The Atlanta Hawks handed the last unbeaten team in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers, their first loss of the season — in the Q no less — triumphing 110-106 over the defending champs. The Hawks were led by a career night from Dennis Schröder (which we’ll get to) while Paul Millsap poured in 21 points and Kent Bazemore added 23, picking up from where he left off against Houston.
Not only did the Hawks halt the Cavs’ six game win streak but they ended their own 11 game losing streak that the Cavs have held over them since 2015.
The Cavaliers were just that one team (besides the Spurs) that the Hawks just couldn’t beat. Prior to this season, the Cavs were just built to beat the Hawks. No one could stop LeBron at the rim and Tristan Thompson did whatever he wanted on the offensive glass as the Cavs would destroy the Hawks in the rebounding battle. But if last night was any indication of things to come, that might be a thing of the past…
“It’s definitely a different year.” — Kent Bazemore
Dwight Howard, though only joining the Hawks this summer, was aware of the Hawks’ 11 game losing skid to the Cavs and he wanted to right that wrong.
“I aware of it (the losing streak to the Cavs). I’m from Atlanta. I’ve watched in the playoffs. That’s all in the past. We want to change that. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to think about it. It happened but we want to make sure it never happens again.” — Dwight Howard
Dwight played a key role in snapping this streak and we’ll get to that very soon.
I thought this was such an important win for the Hawks. This Cavs team has held a vice at Atlanta’s neck for the past two seasons and for the Hawks to exorcise some of those demons with this win (even though this wasn’t a playoff win) was so important heading into future games between these two sides, just to give them the confidence of “You know what, we can beat this team”.
As Kent Bazemore said, this year sure is a different year, and there was one aspect of this game where things were definitely different…
A different rebounding story
It’s no secret to anybody that the Cavs have destroyed the Hawks on the glass over the last two seasons. It’s no secret that LeBron, Kevin Love and especially Tristan Thompson had their way against Al Horford and Paul Millsap when it came to rebounding. So the Hawks decided to shake things up by bringing in Dwight Howard and letting Al Horford go, and you imagine they made that move with a potentially better matchup against the Cavs. And it sure seemed as though it was the right decision on the basis of last night (I know it’s just one game against the Cavs, so take this with a grain of salt).
The Hawks won the rebounding battle 50-39 and Dwight Howard dominated his matchup against Tristan Thompson — who has arguably been the largest thorn in the Hawks’ side in recent seasons — winning their personal rebounding battle 17-2.
There was just no room for Thompson to grab rebounds when Dwight was around. Dwight knows how to position himself and has the athleticism and the wingspan to nullify the advantage that Thompson has boasted over Al Horford and Paul Millsap in seasons prior. Dwight knows how to box out and it’s just so hard for anyone to overpower him, he’s a massive dude.
One thing that people held against Horford was he wasn’t “tough” enough. Some believe he didn’t scrap/really fight for rebounds and that he’s too much of a “nice guy” out on the court. With Dwight, that has changed: he scraps and fights and is not afraid to get physical with you.
Take a look at these clips. Look at Dwight’s positioning and how there’s just room for Thompson to collect any offensive rebound. He is completely shut down.
Thompson was a non-factor in this game and that was purely because of Dwight. Coach Ty Lue resorted to playing Channing Frye some heavy minutes in an effort to switch things up and stretch Dwight out of his comfort zone.
“We matched their physicality. Dwight cancelled out and did a lot more against Tristan Thompson. That allowed him not to be able to guard Paul Millsap. Paul was able to have his way tonight. It’s a different look. We are playing super confident. We believe we can beat them.” — Kent Bazemore
“When Dwight is in the game, they have to put a bigger body on him. They have to. He is a load down there. When they do that, somebody like LeBron or Kevin Love has to guard me. I think the matchups favor us. We can go down to him. We can go down to me. Pick-and-roll situations, I think we can get what we need.” — Paul Millsap
And when Kevin Love guards Paul Millsap, good things happen for the Hawks. Love could not handle Paul Millsap’s array of offensive moves and all of this is made possible because of Dwight Howard’s presence underneath the rim.
Dennis’ career night
Dennis Schröder followed up his decent game against the Rockets with a career night in Cleveland: a career high 28 points on 10-16 shooting. That shooting performance would’ve been even better if he hadn’t taken some stupid shots near the end of the fourth quarter, you know, just to let you know that it’s still Dennis that you’re watching. What I did like though was this: he was getting to the rim and was finishing so well, take a look at his shotchart from last night.
Look at all that green near the rim: 7-of-8. Dennis was fantastic at the rim last night and that’s why he frustrates me so much. He’s capable of getting to and finishing at the rim, but he’ll also have nights where he’ll just settle for and take stupid jumpshots at times and drive into packed paints with no plan.
Like I said after the Rockets game, I’m quick to rag on Schröder but I will give him credit where it’s due. And it’s sure due here.
Interesting crunch time lineup
In the fourth quarter Ty Lue saw that Tristan Thompson wasn’t going to have an impact on this game so long as Dwight Howard was on the floor so he decided to throw Channing Frye into the fray along with Kevin Love and LeBron, in order to take Dwight out away from the rim where he’s not comfortable. After fouling Kevin Love just inside the three-point line, Coach Bud took Dwight out of the game and went with a lineup of Dennis Schröder, Kent Bazemore, Tim Hardaway Jr., Thabo Sefolosha and Paul Millsap to close out this game.
I had my concerns defensively, but it matched up well with what the Cavs had. Dennis obviously took Kyrie, Hardaway took Shumpert, Bazemore guarded Channing Frye (who didn’t utilise his size inside, spacing the floor instead), Thabo on LeBron and Paul Millsap on Kevin Love.
Stat wise, the lineup did pretty well. 12 points on 62% shooting from the field and 50% from behind the arc with a +/- rating of plus- 1. I’d be interested to see how this lineup would fare if you replaced Hardaway with Korver.
It’s a boy!
Kyle Korver did not travel with the team for this game following the birth of his third child, Koen.
Coach Bud was actually looking forward to seeing how his team would get on without Kyle.
“In some ways, I’m excited to see the group without Kyle. Maybe Taurean gets his chance to play. At the end of the day, our depth and having a lot of guys who are comfortable and confident playing and learning how to play without different guys, including against the best team, is important. Kyle is obviously hugely important to us but there will be more opportunity for Tim, Thabo, (Kent Bazemore), maybe Prince. I think it’s good.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
As it turned out, the Hawks didn’t fare too badly without Kyle…
Congratulations to the Korver family!
Rapid fire things of note
- The Cavs turned the ball over just six times last night and still lost. That’s incredible, to take such good care of the ball and take away those scoring outlets (fastbreak points and points off of turnovers) that the Hawks love to punish (among the league leaders in points scored off of turnovers and still lose. That made this win even more impressive because the Hawks had to find ways to score than what they’re used to.
- The Cavs took a whopping 42 three-pointers last night, hitting just 11: the same number of threes the Hawks hit but in 13 less attempts.
- With another good shooting performance from Mike Muscala (5-of-8), Moose still leads the league in field goal percentage at 69%. Clint Capela currently sits 2nd at 62.7%, closely followed by Dwight Howard and Cody Zeller at 61.5%
The Hawks (5-2) square off against Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls tonight, the second night of this back-to-back.