Archives For Al Horford

With consecutive wins over Eastern Conference contenders Chicago and Cleveland and Western Conference powerhouse Houston, the Atlanta Hawks are starting to make an argument that the team’s hot start is not fool’s gold. As recently as Nov. 29, the Hawks were giving up 106.6 points per 100 possessions and ranked 25th in defensive efficiency. Since then, the Hawks have won 12 of 13 games (including five wins over teams currently in playoff position) and moved to 7th in defensive efficiency, giving up only 100.6 points per 100 possessions, an improvement of better than six points.

Although the Hawks’ strength of schedule remains the weakest in the NBA, the defensive improvement definitely represents a trend, rather than a blip. On Nov. 20 I wrote that the Hawks “look nothing like a contender.” But what about now? We typically associate contender status with teams that are top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (the Hawks are ranked seventh in both) and have a substantial, positive point differential (the Hawks are outscoring opponents by 6.1 PPG, the second-best mark in the Eastern Conference).

So can the Hawks be considered contenders in the East? I maintain that we won’t know the answer until the Hawks complete the current stretch that includes 12 of 18 games on the road. NBA TV’s Rick Fox, who predicted that the Hawks would miss the playoffs, said after Saturday’s win over Houston, “I’ve seen enough. The Hawks are as real as it gets in the Eastern Conference.” I’m going to take a page out of Mike Budenholzer’s playbook: never get too high, never get too low, take it one day at a time. Continue Reading…

This Week In The Southeast, the Wizards are barely holding on to that spot at the top. Can they hold off the surging Hawks much longer? While those two continue their battle at the top, the Heat battle injuries and try to find themselves before they even consider challenging the ever expanding gap in the division. The Magic just finished a brutal start to their schedule with a lot of road games, will that really matter? Meanwhile the Hornets have won two straight but blew another 4th quarter lead, what’s with this team?

Washington Wizards, 19-6, 2nd in the East, 3-0 this week WAS

In a week where the Hawks looked primed and ready to take the number one spot in the division, the Wizards just wouldn’t let that happen. Washington went undefeated this week including a squeaker against Miami. Besides the Miami game, the Wizards took care of business the rest of the week defeating Minnesota and Utah by more than eight points, each

Atlanta Hawks, 19-7, 3rd in the East, 3-0 this week ATL

The poor Hawks are doing everything they can to catch up to Washington but they’re still a half game behind. Even though Atlanta doesn’t have the best record in the division they have nothing to be unhappy about. Atlanta has won 14 of their last 16 with their last three wins coming against Chicago, Cleveland, and Houston. There might not be a team in the Eastern conference playing better than the Hawks.

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With how good the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs often are, it is hard for road teams from the East to come into Texas and expect any success. The Hawks are not an exception to that, but Atlanta grinded out a rare victory in the Lone Star state, beating the Rockets 104-97. The Hawks now sit at 19-7 and have now won 14 of their last 16 games.

Atlanta managed to pull it out in the end thanks to some nice passing and solid execution. It also helped that Jason Terry completely forgot to cover Kyle Korver during one of the game’s most crucial moments.

While the game started off close, it wasn’t like that until midway through the third quarter. The Hawks had a decently-sized lead through most of the first half thanks to crisp ball movement getting them a lot of open looks. For the majority of the game, the best the Rockets could do was go on a small run occasionally, but the Hawks would withstand it and get right back to business and build up their lead once more. That was until the Rockets adjusted.

During halftime, the Rockets made some tweaks that managed to get them back into the game, tying the game up by the end of the quarter. Part of it was the Hawks just not hitting shots, but the Rockets rotations were much more organized in the second half; when the Hawks started to move the ball, the Rockets were right there to contest the shot. Continue Reading…

Shelvin Mack had sat out the past two games because of the Hawks’ superb depth at point guard with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder. With Teague on the sidelines due to a hamstring strain, Mack had an opportunity to make an impact on Wednesday night against LeBron and the Cavaliers.

And boy did he do just that.

Mack scored a career-high 24 points off the bench, including 17 points and a 5-for-5 performance from 3 in the second quarter that swung the game in the Hawks’ favor. After trailing by 12 in the second, the Hawks rallied to take a 65-60 lead into halftime. Mack’s play translated to the rest of the Hawks in the second half, as Atlanta outscored Cleveland 62-38 in the final 24 minutes to give the Hawks a 127-98 victory.

The Hawks took control in the third quarter by continuously running plays targeting Kevin Love on defense. Paul Millsap and Al Horford accounted for seven straight Atlanta field goals in a span where the Hawks expanded their lead to double-digits. Horford finished with 20 points and four assists, while Millsap tallied 14 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Continue Reading…

Hawks Outlast Bulls for 17th Win

Bo Churney —  December 15, 2014 — 1 Comment

After having their nine-game win streak broken in Orlando, the Hawks were able to rebound (figuratively, not literally; the were outrebounded 57-40) against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls with a scrappy 93-86 win.

The Hawks were led by Al Horford, who had one of his best all-around games of the season. Horford tallied 21 points on 10-for-19 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists, and two steals. It was Horford’s second 20-point/10-rebound game of the season. The six assists were a season-high for Horford, who appeared to take extra effort in trying to control the offense in the fourth quarter in order to try and keep Chicago’s defense on its heels.

“We talked about wanting to have great pace coming out tonight,” said Coach Budenholzer. “The first quarter, scoring 28 points against a really good defensive team… we got some baskets in transition. The one Al got sticks out. Paul’s sticks out to me. It probably ended up being the little bit of cushion that we needed, that allowed us to get the win.”

The Hawks received two solid performances off of the bench tonight, one being from Elton Brand. Brand only played 13 minutes, but he made his presence known, scoring eight points and loudly stuffing a shot attempt by Pau Gasol. Brand followed up that block with a jumper less than a minute later, which gave the Hawks a nine-point lead early in the game. Continue Reading…

This Week In The Southeast the Atlanta Hawks had the second place spot in the East, and then they didn’t. While hte Washington Wizards and Hawks create distance from the rest of the division everybody else just seems to be fumbling around. The Miami Heat don’t look like they’re going to get any better and that’s a problem this early in the year. Meanwhile the Orlando Magic continue to stay competitive while the Charlotte Hornets try to right the ship.

Washington Wizards, 16-6, 2nd in the East, 3-1 this week WAS

The Wizards could have gone 4-0 this week but they lost a sluggish afternoon road game to the Boston Celtics. While losing to the Celtics is not good it’s very difficult to fault sluggish play in an afternoon game. The Wizards responded by ripping off three straight wins, including their best win of the year over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Atlanta Hawks, 16-7, 3rd in the East, 4-1 this week ATL

The Hawks win streak finally came to an end Saturday night due to a Tobias Harris game winner in Orlando. The loss was on a back to back and Orlando has been a pain for a lot of teams this year so that’s not a bad loss. Before that the Hawks were on a nine game winning streak and at one point were second in the Eastern conference. While this week didn’t feature any big time wins, the Hawks were able to keep their streak going all the way up to the final seconds in Orlando. Also of note this week, the Hawks had quite a few blowouts which is surprising since this team isn’t known for blowing opponents out of the building. It’s safe to say at this point that Atlanta is a good team.
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The Hawks won their ninth game in a row on Friday at Philips Arena, prevailing 87-81 over the Orlando Magic. The Hawks shot just 37.2% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc on 29 attempts, and the Magic weren’t much better, shooting 39% from the field and 34.6% from three. Coach Budenholzer mentioned in his postgame press conference that he would have liked to see the Hawks drive to the basket more often; the Hawks finished with just 24 points in the paint. Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll particularly struggled to hit from range; the pair hit just two of their thirteen shots from three.

The second quarter and early part of the third quarter were particularly ugly for both teams. Atlanta scored just 11 points in the second quarter and the Magic opened on a 17-5 run in the first six minutes of the third. The Hawks came roaring back in the final 18 minutes of the game, outscoring Orlando by 42-24 down the stretch, including a key 11-0 run to close the third quarter and tie the game at 64. Al Horford and Paul Millsap combined for 33 points on 13-for-25 shooting through three quarters, with Horford making a big three-pointer that tied the game with 39.5 left in the quarter.

Pero Antic did not play in the game due to flu-like symptoms and Coach Budenholzer said pregame that he would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game, opening up minutes from Elton Brand and Mike Muscala. Brand responded with one of the better one point, two rebound performances you’ll ever see and was the talk of the locker room after the game. Carroll praised Brand’s defensive toughness: “He came in there and just told us to be aggressive … Everybody started playing as hard as he did.” Horford echoed Carroll’s statement, saying, “His aggressiveness on defense and toughness really got us over the top.” Muscala didn’t see the floor in Antic’s absence due to Brand’s play.

Dennis Schröder had a terrible shooting night but changed the game with his defensive intensity. He even forced a five-second violation after a Hawks turnover and consistently picked up Magic guards as soon as they got the ball, hounding them all the way up the court. Coach Budenholzer had good things to say about the young guard after the game: “He was 1-for-7, but I was more interested and more encouraged by how active he was, his pace, and everything he did to help us turn the momentum.”

The Hawks may have played an ugly offensive game, but those games are going to happen in a long season and they did well to fight on the defensive end to close out a scrappy Orlando Magic team. The Hawks see the Magic again on Saturday in the second game of their home-and-home series in Orlando, where they will go for their tenth win in a row, something they haven’t done since January 1997.

Jeff Teague has always been one of the more underrated players in the league. In a league full of athletic and talented point guards, Teague quietly puts up solid numbers on a perennial playoff team and the majority of causal NBA fans have no idea.

Much like Atlanta sports teams, Teague shows flashes of greatness, but at times has struggled with consistency. Last season, he started off strong and it had many wondering if this was his all-star year. Through the month of December last season, Teague was averaging over 19 points and eight assists per game, prompting Hawks’ fans and writers to believe in the point guard.

A bomb went off in December though, as Al Horford went down with a torn pectoral, and Teague had a tough test ahead of him. Through the month of January, he averaged just 13.6 points and 4.6 assists on 37 percent shooting from the field. He also posted an ugly 16 percent clip from three-point range.

So where did the All-Star Jeff Teague go?

Though he rebounded from a terrible month of January, Teague never got back to the level he showed in the early months of the season. That is, until the playoffs rolled around. Continue Reading…

As the Atlanta Hawks continue their romp through the NBA’s easiest early-season schedule, the team has now assembled its first 7-game win streak since 2009. The Hawks won the first quarter 28-18 and never looked back, finishing off the Pacers 108-92 behind 25 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocks from Al Horford, along with 21 points, seven assists, three rebounds and three steals from Jeff Teague.

In the first half, it looked like the Hawks were going to blow open another one. The Hawks led 47-29 on a layup and free throw by Kyle Korver with 5:15 to play in the half. The Pacers responded with 3-pointers from Damjan Rudez and Rodney Stuckey and baskets from Luis Scola and Solomon Hill to close the gap to 49-39 before Mike Budenholzer called a timeout with 3:15 remaining in the first half.

Out of the timeout, Teague scored eight of his 10 points in the half, including a pair of layups in the last 30 seconds as the Hawks closed on an 11-4 run to take a 60-43 lead at halftime. Teague was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, had two assists, one rebound and a steal and was plus-11, best among the Hawks’ starters. Carroll shot 3-for-5 from 3-point range to finish the first half with 10 points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal. Horford scored a team-high 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting with six rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks. Continue Reading…

With the Hawks sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference after Sunday’s win over the visiting Denver Nuggets, those who predicted a strong season for Atlanta might be tempted to pat themselves on the back. However, in light of the fact that the Hawks have played by far the easiest schedule to this point, it might be time to pump the brakes. While the Hawks are having an amazing season offensively, the team is among the league’s worst in rebounding and opponents’ at-rim FG%.

What follows is an overview of what the Hawks are doing well and what areas need improvement. First, the good news. If you go through’s player tracking data, you will see that the Hawks are at or near the top in almost every offensive category. The Hawks lead the NBA in catch-and-shoot effective FG% (57.2) and points per game (34.3), are eighth in PPG off drives (31.4), are second only to the Warriors in PPG created via assist (59.8) and are fourth in the league in overall effective FG% (53.1).

Interestingly, the Hawks are ranked eighth in effective FG% on pull-up shots (43.7) despite the fact that the Hawks attempt the second-fewest pull up shots per game. This indicates that the Hawks are shooting well from the perimeter regardless of shot type, but have made a systemic decision to eschew pull-up attempts in favor of shots created via assist. That the Hawks are effectively 13.5% better on catch-and-shoot attempts (compared to pull-ups) illustrates why this decision was a good one. Continue Reading…