Hawks vs. Spurs — Things of Note

Graham Chapple —  January 2, 2017

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks snapped an 11 game losing streak to the San Antonio Spurs in a thrilling encounter at Philips Arena, the Hawks emerging with the 114-112 overtime victory. The win was also Coach Mike Budenholzer’s first victory against the Spurs (the team with whom he was an assistant coach for 19 years) and Gregg Popovich, his first in six attempts. The Spurs were led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 27 points while Tony Parker added 22 points.

Bud finally beating Pop: The best win of the season? 

It has to be right up there with that Cavs game, right? Either way, it was definitely the best home win of the season…

Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a huge three-pointer (which we’ll get to) to tie the game up at 100 apiece before Kawhi Leonard missed a game winning shot and the game went to overtime.

This was agonising to watch live. The shot is halfway down and the roll could’ve gone in any direction, so you’re left in agonising suspense. I mean, check the replay and look how far down this shot was. That’s a tough break if you’re the Spurs.

In overtime the Hawks, behind a scorching Tim Hardaway Jr. (nine overtime points) managed to put the Spurs away at the free throw line after Kawhi had tied the game with a three at 112 all and came up with the defensive stop — Kawhi missing the shot that would’ve sent the game in a second overtime period — and Coach Bud finally notched his first victory over Gregg Popovich.

Bud played it cool postgame, saying it was another game for his players, but deep down I’m sure he was delighted to finally notch one over his mentor:

“Any time you had that kind of streak, no matter what conference it’s from, it’s nice to beat somebody. I was there for a long time. A lot of things we’ve tried to bring here, the things that make sense and are smart. At the end of the day, it’s a game for our players.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

But his players, and Paul Millsap, knew this was always a big game for Bud and wanted to get this win for him:

“It’s great to get this win against a really good team. It’s good to get it for Bud. He’s happy to have it under his belt. We’re happy we started the year off right. It’s a good time for us to get to who we are and start something special.” — Paul Millsap

There wasn’t just one Budenholzer that grabbed the spotlight though. Mike’s son, Little Bud, lit up social media with his reaction to THJ’s game tying three:

Not bad, young grasshopper (as Hawks rookie Taurean Prince referred to him as on Twitter), not bad at all…

A great win for the Hawks. Even if you count the Cavs game as the better victory of the season, this was definitely the best home win of the season.

Paul Millsap… is good

The Hawks were led by two mammoth games from Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr., both scoring season highs of 32 points and 29 points respectively, THJ’s 29 points ties a career high.

Let’s talk about Paul Millsap first. Damn, he’s good at basketball and he was a man on a mission last night. Millsap scored 17 straight points for the Hawks from 0:31 remaining in the third quarter to the 8:55 mark in Q4. Just as the trade rumours swirled around Paul Millsap prior to tip-off so did he, around David Lee and the San Antonio defense.

Wow. Millsap also played every single minute of the second half and overtime, clocking up a total of 46 minutes for this game. I’m perfectly fine with Paul Millsap playing more minutes, it would be good for the NBA and the folks who tuned in to this game on NBA TV sure got to see a great game from Millsap and a great game in general.

Coach Bud, as you could imagine, spoke very highly of Millsap postgame:

“Paul is a special player. He had one of those special kind of runs offensively. Obviously he started hitting some three’s, finished the quarter hitting some three’s. Then we went to him a little bit on the post. He was good there. He was scoring a lot of different ways. He was working the glass. We get to see it every day. He’s a special player. He does so many things. Tonight it really came for him offensively, but the things he does defensively…they’re going to Aldridge a lot of possessions. He’s having to guard LaMarcus Aldridge on that end. Heck of an individual effort by Paul Millsap.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

Tim Hardaway Jr. said that this victory “wouldn’t have happened without him” and he’s dead right, Millsap’s 15 fourth quarter points vital in sending the Hawks to overtime.

Paul still the best player on this team, still the Hawks’ go-to man and still Trill…

“I was just being aggressive, trying to make something happen. It felt like we were a little sluggish. Offensively, we were a little stagnant. I was just trying to get something going for us.” — Paul Millsap

Millsap is certainly making his claim for a fourth successive All-Star appearance and has averaged 20 points, 8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and one block per game over his last 13 games.

THJ’s best game as a Hawk

Tim Hardaway Jr. said that the Hawks wouldn’t have won this game without Paul Millsap and that’s true, but the Hawks also wouldn’t have won this game were it not for THJ.

Hardaway himself outscored the Spurs’ bench 29-23 in what was probably his best game as an Atlanta Hawk and possibly even as a professional. Hardaway scored those 29 points on 11-of-13 (13 attempts!!!) shooting and 6-of-7 from behind the arc.

Hardaway Jr. also hit the huge game tying shot that took the game to overtime. Let’s dissect it.

Alright. Let’s set the scene: Spurs are up three with 9.3 seconds remaining in the game, so the Hawks need to score here otherwise they have to foul and this game is over. Kyle Korver is the trigger-man on this out of bounds play and when gets the ball into Mike Muscala, Moose hands it off to Dennis Schröder. After that there are three things to keep your eye on:

  1. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s run
  2. Kyle Korver, who is going to set the screen on THJ’s defender, Danny Green, while also dragging Kawhi Leonard with him
  3. Mike Muscala’s screen (if you can call it that) on Manu Ginobili

And in visual form:


Alright. So THJ is going to get the jump on Green, who is briefly caught ball-watching and the rest of the play unfolds as shown above.


Muscala and Manu get tangled up, you could argue it was a moving screen, and THJ receives the ball from Dennis and hits the open three. Now watch all of that happen in about four seconds.

“It was reminiscent of the play a month or so ago when I had an opportunity to win the game or tie the game. In that sequence, I just wanted to do a great job of just separating from my man. Mike Muscala and Kyle Korver did a great job of screening their own men and getting me open.” — Tim Hardaway Jr.

I thought that Muscala got away with a moving screen on Manu and it was something he mentioned postgame per Chris Vivlamore:

Not that it matters now, but it’ll be interesting to see what the NBA Officials Last Two Minute Report says about that.

Regardless, huge shot from Tim Hardaway Jr., those were three of his nine fourth quarter points. Tim also came up with a huge play in overtime, coming up with a huge offensive rebound before being fouled by Danny Green, sending him to the free throw line with the game tied with just under 11 seconds remaining in overtime.

Really strange sequence from LMA there, it looked as though he just miscalculated where the ball actually was (he seemed to grab air) and it fell into the hands of Hardaway. Hardaway would make 1-of-2 from the line and gave the Hawks the lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

End of a successful home stand

This game marked the end of the Hawks’ three game home stand but even before this game, this home stand could be regarded as a success: they beat the teams they needed to beat in Detroit and New York. This win was a bonus and now the Hawks are carrying significant momentum — in the form of a three game winning streak — heading into their four game road trip.

Huge bench effort

THJ wasn’t the only bench player to have a great game. Kyle Korver also left a huge imprint on this game, scoring 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting and 4-of-9 from behind the arc. He looked great and has averaged 16 points per game and 45.5% shooting from behind the arc in his last three games.

The entire bench also registered positive plus/minus ratings while all of the starters registered negative plus/minus ratings which is unusual to see. Malcolm Delaney also added four points and played some important minutes in the fourth quarter which was good to see as there have been some games where he hasn’t played in the second half at all.

The Hawks’ bench outscored the Spurs’ bench 49-23: a massive reason why the Hawks won this game, the 29 points from Hardaway obviously helping enormously in this regard.

A follow up on Baze…

After the Pistons game I talked about Kent Bazemore and why it his game against the Pistons on Friday was his best game in recent memory. I wanted to follow up on that because I thought he had a decent game last night even though he shot 3-of-10 from the field. I feel as though Baze took good shots that just didn’t fall. More specifically, I liked how he attacked the rim rather than settle for jumpshots.

Example 1:

Example 2:

And example 3:

These are good shots that just didn’t go down, and for that third clip I liked how Baze looked to find Dwight but the pass doesn’t come off on this occasion.

Baze took just two three-pointers, knocking down one of those. Again, these steady performances are just what the Hawks need, even if you’d like to see him shoot a better percentage than what he shot last night (30).

Season high in three-pointers made

The Hawks shot 14-of-28 from behind the arc last night which was the most threes they’ve made in a game this season, eclipsing the 13 threes they made against the Sixers on November 12th.

THJ accounted for six of those, Kyle Korver added another four and Paul Millsap made three, two of which came at a hugely important time in the game: the end of the third quarter. The Hawks were trailing by 10 points with a minute left in the third quarter before THJ hit a three and then Millsap hit another two three-pointers before the end of the quarter, leaving the Hawks trailing by just five points. A very important minute in this basketball game.

The amazing Kawhi Leonard

While Kawhi Leonard struggled shooting the ball on his return to the lineup following a two game spell on the sidelines, he did come up with this amazing defensive play in overtime. The Hawks had drawn up a great play out of bounds, only for Leonard to thwart it right at the end.

Amazing defensive play, preventing a certain two points at a crucial time in the game.

Up next:

The Hawks (18-16) now embark on a four game road trip, the first of which takes place in Orlando on Wednesday night.

Game stats: NBA.com
Hawks quotes: The AJC Via Chris Vivlamore
More Hawks quotes: Kris Willis via Peachtree Hoops

Graham Chapple