Trying to analyze this game will be summed up by a line I remember by Vin Diesel in the very first Fast and Furious movie in the wildly successful franchise. You see he had just beaten Paul Walker’s character for slips on a 10 second car. The line was…
“…It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile… WINNING IS WINNING!”
That is the best way of looking at this game if you are an Atlanta fan… ugh!
After three straight home losses, bad defense and a point guard that has made it clear that he’s not happy with his center or coach, the Hawks pull out a win over the Brooklyn Nets 110-105. Let’s be very clear here Hawks fans. The good news is that the losing streak is over…
The bad news is the losing style of basketball isn’t.
Dennis Schroder led the team in scoring 31 points on 10-21 shooting. Paul Millsap continued his consistent play with 24 points while Tim Hardaway Jr. and Ersan Ilyasova played well enough off the bench. Sometimes learning is hard and so are these…
Lesson number one: The Atlanta Hawks defense is just plain bad right now
I mean really bad. Okay I get it. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the world champs, so I guess we all can turn a blind eye to giving up 135 points in a game. This also included giving up a whopping 77 points in the first half, which is easily the most given up by the Hawks this season. That’s Magic Johnson Showtime Lakers totals people. Okay giving up 119 points to the Golden State Warriors maybe can be over looked. I mean, the Splash Brothers were in town right?
Let’s take a closer look at this shall we? The Cleveland Cavaliers knocked down a NBA record 25 3-pointers last Friday night. Most of the threes were shot in the realm of the Cavaliers offense. This means they got what they wanted, when they wanted it. Sure the game was close at the end, but that was when Tim Hardaway Jr. went nuts in the fourth quarter leading a furious charge. But let’s be clear here. There should be no way a team should allow two players (Kyrie Irving [43 points] and LeBron James [38 points]) combine for 81 points in a single game.
Looking even closer at Kyrie Irving’s 43 points, it seems that he shot an absurd 14-for-21 from the floor. Umm, he’s the point guard right? Who’s got him on defense? Oh yeah. Dennis Schroder. You see, if the point guard can break down the defense, it opens up shots. It looked like a Cavaliers passing drill at times.
The Warriors game was bad, too. The Splash Brothers were off a couple of nights ago and the Hawks still couldn’t stop the Dubs. Ask any current or past players of basketball, if the coach sits you down… FOR THE REST OF THE GAME for a defensive breakdown, things are bad. That’s what happened when Schroder allowed Steph Curry to line it up for three while barking with Dwight Howard.
Here’s the point. The Brooklyn Nets are easily the worst team in the NBA. They lack the talent and assets to even stay competitive even though the effort is there every night. The Hawks should have blown this team back to the Barclay Center so they could watch the ACC tournament. Instead because of lackluster defense, the Hawks allowed this team to stick around.
Lesson number two: The Dennis Schroder dynamic has to addressed
Dennis Schroder had a strong comeback from the fiasco on Monday. His scoring totals seem to bode very well for the Hawks. This game was the ninth time that he scored over 25 points. The Hawks are 8-1 when he accomplishes that feat. For the entire first half, Schroder kept the Hawks afloat with 17 points to keep things close at halftime 50-46.
The offense struggled. Big time. Outside of Schroder’s production of the dribble, the offense was stagnant and Brooklyn was pretty much in control for much of the first half.
Who’s job is it to get the offense started? Yep, Dennis Schroder.
As we learned in the first lesson, the Hawks are not good enough defensively right now to have an offense that depends on offense that showcases one-on-one basketball with Dennis Schroder.
At least the off the court issue was dealt with. Schroder had a meeting with head coach Mike Budenholzer and other teammates. Schroder’s take via ESPN.com:
“Because I’m so competitive that sometimes in the game when it’s heated, everybody is emotional and when you say stuff everybody gets kind of mad,” Schroder said. “So you’ve just got to pick the spots when you do it. Tonight it worked well, and we just try to keep going forward”
Paul Millsap on Schroder from ESPN.com:
“Personally I see some growth, some maturity, a guy that didn’t let what happened last game to get to him,” Millsap said. “I see a guy who came out and busted his butt regardless of what happened. Discipline or not, he didn’t play (much) the last game, but came out with a good attitude today to help us win. I see a lot of maturity and a lot of growth in him.”
What does Budenholzer have to say, again via ESPN:
“I thought he was great,” Budenholzer said. “The way he attacks the basket, the way he gets inside, the way he’s shooting the 3 ball with so much confidence. He’s just going to keep getting better.”
Hawks fans better hope so. Look nobody is denying Dennis Schroder’s talent. The Brooklyn game was a perfect illustration of why Atlanta moved on from Jeff Teague and locked Schroder in for the future with a $70 million dollar contract. When the offense stalls, Schroder is the guy that can make a play for himself and his teammates. But with the playoffs coming around the corner, Schroder is going to have to keep his head and use this rough patch as a learning experience. But if he starts believing his own hype or playing like he did against Brooklyn to prove a point against Howard and Budenholzer, it will come out eventually.
Lesson number three: Outside of Tim Hardaway Jr., where are the bench people?
Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals. Ersan Ilyasova had 10 points and seven rebounds. The rest of the Hawks bench combined? Two points by Taurean Prince. That’s not a good look for a Hawks bench. Sure Hardaway Jr. has been great, but Ilyasova has been subpar for the most part since his trade from Philadelphia. Jose Calderon played 12 minutes and scored the same amount of points I did writing this article and you guys reading it. All of this while Mike Muscala, Kris Humphries, DeAndre Bembry and Malcolm Delaney never saw the floor. The Hawks are going to have to figure out a second unit for the playoffs.
Here’s what I learned…now learn from this!
Dwight Howard finished with a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. He knocked down five of his seven shots. Moving forward, the Hawks need to make sure that Howard believes that he is a part of the offense. He doesn’t need to be a number one option (or two for that matter, three could be a stretch!) but he needs to feel a part of the equation on the offensive end. If not, he’ll start sulking and stop doing the work down low the Hawks pay him to do.
Benchmark to the Hawks season is coming up…Raptors on Friday, a tough Memphis team on Saturday and San Antonio on Monday.