The Atlanta Hawks’ five game home stand has not gotten off to the best start. After losing the first game of their five game home stand against the very shorthanded Miami Heat, the Hawks lost their second straight game in a double overtime affair with the Milwaukee Bucks — 117-109.
Better execution, but same end result
The difference between the Heat and the Hawks last time out was that the Heat executed down the stretch and the Hawks didn’t. While the Hawks ultimately ran out of gas in second overtime last night, when their backs were against the wall at the end of regulation and in the first overtime period, they had an answer, and they came out and executed.
We’re going to look at two plays where the Hawks were in a position where if they didn’t score the game was over.
The first comes at the end of regulation. It’s Atlanta ball with 5.5 seconds left in the game, and they trail by two points. A two point basket would surely send the game to overtime, a three would surely win the game. Let’s watch the film first and then break it down.
We’ll talk about Dennis Schroder in greater detail later, but for now, this was an beautifully executed play out of the timeout that got the Hawks an easy basket. Kyle Korver acts as the decoy and takes away the Bucks’ best perimeter defender in Khris Middleton. The crucial part of this play is Al Horford setting a screen on Schroder’s defender, Michael Carter-Williams, which frees Schroder.
What this effectively does, since O.J. Mayo decides not to guard the inbounds pass, is it not only gives Schroder a free run to collect the inbounding pass with momentum, but a free run to the cup. His man, MCW, is trailing in his dust and has zero chance of getting back in front of Dennis.
Paul Millsap drags his man, Jabari Parker, out near the corner, and when Parker tries to rotate in an attempt to block Schroder’s shot, Schroder just scoops it up over Parker and it drops into the cup. An excellently executed play at a very important time in the match, where it’s basically game over if this play isn’t converted.
So, we go to overtime and we fast forward to the end of overtime where, once again, the Hawks need a score to keep the game alive. A little two man action with Schroder and Horford, but when Horford passes the ball back to Schroder, Middleton tries to go for the steal. He is unsuccessful, and his gamble means that his man is now in front of him. Monroe now has to leave Horford to cut off the lane to the hoop, now that Middleton is behind Schroder. Schroder slips the ball to Horford, who hooks it up and in.
Again, great execution from the Hawks when the game is on the line.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, they found themselves down by eight points quickly in the second overtime and just looked like a side that had run out of gas, playing a double overtime game in the second night of a back-to-back (to be fair, the Bucks were also playing double overtime in the second night of a back-to-back). The Hawks couldn’t make any of their shots, and their weariness was for all to see on a possession (down by eight) where the Hawks just did not get back quick enough to guard Greg Monroe, who converted an easy layup, plus drawing the foul to put the Bucks up 115-105 to put the game away. The Hawks only managed to scored four points in the second overtime period, all came in garbage time when the game was well beyond their reach.
While the Hawks fell short last night, they executed very well when it really mattered, and that’s something they should be encouraged by.
Second chance points
Well, it didn’t take long after the All-Star break for this ugly beast to rear its head again… Forget running out of gas in the second overtime period, this is the reason the Hawks lost this game.
The Bucks scored 21 second chance points in regulation, before finishing with 27 when all was said and done. Almost a quarter of the Bucks’ points in regulation came from second chance opportunities — that’s just not good enough. The Hawks were a bad enough rebounding team as it was, and I think for the front office’s decision to not bring in a big that can help with rebounding (even more so in the absence of Splitter) is really going to cost them down the stretch — it has cost them a game already.
I’m sick of talking about the Hawks’ poor rebounding and the second chance points teams are getting — it’s killing the Hawks in the regular season and it’s going to really hurt them in the playoffs. How this need went unaddressed, especially in the wake of Splitter’s looming season ending hip surgery, by the trade deadline amazes me. But it’s such a relevant weakness, so I’m going to continue to discuss it as teams continually destroy the Hawks on the offensive glass.
“I thought that was big down the stretch. A couple times we got stops but couldn’t come up with the board. You give a team multiple possessions, multiple opportunities at the end of a game, it can be really difficult. The stop is not complete until you get the board.” Coach Mike Budenholzer.
Coach Bud riding with different personnel in the clutch
Usually Coach Bud closes out games with Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Thabo Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore, and Jeff Teague, in some capacity. Bud alternates between Sefolosha and Korver offensive/defensive purposes, but Millsap, Horford, Bazemore, and Teague are nearly always on the floor to close out games.
However, this game was an exception, or was it? Jeff Teague popped his wrist in the third quarter, and barely saw anytime in the fourth quarter and overtimes not only as a precaution but because Dennis Schroder had himself a great game — 25 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds.
“It was the wrist (that kept Teague out in crunch time). Obviously, Dennis was playing really well tonight. We are fortunate to have those two guys. They cover each other well. It was definitely partly the wrist and also Dennis was having a very good game.” Coach Mike Budenholzer
While Schroder playing the crunch time minutes instead of Teague wasn’t entirely surprising (given Teague’s injury and Schroder’s grat game), what was surprising was Coach Bud benching Kent Bazemore in crunch time in favour of Thabo Sefolosha, regardless of what side of the ball the Hawks were playing.
Sefolosha was the spark off the bench that fuelled the Hawks back into this game. His defensive energy, his hustle — he set the tone from the very first quarter. He played 33 minutes and, despite the Hawks losing by eight points, he finished with a plus- rating of 6. I would argue that he was the Hawks’ best player last night — not all great performances show up in the box score.
It was another night to forget for Bazemore, who is a slump at the moment — both offensively and defensively. In his last four games he’s averaging just four points per game on 25% shooting from the field and 15% from behind the arc, with a +minus rating of 6. He had a nightmare against the Heat and given the fact he had another poor performance last night, and given Sefolosha’s great performance, you wonder if Coach Bud might make an adjustment to his starting lineup.
In fact, Coach Bud’s confidence in Bazemore last night seemed apparent when in needed a bucket (down one with 24.5 seconds left), Coach Bud sent out a lineup that featured Dennis Schroder, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, and Mike Scott. In what world would you have Mike Scott (with Horford and Millsap) on the floor ahead of Bazemore when you need a score? I rest my case.
Rapid fire things of note
Tim Hardaway Jr.’s three-point shot hasn’t seen very much success so far this season, but last night he had success when he drove towards the basket. He had one of his better scoring outputs last night with seven points — four of those coming from drives toward the basket. I would like to see THJ do this a little more often, if nothing else, for his confidence — just to be able to see the ball go through the basket. I think it would help him find some confidence, which is what all shooters need. If he can find some success inside the three-point line, I think it would lead to success outside of it.
I mentioned yesterday that Paul Millsap needed to be more aggressive against the weaker interior defense that the Heat rolled out against the Hawks on Friday night. Millsap came out of the traps early in this one, and he brought the aggression that I was dying to see against the Heat. He seemed made it an objective to bang a bit more in the post in the early stages, and he went on to have a productive night in the end.
The Bucks really kept the Hawks alive in this one by missing critical free throws in regulation and overtime that would’ve put the Bucks up by two or three points. This could’ve really come back to haunt them, as the Hawks executed the resulting timeout play with a score that tied the game twice, and sent the game to the first and second overtime.
The Hawks attempted a whopping 41 three-pointers last night, only making nine of them. Yikes…
“That’s tough. That’s tough when you miss that many 3’s. Maybe we can be a little more aggressive and attack the basket more but if we’ve got an open look we are going to let it fly.” Paul Millsap.
Dennis Schroder had great success walking the dog last night, and the Bucks’ unwillingness to make Schroder pick up the ball led to the Hawks scoring some easy points at the end of the first and second quarter. In the first quarter, Schroder was allowed to make it half court before picking up the ball with 7.5 seconds remaining. He then uses a Mike Scott screen to blow by his defender and converts the layup, using his electrical pace to jet right to the rim and blow by any help defense. At the end of the second quarter, Dennis, again, walks the dog with 8.7 remaining and is allowed to make it to the half court. He quickly runs a simple pick and pop with Millsap, and Millsap drains a three-pointer. Five easy points scored by the Hawks because the Bucks didn’t want to exert any pressure onto Dennis Schroder.
(All quotes via the AJC quoteboard)