Hawks vs. Warriors — Things of Note

Graham Chapple —  March 7, 2017

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their third straight game (and the sixth of their last eight) as they were topped by the Golden State Warriors at Philips Arena. Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala led the Warriors with 24 points each. For the Hawks, Dennis Schröder scored a team-high 23 points while Paul Millsap also added 20 points. 

More Dennis drama

Dennis Schroder has made plenty of Atlanta Hawks headlines since the All-Star break and — once again — he was the talk of the town last night, benched for pretty much all of the second half, having ignited Philips Arena in the first quarter with 19 points and 23 first half points. 

There was an incident early in the third quarter where Dwight Howard and Dennis had an on-court disagreement (and that’s what it was, a disagreement, come on now. It was a disagreement not an argument, there’s a difference) after a poor outlet pass from Dwight sailed out of bounds. Dennis, I can only imagine, was unhappy that he didn’t receive the ball while Dwight made his case for attempting to pass to the open Thabo Sefolosha. Meanwhile, while the two bickered, Steph Curry was allowed to shoot an open three-pointer (not a good basketball shot to give up) prompting Coach Budenholzer to immediately call for a timeout.

Dennis was reinserted following the timeout but proceeded to take this poor shot shortly afterwards:

As highlighted, Kent Bazemore clearly had the better shot here and shortly after this, Dennis was quickly yanked and did not return.

Speaking postgame about the decision to bench Schröder, coach Bud said it was a “coach’s decision”:

“Just a coach’s decision. We need to learn to play together and stay together for 48 minutes. That’s something that’s important to us.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

Bud also emphasised the point of togetherness:

“Just us staying together is the bigger point. We’ve got to stay together and find a way to move on to the next play. Those things are important.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

From what I can see/tell, this disagreement was something that Bud did not like at all. This sort of thing isn’t good for the unity of the team and, as he said, togetherness. You need to be for each other and on the same page, which Dennis and Dwight were not in this instance. Not only that, but while Dwight and Dennis are talking about the last play the next play is already taking place and this was also something Bud did not like.

Dennis, meanwhile, didn’t understand why he had been benched, but wants to discuss the matter with Bud and Dwight:

“I don’t really know. I know the 3 from Steph Curry when me and Dwight was arguing was part of it. That can’t happen. I don’t understand coach’s decision. I want to be on the court. Maybe I’m too competitive. I’m just trying to be competitive and win games.”

“We have to figure it out, me and coach. I want to talk about it. Dwight’s got to be in there too. Get on the same page.”

— Dennis Schröder

Dwight is in favor of such a meeting taking place:

“Listen, we are a team right? It’s OK if we have conversations. It’s not always conflict when you have a conversation with your coach or a team meeting. That’s what you are supposed to do. By him wanting to have a meeting, it’s great. It’s great for our team. It’s great for each other. We’re all open to it. It’s not always bad when you have a conversation.”

“We just have to move forward when we have plays like that. I know it’s highlighted but it’s OK. We made mistakes. We are human. Wish it didn’t happen but it did. Hopefully, everyone will just let it go and move on.”

— Dwight Howard

There was a great quote from Howard — when asked whether Bud’s decision to bench Schröder was to make a point — which was reassuring to me:

“I’m not the coach. My job is to play, rebound, block shots and run the floor. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to let coach coach the team. If he decides to sit any of us, that’s on coach. That’s why we have a team. It’s not one player on a team. It’s 15 of us. We have to trust each other. If one man goes down, someone has to step up. It’s just like if one man gets in foul trouble. If I get in foul trouble, I’ve got to trust the next guy to come in. If Dennis gets in foul trouble, it’s the same thing. That’s how it has to be.”

— Dwight Howard

Next man up mentality.

In the absence of Dennis for most of the second quarter, Bud rolled with Malcolm Delaney and some none PG lineups and liked what he saw:

“We played Malcolm a lot. We played Baze at point guard. I think it was 94-90 going into the fourth quarter. There were moments where it felt like we were close, getting back in it and competing. I like the way those guys played and competed.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

Though Delaney went scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting, he did register a team-high plus/minus rating of plus-7 in 19 minutes. He’s a good defender and did reasonably well when guarding Steph Curry.

The great shame in all of this was that Dennis was set for a career night. 19 points in the first quarter, 23 in the half…a night that began with a “could this be?” vibe turned into a night of “what could’ve been…” and disappointment for Dennis.

Was benching Dennis the right decision by Budenholzer? Short term, perhaps not, but in the grand scheme of things, yes. You have a culture to establish and a standard/demeanour to hold people accountable to. The Hawks, I’m sure, have plans for Dennis to be the franchise’s starting point guard for many years to come. That’s why they signed him to a four year extension before he hit the free agency market, right?

The ideals and the culture that they want to instil have to take priority, especially toward a player who will eventually (more than likely) be the longest tenured Hawk on the roster and the player that every other future/young Hawk will look toward. From an organisational standpoint, you’d imagine that Dennis will have to be the player the Hawks can point to and say “follow his example”, similar to what the Spurs can do with Tony Parker, and this kind of carry-on isn’t acceptable for such a player. I imagine that’s how the Hawks look at Dennis for the long-term and why Bud is, at times, quite hard on Dennis, but maybe that’s just me…

A disappointing situation at a time where the Hawks could really do without this drama though Dennis and Dwight have seemed to make an effort to make-up, Dennis posting this on social media:

Missed opportunity in the second quarter

The Warriors were already shorthanded, missing Kevin Durant through injury, and the Hawks were presented with a golden (no pun intended) opportunity to really stretch the Warriors in the second quarter of this game. By the 9:15 mark in Q2, both Draymond Green and Klay Thompson had both been assessed their third personal fouls, taking themselves out of this game. The Hawks were up by 11 at this stage and soon extended their lead to 15. With Steph Curry chilling on the bench for a good chunk of the second quarter, no Kevin Durant and Green and Klay in foul trouble, this was the time for the Hawks to take advantage, extend their lead and take a significant lead into the half.

But behind Andre Iguodala, Ian Clarke and David West (who combined for 18 of the Warriors’ 26 second quarter points) the Warriors were able to not only hang on to the Hawks but also reel them in and the Warriors entered the locker room at halftime, trailing by just five points.

The Warriors’ key players had also been struggling shooting the ball. Steph Curry scored only seven first half points while Klay Thompson was scoreless at the half. This was what the Hawks wanted and the strategy seemed to be ‘limit Steph and Klay and if others make shots…that’s fine.’

“…With players like Curry and Thompson, you try to do as much as you can to take those two guys away. You put so much attention on them, when that other group around them plays well, they’re tough. For parts of the night, we were good. We were good on offense for parts of the night. Credit to Golden State winning here. Hopefully we can learn from tonight and be better going forward.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

Steph and Klay eventually arose in the third quarter, Steph scoring 17 second half points while Klay scored 13 points in the second half, but it was Iggy who was the thorn in the Hawks’ side, coming to Golden State’s rescue in the second quarter.

“Andre has been absolutely phenomenal for the last couple weeks. He just looks so spry out there, young, confident. Such a great basketball player. Makes the right decision out there over and over and over again. To me, he’s kind of the unsung hero on our team.”

— Coach Steve Kerr

The Warriors’ three-point shooting came to life in the third quarter, soon retook the lead and never looked back, though the Hawks did get close in the early stages of the fourth quarter before GSW took control. But by this stage the Hawks’ best chance to win this game was gone. They missed their chance to win this game when they failed to take advantage of the Warriors’ second unit and foul trouble in the second quarter…

Golden bench

Speaking of Iggy, the Warriors’ bench played a huge role for them in this game. Not only did they produce in the second quarter but throughout the whole game. The Warriors’ bench outscored the Hawks’ bench 55-37, led by Iggy’s season-high 24 points while Ian Clark and David West both added 10 points off the bench. For the Hawks, they ran with a nine-man rotation (compared to the Warriors’ 12) and they were led by Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 19 points and Ersan Ilyasova’s 15 points.

It wasn’t so much that the Hawks’ bench was poor more so than the Warriors’ bench was excellent last night, particularly Iggy as we’ve already discussed.

A three-point party

Teams have been hosting three-point parties against the Hawks since the All-Star break and the Warriors decided to have one of their own on Monday night, shooting 20-of-44 (45.5%) from behind the arc. This latest three-point barrage means that, since the All-Star break, opposing teams are shooting 43% from behind the arc.

The Hawks’ ‘pack the paint’ defensive strategy has resulted in a lot of three-pointers conceded and Monday night was no exception.

Draymond Green, in particular, caused the Hawks issues with his ability to stretch the floor. Paul Millsap is matched up with Green in transition here and Green hangs around the three-point line while Millsap is marshalling the paint. The ball makes its way to Green and he has all the time he needs to knock down the three.

And, again, the third quarter, Millsap is in the paint while Green looms around the three-point line:

The Warriors also caused the Hawks issues in transition. Following the miss from Schröder, rookie Patrick McCaw collects the rebound and pushes in transition. Originally, it’s Sefolosha who’s tracking his run but, following some confusion with Bazemore, strays away from McCaw and McCaw is left with an open three-pointer that he duly knocks down.

In one sense, you live with that shot since McCaw is a rookie and, as such, not Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, but to get lost in transition isn’t ideal.

Later in the third, the Warriors have possession of the ball and Thabo is guarding Klay Thompson in the corner. As Curry weaves his away around and near the rim, Thabo loses track of Klay and Curry fires out a pass toward Klay and he knocks down the three.

You can be forgiven for losing track of McCaw, to an extent, but not so much when it comes to Klay. That’s money in the bank for him.

The Warriors hit 7 threes in the third quarter and, behind them, the began wiped out the Hawks’ five point lead and extended their own lead beyond double digits. Another poor night defending the three-pointer for the Hawks. In the last three games they have conceded 60 three-pointers…

Up next:

The Hawks (34-29) will hope to bounce-back on Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets in what is a must win game.

Game stats: NBA.com
Hawks quotes: The AJC via Chris Vivlamore
More Hawks quotes: Peachtree Hoops via Kris Willis
Warriors quotes: Mercury News via Anthony Slater

Graham Chapple