The Atlanta Hawks recorded their 11th win in their last 13 games with the successful conquering of the Detroit Piston last night — 112-95. The Pistons’ push for the playoff still remains strong, as Indiana and Chicago also dropped games last night. Andre Drummond put up 19 points and 17 rebounds, while Tobias Harris led the team in scoring with 21 points. Paul Millsap led the way for the Hawks, and we’ll get to his stat line in good time.
The Hawks rested Thabo Sefolosha last night, who was feeling a little stiff after Friday’s victory in Washington.
The best performance of the season
Whoa, whoa! Steady on, Graham. The best performance of the season?? Against the Pistons? What about the game versus Houston before the new year? Or the Indiana battering earlier this month? Or rallying from 17 down to beat the Clippers by double digits?
Sure, these are all very nice wins against quality opposition (you’re looking quite sheepish there, Houston…), but it was the way the Hawks played last night rather than the quality opposition — who are still a playoff contending team with a record above .500.
I’ll give you the stats from last night and you tell me if the Hawks have had a better victory than this one:
45% shooting from the field.
37% from behind the arc.
92.9% from the line.
20 fast break points.
Largest lead of 20 points.
Eight players in double digit scoring.
Scored over 100 points.
Held opposition to 38.6% shooting.
Held opposition to 24.1% from behind the arc.
Help opposition to 95 points
Opposition never led.
A 17 point victory on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back.
I’ve made my case.
34 assists and four turnovers — led by Jeff Teague’s 12 assist, zero turnover performance. Four turnovers! Four! And Dennis Schröder was credited with three of them.
KL Chouinard had a great tweet last night about how many teams in NBA history have recorded 34 (or more) assists while committing just four turnovers in a game. The Hawks are one of six teams to record such a line since 1983 — the first since 2003. Incredible stat.
The Hawks came out to play for this one. I’ve never seen the Hawks come out of the gates and play with that kind of quality on both ends of the floor — at least this season — like they did last night. You just knew they were ready to go, and they made their statement early. By the time the first four minutes of the first quarter had elapsed, the Hawks were leading 9-2, and held the Pistons 0-of-6 from the field.
Coach Mike Budenhozler, Al Horford (13 points, five rebounds, five assists), and Kyle Korver (12 points) believed the defense set the tone for the Hawks’ victory.
“It’s a good road back-to-back effort. I think the defense in the first quarter set the tone, the activity and obviously we shot the ball well tonight…” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
“I think, honestly, for us more than the defense it was the energy. I felt like we came out, all of us, with good energy and good focus. We understood that this was a really big game. The Pistons have been playing great, winning five straight. They are a team that’s a problem. We needed to jump ahead and do that.” — Al Horford
“I thought our defense was great to start the game. It was a big game on the road. First quarter can dictate a lot of things, how the game is going to go. I thought we came out with a lot of great energy, attention to detail and really put together a solid first quarter and set the tone for the game.” — Kyle Korver
Kent Bazemore recognised how important this win was, given the Hawks’ tough upcoming schedule at this point in the season.
“We came out with a ton of energy, which is good this time of year because no matter what’s going on it’s important to keep your eye on your prize and what you’re trying to get accomplished. We’ve got a tight race coming down the stretch and it’s important we win this tight games. We have a tough schedule. We have to come out every night ready to play. It’s a great win for us. Road win. Back-to-back. Got in late. We had everything going against us and they won five in a row. It just shows how focused we are.” — Kent Bazemore
Kyle Korver also mentioned how focused the Hawks were, as he described how the Hawks are currently playing their best basketball of the season.
“I think we are playing our best basketball right now. You look at a period of games, 10 games, 15 games, I think you can get a good grasp of where we are at as a team. The last 15 games has probably been our best stretch of the season. We have a lot of tough games coming up. We probably have the toughest schedule coming up of all teams that are in this mix with us. So we know that every game is really important. Guys are really focused.” — Kyle Korver
Meanwhile, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy was full of praise for the Hawks last night.
“Hey look, I’ve been here two years. I don’t know if you’ve heard this out of me yet — and I’m not saying I was happy with the way we played, obviously we didn’t’ play well — but, it was about them. That’s a very good team that’s really hitting their stride and played terrific about both ends tonight.”
“That team has a lot to play for. They have really high aspirations. They understand what it’s all about. We are trying to learn that. (They) are starting to play like the team that won 60 last year.” — Coach Stan Van Gundy
It is rare for SVG to give that kind of compliment, but the Hawks really earned it last night.
Paul Millsap — All-Star and ‘Anchorman’
It’s scary how good Paul Millsap is sometimes. I know it’s hard to say a three-time, consecutive All-Star is underrated… but Paul Millsap is underrated. He was amazing last night — 23 points (8-of-14 shooting, 3-of-4 from behind the arc), nine rebounds, five assists, four blocks, four steals, zero turnovers in 28 minutes.
Before he sustained a cut that required 10 stitches (per Chris Vivlamore of the AJC), Millsap was in play to record the 5x5x5x5x5 line — a stat line consisting of a minimum of five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals, five blocks.
His coach described his game as “a monster game” prior to his exit.
“He had a monster game. Blocked shots. Steals. Points. Rebounds. Everything. It was a big-time game from him. Fortunately, we had a little bit of a lead when it happened and we were able to close it out. Hopefully, he’ll be OK.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Despite this amazing performance, Coach Bud wants even more from Millsap.
“He’s a heck of a player and we are very fortunate to have him. We actually want more. We are on him. We think he can do even more for us. When he plays with energy and great force, his impact on the game is huge. And he knows that.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
If Millsap has, somehow, even more in the tank to give than what he gave last night… That’s a scary thought, I don’t want to think about it.
Another fourth quarter run puts game beyond reach
Similar to the Wizards-Hawks game on Friday, the Pistons were just about hanging around after three quarters — within a solid run’s range of truly having a chance to win the game. But, just as the Hawks did to the Wizards on Friday, they killed any hopes of a Detroit comeback — a seven point Hawks fourth quarter lead (83-76) quickly turned into a fourth quarter rout as the the Hawks went on a 20-7 run (103-83) to put the game beyond the Pistons.
Mike Scott led all Hawks fourth quarter scoring with seven points in the period, while Kent Bazemore also added six points.
“It was a little bit of both (offense and defense). We were able to get a couple stops, a couple boards and transition baskets. I think Mike Scott and Tim Hardaway running. When they cut it to seven, you could feel the momentum changing.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
The running game was key in the fourth quarter, as Coach Bud mentioned — nine of the Hawks’ 20 fast break points came in the fourth quarter.
The Pistons were able to bring the, once upon a time, 17 point deficit down to just seven points but would get no closer. Stan Van Gundy said his team were just unable “…to get over the hump”.
“We’d get it to eight, nine, seven, we couldn’t get over the hump. They played at a level tonight that we haven’t been able to get to yet or had to get to yet. Hopefully, it’s a learning experience for us.” — Stan Van Gundy
Teague and Schröder sharing some court time
In the absence of Thabo Sefolosha, Coach Bud believed that playing both of his point guards at the same time was the way to go to replace Sefolosha’s minutes last night.
“Playing the two point guards together was a way to replace Thabo’s minutes. Jeff and Dennis together bought us a few for different guys and we could sub in and out and work our way around not having Thabo.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
The lineup itself had some decent success last night. In the eight minutes Teague and Schröder shared the floor, the team registered a +/- rating of plus- 3. Is it a lineup you’re going to see play a significant role in the playoffs? Probably not, but tonight it fulfilled a role it needed to in the absence of Sefolosha.
Before getting left behind by the Hawks’ team bus, Jeff Teague said he enjoyed the lineup and hopes to see more in the future.
“It’s fun, man. First time in a long time. I think it worked well tonight. We had a lot of momentum and played faster. Hopefully, we can use in the future.” — Jeff Teague