Archives For February 2017

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks — behind an excellent second half — ended their three game skid with an excellent road victory against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden on Monday night. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 19 points on 4-of-21 shooting, ending his 43 game streak of scoring 20 or more points in a game.

He’s had an incredible run at it, and you’re going to have nights like that. That’s certainly the case. But you know, again, I think we should also credit Atlanta. I feel like Atlanta deserves to be credited for (their defense); I thought they played great.”

— Coach Brad Stevens

Former Hawk Al Horford scored six points on 3-of-9 shooting.

Dwight’s eventful night

Eventful is certainly one way to describe Dwight Howard’s night… At least we’re not talking about some Schröder-Thomas nonsense, I suppose…

Dwight was having a very decent game. He had the advantage over the Celtics when it came to rebounding (grabbing six offensive rebounds and 12 overall), he was hitting the majority of his free throws and he was playing good defense…things were going great. Then the third quarter happened. Things got a little chippy with Al Horford, Dwight taking exception to a foul that Horford committed.

Dwight earned — and it was well earned — a technical foul for that shove. After Horford picked up his fourth foul, Dwight’s game continued to trend upwards, enjoying favorable match-ups in Horford’s absence. And then…then this happened (yay, timestamps):

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The Atlanta Hawks scored a solid defensive performance against the Boston Celtics winning 114-98 for their first win since the All-Star break. With the win, the Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak and are now three games in the loss column behind the division-eading Washington Wizards.

Dennis Schroder finished with 21 points last night, corralling his 22nd game of scoring at least 20 points this season. How good is that? Schroder had 10 games of 20 points or more entering this season! Dwight Howard (more on him later) scored 17 points and grabbed a team high 12 rebounds. Paul Millsap, still in his All-Star form, finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Atlanta’s losing streak was not the only streak that was snapped, another historical streak was snapped. It was one of my…

Three lessons…

Lesson number one… Isaiah Thomas’ 20 points in a game streak is OVER!

Boston Celtics All-Star guard, Isaiah Thomas saw his franchise-record streak of 43 games with 20 points or more go by the wayside Monday night. Thomas had a bad night shooting finishing with 19 points on an anemic 4-for-21 shooting in 31 minutes of action. Throw in seven turnovers, and let’s just say the Hawks had him basically on lock all night long. This marks only the second time all season long that Thomas didn’t tally 20 points in a game. Continue Reading…

Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their second game in a row since the All-Star break ended, losing 105-86 against the Orlando Magic on Saturday evening. Terrence Ross led the Magic with 24 points while Nikola Vučević added 16 points and 14 rebounds. For the Hawks, THJ led the way with 15 points while Dwight Howard, Dennis Schröder, Paul Millsap and Taurean Prince (who was probably the only bright spark from last night) all scored 11 points each.

Bad Q3 leads to another blowout

The Hawks found themselves in an 11 point hole early in this game but did very well in the second quarter to not only to fight back but to take nine point lead for themselves. The defense was rolling, it looked like the Hawks had figured out their issues. But then Dwight Howard picked up his third personal foul with 4:23 left in the half and the Magic proceeded with a 16-5 run to take a three point lead into the half with Dwight picking up a fourth foul before the half ended.

“I thought the loose ball foul just under the five minute mark was tough. We were up nine. He gets the rebound and goes back up and we are up 11. Then they just beat us to a couple rebounds and another foul and they drive it and he gets his fourth. Them getting to the free-throw line was a big part of that 16-5 run.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

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John Amis AP

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their first game after the All-Star break in spectacular fashion, falling to a 108-90 home defeat against the Miami Heat. Tyler Johnson led the way for the Heat with 23 points off the bench on 9-of-11 shooting while Goran Dragić added 17 points. Paul Millsap, probably the only Hawks who actually played well, scored 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 19 of those coming in the first half. Were it not for these 19 points in the first half, the Hawks would’ve easily been trailing by 25 points at least…

New faces, same old Hawks…

New Hawk Ersan Ilyasova couldn’t help the Hawks overcome their Achilles heel last night: defending the three-point line.

The Heat became the sixth team this season to set a season-high in three-point makes with 17 as the Heat shot 17-of-37 from behind the arc, 46%. It was truly something else watching the Heat shoot open three after open three. In fact, just over 30% of the Heat’s three-point shots were open, 14% — as classified by NBA.com — were open (the closest defender is 4-6 feet away from the shooter) and 16% of the Heat’s three-pointers were wide open — again, classified by NBA.com — (closest defender, 6-10 feet).

This is just not acceptable for what the Hawks are trying to achieve and where they’re trying to go. Time after time after time they’ve let teams ignite from three. Hey, guess what? Professional basketball players can make wide open three-pointers.

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Happy Friday! This Week in the Hawks Episode 10 is here for your listening pleasure. Bo Churney of FanBuzz joins me as we discuss the trade deadline and the moves the Hawks made: Ersan Ilyasova, Mike Scott and the reported efforts the Hawks made to try acquire Paul George and Jimmy Butler. We also talked about the Hawks’ decision to fill their two free roster spots with Lamar Patterson and Ryan Kelly, who were signed to deals on Friday too and the breaking news of Dennis Schröder’s one game suspension against the Miami Heat on Friday.

Thanks again to Bo for hopping on and thank you for listening! If you enjoyed, a share on Twitter is always appreciated.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The period after the All-Star break is one of my favorite periods of the NBA season. We know what teams are good, what teams suck and you have a frenzy of teams who are gunning for the playoffs/playoff seeding, potentially trying to implement exciting new pieces along the way. It’s this final run-in before the playoffs that I enjoy so much. Almost everyone has something to play/lose for.

And that brings me to today’s topic: how are the Atlanta Hawks looking heading into the last leg of the regular season?

The Hawks are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, sitting just half a game back of the Toronto Raptors, 2.5 games behind the Washington Wizards and four games back of the Boston Celtics for the second seed.

The Hawks haven’t played particularly great over the last few weeks and have pulled out games they had no right in winning (e.g. Houston). That said, the Hawks are right there in the mix for home court advantage despite not playing too well so it makes you wonder, if they did play well, how high in the standings this team could actually finish?

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PhilipsArena.com

A quick ‘before we get things started’ note: the figures that I discuss, such as average ticket price, come from official Atlanta Hawks pocket/media guides (media guides prior to 2010-11 can be found here) and these revealed (under the ‘Philips Arena’ section) what the average ticket price for each area in the arena, as such, was.

Example from the 2013-14 season Hawks media guide (the Hawks removed this information in their media guides from the 2015-16 season onwards):


On November 1st 2016, the Atlanta Hawks and the city of Atlanta announced plans to renovate Philips Arena which are expected to cost $192.5 million, with the city of Atlanta pledging $142.5 million while the Hawks would come up with the remaining $50 million.

As you can see, the Hawks have grand plans to make Philips Arena the place to be on an almost nightly basis and, if the team is any good, the arena will really draw the people in. You also have the likes of Sir Foster, who provides a one of a kind experience, as well as the Hawks’ legendary 3D court projections and these, in addition to all the other factors, may lead to more people wanting to become season ticket holders, thus increasing demand. And, as we know, when the demand for something is high it drives the price up and the Hawks are, perhaps, trying to get an early start on this process by raising ticket prices for next season.

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Atlanta has suffered through several blowouts so far this season that should give pause to whether or not this team is capable of making a deep playoff run.

In every single one of those blowouts, they looked unequipped and unenthusiastic facing opponents with several shooters and playmakers. Washington, Detroit, and Utah all showed just that this year’s defense, allowing the most points per game under Coach Budenholzer’s tenure, does not seem to be imposing their will on teams as in seasons past.

The reason that may be? Those aggressive teams mentioned above have figured out the weaknesses of the Hawks’ defense, and they are well-equipped to attack it.

“We know that they are a team that likes to have their bigs play back in pick and roll coverage,” said Washington’s Bradley Beal. “So we took full advantage of it and were able to come off screens for jumpers or get in the lane and create for someone else.”

Beal’s teammate — star point guard John Wall — added on to that assessment.

“They are a type of team that closes out the paint first, then closes out on shooters, so with me and Bradley being aggressive in pick and rolls, guys just have to be ready to shoot.” said Wall. “More teams are just going to give me the shot in pick and rolls by allowing me and Gortat to play two-on-tow or take us away and let the weak side score.”

In Washington and Atlanta’s Jan. 27 meeting that the Wizards won 112-86, the box score said the Wizards posted a 42% 3-point field goal percentage, but witnessing it felt more like 52%, as many of them were taken without much contest from defenders. More alarming than some of those other blowouts was that the Hawks were fully aware stepping onto this court that they were facing a Top 10 3-point shooting squad in Washington and apparently made no adjustments from their usual scheme.

The pick and roll scheme, along with electing to pack the paint, seems works well when you face teams like the Bulls or Nets that lack floor spacers. Honestly, it was very apparent last season when Cleveland swept Atlanta for a second straight time that eventually talents trumps scheme; we see that every year during march Madness when a Cinderella run ends once they face an overwhelming gifted roster.

Some believed heading into the season that Dwight Howard could take this Hawks defense to a level that Al Horford could not. Although Howard thrives in rim protection, teams have steadily tried to force him into defending the pick and rolls more frequently, an area he may not be completely comfortable in. Combined with that, the farther Howard is away from the rim, the less of a rebounding presence he becomes. This then results in more offensive opportunities for opponents, as evidence by the Hawks’ currently ranking 26th in opponent second chance points and 23rd in opponent offensive rebounds. While many put a lot of stock in Howard’s pure rebounding numbers, replacing Horford — who excelled in reading coverages and moving his feet well enough to disrupt ballhandlers — is not a skill you can find just anywhere in this league.

The focus in this series of clips is to watch how Howard and Mike Muscala have been instructed to sag back into the paint.

Now when Budenholzer chooses to blitz the ballhandler off the pick and roll by forcing him to one side of the floor, there are only two reactions from opponents: panic or patience. Teams like Washington and Cleveland play with a certain level of patience because they have multiple sources of offense. Those secondary options can make the right pass or drift to the right spot on the backside of the defense for higher percentage looks from downtown. Utah is another team this season who has proven that with length, shooting and playmaking, this Top 5 ranked defense can look discombobulated.

While the Hawks often excel at trapping, this series shows just how vulnerable the weakside is whenever the Hawks trap one side. Not every team can take advantage of that, but Utah’s Gordon Hayward explains why some of the top teams in the league are able to do so.

“They do a good job of coming over, shifting early and shutting down rolls,” said Hayward. “We are unique because we have a lot of playmakers and taller guys so we can see over the defense, which helps make that extra skip pass.”

Hayward’s teammate and point guard George Hill echoed similar sentiments.

“You have to be fundamentally sound when you play these guys,” said George Hill. “Coach Bud is a great coach and they have a lot of great players that are active. So you have to strategically pick them apart as far as attacking the bigs getting them in two-on-one options, where we can get the ball out of the trap and try to play two-on-one on the backside.”

For the last couple seasons, it always felt as though no matter how poorly the Hawks struggled to score the ball that the defense would always be there to keep the game close. They could buckle down in any moment and jumpstart some type of offense, but not so much this season. Yes, the defense enabled them to comeback from 20-point deficits in Milwaukee and Houston, but in order to think like a champion, you must think pessimistically. In the Hawks’ case, it’s not just about blown leads and lost games, but wins too; even in victories in which they had a substantial lead, they closed out the game rather poorly from a defensive standpoint.

Playoff time is just around the corner and no considerable changes to the roster seem forthcoming. The scheme can be and has been very effective obviously, but its weaknesses could very well be the reason they won’t make it very far in this year’s postseason.

Happy Friday and happy All-Star break!

Episode 9 of This Week in the Hawks covers a whole range of lovely topics including:

  • Mike Budenholzer confirming that Paul Millsap will not be traded
  • Some Larry Sanders talk
  • The Hawks looking to add talent ahead of the trade deadline, what they need and what’s out there
  • Game recaps from the Hawks’ three game Western Conference road trip
  • And some team and player stats from the last five games

Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed, perhaps consider giving this an ‘aul ReTweet and apologies again for any audio issues, still figuring out the kinks of a new setup. You know how it goes.