The Cleveland Cavaliers completed their sweep of the Atlanta Hawks as they took Game 4 in Atlanta with a 100-99 victory in Atlanta. The loss marks the end of a fun season in Atlanta, but the crushing exit at the hands of the Cavaliers — in a second successive sweep — has many Hawks fans torn on where the franchise needs to go next. And we’ll get there in good time, here at HawksHoop but, before all of that, let’s just finish the postmortem of this Game 4 loss.
Block or goal tend?
With 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Hawks led 97-96, with the Cavaliers inbounding the ball underneath Atlanta’s basket. Some nice man movement from the Cavs out of the timeout allows LeBron — who frees himself of Paul Millsap — to receive the ball and put it up on the glass for a layup. However, James finds his effort swatted from behind by Millsap, who thinks he has the clean block and rebound, but the whistle sounds and the call is goal tending and the basket counts. As the play is reviewable — as there are less than two minutes remaining in the game — the officials take a look it.
After some deliberation, they maintain that their call is good and the basket is awarded, putting the Cavs up 98-97 with a minute left. Looking at it myself, I think it’s a clean block, but it’s very close. Now, to be fair to the officials, they called it a goal tend on the floor, which means they need “conclusive” evidence that the block was clean to overturn the call. That’s their defense in this situation, was it conclusive enough to overturn the call?
The Hawks would go on to lose by one point, meaning the ramifications of this call are — as you’d imagine in a one point loss — huge. It matters little at this point, now that their season is over, but that won’t stop Paul Millsap from thinking that the block was clean.
“Personally I thought it was a clean block. Still do, still will. All summer I’m going to think about it as a clean block.” — Paul Millsap
A glimpse of the point guard future in the fourth quarter?
Backup point guard Dennis Schröder played almost the entire fourth quarter and had a massive imprint in the fourth quarter of this pivotal Game 4, scoring 13 points (21 in total) in the final period, with six of those coming in the last three minutes of the game. He did all of this while starting point guard Jeff Teague watched from the bench.
Dennis playing entire fourth quarters is nothing that new if you’ve watched the Hawks play all season. Sometimes coach Bud will ride Dennis for the whole fourth quarter if he’s shooting the ball well that particular night. Alternatively — when it comes to playing him in the fourth quarter — Bud may send Dennis out to finish the third quarter and play a good chunk of the fourth quarter. Eventually, Schröder gets gassed, and that’s when Teague will come in to finish the game.
But this game wasn’t like that, in fact we saw something entirely new. When Teague checked out at the 4:44 mark in the third quarter, I expected that Dennis would finish the third quarter, play some of the fourth, and then Teague would re-enter — when Dennis tired — to finish the game. But this never happened. Teague never re-entered the game after checking out in the third.
Being the last game of the Hawks’ season, this fuelled the already heavy speculation that the Hawks will be looking to trade Teague in the summer and give Schröder the keys to the starting point guard position. That’s another topic for another day, but the simple reason Bud went with Schröder last night was because Schröder just had it going in the fourth quarter while Teague was having difficulty leaving an imprint on the game, finishing with five points on 2-of-5 shooting, two assists, and three turnovers.
I don’t know what to think right now when it comes to Teague’s future in Atlanta, but I couldn’t help wonder if we perhaps saw a glimpse of the Hawks’ point guard future. A future where Dennis Schröder is playing crunch time and Teague is not, whether he’s on the team or not. Let’s look at some of Dennis’ plays in the fourth quarter and see why Bud decided to stick with him.
We saw the good Schröder in the final period last night. Here, he takes on a very solid defender in Matthew Dellavedova and beats him with a combination of quickness and a beautiful step to misdirect him.
Again, Delly is a good defender and, while Dennis made it look easy, this was no easy basket.
That basket notched Schröder’s point total in the quarter to seven. At that point, he was the only Hawk on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, as he carried the team in the early stages of the fourth. But he wasn’t just getting it done offensively, he was getting it done on the defensive end too. Look at this outstanding defense on Kyrie Irving.
A great contest from Schröder, forcing Kyrie to miss everything on this shot attempt.
Schröder’s decision making in the fourth quarter was, for the most part, excellent. In this sequence, Kevin Love gets switched on Schröder. It would’ve been easy for him to back up behind the three-point line and just jack one up, but no, he uses his quickness to beat Love off of the dribble and converts inside the paint.
This was a beautiful shot, lifting the ball high enough to elude the rotating LeBron, who was ready to swat that shot.
Again, Schröder uses this quickness to get inside the paint and make things happen. Eventually, this will open up lanes for him to drop the ball off to a teammate for a dunk/layup.
Notice the period of the game in which these clips take place in, these are huge shots coming a a very crucial periods in this game, and this series — with the season on the line. This particular shot put the Hawks up 97-96 with a minute and a half to go.
Coming out of a timeout, the coaching staff entrusts Schröder to convert this play drawn up for him. He turns the corner, beats Dellavedova, and scores the huge basket to trim the lead to just one point while giving the Hawks a ‘2-for-1’ opportunity.
The Hawks could’ve drawn up a play for either of their All-Stars, for Kyle Korver, but no, they trusted Schröder enough to draw up a play for him and he executed.
When the Hawks got the ball back after getting the defensive stop, Schröder tried to put his head down again and get to the rim, but gets tied by LeBron and a jump ball is called with 2.8 remaining. This, effectively, ended the Hawks season as there was no chance Schröder was beating LeBron in a jump ball and the Hawks had no timeouts remaining even if they did come up with the ball.
Still, a fantastic fourth quarter effort by Schröder, and if rumors are to be believed, we may see a lot more of him in the fourth quarter in the future.
Kris Humphries — what might have been
Kris Humphries, as expected, got the nod as primary backup big for Game 4 after his solid performance in Game 3. Just like Game 3, Humphries’ impact off the bench was very important for the Hawks. He finished with eight points (shooting 2-of-4 from three-point range), seven rebounds, and three blocks — including this beautiful rejection of Jefferson (plus the stare down, which the Cavs bench gets mad at).
Hump was also able to wrestle some rebounds away from Tristan Thompson — whose overall impact on the game was reduced in Game 4 thanks to Humphries — and he provided great energy the team needed from their backup big. With how influential he was in Games 3 and 4, it makes you wonder how things may have been different in Game 1 had he played. We shall never know.
Bud finally shortens his rotation
It took until Game 4 — and an elimination game at that — for Coach Bud to finally shorten his rotation. Nine players played last night but it was really just eight players, with Mike Scott playing just three minutes in the first half. I’m not sure why it took so long for Bud to realise that Mike Muscala and Tim Hardaway Jr. weren’t contributing in the playoffs, but hey, better late than never. Right?
How many Hawks have just played their last games in ATL?
The Hawks face many questions heading into the off-season, and fans can’t help but wonder how many players just played their last game as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Al Horford, Kent Bazemore, and Kris Humphries all enter the summer as free agents, Jeff Teague’s future with the team is uncertain, and there’s also the uncertainty of other role players (such as Kyle Korver) who may be moved on this summer if Horford and company leave.
Who knows how many have played their last game as a Hawk… It’s just impossible to rule anything out until whatever happens, happens.