Archives For Game Notes

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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Trying to analyze this game will be summed up by a line I remember by Vin Diesel in the very first Fast and Furious movie in the wildly successful franchise. You see he had just beaten Paul Walker’s character for slips on a 10 second car. The line was…

“…It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile… WINNING IS WINNING!”

That is the best way of looking at this game if you are an Atlanta fan… ugh!

After three straight home losses, bad defense and a point guard that has made it clear that he’s not happy with his center or coach, the Hawks pull out a win over the Brooklyn Nets 110-105. Let’s be very clear here Hawks fans. The good news is that the losing streak is over…

The bad news is the losing style of basketball isn’t.

Dennis Schroder led the team in scoring 31 points on 10-21 shooting. Paul Millsap continued his consistent play with 24 points while Tim Hardaway Jr. and Ersan Ilyasova played well enough off the bench. Sometimes learning is hard and so are these…

Three Lessons

Lesson number one: The Atlanta Hawks defense is just plain bad right now

I mean really bad. Okay I get it. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the world champs, so I guess we all can turn a blind eye to giving up 135 points in a game. This also included giving up a whopping 77 points in the first half, which is easily the most given up by the Hawks this season. That’s Magic Johnson Showtime Lakers totals people. Okay giving up 119 points to the Golden State Warriors maybe can be over looked. I mean, the Splash Brothers were in town right?

Let’s take a closer look at this shall we? The Cleveland Cavaliers knocked down a NBA record 25 3-pointers last Friday night. Most of the threes were shot in the realm of the Cavaliers offense. This means they got what they wanted, when they wanted it. Sure the game was close at the end, but that was when Tim Hardaway Jr. went nuts in the fourth quarter leading a furious charge. But let’s be clear here. There should be no way a team should allow two players (Kyrie Irving [43 points] and LeBron James [38 points]) combine for 81 points in a single game.

Looking even closer at Kyrie Irving’s 43 points, it seems that he shot an absurd 14-for-21 from the floor. Umm, he’s the point guard right? Who’s got him on defense? Oh yeah. Dennis Schroder. You see, if the point guard can break down the defense, it opens up shots. It looked like a Cavaliers passing drill at times.

The Warriors game was bad, too. The Splash Brothers were off a couple of nights ago and the Hawks still couldn’t stop the Dubs. Ask any current or past players of basketball, if the coach sits you down… FOR THE REST OF THE GAME for a defensive breakdown, things are bad. That’s what happened when Schroder allowed Steph Curry to line it up for three while barking with Dwight Howard.

Here’s the point. The Brooklyn Nets are easily the worst team in the NBA. They lack the talent and assets to even stay competitive even though the effort is there every night. The Hawks should have blown this team back to the Barclay Center so they could watch the ACC tournament. Instead because of lackluster defense, the Hawks allowed this team to stick around.

Lesson number two: The Dennis Schroder dynamic has to addressed

Dennis Schroder had a strong comeback from the fiasco on Monday. His scoring totals seem to bode very well for the Hawks. This game was the ninth time that he scored over 25 points. The Hawks are 8-1 when he accomplishes that feat. For the entire first half, Schroder kept the Hawks afloat with 17 points to keep things close at halftime 50-46.

But…

The offense struggled. Big time. Outside of Schroder’s production of the dribble, the offense was stagnant and Brooklyn was pretty much in control for much of the first half.

Who’s job is it to get the offense started? Yep, Dennis Schroder.

As we learned in the first lesson, the Hawks are not good enough defensively right now to have an offense that depends on offense that showcases one-on-one basketball with Dennis Schroder.

At least the off the court issue was dealt with. Schroder had a meeting with head coach Mike Budenholzer and other teammates. Schroder’s take via ESPN.com:

“Because I’m so competitive that sometimes in the game when it’s heated, everybody is emotional and when you say stuff everybody gets kind of mad,” Schroder said. “So you’ve just got to pick the spots when you do it. Tonight it worked well, and we just try to keep going forward”

Paul Millsap on Schroder from ESPN.com:

“Personally I see some growth, some maturity, a guy that didn’t let what happened last game to get to him,” Millsap said. “I see a guy who came out and busted his butt regardless of what happened. Discipline or not, he didn’t play (much) the last game, but came out with a good attitude today to help us win. I see a lot of maturity and a lot of growth in him.”

What does Budenholzer have to say, again via ESPN:

“I thought he was great,” Budenholzer said. “The way he attacks the basket, the way he gets inside, the way he’s shooting the 3 ball with so much confidence. He’s just going to keep getting better.”

Hawks fans better hope so. Look nobody is denying Dennis Schroder’s talent. The Brooklyn game was a perfect illustration of why Atlanta moved on from Jeff Teague and locked Schroder in for the future with a $70 million dollar contract. When the offense stalls, Schroder is the guy that can make a play for himself and his teammates. But with the playoffs coming around the corner, Schroder is going to have to keep his head and use this rough patch as a learning experience. But if he starts believing his own hype or playing like he did against Brooklyn to prove a point against Howard and Budenholzer, it will come out eventually.

Lesson number three: Outside of Tim Hardaway Jr., where are the bench people?

Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals. Ersan Ilyasova had 10 points and seven rebounds. The rest of the Hawks bench combined? Two points by Taurean Prince. That’s not a good look for a Hawks bench. Sure Hardaway Jr. has been great, but Ilyasova has been subpar for the most part since his trade from Philadelphia. Jose Calderon played 12 minutes and scored the same amount of points I did writing this article and you guys reading it. All of this while Mike Muscala, Kris Humphries, DeAndre Bembry and Malcolm Delaney never saw the floor. The Hawks are going to have to figure out a second unit for the playoffs.

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

Dwight Howard finished with a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. He knocked down five of his seven shots. Moving forward, the Hawks need to make sure that Howard believes that he is a part of the offense. He doesn’t need to be a number one option (or two for that matter, three could be a stretch!) but he needs to feel a part of the equation on the offensive end. If not, he’ll start sulking and stop doing the work down low the Hawks pay him to do.

Benchmark to the Hawks season is coming up…Raptors on Friday, a tough Memphis team on Saturday and San Antonio on Monday.

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Dennis Schroder: The Finisher

Eric Yeboah —  January 27, 2017

Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, and Steph Curry maybe some of names blurted out when asked to name some of the best finishers at the point guard position. Rightfully so, as those individuals have each carved out their own niche whether it’s Irving’s ambidextrous finishes, Parker’s floater, Curry’s high layups off the glass or Rose’s body bending layups through contact.

Dennis Schroder’s name still remains mostly forgotten in this category, which may change by the end of his first year as a full-time starter. Tuning into a Hawks game, you may be drawn to four time All Star Paul Millsap’s scoring prowess, but this motion offense doesn’t work without Schroder’s penetration and finishing ability.His teammates have consistently echoed that sentiment all throughout this year that this team is much more dangerous when he’s attacking putting pressure on both the defense and the rim. The numbers don’t lie, when Schroder scores 23 points or more the Hawks are 10-2. In those twelve games he went for 31 against Westbrook, 27 against Derrick Rose, 28 against the Golden State killer that is Kyrie Irving and 24 a piece facing Steph Curry and Kyle Lowry.

In every one of those elite matchups he showed not only the ability to go toe to toe with some of the best, not only did he show improvement in his midrange jump shot; but sent a message that he can get to the rim with ease at the same level as those big names.

“I don’t really care what people say,” said Schroder when referring to being an overlooked finisher. “I am just trying to prove to my teammates every time we go out there and win games. Everything else will come, people will then talk about it, when we keep winning, people will keep watching us then everything will profit off of that.”

Coming out of the NBA Draft, the Rondo comparisons appeared valid due to his pass first mentality, defensive presence and lack of shooting; but more than anything was the way he found creases in the defense to slither his way through for a finish as quick as lightning. He’s not an elite athlete by any stretch, but what he does possess is a lethal first step, long arms and big hands. Those attributes have assisted in his current 55.3-percent conversion rate on layups, by far the highest of his career. Hidden in that number is his exceptional ability at understanding the amount of time he has in certain situations to release his shot given the type of defender attempting to contest his tries, and all of that came with time and practice.

“My first year I had to figure out how I would finish because there are so many big guys blocking my shots,” said Schroder. “So I had to adjust and see how I could finish without people blocking my shots. I started working more with the coaches, watching little guards in the league like Tony Parker and Rondo really taught me a lot.”

These series of plays highlight Schroder’s ability to use that quickness to create an opening to the lane then use his IQ to gauge just how much or how little time he has to release his shot. You will also notice how he extends his body as he attempts the layup to create enough separation between him and his defender.

Understanding his defender seems to come natural to Schroder, and when you comprehend given scenarios, you then produce plethora of finishes. Particularly someone of his stature with long arms should use the scoop layups and high floating bankers to his advantage, because defenders have no choice but to either foul trying to contest or give up an easy bucket.

All of the best finishers in the league use it, but what I think sets Schroder apart is his ability to consistently convert off either foot or hand, meaning he he can finish taking off on his right leg with his left hand or finish using one side of the body on either side of the rim. In other words, he’s uncanny, unpredictable; but that’s what makes a great finisher great. That is what made Nate Archibald, Rod Strickland, Kevin Johnson and Allen Iverson special and worth the ticket. Those guys played the glass so well and Schroder does the same whether he is on balance or not.

These series of plays highlight Schroder’s ability to score off balance as well as properly place the ball on the glass at all sorts of angles using either hand. Additionally, you can see how effective his misdirection dribble move is and how it helps accelerate him into the paint.

This season, Schroder’s three ball has improved and he’s taking the mid range pull up more confidently than he ever has. Nuzzled in all of this progress, we may have forgotten how lethal he is at getting to the basket. His finishes may or may not wow you like the rest of the bunch that I named earlier, but what they will do is force you to respect his craft, his style, his way.

“I don’t think he is overlooked compared to those other big names because those guys are really good,” said teammate Kent Bazemore on where Schroder ranks among the best finishers at his position. “But I do think in time he will be regarded as one of the best.”