For the second time this week the Atlanta Hawks stole another game on the road, this time against the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City, triumphing 109-108. Dennis Schröder led the way to victory with 27 points while ‘The Rooster’, Danilo Gallinari, led the Nuggets with 21 points.
The run that won
The Hawks displayed fantastic energy in the Mile High City, recovering from a 10 point deficit that they faced in the third quarter, stuck with the Nuggets in the fourth quarter, trailing by just two points — 100-102 following a three from Mike Muscala — with just 2:50 remaining. But then the Nuggets reeled off a 6-0 run to take a 108-100 lead with 1:43 remaining. Uh-oh, here we go again… Right?
Wrong. The Hawks ended the game on a 9-0 run, entirely from the free throw line, to somehow steal this game 109-108.
“It’s crazy how it happened. You never know in this league how you can win a game.” — Paul Millsap
The Nuggets can feel a little aggrieved with the technical foul that was called on Coach Mike Malone, earned for saying something on the sideline that the officials took exception with. Obviously, a technical foul gives the opposing team one shot at the free throw line, hence giving the Hawks a freebie at the line and the Nuggets, in the end, lost by one. Big turning point.
“Obviously, the technical was a big, big play. I apologized to our team. I did not realize what I said was something you could get a technical for. I think it’s a slightly ridiculous call, considering the time and score of the game.” — Coach Mike Malone
Regardless whether it was a tech or not the Hawks got the victory and they were pumped, particularly Paul Millsap, who was uncharacteristically pumped for a win in mid-December.
But the Hawks had every right to be pumped with this win, it sure looked like that this game was all but gone after Denver ripped off that 6-0 run, but credit to the Hawks and their two stars, Dennis Schröder (who nailed five of those nine free throws) and Paul Millsap (who nailed the free throw that tied the game and then the one that gave the Hawks the lead).
“Those two guys led us. They dug deep and the rest of the team followed their lead.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Being the professional and experienced veteran that Paul Millsap is he recognises that, while this is a great win, it’s on to the next one:
From Paul Millsap after last night's win: “It means a lot. But it means nothing if we don’t take it to the next game."
— Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) December 24, 2016
This was not only a great road win just before Christmas, but it keeps the Hawks right in contention for the playoffs, the Hawks just two games behind the Celtics and Hornets — who are tied at 17-13 — for the third seed.
Another lineup change
The Hawks were more shorthanded than usual last night. Dwight Howard did not travel with the team to Denver, missing his third straight game with back tightness, Tim Hardaway Jr. missed this game with a groin injury that he suffered on Wednesday against the Timberwolves and Kyle Korver was a late scratch with an illness he picked up in Denver.
Coach Bud, very surprisingly, gave Kris Humphries (remember him?) the nod at center and he lined up alongside Paul Millsap, Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schröder. What was so surprising about this was that Humphries was a DNP-CD (did not play, coaches decision) for the last two games despite Dwight and Splitter sitting out with injury. And Kris, I have to say, played well, particularly in the first quarter. Let’s look at Humphries’ good work in the first quarter.
In Dwight’s absence, the Hawks have really struggled on the glass. The Thunder out-rebounded the Hawks 44-35 (while also grabbing 15 offensive rebounds) and the Timberwolves out-rebounded the Hawks 52-35, also grabbing 15 offensive rebounds. The Hawks have clearly lacked size and help on the glass in Dwight’s absence and Kris Humphries really helped out in that regard. Here, he boxes out the very large Nikola Jokić, denying a second chance opportunity and then on the other end creates a little bit of trouble on the offensive glass.
While he doesn’t grab and secure the offensive rebound, he gets his body in there, in the mix, and that what the Hawks’ have missed in Dwight’s absence, a presence on the offensive glass. Dwight grabs almost five offensive rebounds a game.
Dwight, as we know, puts a lot of pressure on the rim looking to dunk the ball. The Hawks have missed this in his absence and Humphries can act as that roll man that puts pressure on the rim. Here, he takes the ball and is strong in his approach to the rim and dunks it with Jokić in close proximity.
Off of the amazing steal by Thabo, Humphries does a good job filling the lane as Sefolosha pushes the ball in transition. Once he receives the ball, Humphries does a good job taking the contact from Wilson Chandler and finishes at the rim.
It’s always good to see your big man run the floor in transition, and if you do that you’re usually rewarded.
Off of the amazing block from Paul Millsap, Humphries is busting his gut to race up that floor in transition and, again, he is rewarded. Sefolosha finds him again, and Kris finishes at the rim with the layup.
Again, you love to see your big man running in transition like that.
And finally, after securing the rebound Humphries looks to initiate the fastbreak opportunity, finding Dennis with a nice pass, and Dennis pushes in transition.
Although Dennis didn’t convert, Humphries did well to recognise Dennis was running in transition and to find him with that nice pass to start this fastbreak opportunity.
Humphries did most of his good work in the first quarter, and he finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
“Especially, his first run I thought was really, really good. I thought really the whole game, I thought his physicality, his effort on the boards, I thought he was exactly what we needed tonight.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
All of those clips came from the first quarter and Bud seemed happy with his effort, so we might see Kris (depending on what the situation is with Dwight) in the next game against the Timberwolves, especially given how the Hawks’ small lineup started Wednesday’s game against the Wolves on Wednesday night.
Fear the ‘fro!
With both Kyle Korver and Tim Hardaway Jr. out of the rotation with injury/illness, the rookies DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince both got to see some meaningful minutes last night. However, it was Bembry who saw the bulk of those minutes (19 compared to Prince’s 1) and he played very well, scoring a career high nine points on 4-of-6 shooting. Let’s go over his night in a little more detail.
At the end of the first quarter, Bembry catches Jameer Nelson ball watching and makes a nice cut to the rim before converting a lovely reverse layup underneath the rim.
My personal favorite moment from last night was Tim Hardaway Jr.’s reaction after Bembry hits a high-arking shot and draws a foul.
A good shot from Bembry and an ever better celebration from THJ.
One thing that jumped out to me when watching college footage of Bembry — before the draft — was his movement off the ball. I said at the time that this would serve him well should he be drafted by the Hawks, and here’s an example of that right here.
If you make runs like this you will — more often than not — be found by someone. And you probably will be found if you’re making that run and Paul Millsap has the ball, great pass.
And finally, off of the turnover, Bembry pushes the ball in transition and finishes at the rim despite two Nuggets players in close proximity.
What was nice about this layup was that Bembry laid the ball up on the weak-side, meaning Gallo has to try come across Bembry’s body if he wants to block this shot. Nice recognition.
Bembry was in action for the Salt Lake City Stars just 24 hours prior and the Hawks had great things to say about him, from Coach Bud:
“I thought he was really good tonight. I thought the way he moved off the ball and the way he competed defensively, he just filled his role. Particularly it stood out how he was moving off the ball, getting a couple easy layups, getting out in transition. Defensively, they run a lot of hand offs and he is effective guarding that stuff. Very happy for him. To play last night in a D-League game and come here tonight and play in an NBA game, it’s great growth for him.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
And Paul Millsap:
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) December 24, 2016
This was a great night for Bembry, his coming out party as a pro. Whether he’ll see any significant minutes going forward once THJ and Korver return, we’ll have to wait and see. But we really got to see a glimpse of DeAndre’ Bembry last night…
Thabo… he’s good at defending
Can we appreciate the defensive efforts of Thabo Sefolosha? He may not fill it up on the offensive end (though he had it going on that end last night, 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting) but defensively he brings it. He had some absolutely fantastic steals last night.
And exhibit C:
Damn, Thabo, why you gotta do Gallo dirty like that? Thabo Sefolosha, ladies and gentlemen. He’s good, and nailed two clutch free throws during that 9-0 run at the end.
We’ve seen this heading before, but it’s for a good reason this time around! Last night the Hawks committed just eight turnovers, their second best game in that department this season. It’s great to see the Hawks take care of the ball without it limiting their opportunities on the other end as they recorded 26 assists.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, turned the ball over 15 times leading to 21 points for the Hawks, a key stat in this game.
You’ll never guess what happened…
Ladies and gentlemen, Paul Millsap… got a call. I know, right??
When Dominique says that the Hawks got away with one, you know the Hawks really got away with one…
When you look at the replay though, you can see Paul goes for a rip-through kind of move when Gallo’s hand touches the arm of Millsap. So I can see why the foul was called… but it’s a debatable call. Still, the Hawks will take that. Millsap doesn’t get a whole lot of calls, as Hawks fans will know.
The Hawks (15-15) are back in action on Monday, they’ll take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center in Minneapolis. Happy Holidays to all!