Hawks, because it buffers their own strengths and hides their weaknesses. Additionally, turnovers will tarnish a team’s best asset — the Hawks defense — by putting it in some tough spots in transition as a result of a lazy pass or a weak dribble-drive..

“Defense is our calling card, but we put so much pressure on our defense when we don’t get a good shot or we turn the ball over,” Kent Bazemore said. “Teams have gotten so much better in transition and it’s underrated how much that can really hurt you, because you have guys then able to get in rhythm, get mismatches, lobs at the rim and it really gets things going. So taking care of the ball is really pivotal.”

The high turnover count was present in Cleveland and the Bay; but it didn’t matter because both units were productive offensively and the defense contested the three-point line better than they have facing teams like the Magic. So who exactly are the Atlanta Hawks? 25 games into the season,Coach Budenholzer and company have yet to figure that out — no team really has frankly — but you would like to start at least begin a building process.

“The turnovers gave them confidence early on, they had some open shots and transition points,” Thabo Sefolosha said. “It definitely affects the way we play and the way they played throughout the whole game.”

For this team, it has been tough to find a balance when the offense is there one night and gone the next, which then places far too much pressure on getting defensive stops. The bench began the year playing as good as any in the league, while the starters were still finding their way. Now that has flipped, and here you have a Hawks group teetering in and out of playoff contention — unfamiliar territory given the past two years.

“This is a very deep team and we have a lot of guys who can play so it’s all about finding that rhythm as a unit”, Bazemore said. “We’ve had glimpses of both units doing well. The bench started off the season doing well, then the starters got going, so it’s a lot going on and not enough consistency. But we are not going to get it back all at once and we are still trying to figure out who we are.”

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks’ two game winning patch was scuppered by the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, the Hawks falling 131-120 (no, that’s not a misprint) to their division rivals. Serge Ibaka led the Magic with 29 points while Elfrid Payton recorded career highs in both points (26) and assists (14).

Understanding what on earth happened and why it happened

Heading into last night’s game, the Orlando Magic were averaging just 94.8 points per game, that ranks 29th in the league. Only the Dallas Mavericks — at 93.5 PPG — average less points per game than the Magic. Last night, the Magic scored 131 points, 36 points more than their average. 131 points… without, arguably, their best offensive in Nikola Vucevic who sat this one out. How did this happen? And why?

There’s a number of factors at play here. First of all, it’s an 82 game season. All teams will have at least one game like this where all their previous percentages just seem to fly out the window and they play an absolute stormer. This was that game for the Magic last night. It’s very, very unlikely they will have a better statistical night than they did last night, at least this season. I mean, take a look at their seasonal averages compared to their numbers from last night’s game.

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Rapper Gucci Mane is seeking equity in the Atlanta Hawks.

In a podcast with Bill Simmons on Tuesday, Gucci was asked what he thought the Hawks needed to do to have a better fanbase.

“They should’ve brought me in as one of the minority owners,” Gucci replied. “If they would’ve did that they would’ve changed the whole landscape.”

“That’s one franchise that I would love to be a part of,” said Gucci later on in the podcast.

The discussion begins at about the 24:40 mark.

 

 

His first proposition if he is given that minority stake? Move the Hawks to East Atlanta — the region oft-repped by Gucci, whose newest album, The Return of East Atlanta Santa, is due for release on December 16th.

“We should move them to Moreland and call them the East Atlanta Hawks,” Gucci said.

Gucci’s ties to the Hawks have been well-documented in the past and, in his second official show in Atlanta since his release from prison this past May, Gucci performed at Philips Arena during halftime of the Hawks’ November 22nd loss against the New Orleans Pelicans.

It was at that game that Gucci proposed to his longtime girlfriend — Keyshia Ka’oir. Simmons referred to the well-publicized proposal as “the best thing to happen to the Hawks in the last 25 years — since Dominique Wilkins.”

The two went on to ponder whether or not the Hawks’ ownership would ever find out about Gucci’s wish.

“Maybe they’ll hear about this and they’ll reach out,” Gucci said.

“I bet they hear about this — somebody write a blog post,” Simmons responded.

Well, here it is, Bill.

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks notched their second straight victory after knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 at the BMO Bradley Harris Center on Friday night. Jabari Parker (who was fantastic last night) led the Bucks with 27 points on 11-of-24 shooting.

The comeback

The Hawks trailed by 20 (20!!) points at half time and seemingly looking down the barrel of another defeat. The Bucks shot 57% from the field and 61% (8-of-13) from behind the arc. The Hawks’ defense wasn’t awful, they Bucks were quite hot, especially from downtown. That said, the Hawks should’ve been an awful lot closer to the Bucks, they missed a lot of easy shots that they should’ve made.

The message at halftime? Professional pride.

“It was just about having some pride, going out there and trying to get it done.” — Paul Millsap

Post game, Tim Hardaway Jr. said that Kent Bazemore (who missed his second game in a row with a knee injury) had a different message at halftime.

“Bazemore said at halftime, this could be a turnaround for our season.” — Tim Hardaway Jr. 

The Hawks Twitter account (who had a great game last night) were also confident of a comeback.

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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks knocked off division rivals, the Miami Heat, 103-95 at Philips Arena last night. The Heat were very shorthanded last night, playing without Dion Waiters, Luke Babbitt, Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Josh Richardson and Chris Bosh (as they have done all season) but got a significant contribution from Tyler Johnson, who scored a career high 27 points on the second night of a back-to-back.

Losing streak snapped

It’s over! The Hawks’ seven game losing streak is over, it’s only their second win in their last 12 games. How badly did they need this win?

“As bad as we need air.” — Paul Millsap

“He’s right. That’s all we’ve been thinking about since the last game, how we could come in and get this game. I thought our effort and our energy were in the right place and we got a good win.” — Dwight Howard

The Hawks are still below .500 with an 11-12 record, but it’s a start, something to build on. They actually played a very decent game against the shorthanded Heat, playing well on both sides of the floor. Of course, Coach Bud never settles and knows the Hawks can play much better.

“It’s good. I think we can play a lot better. We can get better. The work the guys put in the last couple days….the ball movement, the 27 assists is better. I think we need to keep building and keep getting better, but it’s good to get a win.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

Bud briefly mentioned the 27 assists the Hawks registered, some of the ball movement last night was exquisite and the Hawks, having struggled with their ball movement of late, have now dished out 53 assists in their last two games. A very positive trend.

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