The Atlanta Hawks began their new season with a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards at Philips Arena. Let’s dive right in.
Fourth quarter burst led by Tim Hardaway Jr.
Wow, those are words I didn’t think I’d type this season…
The Hawks led this game by one point (81-80) heading into the fourth quarter but a 20-4 run — with a lineup Paul Millsap and the second unit — in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quickly turned this game from a tight one to a near blowout. But it was Tim Hardaway Jr. who absolutely exploded in the fourth, scoring 12 of those 20 points during that decisive run. He shot 5-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 from behind the arc in the fourth, it was so good to see Tim have a game like this. He had a bad, very bad, beginning to the preseason but started to turn it around near the end of preseason and he showed up last night when the Hawks really needed some offense because it wasn’t looking pretty at time with Dennis Schröder running the point.
That lineup that led the fourth quarter charge — Delaney, THJ, Sefolosha, Millsap and Moose — had astronomical offensive ratings (points per 100 possessions). Malcolm Delaney, 121. Tim Hardaway Jr., 135. Thabos Sefolosha, 126. Paul Millsap, 115. And Mike Muscala, 116. And all of these guys played over 20 minutes too, not garbage time. Well, except for Malcolm Delaney, he played 19 minutes and 58 seconds…
Regardless, THJ provided the Hawks with the spark they needed in the fourth, he was fantastic. More of this, please!
“Coach had confidence in the bench guys to start the fourth quarter with Paul in the mix. We picked up the defense a little bit and helped us leak out and get some lay-ins and wide open 3’s.” — Tim Hardaway Jr.
“I’m sure there would have been 18 hands and arms pulling me back if I tried to take them out.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Paul Millsap — Still Trill
Paul Millsap reminded everyone last night that he is still the best Hawk on this team. He scored a quiet 20 in the first three quarters but there was nothing quiet about his contributions on the offensive end in the fourth — 8 points including two made three-pointers. He finished with a 28 points, seven rebounds, six assists, a block and a plus/minus rating of plus-22.
Millsap just has that calming influence on the game. Everything is controlled, everything is calculated. When he operates in the post, you can see his footwork work in tandem with his body strength and it’s just an effective shot — you feel confident that he’s going to make something happen. When Dwight Howard is in the post, it’s the opposite. He uses his massive frame and just bangs with the opposing big and hope he collapses under pressure and if he doesn’t a wild-like shot is coming and it’s probably not going in. There’s not that same control and finesse that Millsap has in the post, he’s not smooth. Paul Millsap is smooth and he showed that in abundance last night.
He’s still Trill.
The Hawks received an excellent boost from their bench last night which was vital in collecting this W. We’ve talked about Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 21 points, but Thabo Sefolosha was excellent last night. He’s going to give you above average defense on a nightly basis but anything he can do on the offensive end is a bonus and last night he chipped in. He had some beautiful plays last night including this reverse dunk following the steal:
Thabo finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. Contract year Thabo Sefolosha? Sure, bring it on.
Mike Muscala also chipped in with nine points and he was part of that lineup that blew this game wide open in the fourth quarter. I was really impressed with his contributions on the defensive end. Good for Mike, I’m glad he’s still on the roster. With Tiago Splitter out for the forseeable future, Moose can log some meaningful minutes and I think he can earn his way into this rotation, even when Splitter — eventually — returns.
Malcolm Delaney had a decent game too. OK, so he didn’t shoot the ball spectacularly (2-of-7), but his contributions came in other ways. He dished out five assists, which I think were really important because Dennis was not in a passing mood last night. Delaney just gave out the Hawks a somewhat calming influence at the point. Sure, he take the occasional bad shot but he’s just a calmer presence at the point than Schröder. With Dennis, you have no idea what’s coming next. Is he going to have a great possession where he helps his team or is he going to do something stupid and turn the ball over/shoot a horrible shot? He’s a mixed bag. Delaney is a little more stable, in my opinion, and I think this really helped the Hawks last night when Delaney was part of that fourth quarter run.
Overall, a great night from the bench.
Dwight Howard’s official home debut
Dwight had himself a decent night on his official home debut. He scored 11 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked three shots. As pointed out by Chris Vivalmore of the AJC, 19 rebounds is the most secured by a Hawk since Al Horford snatched 22 against the Pistons in 2013.
The Wizards were beaten 52-40 on the glass and Dwight Howard obviously played a huge part in that. The seven offensive rebounds he secured helped lead the Hawks to 20 second chance points and this is big for the Hawks — Dwight’s going to create these second chances that the Hawks didn’t always have last season.
That said, these possession where Dwight post possessions have to stop. When he gets the ball in the post he just seems to bang bodies and hopes for the best and then shoots this janky looking shot from the post and it’s probably not going in. Unlike Millsap, there’s no polish, there’s no poise. Maybe it’s just me, but I have no confidence that Dwight post possessions are going in, if they do it’s a bonus.
Plus, once Dwight receives the ball, that’s a wrap for this possession because no one else is getting the ball. I hate these possessions and if they’re going to happen there has to be a better way to implement them, not just bring the ball up the floor and throw it in to him with 16 seconds left on the shot clock. If Dwight has a clear size/body advantage on the block I’d be a little more for it, but you’re not going to shove Marcin Gortat off the block.
A decent home debut for Dwight but there are kinks to iron and figure out.
John Wall limited
The Hawks did a good job limiting John Wall last night — the Wizards star could only muster 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Wall settled for an awful lot of jump shots, a facet of his game that is not his strongest.
Wall said he got the shots he wanted but the shots he made in preseason would not fall for him last night.
“I got shots that I wanted, I just missed them. Those were shots that I made in the preseason and shots that I took. I just was frustrated, two to three layups that I missed, a floater I almost airballed. So those were shots I already had. Sometimes I think my adrenaline was rushing so much.” — John Wall
Wall was still able to contribute for 10 assists, but limiting him was a huge aspect of this game. With the game as tight as it was heading into the fourth and with John Wall yet to get going, you were slightly worried. Thankfully for the Hawks, he never got going.
The John Wall-Kent Bazemore incident
During the third quarter John Wall takes the ball away and he’s headed right for an easy dunk. Kent Bazemore refuses to give up on the play and as Wall takes to the air for the bucket, Bazemore’s momentum takes him into Wall, and Wall falls pretty scarily.
Wall took exception to it and had a lot to say about it post game. He mentioned that it felt similar to the incident that broke his hand when the Wizards and Hawks squared off in Round 2 of the 2015 playoffs.
“I went through that same problem when we played them in the playoffs, I got undercutted and broke my hand. So that’s the reason why I reacted the way I did. For some reason when I play in this building I get undercutted.” — John Wall
Bazemore is definitely at fault here, but it wasn’t deliberate. He just couldn’t stop himself once Wall took flight and his momentum carried him into Wall. Wizards head coach Scotty Brooks saw it this way too.
“A guy goes up, you don’t ever undercut him. That wasn’t on purpose, his momentum carried him but we have to all, as a league, be better in those situations. Those situations are career ending. When a guy is in mid air, if you didn’t get there quick enough you have to let it go.” — Coach Scott Brooks
Bazemore said it wasn’t intentional and the two have made up.
“…I don’t play the game like that. We are both North Carolina guys. We have a bond even before all of this. Just unfortunate play. We hugged and made up after that.” — Kent Bazemore
You live and you learn.
Not a pretty game in this regard — both teams combined for 40 turnovers, the Hawks making up 21 of those which led to 25 Washington points. The Hawks’ saving grace this time around was the Wizards turned it over 19 times themselves and the Hawks scored 26 points off of those. This time around they pretty much cancelled each other out, but in the future the Hawks will have to take care of the ball better.
The Hawks will travel to Philadelphia for a very early tilt with the Sixers on Saturday. Looking forward to seeing Joel Embiid in action.