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I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself at The Joey Crawford Review, hereafter referred to as Game 6 of the 1st round NBA Playoffs series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers. Seriously, that was the most bizarre officiating I have ever witnessed. I may have spoken too soon in the Game 2 preview when I said the refs probably wouldn’t help the Pacers. By my calculations, they’ve they’ve swung two games in the series thus far.

Looking ahead to Game 7, I will say that the keys are the same as they were in my preview for Game 5: If DeMarre Carroll impacts the floor at both ends and either Pero Antic or Mike Scott gets hot from outside, the game is winnable. After writing that preview, Carroll scored 15 points on six shots and Scott shot 5-for-6 from 3-point range in Game 5.

Prior to the Game 5 win, Carroll scored only three points and Scott and Antic combined to shoot 1-for-7 from 3-point range in a Game 4 loss. In Game 6, the same issues cropped up again. Carroll scored only seven points on seven shots and Scott and Antic combined to shoot 0-for-10 on 3-pointers.

Continue Reading…

Can we all take a moment to sit back and admire the unbelievable job the Atlanta Hawks have done in dismantling the best defense in the NBA? For the regular season, the Pacers allowed 96.7 points per 100 possessions, the best defensive efficiency rating in the league. The Hawks were mid-pack, allowing 104.1 per 100 to rank 14th. In these playoffs, the Pacers are ranked 6th out of 16 playoff teams, allowing 101.9 points per 100 possessions, more than five points more per 100 than the team allowed in the regular season.

Incredibly, the Hawks presently rank 5th in playoff defensive efficiency, allowing 101.5 points per 100, a decrease of almost three points. That is… stupefying? Dumbfounding? I’m struggling for words to convey how stupendous the Hawks have been on both ends of the floor in this series. Can I buy a vowel?

Let’s take a look at some individual performers who have stepped up for the Hawks and contributed to the stellar collective effort. Go get some coffee and come back, this could take a while. First of all, when did Paul Millsap change his name to Godzilla and decide to take a stroll through Indianapolis? He’s averaging 21 points and 8.2 rebounds per game on 45/44/81 shooting from the floor/3-point line/free throw line. Although he is playing three more minutes per game (still four fewer than the overworked Paul George), he has increased his scoring average vs. the regular season by three points. He has maintained his average of two blocks per game but it seems like he’s altering more shots than that. Are there any questions from the floor about Millsap deserving his All-Star nod this season? Continue Reading…

When a team loses a single-possession game, there are normally several plays that could have changed the outcome. In the first half of Game 4, one play that stood out was a Roy Hibbert layup with 5:09 remaining to put the Pacers ahead 37-35. Hibbert was initially tied up by Paul Millsap. The ref must either call a travel or a jump ball in that situation. This isn’t Vietnam, there are rules. Millsap had no chance to contest the second shot, so the referees essentially awarded the Pacers two points on this possession.

The other play that stood out in the first half was a bad decision by Jeff Teague. On Twitter before and during the game, I really hyped Teague’s opportunity to take a further step into the national spotlight by leading his team to a win that would place his team on the cusp of an historic series upset. After Mike Scott’s three to put the Hawks up 46-37 with two minutes to play in the half, Teague appeared ready to take over.

Teague blew by Paul George’s weak steal attempt for a layup and 48-38 Hawks lead with 1:21 to play in the half. I always emphasize closing out quarters, halves and games by nursing or extending a lead, or whittling away at a deficit if a team is trailing. When a team is up 10 just before halftime, clock management becomes critical to maintaining that lead. Continue Reading…

Welcome to Must Win: Game 4 Edition. The Hawks kept home court advantage alive with a Game 3 win, but a loss in Game 4 would give home court plus all the momentum back to the Pacers heading back to Indianapolis. Atlanta benefited from two factors that might not help in Game 4. The Hawks were helped by an abnormal amount of luck (including a circus 3-pointer by Jeff Teague where he may have stepped out of bounds) and some correctable errors by Frank Vogel.

Kyle Korver was not having a great series but he came up huge in Game 3 with 20 points on six shots, including 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range and six rebounds. One of the biggest turning points in the game happened with 7:18 to play in the 4th. After a series of disastrous defensive possessions for the Hawks, the Pacers drew within four on an open corner three by Lance Stephenson.

On the next play, Teague drove into the lane and attempted a shovel pass to Mike Scott that didn’t connect. Stephenson sprawled on the ground to gather the loose ball and was ruled out of bounds. On the ensuing possession, Korver hit a pull-up three and was fouled by C.J. Watson, late fighting through a Pero Antic screen. Had Stephenson secured possession, the Pacers might have drawn within one or two rather than see the Hawks’ lead (79-71) stretch back out to eight. Continue Reading…

Hawks-Bulls Preview

Bo Churney —  April 2, 2014 — 6 Comments

At this point, with the way the season is gone, I have no preference on the Hawks making the playoffs. If they miss out and get a lotto pick, I think that is good for the team. If they happen to make the playoffs, I think it is good for the team.

However, if the team really does want to make the playoffs, they will want to put a competitive effort up against the visiting Chicago Bulls. The Hawks have usually had trouble with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and the Bulls, meaning that this game could quickly turn into a bloodbath.

So what are the keys for the Hawks to win this game?

First, the Hawks will want to try and get Joakim Noah out of the lane as much as possible. This means no more 1-for-8 performances from the field, Pero Antic. Of course, consistently pulling Noah out of the lane is harder than it sounds; Noah can move with great quickness and can easily recover back into the positions that Coach Thibodeau’s defense requires from him. It’s why the Bulls are second in the league in defensive efficiency. Continue Reading…

After the horrid stretch of losing 14 out of 15 games, the Hawks are on a three-game winning streak after defeating Utah, Milwaukee, and Denver.

Now here’s a real test to see what the team is made of; believe it or not, the Charlotte Bobcats and Toronto Raptors are playoff teams this season, with the Raptors actually being a legitimately good team.

The large losing stretch for the Hawks was largely scarred by the team’s injuries; Al Horford was already out for the season, but the additional injuries to Pero Antic, Paul Millsap, and Gustavo Ayon left the team scrambling to fill holes in the frontcourt. Now, with Antic and Millsap back in tow, the Hawks are looking like a much better team. But how good are they?

The Hawks have won 10 straight games against Charlotte, but this is a different Charlotte team from most years. Al Jefferson is a good number one offensive option, plus the Bobcats are a top 10 defense. For the Hawks to win this game, they are going to need an aggressive Jeff Teague, as a passive effort from the starting point guard will just play right into Charlotte’s strengths on defense. If Teague can attack, breakdown the defense, and kick to open three-point shooters (where Charlotte is allowing opponents to shoot 37.3%, bottom five in the league) then the Hawks will have a good chance to win. Continue Reading…

The injured Hawks started their west coast road trip with a loss against the Phoenix Suns. While losing to the Suns is not a bad thing these days, it’s the overall picture that makes it a rough loss. The Hawks have lost 11 of their last 12 largely due to injuries and tired legs. February and March is a rough time for any NBA team. Throw in injuries and you’re gonna have some problems. That’s why this upcoming road trip is so huge for the Hawks. They don’t have to win every single game, but a single win over the next three could go a long way.

It won’t be an easy road with the Hawks playing in Portland tonight to take on the Blazers. While Portland has appeared to have fallen back down to earth a bit, they are still one of the better teams in the NBA using an arsenal of – point shooters. They use LaMarcus Aldridge and his mid-range shooting ability to space the floor for their 3-point shooters. The Blazers problem is their defense is far from good and their bench isn’t that great.

Were the Hawks at full strength I’d say they had a really good chance at winning and possibly even be the favorites. However, no Horford, Millsap likely out, no Antic, and no Ayon, leaves them in a tight spot. They finally have three big men on the roster, but they’ve gone from having two all stars, a serviceable vet in Elton Brand, and a serviceable rookie to playing the vet major minutes while trying to scrape by on big men that were at the end of the bench earlier in the season. That is not an ideal situation for any team. Continue Reading…

This is not a good time for the Hawks to be facing the two-time defending champions.

Atlanta did recently slay the Pacers and Rockets at home, but those two games are the Hawks’ only wins in their past seven games. The Hawks are currently on a two-game losing streak after a loss in Memphis and a beatdown in London from the Brooklyn Nets. A loss against the Heat would send Atlanta back to .500 and possibly down to fifth in the East if Washington wins against the 76ers this afternoon.

So what can the Hawks do to pull off an upset against Miami? Well for one, the home team will have DeMarre Carroll back, as he missed Thursday’s game in London because of the birth of his daughter. Carroll should help bolster the Atlanta defense that had huge troubles with Joe Johnson in London and would have had enormous problems with LeBron James without Carroll in the lineup.

The Hawks will also hope to take advantage of a Miami defense that is slightly down this year. Of course, the Heat are still top 10 in defensive efficiency (10th per Basketball-Reference), but Miami is giving up a full point more per 100 possessions than last season, and four points more than two seasons ago. One of Miami’s big holes has been three-point defense, where they rank in the bottom 10 of the league by allowing opponents to shoot 36.8% from behind the arc. While this may point to a big night for Kyle Korver, that’s not necessarily what the Hawks need; the Hawks will need their secondary three-point shooters — Jeff Teague, Pero Antic, and Carroll — to hit the open looks that they get. Teague, who is in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career, is currently shooting just 25% from three-point land this season, with his problem seemingly being a proclivity to come up short on above-the-break threes. Continue Reading…

The Hawks enter Friday’s game against the Jazz with an opportunity to get three games over .500.

While that may not sound significant, consider this: three games over .500 would give the Hawks a considerable cushion in the largely dreadful Eastern Conference. Expanding on that, five of the Hawks’ next six games — including the Jazz game — are against teams that are currently under .500. Three of those teams (Orlando, Cleveland, and Utah) have a winning percentage that is under .400. Four of these games, however, are on the road.

With all of that said, the Hawks have a good chance to cushion their hold on the third seed in the East with a relatively easy schedule to close out the 2013 calendar year. That all starts tonight against the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz are the second worst team in the NBA by record (7-21) and third worst by per game point differential (-8.4). The Jazz’s biggest weakness is their defense, where they are currently last in the NBA by allowing over 110 points per 100 possessions. (per Basketball-Reference) Continue Reading…

The problem with the Hawks last year wasn’t just that they weren’t getting to the line; they couldn’t make anything once they got there. The team was 26th in the league in both free throws per field goal attempt and free throw percentage.

Something welcoming has developed, though. Through three games this season, the Hawks are getting to the line at an average of 30.7 times per game, up from 19.7 last season. One problem stays the same, however; the Hawks are shooting 66% from the charity stripe, good enough for 27th in the league.

The biggest offenders? Well, Josh Smith may have left, but his replacement, Paul Millsap, is filling this void just perfectly. Millsap is shooting 47.4% from the line so far, which is extremely concerning considering that he’s getting to the line over ten times per game. That is a lot of points left on the board for Atlanta.

Al Horford hasn’t been much help in this area, missing half of his attempts through three games. While it’s great to see the Hawks get to the line so much, this amount of misses is eventually going to lead to losses, if you want to argue that it already hasn’t. (see: Lakers)

Tonight, the Hawks will take on the Kings in Sacramento, would should give Atlanta plenty of opportunities to remedy their free throw woes. The Kings do have some offensive firepower with DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, but what they offer on defense is… well, it’s not great. Teague, Millsap, and Horford will have plenty of chances to pound the ball instead, get some buckets, and hopefully, get to the line where they can actually convert.

This will also be a good game to see if the Hawks can get something cooking defensively. Converting to a new defense with a new coach and a lot of new players is hard, but the team needs to stop leaving shooters open in transition and off of the pick-and-roll. It still may take a while to get the defense completely going, but at some point, we need to see some improvement.

Tonight’s game starts at 10PM EST.