Archives For Atlanta Hawks

The late composer and lyricist, Irving Berlin, once said “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on…”. If that saying is true — and I believe it to be so — then the Atlanta Hawks’ melody still lingers, despite their unceremonious exit at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month. The Hawks made some sweet, sweet music (not love) this season, and that melody still lives on, even as we head into the summer.

In the second instalment of “Remembering the 2015-16 Hawks” — the mini series where we remember the good things about the Hawks season just passed — we’re going to look at the best individual performances of the season — the moments of magic that got us out of our seats. If you missed the first part, where we looked at the best games the Hawks played this season, you can check it out here.

Before we get cracking though, there’s a few honorable mentions to make note of. These are very noteworthy performances that didn’t make the final list — mainly because I don’t want this to drag on for nearly 3000 words when it doesn’t need to be that long — but deserved attention.

Shout out to Al Horford’s 30-14 game against the Rockets on December 29th, in one of the Hawks’ best wins of the season led by Horford and his five made threes. Shout out to Paul Millsap’s stat stuffer against the L.A. Clippers on March 5th: 20 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. And, finally, shout out to Jeff Teague’s 19 points, 14 assists (one turnover) performance against the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the second round of the playoffs.

Now that we have those out of the way…

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The phrase “The King is dead, long live the King!” never made sense to me as a kid. I mean, why would you say “long live the King” if he just died? I would later learn that the phrase originated in the 1400’s, when King Charles VI died and then his son — whose name you’ll never guess — Charles VII immediately succeeded him as King. The phrase basically means that the old King is dead, long live the new King.

As quick as we tend/want to move onto the new regime/ruler — in this case, the next chapter of Hawks basketball — there’s an entire regime of old that just passed to be remembered, whether it was a reign of terror or prosperity. As much as you want to serve the new King, you have to bury the old King. At the burial, words recalling the King’s life are told, and — hopefully — many memorable moments are shared.

Though we look forward to the 2016-17 Hawks, we must bury the 2015-16 Hawks, and we’ll share some memorable moments about the Atlanta Hawks’ season, as they’re slowly laid to rest. More specifically, we’ll share the good memories about the best games that the Hawks played this season.

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The Atlanta Hawks’ 2015-16 is now officially over, meaning the journey that they set out on — when training camp began — has ended, at least for another season. And when a journey ends, one gets reflective and casts an eye back to when the journey began and upon the journey itself, armed with the knowledge that they did not have when the journey started. So, let’s do exactly that today. Let’s cast an eye back on the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks season.

The big story heading into the Hawks’ season was that DeMarre Carroll had left Atlanta for pastures new north of the border, to be a part of the Toronto Raptors. I don’t think there was any question that the Hawks wanted to keep DeMarre, but his breakout season and his great playoff run meant that he priced himself out of a return to Atlanta, who could not afford to keep both him and Paul Millsap, with the Hawks only reserving the Early Bird Rights as both had only been with the Hawks for two seasons.

The Hawks did not sign a wing to replace Carroll, knowing that either Thabo Sefolosha (once he recovered from his leg injury) and the developing Kent Bazemore would be more than capable to step up in his absence. However, as both of these guys were bench players while Carroll was at the club, the Hawks’ bench would take a hit from either Thabo or Bazemore — obviously — needing to leave the bench in order to step into the starting lineup. So, the Hawks traded for some wing depth on draft night, sending the 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft to acquire Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr., in a move that certainly raised eyebrows.

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Home is a place of refuge, a place to reset, regroup and re-energize; but for the Hawks, all they received was a 121-108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the first two and a half quarters, they returned back to the style of basketball that brings the most success to them as they forced turnovers, played physical and mailed in good looks from 3-point land. This game, Coach Budenholzer decided to shake things up a bit by adding more defense and hustle to the lineup, replacing Kyle Korver with Thabo Sefolosha and giving Kris Humphries more meaningful minutes.

“You have to change. We’re in the playoffs,” said Al Horford, who scored 24 points. “We’re fighting for our playoff lives right now. At this point, we have to do some changes because what we’ve done hasn’t worked. We felt good about tonight, but we had some mistakes that cost us.”

Those mistakes Horford referred to came mostly in the the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, as Cleveland made adjustments that then forced the Hawks into questionable shot selections, wasteful possessions and worst of them all, turnovers. The fourth quarter defense looked much like every quarter in Game 2, as Cleveland’s ball movement found the right shooter at the right time.

Atlanta plays best when their defense initiates their offense, but that was no more, and they were forced into a shootout they had no bullets for. Continue Reading…

During Game 1, Celtics guard Avery Bradley suffered a hamstring injury mid-way through the fourth quarter. He tried to walk off the court by himself but was unable to do so, needing help to get back the Celtics dressing room.

The diagnosis, as given by head coach Brad Stevens, the following day was the one Celtic fans feared — Bradley is doubtful for the remainder of the series.

“The update on Avery is Avery has a pretty significant strained hamstring. I would say would be doubtful for any of the remainder of the series, certainly very unlikely Tuesday night (for Game 2). As of right now I would say he’s out Tuesday night, but obviously he’ll continue to get treatment around the clock and go from there. So I would say very unlikely the rest of the series.” — Coach Brad Stevens

Devastating news for the Celtics, but what does it mean for the series going forward?

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Clinching the 3-seed is unquestionably a present goal for the Atlanta Hawks, but performances like tonight against a high caliber opponent like the Boston Celtics is more paramount heading into postseason.

“The most important thing for us is to keep winning and playing well,” said Al Horford. “That’s the most important thing.”

Atlanta’s defense was at the top of Budenholzer’s list for most important adjustment to make at the half. The Hawks’ defensive coverages, mainly its ability to guard the 3-point line, were a tad bit late and against a team that moves the ball as well as Boston, that leads to them shooting 59% from downtown and scoring 71 points in just 24 minutes.

“We were just making mental mistakes, so many mental mistakes on the defensive end of the floor,” said Kyle Korver. “Against a good team, you cant make those mistakes. You cant just try and run the coverage, you have to be great.”

In the second half, they looked great, lead by Paul Millsap’s energy — 17 of his 31 points came in the 2nd half — and a collective defensive conscious to make life just a little harder on Boston. One thing about these Hawks is that they always seem to find a way to make adjustments without sacrificing their identity in the process. They came out with mindset to force more ball pressure on pick and rolls at the top, but to never over-extend too much, leading to mismatch after mismatch. This is what repeatedly occurred in the first half.

That began with the head of the snake, All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who shot just 2-for-12 from the field in the second half along with three turnovers. They then made a valiant effort on reacting much sooner within their coverages on the 3-point line in order to limit or contest the Celtics attempts from the three point line. (just 1-for-11 in the second half)

Coach Budenholzer later spoke about the success of these adjustments.

“Sometimes there are subtle changes, every teams does different things -o pick and rolls — you try to have a few things that you can use. To be honest with you, we looked at some clips at halftime. There was basic breakdowns, and there was some shot-making. I think we thought we could reduce our mistakes and not give some open looks and opportunities.” Continue Reading…

No matter the record or seeding, some teams just give you a tough time.

For Atlanta, that has been the Milwaukee Bucks so far this season after defeating them three out of the four meetings last year. But this year has been a different story, as the Bucks have defeated Atlanta twice with both games defeats ending in overtime. This matchup has a boxing match feel to it, two contrasting styles, Rocky versus Drago.

This one ended with Atlanta’s arm being raised up last winning 101-90, capturing their first win over the Bucks this season.

“At the end of the day they are in the top two or three, if not the best at scoring in the paint,”said Coach Mike Budenholzer. “We wanted to do everything we could to take that away.”

Hawks only trailed momentarily in the first couple minutes of the game, but never did thereafter despite not shooting the ball well — 42.3% from the field and 15.6% from 3 — because of yet another strong defensive effort. Milwaukee’s length and athleticism are the main reasons the Hawks have such a difficult time running their offense. The Bucks decided this game to place more emphasis on the Hawks 3-point attempts, which meant more opportunities inside for Atlanta. They were able to capitalize, scoring 58 points in the paint.

On defense, Atlanta decided to pack the paint and limit the longer Bucks from points in the paint. Games like is just another testament to the Atlanta’s ability to win in a variety of ways, which will come in handy in late April or May. This time instead of their usual emphasis on aggressively guarding perimeter players, they showed the ability to clog the paint and still be effective.

“This is a team that has given us problems over the last couple years,” said Kyle Korver post-game. “They are a tough team for us to play against. We wanted to protect the paint and force them to shoot from the outside. It is important for us to grind games out against a team thats big when we are not shooting the ball that well.” Continue Reading…

Last night was the completion of a full circle for Tim Hardaway Jr. as an Atlanta Hawk. With Kent Bazemore forced to sit out with a knee injury against the Denver Nuggets last night, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer called upon Tim Hardaway Jr. to fill in for the injured Bazemore — Hardaway’s first game as a starter for the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s been a long journey for Hardaway to reach this point – an arduous and challenging journey. To understand just how far he has come, we must backtrack.

Hardaway was acquired by the Hawks on draft night 2015 in a deal that sent to Kelly Oubre (No.15 pick) to Washington, and Jerian Grant (No.19 pick) to New York.

The dominos were, seemingly, lined up so that Hardaway would be put in a position to contribute right away.

DeMarre Carroll left for Toronto in free agency, while Atlanta’s other wing players – Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha – both sustained season ending injuries and would not be pushed too hard at the beginning of the season (both would sit out at least one game of a back-to-back sled).

This, added to the fact that the Hawks gave up a very decent pick at 15 – a pick they could’ve easily addressed their rebounding issues with Bobby Portis, perimeter shooting in Sam Dekker, or perimeter defending in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – to acquire Hardaway, so you would imagine the Hawks would have plans to play him right out of the gates.

All the signs pointed toward such an eventuality – but Coach Bud had other plans…

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The Hawks (38-29) might be peaking at just the right time, and there’s an obvious springboard for this late surge. Only 1.5 games separate the Hawks from a top three seed in the East, despite several hot Eastern Conference teams, and there’s a growing sense the team can get there by mid-April.

How is this possible? In a season that has seen a lot of regression from last year’s soaring highs, there has been one area that Atlanta has exceeded all expectations.

Maybe you’ve heard now, but the Atlanta Hawks defense has been good. Really really good. As of writing this, the Hawks are second in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 98.6 per the NBA’s stats, behind only the historically great San Antonio Spurs defense. They have maintained this level of play even as their offense struggles to regain last season’s identity and injuries have forced mid-season transactions, hitting the reset button on some of the continuity the team had built up.

Coming off a fresh 104-75 beatdown of a Pacers team that had been on a three game winning streak, the Hawks have helped cement their identity as a meticulous defensive stonewall less than a month before the ultimate test.

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Similar to the first meeting back in January, the lowly Bucks gave the Hawks all they had and then some.

Atlanta weathered the storm, came back, took the lead, but eventually fell in double OT 117-109. It’s the third straight loss at home, which has not happened since 2004.

“Anytime the game goes two overtimes, there are opportunities for both teams. In the second overtime, they got a little separation, a couple baskets we were not able to score. Our execution could be better in some situations, including at the end of games.”

So much buzz surrounded the team over the break about the futures of Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder, back-to-back losses like these only bring on more questions and frustration. The offense is a little out of sync, piling up 21 turnovers versus Miami on Friday and shooting just 44% from the field against Milwaukee.

“It’s very disappointing,” Horford, who ended with 17 points and nine rebounds, said postgame. “We have nice homestand here. This is not the way we pictured it going. We are really in a hole right now.” Continue Reading…