In the latest adventure of Atlanta Hawks basketball, the Hawks dropped their third consecutive game in an entertaining fixture against the defending NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, 102-92. The loss also means the Hawks have lost four straight at home for the first time since April 1st 2007.
A spirited display, but the dream comeback ultimately falls short
If there’s one positive to this three game losing streak, it’s that the Hawks have shown more heart and spirit in each game since the loss against the Miami Heat.
The Hawks were up against it early in this one, as the Warriors had built up a 15 point lead by the very early stages of the second quarter. The Hawks kept fighting, and kept themselves within striking distance as the half approached, but a 13-2 run in the final 2:16 put the Warriors in the driving seat, as they took a 19 point lead with them to the locker room.
The Warriors would extend the lead to 23 points (70-47) with 6:56 remaining in the third quarter, and it was beginning to look like the Warriors were going to blow out the Hawks. But the Hawks strung together a 28-6 run to close out the third quarter to cut the deficit to just one point, led by Dennis Schröder’s eight points in the period.
I, personally, thought Thabo Sefolosha put it best when describing the Hawks’ third quarter comeback:
“It’s hard to put words to it. I think we just played basketball. We weren’t worried about nothing. We were just pushing the ball and playing Hawks basketball for a good stretch.”
I agree, I found it hard to put words to it too.
The Hawks showed real courage and spirit to not just lay down and give up, but to get up fight back. Al Horford put the Hawks on his back with, arguably, his best statistical performance of the season — 23 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, five blocks, and three steals. It was his first double-double since January 23rd, in a loss agains the Phoenix Suns (where he also recorded 16 rebounds). He paved the way for a Hawks comeback with his energy, determination, and his defense. His sister, Anna, put it best with this tweet. — he literally did it all for the Hawks.
Just gunna leave this here pic.twitter.com/Tq5Lahhqhl
— Anna Horford (@AnnaHorford) February 23, 2016
“I felt like we didn’t quit. We kept playing. We got some momentum there. It was good. In the fourth, we didn’t score when we needed to early. I felt like against a team like that, you can’t give them those types of chances. We did. They made a run after that and it was over.” Al Horford
Even though the Hawks quickly took the lead in the fourth quarter, Golden State responded as champions do. Led by Klay Thompson’s 12 fourth quarter points, the Warriors rallied, retook the lead, and dashed the Hawks’ comeback victory dream with great defense.
Despite this being their third loss in a row, the Hawks’ effort was there — they just came short against one of the best teams in NBA history. Coach Bud chimed in on Al Horford, and took heart that this was a performance the Hawks could build on:
The third quarter was something hopefully we can build off of. Overall, our defensive activity, I think Al and his activity in general everywhere was great. I thought our point guard play was great. Obviously, a little bit of a tough spot but there are some positives to build off of tonight.” Coach Mike Budenholzer
Andrew Bogut was huge factor in the fourth quarter. His normal fourth quarter averages are not spectacular — 1.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks in just over five minutes. But last night in the fourth quarter, Bogut put up three points, one rebound, two assists, one steal, and three blocks in 7:33 of fourth quarter action. The three blocks made a huge difference.
Normally the Warriors killer lineup (in late game situations), excludes Bogut, as the Warriors go small with Green at center and Barnes at power forward. However, Barnes was only on the court for 2:44 out of the final seven minutes, compared to Bogut’s 6:33. The reason for this was because Bogut was fantastic in the fourth last night, without him there’s a good chance Golden State doesn’t win this game.
We knuckled down defensively in the fourth, got stops and didn’t have to rely on our offense. It was good.” Andrew Bogut
Reigning MVP Steph Curry and All-Star Draymond Green, were also quick to praise Bogut:
“The key tonight, he (Bogut) was inside-outside, all over the place, switching, being real agile for a big man.” Stephen Curry
Good win tonight!! That man @andrewbogut dominated that second half!!!! ????
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) February 23, 2016
You have to give credit where it’s due — Andrew Bogut was great last night and he’s key, but underrated, element of Golden State’s succuess. The Hawks could really use a body like his for rebounding and defense.
Korver locked down
If there’s any team that understand the threat of three-point shooting, it’s the Warriors, who possess two of the most lethal three-point shooters in the entire league. The Warriors made it an objective to make sure that Korver, who is shooting over 50% from three in his last five games, did not get into any offensive flow — and they executed by sending their best perimeter defenders to guard him. Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Harrison Barnes all shared time guarding Kyle Korver. We’re going to look at some footage to see how the Warriors limited Korver to just four shots in total.
This first clip takes place late in the second quarter.
Korver goes on one of his mazy, off-ball runs to free himself for an open three-point shot. The down pick by Mike Scott gives Korver the separation he needs, but Sefolosha doesn’t cut off the open lane between him and Korver, and Thompson is able to work his way back into the play. When Korver finds his way at the top of the key, Millsap sets a screen for Korver, but Millsap’s defender (Harrison Barnes) leaves Millsap and meets Korver at the three-point line in place of Klay Thompson, and takes away the shot opportunity. Once Korver is forced to stop by Barnes, Thompson gets back into the play, and he and Barnes proceed to double Korver, denying him the shot and pass to the rolling Millsap.
The result is that Korver is unable to even attempt a shot, and has to pass off to another teammate. An excellent defensive sequence for the Warriors.
This next clip takes place in the third quarter.
Again, Korver uses a quick change of direction to burst to his spot and Al Horford sets the screen to free him. Korver’s defender, Barnes, dodges the screen, but is still trailing Korver. Barnes recovers excellently and, even though Draymond Green was there to help in case Barnes was too far behind the play, Barnes is able to take away the shot opportunity away from Korver. He is briefly double teamed by Barnes and Green before being forced to give the ball up again.
The Warriors’ defense cover for each other and the result is another denial of a high percentage shot.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, Korver uses a burst of pace (and an Al Horford screen) to free himself from Iguodala. However, just like the last play with Draymond Green, Barnes shuffles his way over to Korver to prevent the open three-point shot. Korver is, once again, forced to pass the ball — another denial created by the Warrior defense covering for each other.
Korver only finished with two points and zero three-point makes — a successful day at the office for the Warrior defense, who planned and executed in their hopes to make sure that Kyle Korver wasn’t a factor in this game.
Bazemore’s continuing struggles and Schröder’s hot hand lead to clutch minutes for THJ and Schröder
Kent Bazemore’s struggles continue — a four point, 1-of-7 (0-of-3 from behind the arc) shooting display ensured he played no part in the fourth quarter. He also really struggled contesting some of those wide open Harrison Barnes three-pointers in the first quarter.
In his place in the fourth quarter, the fantastic (at least last night) Tim Hardaway Jr. played very important minutes and gave the Hawks good production, as he scored 12 points off the bench. The level of trust that Bud showed Hardaway last night is very encouraging, he would not have played him in crunch time if he didn’t believe in him. That’s why he did not play Hardaway at all in the first 15 games of the season, he didn’t think he was ready. And I thought THJ played pretty good defense on Klay Thompson in this game too, some good contests and he wasn’t exploited by Curry and Klay in the fourth quarter as some might have expected.
But what does this mean for Kent Bazemore going forward? The only starting position Coach Bud has adjusted this season is the small forward spot, and Bazemore may find himself out of the lineup soon if he continues this trend.
Meanwhile, Dennis Schröder’s hot hand, and defense, continue to earn him important minutes in the fourth quarter instead of Teague. After last night’s 18 point display, Schröder is now averaging 16.2 points (on 55% shooting from the field and 43.5% from downtown), and 6.4 assists per game in his last five games. While Teague’s defense was heavily criticised last night by Hawks fans (fairly unwarranted I might add, I thought Teague did decently well defending Curry), Schröder’s was praised.
The key for Schröder going forward is his consistency, can he continue this high level of play?
Rapid fire things of note
- The Hawks allowed 27 points off of their 17 turnovers, and allowed 23 fast break points. The Hawks have not been taking care of the ball recently, and it’s double trouble when they’re not getting back in transition:
When you turn it over, sometimes it’s hard on your transition defense. A missed shot, you’ve got lots of principles to get back in transition. But they did have a few (fast-break points) in the first quarter. One off a made basket they got a layup. (Klay) Thompson got a 3. It’s such a premium to get back.Coach Mike Budenholzer
- Jeff Teague missed four straight free throws last night, very odd since he shoots them above an 80% clip. It was strange to watch. Not quite like Nick Anderson though…
- You know you have rebounding issues when Leandro Barbosa is able to come from behind Paul Millsap (and from a decent distance too), and snatch the offensive rebound away from him. It happens with about 2:07 (or so), left in the first quarter. I’d recommend watching it.
- For the third game in a row (since the All-Star break), Mike Muscala has played less than 10 minutes in a game. Strange, because before the All-Star break, when Splitter was out, he always played over 10 minutes. It seems that, to make up for Splitter’s absence, Horford (40 MPG since the All-Star break, +9 MPG), Scott (21 MPG since All-Star break, +7 MPG), and Millsap (33 MPG since All-Star break, +1 MPG) have seen an increase in minutes, and Muscala has barely featured. Was Muscala’s two minute showing last night due to the fact that the Warriors were in town, or does Bud not believe he’s ready for consistent minutes? We’ll find out in due course…