HawksHoop http://hawkshoop.com The ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Atlanta Hawks Thu, 15 Jun 2017 10:40:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Tokyo Bars for Hawks Fans: Part 1, Ball Tongue Basketball Cafe http://hawkshoop.com/tokyo-bars-for-hawks-fans-part-1-ball-tongue-basketball-cafe/ http://hawkshoop.com/tokyo-bars-for-hawks-fans-part-1-ball-tongue-basketball-cafe/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 07:35:33 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11378 If you find yourself in Tokyo during basketball season, in need of a place to watch some Hawks basketball, Ball Tongue Basketball Cafe is the place to be.

Located in the fashionable Koto region of Japan’s capital city, the cafe provides full service accommodation to fans who want to watch their NBA teams. Are you on vacation in Tokyo and itching to watch a random Hawks/Bucks game in the middle of December? Call in to reserve a table and a TV, sit down for your morning coffee (local NBA start times are typically around 8:00 a.m. in Tokyo), and watch from one of the many projectors that Ball Tongue has at their disposal. The cafe gets a diverse litany of visitors from all over the world—a large portion of the bar’s overall demographic is American tourists—but they all share one interest: watching basketball.

“We wanted to create a cafe like this to help bring people together from all over the world,” Ball Tongue founder Yusuke Hamaza told HawksHoop. “I love playing basketball, I love watching basketball, I love talking about basketball. That’s my calling.”

In a country that isn’t exactly enamored with basketball—football (soccer), sumo wrestling and baseball dominate sporting culture in Japan—there is a dearth of venues for NBA fans to express their fandom. Ball Tongue is one of those places.

“I love basketball, and I love culture—American culture particularly, but all culture,” Hamaza said. “I wanted to build a cafe that was not just located in Tokyo, but also in New York, in Los Angeles, in Atlanta—spiritually speaking. I wanted to build a community in Tokyo that was a merger of those two things—culture and basketball.”

The atmosphere in the cafe definitely corroborates Hamaza’s want for the ambience to be “worldly.” Signed basketball jerseys and Hamaza’s own clothing designs litter the walls—as many American sports bars tout—but so do a variety of Japanese, European and Latin American-infused street art. The language heard most commonly inside the bar is English—the world’s lingua franca—as opposed to Japanese.

But, it’s still surprising to see a community center for basketball fans do so well in Japan. Japan’s relatively low interest in basketball is reflected by the constant mergers and folds that happen to franchises in their top professional basketball league. In fact, the very structure of their first-tier basketball league is nearly always in flux—the country has had three different leagues claim “top-flight status” in the last five years. The current incarnation—the B.League—started in 2016, which Hamaza said has helped his business a little bit.

Despite the instability of basketball in Japan, Hamaza is still optimistic that the sport can, one day, surpass the traditional powerhouse sports in popularity.

“I think, considering how our country is going,” Hamaza said, “that one day, basketball can be one of the most popular sports in this country.”

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Schlenk Believes Hawks have bright future http://hawkshoop.com/schlenk-believes-hawks-have-bright-future/ http://hawkshoop.com/schlenk-believes-hawks-have-bright-future/#respond Sat, 03 Jun 2017 04:59:43 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11363
 Friday morning the Atlanta Hawks formally introduced Travis Schlenk as both their general manager and head of basketball operations. Schlenk, the 41-year old from Selden, Kansas is the 17th general manager in Hawks history and arrives after playing a key role as assistant general manager over the last five years in shaping what is now the most dominant team in the NBA — the Golden State Warriors.
 “Where Golden State is right now taking seven years, said Schlenk. “It is not a quick process and it takes time. The way you get there is by maintaining your flexibility, accumulating assets and developing your own talent. We have, in Coach Bud and his staff, a great group of coaches who’ve have done a great job historically of developing talents. So we are in great shape there. We have 11 draft picks coming up in the future, so we have flexibility and assets there. We are actually in a better place right now than Golden State was when I started there.”

With just eight players under contract set to return next season, there is either optimism or pessimism permeating down Peachtree Street and all throughout Atlanta. The decision to keep Paul Millsap during this past season sparked déjà vu for some after the front office tandem of Mike Budenholzer and GM Wes Wilcox elected to take a gamble and hold on to Al Horford after the trade deadline last year. Ultimately it cost Atlanta as they lost him to eastern conference rivals the Boston Celtics.

Fast-forward to now and Atlanta has yet again another big offseason decision to make. Their top scoring leader over the past three seasons and one of the most versatile forwards the league has to offer is set for free agency.

“Paul is a 4-time All-star and arguably the best player on this team, probably is the best player on this team, so that is going to be a priority, said Schlenk. For me right now I’ve got to get with Coach Budenholzer and his staff and my front office staff. Over the next three weeks, we have to hammer out a plan for the future. Paul is certainly going to be a priority.”

 

Millsap arrived in Atlanta along with Mike Budenholzer four years ago. The pair has successfully made the playoffs each season. During this time frame, they notched a #1 Eastern Conference seed in 2015 as well as a top-six defensive rating over the last three seasons. All this, and yet sustained success without a trophy to show for it doesn’t mean anything in the end.

Schlenk on the other hand values the consistency the organization has maintained over the years and space they now have to make possibilities a reality.

“For 10 years in a row, this franchise has been in the playoffs. Most of the time when guys take a job at my level their inheriting a bad team. I am inheriting a good team with a nice foundation that has some flexibility and that’s what we will look to maintain. As we get to a position where a trade or acquisition comes available for a superstar we will be in position to do that.”


“Superstar” — the response hastily and repeatedly heard with regards to what it will take for the Hawks to finally sip champagne. It is a rhetorical question to ask in all honesty. Aside from Dennis Schroder, and the developing Taurean Prince there aren’t many hybrid roster assets. Moreover, Atlanta’s draft choices have not panned out over the years — and without the ability to attract big free agents the team struggles to become a legitimate threat to the King from Akron.

In order for a drastic shift in expectations and trajectory, Atlanta will have to become much more aggressive making moves to acquire big talent. They have done well-shedding contracts over the past two seasons despite signing the hometown kid Dwight Howard to a three-year $70 million deal last summer. They currently have just $62,399,872 in team payrolls on their books — fifth lowest in the league.

Schlenk enters into an organization that has stayed clear of paying the NBA’s tax luxury since the 2002–2003 season — Jason Terry was just a third-year player. Yes, different ownership at the time, but nothing has changed in their efforts when it comes to watching the bottom line. Maybe it has cost them championships, maybe it hasn’t — even though the 2004 Pistons did win a title with just the 17th highest payroll — times have changed and biting the bullet may not seem so bad as the Cleveland Cavaliers did for their 2016 championship that cost them $54 million in luxury taxes.

Championships cost money.

“I don’t think it makes sense for a franchise to go into the tax unless you are competing for a championship, said Schlenk. “Being fiscally responsible with these gentleman’s money that’s not right. But if we are where we make a move its going to put us in tax by a few million dollars, but give us a better chance to win a championship. That’s when I will go to bat and knock on Tony’s door and say this is something we need to do because it will get us to where we want to go.”

A successful style of basketball arrived in Atlanta along with Mike Budenhozer in 2013. However, taking on the president of basketball operations position after Danny Ferry’s departure in 2015 appeared to be one job too many for Budenholzer. The team has taken a step back the last two seasons (eliminated in the semi-finals in 2016 and the first round this season) and ownership ultimately felt an individual with Schlenk’s team building knowledge and vigor was needed.

“We have tried to win every year, said Owner Tony Ressler. “There is no doubt that over the past two years what we’ve seen, and what I’ve said, is the goal is how do we make better decisions and how do we have more firepower in the front office. With a comfort level that we can get to the next level. We feel that Travis absolutely has that understanding and has seen it firsthand. As we learned in our reference checks, Travis understands every part and does the work. Understanding players, recruiting players and understanding what makes a franchise player-friendly. All of these are critically important for us.”

Friday marked the beginning of a new era in Atlanta Hawks basketball with hopes Schlenk can provide an innovative process towards becoming a powerhouse for a organization that has not reached an NBA Finals since 1961. Not only a powerhouse, but an attractive destination for years to come in a city desperately waiting for prosperity. Not an easy task, but he’s seen this before and played a pivotal role in the turnaround.

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Atlanta Hawks Season In Review http://hawkshoop.com/atlanta-hawks-season-in-review/ Thu, 04 May 2017 17:26:27 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11359 What a year it was covering this year’s Atlanta Hawks team. The acquisition of Dwight Howard jump started the summer with a jolt of excitement. The Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy alum came aboard with hopes to bring a championship to his hometown.

Instead, he ended the season sitting on the bench as his teammates clawed back from a 19 point deficit, only to come up short in game 6 versus the Wizards. That wasn’t the first time this season he sat during a crucial run, and the first year of the Howard experiment can be deemed a failure.

“ It doesn’t matter about matchups, said Howard in his exit interview. “ I want to play. I don’t care who is out there. I want to give the best for my team and the city. That is why I came here. So it is upsetting when you want to get out there and play. You work hard for something and you watch it being taken from you, not the coach taking it — but Washington taking the opportunity of us moving to the next round.”

First-year starter Dennis Schroder took advantage of his opening round matchup against All-NBA point guard John Wall — as he did against several elite point guards throughout the year — validating that the organization made the right decision when they handed him the keys over Jeff Teague. Paul Millsap’s free agency talk dominated and overshadowed much of his big-time all-star performances, as if his game needed further neglect on the national stage. However, to the credit of head coach and team president Mike Budenholzer, it never seemed to become a distraction.

Whether it was Millsap’s free agency, Schroder and Howard’s argument in the third quarter versus the Warriors during a live possession or Schroder’s late arrival from All-Star break due visa issues — the team remained positive and focused.

In the last four seasons under Budenholzer none of his teams were more inconsistent, erratic and perplexing than this 2016–2017 ballclub. The hot 9–2 start occurred so early it now qualifies as a mirage. By the end of December they were a more realistic 16–16. At that time they had a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (and would later win the season series 3–1), but suffered losses against the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.

The month of January was very telling in terms of just how unsettled they were. Starting on the 13th until March 6th they never notched a winning streak more than two games. Win one, lose the next, win another, lose the next, identity crises at its finest.

Kent Bazemore expressed the same sentiment to me after asking him about the team’s issues following a 131–120 loss in December to the Orlando Magic that dropped their record to 12–13.

“This is a very deep team and we have a lot of guys who can play so it’s all about finding that rhythm as a unit”, Bazemore said. “We’ve had glimpses of both units doing well. The bench started off the season doing well, then the starters got going, so it’s a lot going on and not enough consistency. But we are not going to get it back all at once and we are still trying to figure out who we are.”

The lows were pretty damn low and can be summed up in a moment I personally witnessed covering the Brooklyn Nets routing on March 26th that handed the Hawks their seventh loss in a row. A fan casually strolled down from his seat into the credentialed media seating, nachos and soda in hand, and took a seat with the rest of us. Clearly he’d come to the conclusion at that time that the Hawks didn’t care, so why should he? Security never approached the gentleman or redirected him back to his original seating. He just sat there, apathetic, disinterested, scarfing down some nachos.

Their identity never seemed to take shape and why a large portion of the season Budenholzer experimented with several lineups during games looking for a spark on a team ranked in the bottom half of the league in scoring. Millsap spent plenty time at the five, Bazemore took over point guard duties at times and even Kyle Korver played power forward occasionally. Compound that with a defense that poorly defended the three-point line in today’s NBA and well you’ve put yourself in a tough spot.

Those spots ranged from out of playoff contention momentarily midway through the season to losing 9 out of 11 games (with Millsap and Bazemore missing games due to injury) down the stretch that put their playoff hopes in jeopardy and having to wait until the 79th game to breath a sigh of relief.

Schroder struggled limiting turnovers, Howard hurt the defense by staying in the paint during pick-and-roll situations and Bazemore’s $70 million contract seemed to cause him to press. The list goes on and on, but nuzzled in it all were some of the most thrilling moments in Hawks history. The 26 point deficient at the start of the fourth quarter comeback victory versus Cleveland on April 9th, the overtime upset over the San Antonio Spurs and of course who can forget what took place on January 29th — the quadruple overtime victory over the New York Knicks — just the 11th time in NBA history.

The game lasted four hours as people stood by the exit doors with one foot in the arena one foot out not able to tear themselves away from what was taken place.

Rookie Taurean Prince and pending restricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. also provided optimism and excitement throughout a treacherous seven months. Prince took advantage of Bazemore and Sefolosha’s injuries by showcasing his versatility and therefore cementing his spot in the starting lineup. Hardaway deserved Most Improved Player consideration after turning his 2015–2016 woes into a distant memory by becoming the team’s scoring spark they severely needed especially after Kyle Korver was dealt.

In the end this team surpassed many preseason predictions that slotted them for a low seeding at best. Another franchise-alternating free agency awaits them in the coming months, but as far as 2016–2017 went they were willing to fight no matter how steep the odds — despite being ill-equipped with the necessary firepower.

“This group was a fighting group,” said Paul Millsap after game 6 loss. “With the ups and downs we had, we found a way to fight and compete. We shut down a lot of naysayers. We had a lot of people that said we weren’t going to make the playoffs. We just ran into a team that was hot, the Wizards were hot. I like this team and the fight in this team.”

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Hawks-Wiz: A Series Dissection http://hawkshoop.com/hawks-wiz-series-dissection/ Sat, 29 Apr 2017 22:38:10 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11354 All stats courtesy of NBA.com

The Atlanta Hawks’ roller coaster season ended on Friday after the Washington Wizards won Game 6 in Atlanta after blowing the game open in the fourth quarter, squashing any hopes of a Hawks comeback — having trailed by as many as 22 points — and a possible Game 7. The Wizards won the series 4-2 and will advance to the second round where they’ll play the Boston Celtics.

On the night, turnovers killed the Hawks (especially in the first half) but the Hawks lost this series for plenty of other reasons than the turnovers they committed in Game 6.

Why, ultimately, were the Hawks bested by the Wizards in 6 games?

Too much Wall and Beal

The Hawks didn’t do a good enough job of limiting John Wall and Bradley Beal, who were probably the best two players in this entire series, certainly two of the best three players in this series (Paul Millsap being the other one). Wall averaged 29.5 PPG on 52.5% shooting from the field, 47.4% from three and 10.3 assists per game. Beal, meanwhile, averaged 25.8 PPG on 46.2% shooting from the field and 26.4% from behind the arc.

John Wall

Wall was easily the best player in this series and has been one of the best players in the entire first round of these playoffs. Period. You could tell right from Game 1 that this was a revenge series for the Wizards and John Wall who, of course, lost to the Hawks in second round in 2015 but felt they should’ve advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals if Wall hadn’t injured his hand in Game 1.

Even in Game 1, Wall was keen to show Schröder who was boss, rekindling some beef from the 2015 playoffs where Schröder, supposedly, told his teammates to hit Wall’s injured hand (something Schröder denies).

The first of a few vicious dunks that Wall would unleash in this series.

Game 3:

(This is still absolutely outrageous)

Game 5:

Aaaaand Game 6:

Those dunks also give you an indication of how easy it was for John Wall to get to and finish at the rim in this series. A few of those dunks came in half court sets and others came in transition off of misses or turnovers.

From Game 1:

From Game 2:

You get the idea…

The hex map also illustrates how well Wall was able to get to and finish at the rim. In case you don’t know how to read a hex map all you need to know is this: large red hexagons are extremely good:

Or, if you prefer a ‘vanilla’ shotchart:

33/39 within 8 feet of the rim…that’s absolutely ridiculous.

The Hawks were unable to contain Wall as effectively as they did in the regular season series. From the preview piece for this series:

But against the Hawks, Wall didn’t excel as he did against other teams. For the season, Wall shot 58% in the restricted area and 34% in the paint (specifically the non-restricted area). Against the Hawks, Wall shot 35% in the restricted area and 60% in the paint (again, not including the restricted area) but that percentage is only so high because Wall made three of only five attempts in that area.

Wall’s frequency of shots also differs drastically against the Hawks. For the season, 44% of Wall’s overall shots come less than 10 feet of the rim (of which he made 54.8% of the time) while his jump shot frequency was 45.3% (of which he made 37.4%). Against the Hawks, the frequency of shots within 10 feet decreased to 31.4% (of which he made just over 40%) while the frequency of jump shots increased to 55.7% (of which he made only 28% of).

In this series, Wall shot 65% in the restricted area (29-of-44) and 67.3% within 8 feet of the rim. Wall was relentless in his pursuit to get to the rim and did it far better than he did so in regular season against the Hawks. He was simply too much to handle in that department.

The other issue Wall created was that he hit the three-pointers the Hawks wanted him to shoot, shooting 47% from three in this series. When Wall has that three-pointer falling, he’s almost impossible to stop. He also had that mid-range jumper falling too — Wall shot 50% from the 16-24 ft range, often dancing behind Marcin Gortat screens which the Hawks would go under, daring him to make that shot. And he did, so you have to give Wall credit for that because, if you’re the Hawks, those are the shots you live with Wall taking/making. The only issue was that his numbers around the rim/restricted area etc. were still super high in addition to his mid-range/perimeter shooting percentages being high.

Dennis Schröder, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kent Bazemore…it didn’t matter who the Hawks threw on Wall — they couldn’t stop him getting to the rim. Perhaps the length of Thabo Sefolosha might have limited Wall’s ability to get to the rim at will (and potentially bother him if he did get there) but we’ll never know, because Thabo only featured in four of the six games and averaged just over 2 minutes a game in this series for reasons only Mike Budenholzer knows.

To be, somewhat, fair to Dennis, THJ and Baze (who didn’t spend a whole lot of time guarding Wall), pick-and-roll defense caused the Hawks a lot of issues and those guys would just get stuck on Gortat while Wall either blew his way to the rim or took the open jump shot since — more often than not — Dwight Howard refused to step up on pick-and-rolls and contest the ball handler’s shot.

An example from Game 2:

But this, by no means, excuses Schröder and THJ from their, at times, terrible defense of Wall, who was able to get by Schröder and THJ too easily. Though Timmy did take on the responsibility of guarding Wall it was never for extended stints, so a lot of the blame for defending Wall has to lie at Dennis’ feet, since this is predominately his matchup. Dennis posted a defensive rating of 111.7, the worst defensive rating of any Hawk player who played significant minutes in this entire series.

Wall’s ability to get to the rim at will combined with the jump/three-point shots he was making and the Hawks’ defense of him proved to be a horrific combination, summed up by Wall’s 42 point Game 6 to close this series out. But big-time players do big-time things and Wall is no exception…

Of course, Wall is much more than just a point guard who’s able to score. He constantly got his teammates involved, as he always does. Wall averaged 10.3 assists in this series, including a 32-14 Game 1 and a 20-14 Game 5. In transition and in the half court, Wall just knows how to get everyone involved and makes the right plays. He picks and chooses his spots excellently.

Overall, John Wall was the best player in this series, the Hawks didn’t do a good enough job staying in front of him, he made his jump shots, roasted the Hawks in transition and got his teammates involved. What more is there to say, really? He was simply too much to handle.

Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal proved to be as much of a handful as John Wall in this series, averaging 25.8 PPG on 46.2% shooting from the field.

While Dennis Schröder at least kept John Wall on his toes in the point guard matchup, Beal absolutely crushed his in the form of Tim Hardaway Jr.. Coach Bud decided to continue to allow Tim Hardaway Jr. to consistently guard Beal and it, usually, didn’t end well, especially in the pick-and-roll where THJ really struggled.

The Wizards could get Beal almost any shot he wanted because THJ was getting killed with the Gortat screens and Dwight didn’t step up to contest.

It was especially bad in Game 2:

Honestly, you could make a short film about how the Wizards and Bradley Beal just exploited THJ’s defense in this series. He was just awful at times but, to be fair, THJ did a better job fighting over picks later in the series but it still wasn’t great.

This graph from NBA Math (shoutout) measures points added and points saved. Example: if you’re where Dennis is on this graph, that means you added a lot of points but didn’t save very many at all. If you’re Paul Millsap, you saved quite a number of points and were able to add points too but not as much as Dennis.

So, for THJ, he didn’t save many points at all…

Beal’s outbursts in this series were certainly helped by the poor defense of Tim Hardaway Jr.

Beal actually struggled quite badly from three-point range in this series shooting 26.4% (14-of-53). Part of it came down to how the Hawks defended him but a lot of it was because Beal just missed good opportunities. Over 32% of Beal’s total shots were open three-pointers and he made just 23.4% of them.

While he struggled shooting the three-ball, Beal excelled just about everywhere else. Beal shot 62% in the restricted area, 70.6% in the paint (not including the restricted area) and 53.8% from mid-range. His shotchart tells the same story:

If the Hawks were ever going to have a shot in this series, they needed to limit one of (if not both) Wall or Beal and that never happened. The lowest the pair combined for was 41 points in Game 3, which the Hawks won. In the four Washington victories, the lowest Wall and Beal combined for was 47 in Game 5. In Game 6, Wall and Beal combined for 73 points.

“They are one of the best backcourts in the league. You have to give them credit. As much as we, I’m not going to say we don’t like them, but we are playing against them so they are not our teammates. You want to take that challenge. You want to take that to heart. They took the best out of our backcourt. They made a lot of their tough shots, a lot of their easy shots. When they had an opportunity to get their teammates involved, they did that as well.”

— Tim Hardaway Jr.

You could argue that part of the strategy was to let Wall and Beal get theirs and limit everyone else, but I, personally, don’t believe that’s something the Hawks planned on doing.

Washington’s supporting cast did just enough

Even if the plan was for Wall and Beal to get theirs and slow down the supporting cast, the Washington supporting cast did just enough for the Wizards to get by and win.

Game 1: Markieff Morris: 21 points. Marcin Gortat: 14 points, Kelly Oubre: 11 points.
Game 2: Marcin Gortat: 14 points, Brandon Jennings: 10 points, Jason Smith: eight points.
Game 5: Otto Porter: 17 points, Bojan Bogdanović: 14 points.
Game 6: Markieff Morris: 17 points. Bojan Bogdanović 10 points.

The Hawks did a good job limiting Gortat after those first two games and Markieff Morris was plagued by foul trouble for most of this series after his strong Game 1. But the Wizards had enough players who could get themselves involved (Jennings, Bogdanonvić, Porter) and their production (along with Wall’s and Beal’s) carried the Wizards home when they needed them to. With how Wall and Beal scored in this series, the Wizards didn’t need a whole lot of other scoring to take them home.

They had enough, and that’s all they needed.

Atlanta’s lack of bench help

This was the one area where the Hawks (for all their matchup problems) could’ve really pressed their advantage in a seven game series but this advantage wasn’t capitalised on as it should’ve been.

In the regular season the Hawks’ bench averaged 34 PPG (18th) while the Wizards’ bench averaged 27 PPG (29th). Against the Wizards in the regular season, the Hawks’ bench averaged 37 PPG. In this series, however, the Hawks’ bench averaged just 24.5 PPG.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks’ bench in these playoffs but didn’t enjoy a consistent run. He averaged 9.8 PPG on 39.6% shooting from the field and 29.2% from three. Baze had a great Game 4, scoring 16 points and dishing seven assists but followed up with a 3-of-12 performance in Game 5 and seven turnovers in Game 6. Despite that, Bazemore led the team in plus/minus in the playoffs with plus-3.

Ersan Ilyasova, meanwhile, struggled to make an impact on the offensive end at all in this series. Ilysaova averaged four points on 34.8% shooting from the field and 20% from three. Having watched him play in this series, he just couldn’t find the right opportunities from behind the arc. It was strange, it just seemed as though the looks Ersan was getting in the regular season he wasn’t getting in the postseason. That, to be fair, isn’t strange at all in the playoffs if your name is Kevin Durant or James Harden, but Ersan Ilyasova? I’m not so sure…he just didn’t get great looks in this series.

José Calderón added a great spark in Game 4, but struggled to make an impact outside of that (at least on the court), Mike Dunleavy didn’t add much at all in his limited time and Mike Muscala struggled on the offensive end.

Thabo Sefolosha’s absence was so bewildering, considering how Beal and Wall were scoring almost at will. Sure, Thabo isn’t an offensive juggernaut but defensively he could’ve helped a lot. His free agency should be interesting…

In three of the six games the Wizards’ bench outscored the Hawks’ bench and in Game 6 the Hawks’ bench only outscored the Wizards’ bench by one point: 16-15. And with Ian Mahinmi missing this series altogether with a calf strain, the Hawks should’ve had the upper hand in this department.

We saw in Games 1 and 4 how effective the bench was. In Game 1, the bench kept the Hawks with a chance to win the game despite how many turnovers they committed (outscoring the Wizards’ bench 35-15) and in Game 4 it proved to be the difference (32-23 in Atlanta’s favor), especially with how Baze played. But when it mattered in Games 2, 5 and 6, the Hawks bench didn’t stand up to be counted.

A missed opportunity for the Hawks in this series.

Little help for Millsap and Schröder

Paul Millsap and Dennis Schröder (who were both fantastic in this series) had to carry the offensive burden all series long without a great deal of consistent help. No one outside of Paul or Dennis looked as though they go get a bucket on their own or on a consistent basis.

Tim Hardaway Jr. was inconsistent this whole series, Baze couldn’t show consistency, Dwight Howard did very little offensively in this series and the bench guys behind Baze (Ilyasova, Dunleavy) didn’t do a great job scoring either. Behind Millsap and Schröder, Taurean Prince was the only player who was consistent in this series — 11.2 PPG in this series.

When a rookie is your most consistent scorer outside of your star two players in a playoff series, that’s a serious problem. But take nothing away from TP himself. He gave Hawks fans a lot of hope for the future with his consistent play — he shot 56% from the field in this series. For a rookie that’s not a big, that’s fantastic. The future is bright for Taurean Prince.

THJ really did struggle in this series. Though he was the third leading scorer for the Hawks in this series with 12.8 PPG, he shot 33% from the field, 26.2% from three and 63.2% from the free throw line. Bradley Beal has quite a bit to do with holding him to those percentages but THJ didn’t always help himself either. He tried a little too hard to get himself involved when shots weren’t falling and took some really poor shots which didn’t go in either.

Example from Game 1, a game where THJ shot 2-of-11 from the field and 0-of-6 from three:

The Hawks had the personnel to support Millsap and Schröder in a playoff series but their consistency was lacking. It’s not those guys’ (Dwight, Baze, THJ etc.) talent that’s in question but consistency. THJ and Bazemore are good players but I think even they will admit that their consistency this season could’ve been better. The talent is obviously there, just a matter of stringing it together. Easier said than done (and all the more reason to appreciate Paul Millsap).

Turnovers/transition points

Probably the biggest factor of this series outside of Wall and Beal were the turnovers, turnover points and points in transition.

From the preview piece:

Turnovers were a big factor in the regular season-series and whichever team takes care of the ball (and in the process, limits the opposing team’s points off of turnovers) is going to have a huge advantage over the other.

This rung too true in Games 1, 2 and 6 — all of which were Washington wins. The Hawks turned the ball over too many times in those three vital games and the Wizards made sure to punish them for it. Critically so.

Game 1: 21 turnovers leading to 23 Washington points
Game 2: 18 turnovers leading to 22 Washington points
Game 6: 22 turnovers leading to 27 Washington points.

The Hawks averaged 16 turns per contest leading to 18.3 Wizards points while the Wizards averaged 13 turnovers per game leading to 14.8 Hawks points.

It’s very simple: you can’t expect to win a playoff game or a playoff series if you cough the ball up like that. You don’t need to break down film for that, it’s very easy to understand the importance of not turning the ball over in the playoffs, and the Hawks didn’t do a good enough job over a 7 game series.

When you turn the ball over against this Wizards team in particular, they punish you. Or if you miss a shot and don’t hustle back, they punish you. It doesn’t matter which, the Wiz will get you either way.

If John Wall is going coast-to-coast off of a turnover or a miss (or even a make for that matter), somewhere out there in transition, Bradley Beal is trailing behind the three-point line, Otto Porter is trailing behind the three-point line, Markieff Morris is trailing for a dump-off and Marin Gortat is trailing for dump-off. All of these options are waiting for Wall to collapse the defense before deciding what to do with the ball — score or pass. And with how much of a handful Wall is in transition, it’s almost impossible to pick up everyone in transition. In short: it’s a recipe for disaster for the opposition and the Hawks, with their inability to pick up Wall in time and their turnover problems, played right into the Wizards’ hands.

In the end, the Wizard averaged 20.7 fast break points per game for the series.

Closing: The Wizards were simply the better team

In a best-of-7 series, more often that not, you don’t lose because you played poorly but because the other team was simply better. Let’s face it (although I hope it didn’t take you this long to realise this) the Wizards are a better team than the Hawks and that was, ultimately, reflected in their ability to finish this series on the road in six games.

Every game, to be in with a chance of winning a game, the Hawks had to achieve many of the following in a game:

  • Limit Wall and/or Beal (good luck with that)
  • Move the ball/play Hawks basketball
  • Get big games from Dennis and Paul
  • Get a solid/good/great game from at least one of the supporting cast (i.e. THJ, Baze etc.)
  • Receive contributions from their bench
  • Limit turnovers
  • Get back in transition
  • Limit the Washington supporting cast
  • Fight around those Gortat screens/play good pick-and-roll defense
  • Shoot the three-pointer well
  • Get to the free throw line

This was the issue coming into the series and why most experts/pundits picked against the Hawks: there were too many things they had to do/needed to go right to win four times out of 7 against this Wizards team and, ultimately, there was just too much to do.

The Hawks fought hard in this series, never gave up and made this series a really entertaining one for fans across the NBA too, which I don’t think many expected them to do so. Fans enjoyed the Millsap-Morris beef and the Wall-Schröder beef as well as the entertaining games. Personally, I wasn’t very optimistic of this being a fun series but it really was, even if the Hawks lost. And credit to both teams for that.

They may have come short but it was a valiant effort from the Atlanta Hawks. They can be proud of themselves. Rest easy, because there’s a big summer ahead…

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This Week in the Hawks Podcast Episode 19: Game 5 Recap & Game 6 Lookahead http://hawkshoop.com/this-week-in-the-hawks-ep-19/ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:08:15 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11345 Howdy!

Just a quick recap of the Hawks’ Game 5 (including the officiating, Dwight and Bazemore, the bench, Dennis and Paul) loss before setting the table for Game 6 in Atlanta

That, and in-arena “cuisine”.

Thanks for listening!

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Hawks @ Wizards Game 5 — Things Of Note http://hawkshoop.com/hawks-wizards-game-5-things-of-note/ Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:09:03 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11342 The Atlanta Hawks were involved in another close encounter at Verizon Center in their best-of-7 series against the Washington Wizards but came up short 99-103, meaning the Wizards take a pivotal 3-2 lead back to Atlanta ahead of Friday’s Game 6, with the Hawks looking to take the series back to D.C. one more time…

The Wizards were led by Bradley Beals’ 27 points while John Wall added 20 points. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s 29 points and 11 assists (first Hawk since 1973 when Pete Maravich to record such a line) while Paul Millsap added 21 points.

A fantastic performance from Schröder, who has responded in a big way after his tough first half in Game 4.

Another close game slips away, now Hawks face elimination

One thing you have to give this group credit for: they never give up.

The Hawks trailed by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter and, let’s be honest, hadn’t exactly played the most amazing game in the world. Yet, somehow, the Hawks kept at it and, following a dunk from Taurean Prince in transition, cut the lead to two points with 2:52 remaining. And when it seemed to get away from the Hawks when Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat extended the lead back to five points with just over a minute remaining. But the Hawks weren’t done. Dennis Schröder responded with a huge three-pointer that cut the lead to just two points with 1:01 remaining in the game.

Immediately, however, the Wizards come down the other end and take the lead with a John Wall jump shot behind the Gortat screen. Though I, personally, thought that an offensive foul should’ve been charged for a moving screen by Gortat, not for his first screen but the second one, the one that frees up Wall:

But it’s the fourth quarter of a playoff game in the opposing team’s building. The refs are not going to call that and, to be fair, they didn’t call Gortat for moving screens this entire game. If you want to see much, much more of this sort of thing, Hawks writer KL Chouinard assembled a fantastic compilation at @ATLand29. So, check that out.

That shot put the Wizards up by four and the Hawks call for a timeout. Out of it, the Hawks go to Paul Millsap, who is hammered by Gortat as he tries to lay the ball home, much to the anger of Millsap and coach Bud on the sideline.

A huge no-call and now the Wizards — up by four points — can drain the clock and make things very difficult for the Hawks indeed. As the shot clock expires, Wall puts up a tough shot which is rebounded by Gortat, who — for some reason — tries to shoot the ball when he does not have to (Wiz leading by two possessions with 12 seconds remaining). Anyways, that misses, and the Hawks come the other way but take far too long to get any shot up and the shot that does go up misses and it’s over just like that. Not the greatest of final possessions…

The Hawks had a timeout, why didn’t they use it? Well, it’s not uncommon for teams in close games — if they secure the rebound — to not call a timeout in order to get the opposing team scrambling in transition. I guess that’s what the thought process was here? Either way, when it became clear there wasn’t anything on, a timeout should’ve been called. It wasn’t and now the Hawks trail 2-3 heading back to Atlanta.

After the final buzzer, Paul Millsap struggled to contain his anger at the officials, making his feelings known about their officiating of him in the final minutes of this game.

Those of us who watch the Hawks know that this is never something Paul Millsap does unless he’s absolutely certain that he has been given the short end of the stick and he absolutely did in this game in fourth quarter. And even then, he doesn’t go to the officials in this manner at the end of games. The fact that not a single technical foul was called on Millsap for his reactions to some plays we’re about to look at (as well as the reaction after the final buzzer) says a lot about how the officials feel about what they’ve done.

We showed the no-call involving Gortat with 37 seconds remaining, but earlier in the fourth quarter there was this obvious no-call on Gortat, who had his arm hooked around Millsap’s, that Paul was unhappy about.

As you can see, Millsap was unhappy this contact that went unnoticed. It looks worse when replayed, however:

Incredible fadeaway shot, but in what world is this not a foul?

That was bad, however, this next one might be the worst of the lot… Just look at all the contact Bradley Beal makes with Millsap’s arm on this layup attempt:

Straightaway, Bud and Millsap are absolutely incredulous with this no-call.

I, other Hawks writers and Hawks fans have seen Millsap get hit in the face on an almost nightly basis, as well as witnessing Millsap receive many other terrible no-calls not befitting of an 11 year NBA veteran and a four-time All-Star. Despite that, I don’t think I’ve ever Paul react the way he reacted in Game 5, certainly as a Hawk. I think that’s very telling.

This no-call with Beal and the one with Gortat with 37 seconds remaining, I believe, are the two no-calls Paul was motioning to the officials about postgame, as if to say “twice you didn’t call a blatant foul”.

I’m not one to look at the officiating in detail like this. I don’t like giving the officials a rough time. They truly have an extremely difficult job in, at times, hostile environments. Anytime an official’s major decision (be it a horrific call or a non-call) has played a major factor in a team winning/losing I’m quick to say that you lose a game not purely because of that but for other reasons (such as turnovers, second chance points etc.), not because of a few calls/no-calls. And I still believe that. However, that being said, the Hawks and Paul Millsap got hosed down the stretch in Game 5. The L2M report will certainly be interesting…

I think it says a lot when John Wall (one free throw attempt) and Millsap (6 free throw attempts) combine for 7 FTA while Otto Porter attempts 10…

“That’s the thing that stands out to me. I keep going to the free throw line and keep seeing 10 free throws for Otto Porter. I genuinely can’t remember how he got to 10 but that’s a big number. You look at John Wall who shoots one free throw. You look at Paul Millsap who shoots six. Both those guys are attacking the basket all the time. That’s a big, big number. That’s how he gets to 17.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

But, looking past all of that, the Hawks can be proud of the fight and determination they showed on the road. They were right there, Game 5 was there for the taking. Had the Hawks executed a little better down the stretch and, perhaps, gotten a little of help from the officials and who knows where this series would’ve been at heading back to Atlanta.

“I think we were right there. We had a chance to win. We missed a couple of rebounds. We missed a couple layups, shots. It’s tough. In crunch time we have to make those plays.”

— Dennis Schröder

A horrible loss only for the reason the Hawks are down 2-3, not because of the performance. Even though the Hawks have lost all three games in D.C., they’ve always been close and the games have been there for the taking. There’s more encouragement to be found heading into Game 6 and a possible Game 7: the Hawks have looked a lot closer to winning a road game than the Wizards have.

“All three games here, we’ve given ourselves a chance. We feel like we can play better. We went back (to Atlanta) for Games 3 and 4 and played better. We have to go back and play better in Game 6. That will be the focus. That will be where our mind is. For more of the 48 minutes, we have to be more focused. We have to be the aggressor. We have to take care of the ball. We have to have good possessions. We have to go stronger to the basket. Do all of those things for more of the 48 minutes. We are doing it but tonight credit them. They made more plays than us. We’ll go back to Atlanta for Game 6 and it’s got to be us who is the aggressor and us who makes the plays.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

Win or stay home. Can the Hawks force a Game 7?

Dwight and Baze struggle to carryover strong Game 4’s

After having strong Game 4’s, Dwight Howard (16 points in Game 4) and Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists) couldn’t carry that positive momentum into Game 5. Dwight looked like the Dwight from Games 1 and 2 (scoring five points in 28 minutes in Game 5) while Baze (six points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field and 0-of-5 from three) looked like the Baze that — unfortunately — we’ve seen for a good chunk of this year.

Most of Bazemore’s shots fell quite short and, at times, he tried to do a little too much on the offensive end. For Dwight, he didn’t look to get himself involved as he did in Game 4 — didn’t have that same aggression. Some noted that Dwight looked quite slow, as if he was injured. The Hawks injury report has given no such indication but I’m sure we’ll find out for definite once the season is over.

Heading into Game 6 — an elimination game — the Hawks will need much, much more from Dwight and Bazemore.

Bench battle goes in Washington’s favor

The bench battle has been key in this series. It’s also one the Hawks have a considerable advantage in, especially key in Game 1’s close game and Game 4’s victory. But Game 5 bench battle went to the Wizards’ bench, who outscored the Hawks’ bench 26-19.

We’ll start with the Hawks.

No one could get into any sort of consistent offensive rhythm off of the Hawks bench. Kent Bazemore, as we mentioned, struggled to follow on his huge Game 4 by scoring six points on 3-of-12 shooting in Game 5. Ersan Ilyasova has struggled for this entire series and did so again in Game 5 — two points on 1-of-6 shooting in just eight minutes. Mike Dunleavy scored five points, Mike Muscala scored four and José Calderón scored two while Thabo Sefolosha continues to — basically — receive DNP-CD’s.

For the Wizards, their bench burden was — almost single handedly — lifted by the 14 points scored by Bojan Bogdanović, who has finally come to life in this series. A 4-of-7 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 from behind the arc Game 5 performance has helped Bogdanović to 38 points in the last three games having combined for 10 points in Games 1 and 2.

This is the one area the Hawks can really press an advantage, the bench is going to have to step up in Game 6 if the Hawks are to stay alive.

Game stats: NBA.com
Hawks quotes: The AJC via Chris Vivlamore

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Game 5 Recap http://hawkshoop.com/game-5-recap/ Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:17:24 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11338 What didn’t go well for the Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta never could establish a solid inside presence as Dwight Howard dealt with foul trouble most of the night. In the first quarter, Howard was exceptional at contesting and altering shots. Once the fouls started to add up, the Wizards saw a chance to attack the basket ending the night with 40 points in the paint as opposed to the Hawk’s 32. In a close contest every possession counts and Howard’s presence in the 4th was needed as the Wizards began attacking Mike Muscala and Paul Millsap relentlessly.

One of Washington’s run in that final quarter gave them a nine point advantage with 8:37 remaining might of been a signal for Howard to be inserted, but Budenholzer opted for a more pro-offense mindset with spacing down the stretch.

“Every game is a little different, said Budenholzer. “ Offensively we were kind of struggling to score, so maybe spread them out , get Paul [Millsap]into some space, let him attack and try to get him to the free throw line. But no doubt Dwight can have an impact on the boards and on what Gortat does or doesn’t do. Those are always the tough decisions that you have to make.”

What went well for the Hawks?

Pace means so much to a team like Atlanta that prides themselves on the amount of assists they accumulate as a team every game. The ball moved with a great deal of purpose behind it and consistently found easy targets for high percentage shots. Even when the Wizards started the 2nd half on a 19–9 run, the Hawks remained disciplined in their principles as opposed to moments in Games 1 & 2 when they fell into individual battles.

Tim Hardaway Jr. played a huge role in that success as he provided Dennis plenty of spacing scoring 10 crucial points, including back-to-back threes, in the third quarter to keep the team afloat.

We’ve seen it plenty of times in this league when players begin to play hero ball in hopes of a quick turnaround. Not tonight: this team constantly responded to every Washington run by staying aggressive but never out of control.

“ Stick with what we do, said Schroder. Move the ball after rebound and push the pace. I think Tim Hardaway did a great job. We just had to kick ahead pass and he shot it. We need him to make plays like that. Pull up for three and I think he made two in a row. I keep telling him in the game that he has to keep doing it. We need him to do the same on Friday.”

Suggested change for next game in series for the Hawks?

Washington may elect to double Paul Millsap on the block as they did in Wednesday’s game in hopes of keeping Morris out of foul trouble. It will be very important for the wings to find soft pockets within the defense. In Game 5, Taurean Prince was able to find some openings along the baseline and the same should be reiterated to others like Hardaway jr and Kent Bazemore for a pivotal Game 6. Outside of that, if the ball moves well enough then Washington cannot clamp down on Millsap and would have to play honest.

Prediction for next game:

Atlanta wins a close one back at Phillips Arena in front of crowd that has kept them in this series. Dwight and Markieff will both avoid foul trouble early on, allowing for a much more free-flowing pace for the first three quarters. Atlanta pulls away late in the fourth quarter as the refs will tighten their whistles favoring a tempo more friendly to their style of play and keeping Wall out of transition.

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Postgame Playoff Edition: Howard’s foul trouble, big game for Schroder & Millsap vs officials #TrueToAtlanta http://hawkshoop.com/postgame-playoff-edition-howards-foul-trouble-big-game-for-schroder-millsap-vs-officials-truetoatlanta/ Thu, 27 Apr 2017 02:19:48 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11335 ]]> This Week in the Hawks Podcast Episode 18: Game 4 Recap and Game 5 Lookahead http://hawkshoop.com/this-week-in-the-hawks-ep-18/ Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:54:23 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11332 Hello there!

Game 4 of the Hawks’ first round series against the Wizards is in the books and the series is now tied at 2-2 heading back to D.C. for Game 5.

This episode recaps the things the Hawks did to win Game 4 and how they can win Game 5 on Wednesday.

If you enjoyed the episode, a ReTweet is always appreciated.

Enjoy Game 5!

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Post-Game Report Playoffs Edition: Kent/Dwight Lob City?; Beal Bounces Back & Calderon Comes Up Big http://hawkshoop.com/post-game-report-playoffs-edition-kentdwight-lob-city-beal-bounces-back-calderon-comes-up-big/ Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:24:41 +0000 http://hawkshoop.com/?p=11328 ]]>