Archives For December 2017

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.”