Archives For 2016-17 Season

This game symbolized the best of times and the worst of times. Atlanta for right now is enjoying the best of times these days and Memphis is stuck in the worst. The Hawks jumped out to an early lead in the early frame and it was all she wrote from there. The Atlanta Hawks went to Tennessee and turned the Grindhouse into a vacation spot dominating the Memphis Grizzlies 107-90. The struggling Hawks defense of late, who was without Dwight Howard,  being held out for rest held Memphis to 37.8% from the field. For a complete recap of the game, check out Graham Chapple on HawksHoop.com. As always, it is a thorough and informative read.

The Hawks were led by, you guessed it, Dennis Schroder. But not on the offensive end; on this night it was on the defensive end. Schroder locked in on Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley and made him work all night long. The rest of his teammates followed his cues and dominated the game start to finish. It’s the start to my…

Three Lessons

Lesson number one: Oh, the Atlanta Hawks have a bench now?

Breaking news to HawksHoop! The Atlanta Hawks have bench scoring for a change. Even more amazing, a bench player led the team in scoring! Hawks rookie Taurean Prince led the team in scoring with 17 points. Not Dennis Schroder, not Paul Millsap, but Taurean Prince. Prince had set his career high by the end of the first quarter with 12 and went on knock down five of his six shots. Prince knocked down three of four three pointers, hit all of his four free throws, grabbed three rebounds, dropped two dimes, had a couple of steals and a block. Quite a mouthful huh? Jose Calderon scored 14 points in 19 minutes (this was a bad night for the Grizzlies folks!) to lead the consistent production from the bench all night. The is not the bench mob, but for one night it’s not Tim Hardaway Jr. show by himself.

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President Trump’s first term has brought forth one of the most divisive times in both our country’s history and our personal relationships. Professional basketball players, like the rest of us, have been affected no differently. Back in November, Kent Bazemore expressed his “excitement” for Trump in the aftermath of his election and later, in February, Sporting News reported that Bazemore believed that Trump was an “asset” for this country. His close friend and Under Armour colleague Stephen Curry disagrees, but was pragmatic when asked about his and Bazemore’s relationship after Monday’s 119–111 Warrior victory over the Hawks.

“I don’t think you need to keep [politics] out of a friendship,” Curry said. “You accept people for what they believe in whether if you believe it or not.”

Head coach Steve Kerr can also relate with Bazemore and Curry on having close buddies that don’t completely concur with their political point of view. Kerr hasn’t been shy this season when it comes to expressing his disdain for the president. But, he feels that people should be open to contrasting opinions because freedom of expression is essential to our democracy.

“I got lots of friends that disagree with me politically and I have no problem with that,” Kerr said. “it’s part of our democracy and everybody can take their stance. That is their opinion, we respect it, we debate and we hash things out. That’s the way it should be.”

Back in November, Bazemore spoke with me, post-election, about the importance of supporting the new commander-in-chief.

“I am excited man,” Bazemore said. “Something new, obviously the rest of society hasn’t taken it well with all of the protest and riots. “But I think people all across the country are sick and tired of how things have always been and that’s why you get a guy like him in office to shake things up a bit. Make America great again is his slogan and as a President, we should stand behind him. I am all for change, never been afraid of change — Barack Obama said he has a shifting confidence in Trump. Like Oprah said, I think everybody can take a deep breathe now.

“You know I was reading a post the other day, talking about how Trump is what America is. I think that we should all come together during a time like this. Some people are scared of change, but I am not, let’s do it, let’s see what he’s got because that’s all you can do is stand behind him. For a man like him to be talked about as negatively as he has all his life and still assumes the position of power says a lot about him and his resilience and as a leader that’s what you want.”

Following the Bazemore’s and Curry’s sixth matchup of their careers — Curry the winner of five of them — the former chatted with Dell and Sonya Curry outside the visitor locker room as other family and friends waited for Steph to finish up his postgame media obligations. Once completed, the two greeted one another with smiles and laughter. The pleasantries exchanged reflected their relationship — devoid of the political divide that has soiled so many relationships since that fateful Nov. 8 day.

“Our friendship goes way beyond basketball or politics,” Bazemore said. “We have a very special bond, but we aren’t siamese twins or anything. We both have a way of living life.”

Curry has no fundamental issue with having a close friend that takes an opposing side in the political arena, as long as that individual can articulate his or her thoughts logically and within reason.

“As long as you stand by it and have a reason for it or what not,” Curry said. “That doesn’t change my perspective on who a person is.”

Bazemore, too, was coy, yet candid about the potential divisiveness politics have taken on his life, but concurred with Curry’s perspective of acceptance, regardless of beliefs.

“Circumstance or whatever you want to throw out there may shape our opinions on certain things,” Bazemore said. “But it doesn’t change the state of our friendship or anything. It’s life, you are not going to be on the same page with all of your friends, but what’s understood doesn’t have to be said — that’s my guy all the way until the end”.

 

Avery Yang Contributed Reporting

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks extended their winning streak to three games against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, with a107-90 victory at Fed Ex Forum. In a wire-to-wire victory, Taurean Prince led the Hawks with 17 points while Dennis Schröder and Paul Millsap both added 16 points. For the Grizzlies, JaMychal Green led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Mike Conley added 16 points.

Perimeter shooting proves decisive

A summary of this game — why the Hawks won and the Grizz lost — in nine-ish words: The Hawks made their shots, the Grizzlies did not.

Memphis’ shot chart

ATL’s shot chart

It really was as simple as that. The Hawks shot 50% from the floor and 50% from behind the arc while the Grizzlies shot 38% from the the floor and 17% (5-of-29) from three-point range. The Hawks’ defense was good but Memphis’ offense was quite poor and they settled for a lot of jumpshots that didn’t go down. But give credit to the Hawks, whose man and ball movement was very good but perhaps there’s another reason why the Hawks’ offense was a little more fluid in terms of ball and man movement…

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The Atlanta Hawks accomplished a very important task starting a interesting journey to the playoffs. After beating the Brooklyn Nets in an overall very lackluster performance (outside of Dennis Schroder), the Hawks finished a disappointing home stand with a 105-99 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

With the win, the Hawks finished with a 3-3 record and possibly avoiding a potential collapse in the locker room and playoff race to end the season. Atlanta took the season series from the Raptors 2-1 and now own the tie-breaker if the two teams end the season with the same record to determine a playoff position. As always for a total recap of the game, please check out Graham Chapple’s piece on the game on HawksHoop.com. As always, it is a informative and thorough read. With Atlanta in the five slot and chasing Toronto in the fourth spot. THIS GAME WAS HUGE! This could be the start of something here folks.

Dennis Schroder scored 26 points, including 13 points in winning time to lead the Hawks. This has been a massive turnaround from the benching earlier on in the week. I have to admit, I thought this was a major issue (I think it may come back at playoff time but who knows?) but Schroder has done an outstanding job as of late of “walking the walk” and putting the situation behind him. A lot of times players and coaches say everything is okay for the cameras and reporters, but for now, it’s happening before our eyes. Paul Millsap had 21 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 20.

DeMar DeRozan finished with 28 points but he shot 12-for-30 to get those points including 1-for-8 from 3-point land. Serge Ibaka had 18 points for the Raptors.

Looking at this potential first round matchup, I learned a lot, but here are my most important…

Three Lessons

Lesson number one: Boy!!! Dennis Schroder is BALLIN!!!!

Like Jim Jones style…Schroder fly high…no lie…like show biz…BALLIN! The magic number for the Atlanta Hawks when it comes to Dennis Schroder is 25. When he scores more than 25 points in a game, the Hawks have lost only once this season. It bears repeating here, when the Hawks need a basket, Dennis can create offense for his teammates and himself. This was very evident in the fourth quarter when the game was close at 86 apiece.

This is where Schroder took over scoring two baskets in a row and eight of the next ten points to give the Hawks a 96-88 lead. Also read…The Raptors could not stop the Atlanta point guard in crunch time. Throw in six rebounds and five assists, Schroder played an efficient and strong floor game. This is what the Hawks envisioned giving him the keys to the franchise.

Dwane Casey called the struggle a “tough stretch defensively”

More thoughts from Casey, via ESPN.com:

“I thought, other than that, we were competing,”

How about Head Coach, Mike Budenholzer’s take on Schroder’s play…

“Dennis has the ball in his hands a lot of times in the fourth quarter  making decisions, making a good play,” Budenholzer said. “I think it was him offensively then our defense giving us that little bit of separation.”

The wonderful thing about the aggressiveness of Schroder is being able to break down the defense and disrupt the Raptors down the stretch. It seemed to Schroder could get to the paint at will.

Budenholzer’s take on that…

“He collapses the defense”…”He creates offensive rebounding opportunities. At some point, they start switching. Paul drives to the basket and gets the fifth foul on Ibaka after a switch. That’s a tough cover for a point guard covering Paul. I think there a lot of things between Paul and Dennis that they create good things for us.”

Speaking of Paul Millsap…

Lesson number two: Paul Millsap is a MAN!

The Toronto game marked the fifth game that Millsap topped the 20 point plateau. In various NBA circles it has been mentioned that Paul Millsap is one of the most underrated players in the league. In an era where numbers are considered the blueprint of how good players are, Millsap averages around 18 points a game but is a dominant dynamic to the Hawks…

Thabo Sefolosha’s take on Millsap’s importance, via ESPN.com:

“The whole team, we look to him a lot,” Sefolosha said. “He does a lot of things. He can score. He can pass the ball. He’s definitely our go-to-guy. He’s feeling good and he’s doing everything for us out there.”

What you see with Kawhi Leonard in the Western Conference with the San Antonio Spurs is what you get with Paul Millsap in Atlanta. I love the way he goes out and quietly puts in work. The numbers are not as gaudy, but just as important to the Hawks. Millsap is not the guy that is concerned about his “brand”. He’s concerned about being a professional NBA player that goes out and helps his team the best way he knows how. This is not limited to on the court play. He is a key locker room guy that the Hawks need for leadership. This was never more evident than this week, when he spent time on the phone with Dennis Schroder giving advice on moving forward with the benching incident against the Warriors. Since then, Schroder and the Hawks have been on a roll.

Lesson three: Dwight Howard was very active and engaged.

Maybe it was Shaquille O’Neal at courtside looking for Shaqtin A Fool clips. I don’t know, but Howard was active scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, three on the offensive boards. With two blocks and a steal, Howard showed life in a game he should have the matchup advantage. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Howard knocked down six of his nine shots in the game. It is going to be interesting how many fourth quarters Dwight is going to be sitting if he continues to shoot 4-for-10 from the free throw line. He has to shore that up.

Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder will get the headlines, but don’t get it twisted here, the most important player will be Dwight Howard. Howard has to dominate down low on the boards and provide the rim protection needed to get out of the first round which could easily be the Toronto Raptors.

Here’s what I learned…now learn from this!

Head coach Mike Budenholzer scratched Thabo Sefolosha from the starting lineup for being late for pregame warmups. Sefolosha was caught in traffic. The lineup change was only for one game. If there is one thing you have to give Budenholzer credit for, it’s consistency. Punishment is for the entire team. No favorites.

Boy that Atlanta Hawks bench is something. Zero points in the first half?! That’s not going to get it done.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks came up with a hugely important victory over the Toronto Raptors at Philips Arena on Friday night, 105-99, in a tightly contested affair that saw 17 game ties and 15 lead changes. The Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan’s 28 points while Serge Ibaka added 18 points. For the Hawks, they had three players who scored 20 or more points in the form of Dennis Schröder (26 points), Paul Millsap (21 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (20 points).

Hawks win potentially vital tiebreaker 

With this victory concluded the season series between these two teams, just three meetings this year between the Hawks and Raptors. With this victory, the Hawks won the season series 2-1, giving the Hawks the tiebreaker in the event of these two teams ending the regular season with the same record. Why is this so important? The Hawks are just two games behind the Raptors for home court advantage and now own the tiebreaker.

“It’s big, it was the same scenario as the game against Indiana where they were behind us in the standings, but this time we closed it out.”

— Dennis Schröder

This was a huge win for the Hawks. If they had lost this game, they may as well have kissed away any hope of home court advantage as they would’ve trailed the Raptors by four games. But this…this win gives the Hawks a chance of home court advantage but there’s plenty of work to be done yet…

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The Atlanta Hawks finally captured a win against a top contending team in the second half of the season, defeating the Toronto Raptors 105-99 .

A week ago, they dropped three games in a row to Cleveland, Indiana and Golden State. Granted, they were competitive in those games, but that doesn’t show up in the win column. Struggling against the elite teams at this part of the season is alarming with the NBA Playoffs around the corner. A win like tonight, even with Kyle Lowry out of the lineup, is a reminder to themselves that they are capable of much more than they showed over that stretch of those games.

“In a way, it does remind us,” said Thabo Sefolosha.” “We had three tough losses at home during the home stretch. We definitely wanted to get this one.”

“We lost some tough games, close games, but you have to keep playing,” said Kent Bazemore. “This was a big game for us as far as playoff seeding, capturing home court, so we had to get this one.”

In February, they did secure a win facing the rival Celtics and later against Houston, but in the same month they looked inept facing the Jazz allowing 120 points, and couldn’t buy a shot against the clippers shooting 40-percent from the field. As we draw closer to the Playoffs, there is no denying the importance of a win like tonight and what it does for a team still in search for an identity.

Nobody can’t deny the importance of heading into the postseason feeling like you belong and have a legitimate shot to make some noise. Your ranking has some involvement in that, but how you fared against the those elite ball clubs goes an even longer way.

Think of the 2006-2007 Golden state Warriors that upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. In the final 20 games of the season, they defeated the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons —  all 50 plus winning teams that year — and there is no denying that those wins contributed to shocking MVP Dirk Nowitzki and the 1-seed Mavericks.

Yes, ranking does hold some sort of weight when it comes to a player’s psyche heading into postseason, but confidence goes a long way as well.

“I think a little bit of both matters,” said Sefolosha. “But we can only control what we can control. Confidence in everybody, feeling good and ready to go is the one thing we can control.”

The Hawks will not be the 8-seed going into the Playoffs, but at one point this season they were and have looked as such at times. Wins against team like tonight will factor into their psyche come late April and May as well as all that they’ve been through as a team. Strong character develops when you face the type of adversity they have and is immeasurable when the lights shine the brightest.

“We can compete with anybody if everybody is on the same page,” said Dennis Schroder. “If everybody is playing together and playing defense together. We have to keep getting better each game until the playoffs start.”

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

It was ugly, it was boring and horrible to watch but the Atlanta Hawks snapped their three game losing streak, defeating the Brooklyn Nets 110-105 at Philips Arena. Sean Kilpatrick led the Nets with 27 points (13 coming in the third quarter) while Brook Lopez added 18 points. For the Hawks, Dennis Schröder scored a game-high 31 points while Paul Millsap added another 24 points.

“It was a little bit ugly at times, but we needed to win. I’m proud of guys for finding a way to get it done. A lot of different guys contributed.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

Dennis’ bounce back game

After being benched for most of the second half against the Warriors, Dennis has been the talk of Hawks town and he produced a quality bounce back game in the face of adversity scoring a game-high 31 points on 10-of-21 from the field and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.

Dennis also came up with a game-saving steal. After he missed a shot at the rim, the Nets held possession of the ball trailing by just two points with a chance to tie the game or take the lead. But Dennis sneaks around Sean Kilpatrick (who’s handling the ball) and pries the ball away and takes possession, forcing the Nets to foul. The Hawks would seal the game with free throws.

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Well Hawks fans, stop me if you’ve heard this one since the All-Star break: Dennis Schroder has run afoul of head coach Mike Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks… again.

First it was Schroder getting back to the team late after the All-Star break citing visa issues, which garnered him a one-game suspension.

Then a couple of days later, Schroder misses the team bus in Orlando. He gets benched for the first quarter.

Now this…

Going into the game last night against the two-time NBA Finalists and the greatest show on court Golden State Warriors, the story of the night was supposed to be a measuring stick of how much of a contender the Hawks are going into the playoffs.

Umm, to quote that old Blue Magic song…

“Let the side show begin…HURRY HURRRY!…step right on innnnn”.

By the end of the night, the Atlanta Hawks were handed their third consecutive loss, getting beat by Golden State 119-111 and Schroder doing his best version of being “Dennis the Menace”.

Anybody missing Jeff Teague yet? The way things are going, you will by playoff time. Trust me.

The Atlanta Hawks capitalized on the same issues that the Warriors have had since Kevin Durant injured his knee. They come out a little slow and sluggish; meanwhile the Hawks used an early 10-0 run to grab an early 14-7 lead. The Hawks extended the lead in the first quarter riding the outstanding play from Dennis Schroder, keeping the Warriors at bay for the rest of the first quarter.

How good was Schroder? Dennis dropped 19 points in the first quarter on the strength of knocking down seven of nine shots including four of five from the land of 3. Atlanta rode that wave to an early 42-35 lead at the end of the first quarter. He went on to finish the game on the bench after playing about three minutes in the second half.

Was he injured? No.

But this scenario had a little bit to do with it.

Dwight Howard tossed an outlet pass out of bounds. Seems harmless, happens all the time in an NBA game. For some reason, it seemed to tick off Schroder. It ticked Schroder off so much that he forgot to cover Steph Curry and Curry knocked down a three pointer.

Yeah, that Steph Curry. The two-time MVP. There’s a nasty rumor going around that this guy can shoot…

His brother Seth can shoot.

His father Dell can shoot.

I bet his wife Ayesha can shoot.

I could believe his kids can knock down ten footers… like now.

Get the point? Well Schroder apparently didn’t get the point and Budenholzer made his by showing Schroder the bench for the rest of the night.

Let’s get Dennis Schroder’s insight after the game courtesy of ESPN.com:

” I don’t understand Coach’s decision,” he said. “Maybe I’m too competitive, trying to win games. But I don’t get that one.”

Okay let me help shine the light a little bit in that regard. Since the All-Star break, Dennis Schroder has forgotten the number one rule in being a point guard…

You have to be a leader on the floor and off.

This is a microcosm of what is wrong with the Atlanta Hawks and why they have dropped six of their last eight games. Leadership. Cleveland have leaders in LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and a ton of veterans in the locker room. Boston has Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford (Remember him Hawks fans?) and Avery Bradley. Toronto has Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan. Notice every team that was mentioned had a point guard listed above.

I’m not getting in the mind of Howard, but I can’t blame the guy for being slightly irritated for being yelled at by a guy that seems to struggle reading a calendar and a time clock. Throw in the fact that Howard dominated the backboard grabbing 19 rebounds, it’s not a good idea to get on a guy that is working hard down low. Furthermore as a point guard and a leader, Schroder needs to learn that you deal with player’s personalities differently. ESPECIALLY DWIGHT HOWARD!

To Howard’s credit, he downplayed the incident (for now)…his take courtesy of ESPN…

“It happens during the course of the game,” he said. “It just cost us a 3. We’ve got to make sure we nip it in the bud quick and move on to the next play.”

If history teaches us anything Hawks fans, this team is in serious peril. Dwight Howard is notoriously sensitive and he tends to get frustrated with ball dominant guards. Don’t believe me? Go have a long chat with James Harden and Kobe Bryant and see what they say. Sure, what he said above sounded real dandy and sweet. But in Los Angeles and Houston, even Orlando when Howard gets unappreciated in his own mind, he can shut down like your power bill for lack of payment. Remember the infamous Stan Van Gundy press conference before he got fired? They looked like “Goodfellas”, didn’t they? With Howard smiling?

Only Van Gundy knew it was fake. Pray that quote isn’t fake either.

I’ve already shined the light on Budenholzer and the classy way he does things in Atlanta. He showed no less last night not throwing his point guard under the bus courtesy of ESPN.com…

“Just a coach’s decision,” Budenholzer said. “We need to learn to play together and stay together for 48 minutes.”

This is a critical time in the season and Mike Budenholzer knows it. With about 20 games left in the season, it is plainly clear that the Hawks are in disarray and problems behind the scenes are leaking out on the court. Hopefully, the Hawks will discuss it behind the scenes and right the ship.

At least that’s the intention of Dennis Schroder as he stated again from of ESPN.com.

“We got to figure it out me and Coach,” Schroder said. ” I want to talk about it. Dwight’s got to be in there too. Get on the same page. Then we’ll be all right.”

Stay tuned Hawks fans, we’re all in for a wild ride.