The Atlanta Hawks avenged the ghosts of Christmas past/December 2nd (the day the Hawks lost by 36 points at home to the Pistons) and knocked off the Detroit Pistons 105-98. The win is Atlanta’s second in succession and — given the Hawks’ yo-yo nature this season — their first back-to-back victories since November 15th (vs. Miami) and November 16th (vs. Milwaukee). The Pistons were led by a season high 22 points from The Tackle Box: Jon Leuer.
Season high from Korver and defense lifts Hawks to victory
Kyle Korver poured in a season high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, with most of those 22 points off of two-pointers rather than threes.
Korver’s 22 off the bench helped the Hawks’ bench outscore Detroit’s bench 38-15 which was huge for the Hawks. Per Chris Vivlamore of the AJC, when Kyle was asked what the difference was to this game and the last game the Pistons played, Dennis Schröder — at his own locker — said “Kyle Korver“.
He’s not wrong. Those 22 points off the bench were essential in lifting the Hawks over the Pistons, while Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy cited turnovers and Kyle Korver as the reasons the Pistons lost last night:
“I mean 18 turnovers, some really, really questionable offensive decisions and Kyle Korver, we lost him too many times. Those were the two big things.” — Coach Stan Van Gundy
Kyle Korver is a good man for good quotes and he had a good one postgame about the Hawks’ defense, which was pretty good last night it has to be said.
“Our emphasis was to be more aggressive. We stayed in a more aggressive coverage tonight. It’s actually a coverage that can give up more 3’s to be honest with you. It just helps us play at a more aggressive level. That’s what we need to do right now. The soft defense carries over into the offense sometimes. We are trying to find our way still but we did enough to win.” — Kyle Korver
Interesting that Coach Bud would ride with a defensive scheme that could possibly give up more three-pointers since that’s one thing the Hawks have struggled with this season: perimeter defense and opponent three-point shooting.
Coach Bud was happy with the defensive effort, even though the Pistons scored 36 points in the final frame:
“I thought the activity defensively and the effort defensively, for three quarters, the majority of the game was good. Allowing 36 in the fourth is obviously not good. They got a little desperate and started shooting three’s. Overall, I was really happy with the defense.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
The loss for the Pistons was their seventh in their last eight games but the Hawks were happy to finish 2016 on the winning side.
“It’s a good quality win against a solid team. Two in a row, that’s what we’ve been fighting for. I think if we can string together some wins, we’ll push ourselves up (in the conference standings). Now, we’ve got a tough one Sunday but I think we are capable of getting it.” — Paul Millsap
“We wanted to finish this part of the season and head into the New Year right. We got two good wins and we’re hoping to get one more.” — Dwight Howard
Baze being Baze
Last night was one of Kent Bazemore’s best performances in recent memory. Baze didn’t light up the boxscore, 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, but he just played his game last night and what I mean by that is he didn’t force things or chuck threes but he was just himself.
Bazemore has taken — and missed — a lot of three-pointers this season and at times he has chucked when he probably shouldn’t have.
But last night Baze was in control, taking sensible shots and just one three-pointer. Nearly all of the other shots Baze took last night were in rhythm/not widely out of control, and he rarely forced the issue on offense in terms of getting his own shot which hasn’t always been the case this season.
Example from last night: Baze comes off the screen and shoots a rhythm jumpshot.
Nothing fancy, nothing over the top but this simplicity has not always been present in Baze’s game this season. And the Hawks don’t need Bazemore to be a world beater, creating for himself off the dribble etc. Just play within the offense and in control, no need to force anything. If Bazemore played as he did last night more often (under control and in rhythm/not forcing as much as he does at times) there definitely would be as much frustration — from the fanbase — as there has been with Baze this season.
But it wasn’t just rhythm shots that stood out from Baze’s game last night, rather, more off-ball cutting. Instead of loitering around the three-point line to chuck up a three that comes his way, Baze was cutting off the ball and getting to the rim, a strength of his that we haven’t seen as much of this season. But we saw it last night.
If you’re making cuts and darting runs on this team someone will find you, and Dwight Howard finds the cutting Bazemore with a lovely pass and Baze finishes at the rim.
Again, Baze drifts away from the three-point line, sheds his man and is rewarded for making a run as he receives the ball from Paul Millsap and finishes with the dunk.
Again, Baze didn’t light the world up with this performance but he doesn’t need to. That’s not what the Hawks paid him to do and not what the team needs from him. They need him to be a steady contributor, chipping in with those 10/12 points performances and that’s what they got last night, that’s exactly the kind of performance the Hawks need from him more often and that’s the challenge with Bazemore: consistency.
Just another whack in the face (and no foul call) for Paul Millsap…
One day… one day Paul Millsap will receive a foul call when he’s whacked in the face by an opponent. One day…
I mean… there’s an official right there. How does that go unnoticed time after time after time?
While he should’ve shot an additional foul shot for that basket, those were two of Millsap’s game high 26 points, a very welcome 26 after shooting 6-for-33 in his last two games. Still dealing with a bruised left eye, Paul refused to let any sort of excuse — relating to that eye injury effecting his shooting — slide. From Chris Vivlamore’s observations piece postgame:
1. Paul Millsap wasn’t about to admit it … but it helps if you can see out of your right eye. The Hawks all-star has struggled the past two games after taking an elbow that left the eye mostly swollen and bruised.
In those previous two games, Millsap was a combined 6 of 33 for 19 points. On Friday, Millsap scored a game-high 26 points on 9 of 22 shooting with his eye much less swollen.
It prompted this postgame exchange:
Reporter: Did the eye bother you the past two games?
Millsap: I’m not an excuse guy, so no.
Reporter: But it felt better tonight?
Millsap: I felt a lot better tonight.
Good to have you back, Paul.
Bring that man back to life!
Pretty funny moment from this game: Dwight is fouled as he scores a basket and lays flat on the ground for a moment. Dennis Schröder rushes over to his center, metaphorically performs CPR on him and brings him back to life.
Dwight fared much against the Pistons better this time around, scoring 10 points and grabbing 15 rebounds, a vast improvement on his two point-six rebound night against the Pistons on December 2nd.
The Hawks (17-16) can now declare their three game home stand (now 2-0) a success regardless of what happens when the San Antonio Spurs roll into Philips Arena on New Year’s Day (Sunday).