Hawks vs. Mavericks — Things of Note

Graham Chapple —  March 2, 2017

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks kicked off their six game home stand with a 100-95 victory against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. The Mavs — who were without Wesley (Wessy Wes) Matthews — were led by Harrison Barnes’ 25 points while Seth Curry added 21 points. For the Hawks, six players scored in double digits, led by Paul Millsap’s and Ersan Ilyasova’s 18 points each.

Paul “clutch” Millsap…again

The Hawks were very fortunate to be still within a shout of winning this game by the time crunch time arrived the late stages. They did a great job throwing away their 12 point lead and were just so sloppy in the fourth quarter and the Mavs took full advantage by swapping a six point deficit for a four point lead. Giving team a sliver of hope in fourth quarters — having led by double figures — has been a problem for the Hawks this season and so it was again on Wednesday night.

“We can’t allow games to get like that, especially when we have a big lead. It’s not a good thing. We did make it up but in the playoffs it’s not going to work. When you have a lead like that you have to punish teams. You can’t let them back in. Once you give teams hope, they can do anything. When you have a lead, you have to punish them.”

— Dwight Howard

The Hawks recovered, but two Seth Curry free throws put the Mavs up by one (95-94) with 55 seconds left in the game. Coach Bud takes a timeout, the next possession would be a crucial one if the Hawks were going to win this game. The play? Just give Paul Millsap the ball.

This basket put the Hawks up by one point with 30 seconds left and was part of an 11-2 Hawks run that put away the Mavericks for good. When asked about the play postgame, Paul’s answer — which I loved — was very simple:

“Um… Coach drew up a play. Um…just make the shot (laughs). It’s as simple as that.”

(It’s much better in video form)

Interesting to hear Paul, at the end of that clip, admit he’s an undersized four… Come on, Paul.

Anyways, this was probably the most important shot of the game as it put the Mavs under pressure to try and score. A missed step-back from Harrison Barnes, a massive rebound from Ersan Ilyasova — followed by two free throws following a controversial, at least the Mavs’ eyes, foul call — and a huge steal and dunk by Kent Bazmore which prevented the Mavs from jacking up a three that would’ve, perhaps, have given them some hope sealed this game.

“You have to give Malcolm (credit) for the ball pressure. That is always pivotal in those type of plays breaking down. Coach got on me in the first half for a similar play. I was just standing and he was able to push off and get open. I was into his body this time. It was a bang-bang play and I was able to get behind him, steal it and dunk it.”

— Kent Bazemore

Obviously, if Millsap doesn’t make the original, go-ahead shot this is a completely different game and none of the above happens. Paul also flirted with a triple-double, 18 points to go along with eight rebounds and tying a career-high 10 assists.

Huge first half

The Hawks enjoyed one of their better first halves of the season, shooting a whopping 72% from the field 6-of-8 from three leading to 63 first half points. However, despite shooting 72% from the field the Hawks only took a 63-52 lead into the half. Coach Bud, for one, believed the Hawks should’ve been much farther away from the Mavs by the half:

“At halftime we were shooing 71.9 and only up by 11 points. They had seven offensive rebounds. They were shooting 51 or 52 percent and had seven offensive rebounds. There were a couple times when we were just flat. They beat us to 50-50 balls in the first half. It felt like we should have been up by more.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

Dwight Howard probably had the best half of the bunch, scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 from the field while causing coach Rick Carlisle a thousand headaches. Carlisle tried everything he could in the first half to try and slow Howard and the Hawks down: zone defense, bigger lineups (throwing out Salah Mejri to put a bigger body on Dwight), calling four timeouts to make adjustments and even inserting Dirk Nowitzki back into the lineup with three fouls. In the words of LeBron James, “You tried. You tried…”

You have to give the Mavericks a lot of credit though. Undermanned and not armed with the quality of players that the Hawks have, they fought hard (like all Carlisle teams) and had a legitimate chance to win this game. They just didn’t have the players to make clutch plays in crunch time.

Ersanity, or something…

Ersan Ilyasova had, by far, his best game as Hawk on Wednesday evening, scoring 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from behind the arc.

Ersan seems to be settling in on the court, his knowledge of this system and his teammates only growing stronger with each passing game:

More comfortable and more comfortable in the dressing room too, apparently:

Make yourself comfortable, Ersan. You may as well.

Anyways, great game from Ersan, giving the bench a nice little boost and helping the Hawks’ bench outscore the Mavs’ 31-22.

Turnovers

If you enjoy low turnover games, this certainly was not the game for you. The Mavs, who only average 12 turnovers a game (which is actually the best in the NBA), committed an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers leading to 21 Atlanta points.

“We got to still make solid plays. Sloppy passes and stepping on the sidelines…”

— Dirk Nowitzki

Rick Carlisle, however, saw things from a different perspective…

“We won the turnover game. We had 22 and they had 23.”

— Coach Rick Carlisle

With the likes of Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams no longer with the team the Mavs, judging by Wednesday’s game, have seemed to try to commit to playing a little faster. There was a play in the second half where, I believe, Yogi Ferrell is handling the ball and you can see Carlisle on the sideline urging him to pick up the pace. This is part of the reason the Mavs committed as many turnovers as they did. Dirk, postgame, also eluded to this increase of pace the Mavs seem to be going for:

“I think before we were more of a slower, sluggish team – a slugout team,” Nowitzki said. “But now we’ve got athletes, we’ve got speed and we should be able to run off some turnovers and get a couple of easy ones.

“We don’t have to get 20 fastbreak points, but we should get a couple of layups. And vice versa we’ve been turning the ball over too much. We’ve been making bad decisions – some on the drives, some on moving picks, or whatever the case may be.”

— Dirk Nowitzki

Despite trying to pick up their pace, the Mavs only scored three fastbreak points while the Hawks scored 21.

Always interesting to hear what’s going on with other teams and what they’re trying to do/change on the fly.

From the Hawks’ perspective when it came to turnovers, they limited the Mavs to 16 points off of their turnovers, winning 21-16 in that category. To be fair for the Hawks, most of the Mavs’ turnovers were spread amongst most of the team, whereas the Hawks’ turnovers came from — mainly — three players. Dwight Howard (5), Dennis Schröder (7) and Paul Millsap (6) combined for 18 turnovers. Not ideal but this didn’t come back to bite them…at least this time around.

This is kinda cool?

With the win last night, the Hawks moved to 34-26 while the Mavs — with this loss — moved to 26-34, the reverse of the Hawks’ record. That’s pretty cool and rare at this stage of the season. Maybe I’m the only person who’s impressed by this…

Up next:

The Hawks (34-26) continue their home stand with a Friday night tilt against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This game not only marks the return of Kyle Korver, his first in Atlanta since he was traded to Cleveland in January, but it also marks a huge test for the Hawks. It has been a long time since these two teams have squared off…it’ll be interesting to see how the Hawks matchup against the Cavs now.

Game stats: NBA.com
Hawks quotes: The AJC via Chris Vivlamore
Mavs quotes: Star Telegram via Dwain Price

Graham Chapple

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