The Atlanta Hawks wrapped up their five game homestand with a 87-76 victory over the Charlotte Hornets in Sunday’s matinee matchup. Led by Al Horford’s 13 points and 16 rebounds (his 200th career double-double), the victory means the Hawks finish their five game homestand with a 2-3 record — pretty disappointing all things considered. Losses against the seriously shorthanded Miami Heat and the poor Milwaukee Bucks are losses that could prove costly when it’s all said and done after 82 games.
Wrapping up the homestand the right way — a huge win
If you’re going to lose three of your five games at home, it’s better to lose the first three than the last three. The Hawks finished off their homestand with two wins and that’s some important momentum to take into this five game road trip that the Hawks have coming up.
This is going to be a very tough road trip — three of those five games are against teams that have a .500 or above record. Although, one of the teams below .500 right now that the Hawks face are the Utah Jazz who are the best team that are (marginally) below .500 — so, really, four of those teams are .500 and above. So, to bring some sort of momentum in Golden State for Tuesday’s game against the Warriors is big.
As for this game itself, this was a big win for the Hawks. Not only does this win put some daylight between the Hawks and the eighth seed that they were hovering around, but the win secures the season series against the Hornets. Now the Hawks own the tiebreaker over the Hornets in any tied situation — which is huge since the Hornets appear to be legitimate contenders for the playoffs.
“In my eyes, this was another must win because if you think about it, Charlotte is right behind us (in the standings),” he said. “They’re in our division. They’ve been playing well.” — Al Horford
Charlotte’s 9 point quarter
The Hornets missed 18 of their first 19 shots in the first quarter and put up just nine points. This was the Hornets’ sixth and final game of their road trip that began before the All-Star break so it’s understandable that, maybe, the Hornets were weary. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford believed that the Hawks were just more ready than his Hornets team were:
“(Day games) come down to readiness,”Steve Clifford said. “The game was won in the first quarter. They had more readiness than we did to start.”
I would disagree with Steve Clifford when he said the game was totally lost in the first quarter. Yes, they faced an uphill battle but they came back into this game. The Hornets cut the 24 point deficit to just two points in the fourth quarter — they were in with a chance to win this game but just couldn’t get over the hump.
A lot of credit has to go to the Hawks defense, who made things very tough for the Hornets — except for Marvin Williams. I thought the Hawks did a poor job defending Williams, Paul Millsap in particular left him open for three on a couple of occasions. The guy shoots the three-ball at almost 40% — don’t just leave him wide open.
Other than that, the Hawks did a great job. They did a great job slowing down Kemba Walker, who only scored nine points on 3-of-15 shooting and 0-of-7 from downtown:
“We just tried to make it tough on him. He’s a good player. We tried to make him see multiple bodies.” — Jeff Teague
It was the first time since November 2014 (against the Utah Jazz) where the Hawks allowed their opponents to a single digit scoring quarter.
Contributions from everyone
All 10 Hawks that played last night made a contribution yesterday. And it wasn’t a 76-11 scoring contribution in favour of the starters where nearly all the bench players scored just two/three points apiece — no, everyone contributed. The bench combined for 33 points yesterday — Mike Scott and Dennis Schröder both scored eight points, but it was Tim Hardaway Jr. who led the bench with 11 points, three of those coming from this half court heave at the end of the first quarter.
Hardaway also registered a game high plus/minus rating of plus- 20 in 25 minutes of action. In his last three games, Hardaway is averaging 10.7 points per game on 56.5% shooting and 36.4% from downtown in 23 minutes per game. He is finding his touch at a time where the Hawks need it most.
Hornets lack of turnovers cuts off a part of Atlanta’s offense
The Atlanta Hawks are supreme when it comes to scoring off of the oppositions’ turnovers — tied with the Pacers at the top of the league in this category, scoring about 19.5 per game.
However, it’s difficult to score off of the oppositions’ turnovers when they take care of the ball — the Hornets committed just seven turnovers yesterday. This was one of the reasons that the Hawks’ scoring output was a little lower than usual — they basically had an entire chunk of their offensive game unavailable to them.
How’s this for a stat? This was the Hornets’ fifth game this season in which they committed seven or less turnovers. Amazingly, they are 1-4 in these games.
Free throw differential
Part of the reason the Hornets were able to make this a game was the sheer difference in free throw attempts/makes. Charlotte got to the line 23 times yesterday (making 15 of those) compared to the Hawks five total attempts. The Hornets were only called for 12 fouls last night while the Hawks were called for 19 — the fans at Philips Arena were not happy with the officiating.
I, personally, didn’t notice anything too fishy when it came to the refs blowing the whistle a lot for the Hornets. When the Hawks defense swarmed the Hornets like they did (particularly around the paint) of course you’re going to commit some fouls.