Archives For December 2017

A tribute was in order for a former Hawk when the Washington Wizards visited Philips Arena Wednesday night. Mike Scott spent his first five seasons in Atlanta with the Hawks where he appeared in 281 games and became one of the more well-liked players by the fan base.

The crowd showed their appreciation for Scott as there were numerous jerseys with Scott’s number 32 on the back throughout the arena, despite Scott being a member of the Wizards, a division rival and the team that eliminated the Hawks from the playoffs last season.

The Hawks also put together a video tribute chronicling Scott’s tenure with the team. The video ironically featured one of Scott’s most memorable moments in which he dunked on current teammate Bradley Beal and another monstrous slam on another current Wizards teammate Ian Mahinmi in the 2014 playoffs.

Scott was then met with a standing ovation to which he responded with appreciation as he acknowledged the crowd with a wave and a pound of his chest.

“That was dope,” Scott said. “I only spent five years here, but it was kind of a long five years. That was great. There was a lot of love from the fans and the coaching staff.”

Scott had Wednesday’s game circled to see his old friends and teammates like Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder, whom he spent most of his five seasons playing with. Scott expected it to be a little emotional and it was. Scott scored six points in the 18 minutes of work Wednesday. With the reunion checked off, Scott expects it to begin to feel normal when he faces the Hawks the next two times this season as the Wizards chase the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

“I thought about it,” Scott said. “I wish we would have won. But that felt good. I think we come back here late January, so I’m glad we got this over with and we can come back in January and just straight hoop.”

The Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards don’t have a friendly past. At least not the last three years, as the two teams have played a total of 22 times in the last three seasons.

The two teams have seen each other a lot in the big, high-pressure situations. Not only as combatants in the Southeast division, but the two teams played two back-to-back wars disguised as playoff series.

There were hard feelings.

Wizards forward Markeiff Morris has some choice words for then-Hawks forward Paul Millsap as he referred to Millsap as a ‘Crybaby’ following Game 3. Morris heard boos and cheers when he missed a free throw Wednesday night. Wizards’ point guard John Wall fired social media jabs at Hawks’ point guard Dennis Schroder after the Wizards eliminated the Hawks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. This was iced off by multiple on-court altercations over the six games.

Point being, the two franchises don’t necessarily like one another. Wednesday, the schedule had them squaring off for the second time this season with expectations of more ‘chippiness’ between the teams.

“It seems like that was forever ago, it seems like both teams have had chippy moments both regular season and in playoff games and everything,” Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think it’s two competitive teams and when you know each other well and when you kind of almost anticipate and expect what’s coming, I think it leads to that little bit of extra edge from both sides. If it happens in a regular season game it’s not a surprise when you’ve played each other a ton.”

The Hawks haven’t forgotten. They haven’t forgotten that it was the Wizards who knocked them out of the postseason last season in addition to all of the back-and-forths that went on during games and through media off the court.

“You sort of [think about the chippiness], kind of have to, this is the team that put you out last year,” Hawks’ forward Taurean Prince said. “You kind of get fired up against a team like that. On top of that even if that wasn’t the case, they’re a good team and this is a good chance to get a good win.”

Both teams managed to behave on Wednesday with the fireworks coming on the court. The Hawks played inspired on both ends of the floor to earn the 113-99 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Schroder led the way with 21 points and seven assists. Ersan Ilyasova scored 20 points, while Marco Belinelli added 19 off the bench. The Hawks defense added some quick and excitement to a mostly full-Philips Arena. John Collins blocked three shots. Kent Bazemore swatted a shot off the backboard that brought the crowd to its feet. Prince added two more blocks as the Hawks totaled seven blocks on the night. Hawks also held Wall to only 10 points.

“Good win for us coming off three days without a game,” Budenholzer said. “We had a couple stretches where we couldn’t score but our defense kept us in it and we kept getting enough stops.”

The days of guys like Joe Johnson and Kyle Korver bombing it from deep are gone, but the 2017-18 Hawks are surprising with their 3-point point shooting so far this season.

The Hawks currently sits fifth in the NBA among the best 3-point shooting teams. They’ve only finished  with a Top 5 ranking twice this decade, but this team has a different agenda than the past.

Shoot more 3s.

“That’s what we do,” said Taurean Prince. “That’s what we plan to do going into every game.”

Saturday night, Atlanta grabbed just their sixth win of the season, but it was the the 3-point performance that stole the show. They shot 17-33 from 3. Ersan Ilyasova, who finished the game perfect from beyond the arc, was responsible for five of them. Whether it was off a semi-fastbreak or a baseline cut to a corner, he found good looks throughout the night.

Dennis Schroder, DeAndre Bembry and Prince understand how important it is knowing the whereabouts of Ilyasova, Tyler Cavanaugh and Marco Bellinili. The 3-point line is the lifeblood of this team’s offensive prowess.

“You got to have your eye open for three point shooters,” said Bembry. “Marco is somebody like Kyle Korver. You always have to know where they are at. Coach forces us to take a lot of open shots. Don’t turn down anything. From that the numbers are just going up higher. If you are going to give us that jump shot we will take everyone of them.”

Ilyasova joined the team last year as an attempt to fix Atlanta’s spacing issues. But he wasn’t enough to stop the Hawks from finishing 23rd in the league. This season however spacing is the least of their concerns.

“The difference is the starting lineup,” said Bembry. “They are all shooting at a high rate right now. Tonight as you can see, Ersan definitely started us off. Its hard to guard stretch fours who are picking and popping. Starting with him hitting threes. Taurean is shooting around 40-percent. Dennis and Baze starting to get going. That’s a hell of a starting lineup shooting the 3. Then you have Belinelli and shooters coming off the bench.”

The most impressive aspect of this shooting display not only tonight but all season is the efficiency. Yes, they are attempting 27 shots per game, ranking just 18th in the league, but the focus here is the quality of shots. The 5-man out offense is producing the necessary space and open looks that they didn’t have at their disposal last season.

They have the right pieces for this system and its giving opponents fits. They are tough, active and confident shooting the NBA’s deadliest game changer.

“They play with five 3-point shooters most of the game,” said Orlando coach Frank Vogel. “They shoot a ton of them. That’s the style of play that they play. You try and contain Belinelli off those pin downs and more importantly Schroder. His penetration. All of their guys just driving on you and taking advantage of the space makes them tough to guard.”

Atlanta had won four of the last five meetings against the Cleveland Cavaliers coming into Thursday night’s game. They flirted with a fifth victory after leading the King and his servants 69-63 at the half, but fell short 121-114.

“They are tough,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “Schroder puts a lot of pressure on the defense. They have multiple guys that can shoot the basketball and put it on the floor. They can make plays.”

Dennis Schroder, who had phenomenal performance posting 27 points on 58-percent shooting from the field, came off a pick towards the elbow of the free throw line with 2:11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and a chance to take the lead. His shot barely grazed the front rim. What happened next was almost a certainty.

LeBron trotted down the left side of the floor and responded with his patented left wing 3-pointer to seal the deal. Splash.

Atlanta threw everyone they could at James throughout the night. Taurean Prince took a shot at him. DeAndre Bembry matched up with him most of the fourth quarter. Even Ersan Ilysova took a swipe at him.

In the end LeBron James did what LeBron James wanted to do. Finishing with 24 points and 12 assists — just three assists shy of matching Atlanta’s starters — his fingerprints were all over the Cavs’ 10th straight victory.

Despite the loss, it was another shot a top tier team for the Hawks, an opportunity Prince relishes as a competitor.

“I like playing those type of guys,” said Prince. “Iron sharpens iron. I don’t feel like I will get better unless I continue to play those type of guys. Guys like Paul George. Just continue to further my career and my abilities as a defensive player.”

Atlanta has shown the tendency to gear up for these games. Tonight they scored 114 points on a Cavaliers defense that has improved recently. Without Dedmon, they dominated the paint outscoring the Cavs 50-40. Their record is no indicator, but Boston, Detroit, San Antonio and Cleveland will tell anybody they had to earn those victories against these young Hawks.

“Not discrediting any lower tier teams, but we get hyped up for games like this,” said Prince. “This is an opportunity to show who we are. Opportunity for guys to get better against great players.”