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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.

The Atlanta Hawks took another step back in their six game home stand losing to the Indiana Pacers 97-96 on a last second shot by Glen Robinson III. For more information on this game and total analysis, please check out Graham Chapple’s article on HawksHoop.com. It is as always a detailed and informative read.

Going into this game, it seemed the Atlanta Hawks was already stuck behind the eight ball. The Hawks were without the services of their Head Coach Mike Budenholzer against the Pacers after getting hit with a one game suspension for making contact with official Brian Forte during Friday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Assistant coach Darvin Ham assumed the coaching duties in Budenholzer’s absence.

The situation occurred around the 2:42 mark of the third quarter when the officials missed (or ignored based on how Budenholzer reacted) a LeBron James push off to get space to shoot a 3-pointer. Budenholzer lost his cool and made slight contact with an official and was assessed a technical foul.

Here’s what Mike Budenholzer had to say when he found out about the suspension courtesy of ESPN and the Associated Press…

“I fully understand and respect the decision of the NBA. I plan to reach out to Brian as soon as possible and intend to apologize for the contact that I made during last night’s game. The referees have the most difficult job on the court and do an outstanding job of managing the needs of the game, players and coaches. I accept the suspension, will learn from it and lok forward to getting beyond this.”

This is a classy move Head Coach Mike Budenholzer. I mean can you expect anything less? The guy comes from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree in San Antonio. But the call was missed by the officials. In the NBA most every player uses their off arm to create space to get their shots off. The problem in this situation was that LeBron James allowed his off arm to get away from him which for the most part gets an easy call.

There is no excuse for what happened and Budenholzer probably deserved the suspension. However, the technical foul did light a spark under the Hawks. Atlanta came out listless and without energy early and the defense was a joke. It seemed that the Cavs got everything they wanted and more. A lot more. Cleveland set a NBA record hitting 25 3-pointers in the game. What was worse, a lot of the shots were considered “comfortable”, meaning that the Cavs were getting clean looks at the basket. Giving up 77 points in the first half is not where you need to be defensively when you are fighting for playoff position with about a month and half left in the season. Before the technical foul, it looked like a Cavaliers blowout. After the incident, the Hawks mounted a furious comeback behind the strong play of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Paul Millsap.

Hopefully, for the Hawks sake, the players notice that Mike Budenholzer is trying to show a sense of urgency going forward into a tough schedule ahead. With this loss the Indiana Pacers pick up a full game on the Hawks in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Right now every game is critical, Budenholzer knows this, the Atlanta Hawk players better know it as well.

Paul Pierce has already paid his last visit to Philips arena during his farewell tour this season, while his two 1998 draft mates — Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki —  have yet to make a decision on their respective futures. Dirk has the option to return for one last go-around next season, but if not, then tonight’s 100-95 loss to the Hawks was his Philips Arena encore. He shares ties with Coach Budenholzer, stemming from their 57 highly entertaining Texas showdowns between San Antonio and Dallas, when Budenholzer served as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich. Dirk has also been taking on a pseudo-mentor role in Dennis Schroder’s career, as they are just two of three German players currently in the NBA.

Here’s what some members of the Hawks had to say about Dirk’s legacy and what it was like facing him:

“I joke with my coaching staff often that I still have nightmares about Dirk,”Coach Budenholzer said. “I may have watched more film on him than any other player in the NBA. He’s a special player — so unique what he does at his size as far as shooting. He creates so many problems whether you put big guys on him, small guys on him, he gets to the free throw line. And I thought he improved defensively and as a rebounder. He is one of the special players this league has ever had and I have so much respect for him.”

“My rookie year I was at Golden State and I didn’t get to see him play much,” Kent Bazemore said. “I would just see him workout before games and he is so undoubtedly good at what he does. He is a true professional and I’ve always heard a lot of good things about him and his approach to the game. About how much he loves shooting.That’s why he is one of the greatest shooters of all time. There are things you learn from guys like that being able to sit out there and watch him — Kobe, Ray Allen — in their pregame workouts. You take certain things from it and just see how focus and locked in he is.”

“The memory I have of Dirk is him giving me 40 in Utah,” said a laughing Paul Millsap. “He’s a good guy and he plays the game the right way. When I was in Utah I played him four times a year and always had to match up against him. He has always been a tough guard for me. I see that Ersan does the one legged jumper and that may be something I need to add to my repertoire.”

“I think that he is a credible legend,” Dennis Schroder said. “He’s had an amazing career, then for him to be German and play against him again is a great feeling. He is a role model for every German player and he’s done a great job. He is amazing and I think he will get his 30,000 points soon.”

Whether he decides to return or not, it is easy to see the impact Nowitzki has had around the league.

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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…

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.