Remembering the 2015-16 Hawks — Their Best Games

Graham Chapple —  May 20, 2016

The phrase “The King is dead, long live the King!” never made sense to me as a kid. I mean, why would you say “long live the King” if he just died? I would later learn that the phrase originated in the 1400’s, when King Charles VI died and then his son — whose name you’ll never guess — Charles VII immediately succeeded him as King. The phrase basically means that the old King is dead, long live the new King.

As quick as we tend/want to move onto the new regime/ruler — in this case, the next chapter of Hawks basketball — there’s an entire regime of old that just passed to be remembered, whether it was a reign of terror or prosperity. As much as you want to serve the new King, you have to bury the old King. At the burial, words recalling the King’s life are told, and — hopefully — many memorable moments are shared.

Though we look forward to the 2016-17 Hawks, we must bury the 2015-16 Hawks, and we’ll share some memorable moments about the Atlanta Hawks’ season, as they’re slowly laid to rest. More specifically, we’ll share the good memories about the best games that the Hawks played this season.

There were so many games to choose from, so there’s two honorable mentions to, um, mention before we get cracking with the rest.

Shout out to the demolition of the Bulls on February 10th (the last game before the All-Star break), as the Hawks blew out the Bulls on the road with a 113-90 victory — the second victory of a four game sweep of the Bulls in the regular season.

Shout out to the destruction of the Pacers on march 13th, where the Hawks held the Pacers to just 38% shooting — and Paul George 3-of-15 — in a 104-75 victory.

The rest of these are in chronological order and are not ranked.

November 6th — Hawks @ Pelicans: Kyle Korver’s perfect night (121-115 win)

The Hawks’ first game against a Western Conference foe was a very eventful one indeed, as they faced off against Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans. In one of the best shooting games from any player this season, Kyle Korver shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the field, including a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc, and a perfect 2-for-2 from the free throw line, while also adding five assists and three steals.

19 points from Teague and another 22 points from Paul Millsap lifted the Hawks over Anthony Davis’ 43-10 game, as the Hawks won on the road by six points, surviving the Pelicans’ comeback in the fourth quarter.

“I’ve had a really tough start to the season. Usually, when you’re in a shooting slump, you get a good one when you break out of it. I don’t know. I got some good looks tonight, had a really good rhythm. I felt good before the game.” — Kyle Korver

November 9th — Hawks vs. Timberwolves: The comeback that fell short (107-117 loss)

A loss?? You’re including a loss in amongst the best games that the Hawks played this season?? Hear me out, it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

In what should’ve been a game where the Hawks should’ve taken care of business coming out of the gate, the Timberwolves absolutely destroyed the Hawks in the first half of this game, taking a 72-42 lead into the locker room at halftime. It wasn’t so much a case of the Hawks playing very poorly, but more so the Wolves shooting lights out. They shot 68% from the field in the first half, but 10 Atlanta turnovers — leading to 18 Minnesota points in the first half — certainly didn’t help either.

“You’re down 30 points and you’re embarrassed,” — Kyle Korver

In the third, Wolves extended their lead to 34 with 10:17 left in the third, but the Hawks slowly began to chip away at that lead… Over the next few minutes the Hawks — behind a 12-2 run — cut the Minnesota lead to 23, a three from Paul Millsap forcing Sam Mitchell to take his second timeout of the quarter with 5:49 on the clock. After the timeout, the Hawks went on a 20-6 run to close out the quarter, trimming the 30 point lead at halftime — and 34 in the third — to just 9 points heading into the fourth quarter.

The Hawks dug even deeper in the fourth quarter and eventually took the lead, thanks to this beauty of a move from Paul Millsap.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, that was the last score they would register for the rest of the game, as Andrew Wiggings — who finished with 33 points that night — and the Timberwolves closed the game out on a 9-0 run to secure an impressive road victory, despite throwing away a 34 point lead in the second half.

While the Hawks lost this game, they showed so much heart and resilience to come back from 34 points down to take the lead in the fourth quarter. It was such a fun game to watch, and as the Hawks clawed their way back into this game, the excitement in the crowd kept growing louder, and it was so fun to watch the Hawks come all the way back to even take the lead. Maybe I’m understating this, but they were 34, THIRTY-FOUR points behind in the third quarter and came all the way back. Watching the Hawks Twitter-sphere react to not only going down by 34 but recovering from 34 points was also super fun.

By the way, how weird is it to think that if the Hawks had simply won this seemingly easy home game against the Timberwolves, they would’ve won their division and secured the third seed at the same time. But, alas, it was not to be…

November 30th — Hawks vs. Thunder: Jeff Teague’s fourth quarter heroics (106-100 win)

A very tough game against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the OKC Thunder went right down to the wire in Atlanta. The Thunder went on a 10-0 run to give themselves a 96-92 lead with just 2:22 left. The Hawks were held scoreless for over three minutes and were in need of a hero, otherwise this game — where they had led by as many as 16 points — would be lost. Enter, Jeff Teague. Teague stepped up to plate and made multiple clutch plays, as he scored eight of the Hawks’ 14 points in the final 2:13. He attacked the rim at will, and no one could stop him.

Teague finished with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, as the Hawks recovered to secure the 106-100 victory, surviving the 59 point scoring efforts from Durant (25) and Westbrook (34).

“Just driving the ball. Just trying to make plays. I had been a little careless with the ball in the first half. In the second half, I made a conscious to attack more and get to the paint.” — Jeff Teague

December 29th — Hawks @ Rockets: The comeback that didn’t fall short (121-115 win)

The Hawks’ last game of 2015 didn’t start off particularly well. The Rockets stormed to a 41 point first quarter and a 16 point lead. The Rockets extended that lead to 19 in the second quarter, but the Hawks fought to cut the lead down to 15 at the half.

In the third quarter, the Hawks entirely erased that 15 point deficit, only to see the Rockets extend it back to 10 points before being trimmed back to seven by the start of the fourth. From here the Hawks took supremacy, outscoring the Rockets 36-23 in the final period — led by Horford’s and Teague’s combined 20 points —  as the Hawks secured one their best road wins of the season.

Mass scoring efforts from Al Horford (30 points), Kent Bazemore (26 points), Paul Millsap (22 points), and Jeff Teague (another 22 points) rounded off a very successful 2015 in excellent fashion.

“Obviously we had guys step up on the offense end and make big shots. Al Horford was shooting the ball extremely well from the three-point line. Kent made some big shots. Paul was big everywhere. Jeff was good. Those guys really stepped up. It’s a very good win for our group on the road.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

March 5th — Hawks @ Clippers: Charge for home court advantage continues (107-97 win)

On the the third game of a five game road trip, and the second night of a back-to-back, the Hawks faced a tough task against one the best teams in the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers, as they continued their charge for home court advantage in the Eastern Conference.

The Clippers stormed to a 37 point first quarter and built a lead as high as 17 points. Though the Clippers won the first quarter by 12 points, the Hawks would win the remaining three quarters as six players — including all five starters — scored in double digits to lead a combined effort to victory. Jeff Teague led the way 22 points, some of which coming in beautiful fashion.

After shooting 58% in the first quarter, the Clippers shot just 36% for the rest of the game, as the Hawks defense clamped down on the Clippers.

“Percentages catch up. Very rarely do teams go four quarters shooting at that clip. They were like 50 percent in the first quarter. That comes down to the 40’s. We just stayed the course.” — Kent Bazemore

The Hawks out-rebounded the Clippers 53-41, scored 20 second chance points, and used the “hack-a” strategy to great effect. It forced Doc to take out DeAndre, and this meant Al Horford and Paul Millsap could go to work on the smaller Wesley Johnson and Jeff Green.

“He was 7 for 17 (from the free-throw line) for the game. He went through a stretch there where he hit three or four in a row. You think about pulling it off but we stuck with it. It helps change the rhythm of the game a little bit and gives our guys a break. They just got such a good team, sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

“It was effective tonight. Overall, it has not been effective. I thought they did a good job. Every time they had a lead, they used it and that is the way it is supposed to (be done). I thought it was effective. In each quarter they tried to do it and it hurt us a little bit.” — Coach Doc Rivers

The Hawks outscored the Clippers 27-18 in the final period, and completed the Los Angeles back-to-back sweep with a 107-97 victory.

“It’s a good team win. We played well as a group. One through 13 came out and played well.” — Jeff Teague

2016 Playoffs: R1G1 — Hawks vs. Celtics: Nail biting Game 1 (102-101 win)

Game 1 of the playoffs finally arrived on April 16th, and the Hawks finally got a favorable crack at the Celtics as the four seed. But forget the basketball side of things for a second, Game 1 was fantastic for a different reason… Volt out!

volt5

(Photo cred: Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images)

Volt green t-shirts aside — and back to actual basketball — the Hawks’ defense came out rolling and they held the Celtics to just 33 first half points, and took a 17 point lead heading into the break. But playoff games are never that easy, and the Celtics began their comeback in the third quarter, outscoring the Hawks 31-21 in the third period.

The comeback was completed in the fourth quarter, as the Celtics took the lead with a Jae Crowder three with 6 minutes remaining. The two teams went back and forth, with the Hawks eventually gaining the upper hand, seemingly safe holding a five point lead with 15 seconds remaining. Crowder would sink a three with six seconds left, meaning Teague needed to ice the game with two free throws. He nails both, putting the Hawks up 102-98 with five seconds left.

The Celtics had no timeouts, and had to travel the whole way up the court to score. Game over, right? Wrong. Isaiah Thomas makes a wild three with 0.4 remaining, but the Celtics are still down 101-102. The Hawks need just inbound the ball, touch it, and the game is over. Instead, they turn it over, and Marcus Smart, albeit after the horn, almost makes a three quarter heave. In the moment he released it, no one was to know that it was late but, much to the exasperated relief of Hawks fans, it didn’t go in.

“I think both teams really made it hard on each other, maybe a tale of two different halves. What they were able to do in the second half, luckily we had a little bit of a cushion and made enough plays down the stretch…” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

A nervous ending, but the Hawks got the job done to take a 1-0 series lead.

2016 Playoffs R1G5 — Hawks vs. Celtics: Blowout win leaves Hawks on brink of victory

After the Celtics took care of their home court, winning Games 3 and 4 in Boston, the series was now tied at 2-2 heading back to Atlanta for Game 5. There’s a reason why these Game 5’s are referred to as “pivotal Game 5’s”. The winner takes a 3-2 series lead, needing just one more victory to advance to the next round. So, for obvious reasons, it was important that the Hawks show up for this game,

The Hawks needed to find a way to slow down Isaiah Thomas, who scored 42 points in Game 3 and 28 in Game 4. The Hawks devised such a plan and Thomas was, almost, completely ineffective in Game 5. The Hawks blitzed any pick and rolls he was involved in, trapping him/forcing him to pass the ball to someone else, forcing them to make a play.

Thomas scored seven points on 3-of-12 shooting, and no one else was able to, either, make a shot or create for themselves/others. A 42-23 third quarter blew this game apart, and the Hawks roared away from the Celtics, blowing them out 110-83 to take a 3-2 series lead.

With this hugely impressive Game 5 victory, the Hawks put themselves on the brink of advancing to the second round, needing just one more win…

2016 Playoffs R1G6 — Hawks @ Celtics: The Closer (104-92 win)

After blowing out the Celtics in Game 5, the Hawks travelled to Boston, seeking to eliminate the Celtics in their own building.

The Hawks continued to extend their pressure on Isaiah Thomas, but were also making all the small plays — diving on the ball, hustle blocks, etc — that a team needed to make when dealing with an opponent on the brink of elimination. Watching the game, you got a sense that the Hawks wanted to advance more than the Celtics wanted to survive, if that makes sense. Of course the Celtics wanted to drag out the series to a seventh game, but it seemed as though the Hawks wanted to advance more than the Celtics wanted to survive.

The Hawks took a eight point lead heading into the third quarter, where a 10-0 Hawks run left the Celtics in big trouble, needing another comeback — just like in Game 4 — to save this game and now their season. The Hawks outscored the Celtics 39-26 in the third, and while the Celtics run did eventually come in the fourth quarter, it came far too late, and the Hawks were able to withstand their late charge to close out Game 6, and the series, with a 104-92 victory.

The victory marks Atlanta’s first playoff series victory over Boston in nine attempts, and to do it in Boston was something Hawks fans found very, very satisfying, for all the pain the Celtics have caused the Hawks in the playoffs.

While Isaiah Thomas told Dennis Schröder he’d see him “out back”, the Hawks would see Cleveland in the second round.

If you hear someone say that this Hawks season wasn’t fun, slap some sense into them, for goodness sake… The Hawks treated us with many great games this season, each with its own storyline and cast of characters that we’ve grown to love — unless you’re anti-Jeff Teague because you want Dennis Schröder to start instead of him, to which I say to you, just, no…

Graham Chapple

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  1. Remembering the 2015-16 Hawks: The Best Individual Performances | HawksHoop - May 24, 2016

    […] In the second instalment of “Remembering the 2015-16 Hawks” — the mini series where we remember the good things about the Hawks season just passed — we’re going to look at the best individual performances of the season — the moments of magic that got us out of our seats. If you missed the first part, where we looked at the best games the Hawks played this season, you can check it out here. […]