Archives For Al Horford

Kyrie Irving was ruled out just before the start of Game 2 due to knee tendonitis. Not long afterwards, DeMarre Carroll was ruled a go to start Game 2 against the Cavs.

It didn’t matter.

Without Irving, LeBron James steamrolled through the Hawks’ defense, making the Hawks look helpless as the four-time MVP carved through Atlanta with his passing and scoring to lead Cleveland to a 94-82 victory. Without Irving and Kevin Love — who is absent from the series with a shoulder injury — James put the team on his healthy shoulders and delivered with 30 points, nine rebounds, and 11 assists.

“I’ve got a good vocabulary, but I’m sort of running out of superlatives for that guy,” said Coach David Blatt on LeBron. “He’s just a great basketball player.”

James was particularly masterful at adjusting throughout the game, as his scoring early was soon replaced with precision passing as the Hawks’ defense collapsed around him. Eight of James’ first nine assists were on 3-pointers, as James expertly delivered the ball to the likes of Iman Shumpert, James Jones, and Matthew Dellavedova around the perimeter.

“I’m able to make adjustments through the game, just knowing how the defense read and react,” said James on the fluctuations in the way he attacked throughout the game. “Obviously, when you’ve got guys like [Shumpert], who shot the ball extremely well tonight, the defense start to go further and further way from the paint and I’m about to see creases. When they react to me, I’m going to find my guys.”

For the Hawks, the offense became an atrocity in the second half. Jeff Teague led the Hawks in Game 1 with 27 points, but he laid an egg in Game 2 when matched up against Dellavedova. Coach Blatt and the Cavs schemed well, as they went under screens to force the Atlanta guards into shooting jump shots that they are not comfortable with. Teague was 1-for-7 from the field in the second half and did not show the same effort in trying to get to the rim that he did in the first half of the game, nor in Game 1.

“At the end of the day, we went out there, and we didn’t have a lot of energy,” said Carroll. “I think that was the biggest thing.”

Despite his injury, Carroll led the team in minutes in Friday night with 34. Carroll was clearly hampered, however, as he had little to no lift when he attempted to jump. The most athleticism Carroll showed all night was on a run out in transition, where Teague was pushing the ball and Carroll was sprinting at his side, waiting for the drop off pass for an easy bucket. Continue Reading…

Game 1 of the Hawks and Cavaliers series looked like a disaster for Atlanta when DeMarre Carroll went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.

The arena was deadly silent. Carroll was rolling in pain on the court as players and coaches from both teams looked on with grave concern. As Carroll was helped off the court, everyone in Atlanta had one thought: it’s over. Without DeMarre Carroll, the team’s best perimeter defender and the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs, the Hawks had no chance against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But alas, a beam of hope has struck the ATL.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the MRI on Carroll’s knee showed no structural damage beyond confirming a knee sprain. Carroll’s status was updated on Wednesday by the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore:

With Kyrie Irving also being questionable for Game 2, the Hawks have ample opportunity to recover from the near disaster that was Game 1. With or without Carroll, here are the keys that the Hawks need to follow to improve in Game 2.

Go under on LeBron James initiated pick-and-rolls

LeBron James had success against the Hawks in Game 1 by getting into the paint, whether it be via post up or drive into the lane with the help of a screen. James often collapsed the Hawks’ defense and would kick out to an open Continue Reading…

For the fans, it seemed like this was going to end the most Atlanta-way possible.

Late in the fourth quarter with a four-point lead, all the Hawks had to do was get the ball inbounded and take the foul to go to the free throw line. The inbound pass found its way to Al Horford, the steady rock for the Hawks, the franchise cornerstone… but Horford panicked, causing a turnover.

The turnover led to two free throws for the Wizards and with with seven seconds left, the Hawks found themselves in the same spot: they just needed to get to the free throw line.

This time Horford held on to the ball and took the foul, and he headed to the free throw line. There, Horford missed the first, the ball bouncing off the rim four times before finally caroming out. Horford connected on the second free throw, putting the Hawks up three with seven seconds remaining.

And then Paul Pierce happened… or at least, so we thought. The Hawks’ defense on the Wizards was stifling for those seven seconds, forcing Pierce to take a heavily contested, fadeaway corner 3. Pierce, who has been a thorn for the Hawks ever since the 2008 first round series between the Hawks and Celtics, continued to torture the fans of Atlanta, sinking the improbable shot as the buzzer was sounding. Continue Reading…

When Al Horford snatched Nenê’s lunch money and calmly deposited the layup that won Game 5, it brought national attention to a fact Hawks fans have been aware of for some time: Al Horford is a clutch player.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Horford is the best clutch shooter in the playoffs for the last five seasons by a wide margin (minimum 20 field goals attempted). During that time, Horford has shot 61.3% in the clutch, defined as in the last five minutes of a game with the score within five points. Horford’s closest competitor is Paul Pierce, whose 51.7% is almost 10% less than Horford.

We’ve long known that Horford was a clutch performer in the playoffs. In the 2012 playoffs, Horford returned from a pectoral injury and scored a combined nine fourth quarter baskets in Games 5 and 6 against the Celtics. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith totaled nine baskets in nine fourth quarter appearances between them for the series. Continue Reading…

Hawks game operations tried to conduct a post-game interview with Al Horford over the PA system after the game.

The crowd was so loud that it went on deaf ears.

Horford hit the game-winning layup after crashing the boards off of a missed Dennis Schröder drive to give the Hawks an 82-81 win and a 3-2 lead over the Washington Wizards in the Conference Semifinal. The shot was the bookend to a dominate game for Horford, who led the Hawks with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots.

“Al has been the cornerstone for us — for the Hawks — for a bunch of years,” said Kyle Korver on Horford. “It wasn’t just that play, though. Al played an amazing game.”

Horford was the steady force for the Hawks over the final 5:31 of the fourth quarter, which started with the Hawks down 73-64. In that time period, Horford scored nine points off of two free throws, a corner 3-pointer, a 20-foot jumper, and the game-winner. For good measure, Horford also blocked a layup attempt by John Wall and assisted on a DeMarre Carroll layup in transition during the Hawks’ comeback.

“We didn’t quit after being down,” said Horford.

Horford was not the only one to lead the Hawks down the stretch, as Coach Budenholzer made a surprise move by going with Dennis Schröder at point guard to close the game.

“We’ve been trying to keep Jeff kinda fresh, where he doesn’t get fatigued playing long stretches, so we were giving him a minute or two there around the five minute mark. We had him at the table to go back in. We made several plays and Dennis made a couple of them himself, and Jeff took over coaching and said leave him in.” Continue Reading…

The way the Hawks played at the end of Game 3 against the Wizards was a breath of fresh air. There was defensive activity, ball movement, and open shots that actually went it.

Of course, this was not from the Hawks’ starters. This was Mike Muscala, Mike Scott, Dennis Schröder, and Shelvin Mack finally playing the way that the fans were accustomed to in the regular season. These players fought back from 20 points down to tie the game. Of course, the Hawks wound up with a loss, but the effort and revitalization of the bench was a welcome sight for Atlanta fans.

On Monday night, it’s time for the fans to see that effort from the starting unit.

In the first-round series against Brooklyn, the problem with the Hawks is that the bench unit was awful, save for Pero Antic. This somewhat carried over in the start of the series against the Wizards, forcing Mike Budenholzer to shorten his bench rotation as much as possible. However, the Hawks’ starters — except for DeMarre Carroll — have also had a problem for the nine games they have played so far in the playoffs: they have not made shots.

Jeff Teague’s true-shooting percentage in the playoffs? 46.0%, down from 56.6% in the regular season, a difference of 10.6%. Kyle Korver? 58.9%, which is still good, but it is down from 69.9% in the regular season. Paul Millsap? 50.4% in the playoffs, 56.5% in the regular season. And Al Horford? 49.2% in the postseason compared to 56.3% in the regular season. Continue Reading…

The Hawks took care of business at home 106-90 against the Washington Wizards to even up their Eastern Conference Semifinals series at a game apiece. Washington’s John Wall was a late scratch just 60 minutes before tipoff, providing a good opportunity for Atlanta to get a vital win before the series shifts to Washington. Both Coach Budenholzer and DeMarre Carroll said after the game that the defensive plan did not change as a result of Wall’s absence, but it’s hard to believe that Jeff Teague ends up with a playoff-career-high seven rebounds if he has to contend with the taller and more athletic John Wall.

Ramon Sessions stepped up for the Wizards in Wall’s absence and played a fine game, shooting 8-for-14 for 21 points. Teague had a difficult time shooting against Washington, but contributed well in other areas of the game with the seven rebounds and eight assists. As a team, the Hawks totaled 30 assists on 37 made baskets, a byproduct of the perimeter players being able to get in the paint and find open shooters spacing the floor. Atlanta’s aggressiveness paid off in other ways; the Hawks got to the free throw line 25 times and forced Washington’s Marcin Gortat out of the game with six fouls in the fourth quarter. “We were attacking the goal this game; I think that was big for us,” Carroll said after the game. Continue Reading…

The Wizards had nearly an entire week to prepare for the second round after they had swept the Toronto Raptors.

The Hawks had little more than a day.

After finishing off the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, the Hawks had a quick turnaround to face off against the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon. The result was rather unsurprising: the Hawks looked great early, but appeared to be out of gas by the fourth quarter. Everyone on the Hawks was missing open jumpers, they were moving less on offense, and the defense was a step slow in completing rotations. Because of this, the Hawks’ 10-point halftime lead turned into a 104-98 loss.

After posting over 50% shooting in the first half, the Hawks put up a dread 13-for-52 (25%) in the second half. DeMarre Carroll, who scored 21 points in the first half, only made one bucket in the final 24 minutes. Kyle Korver was 2-for-9 on mostly open 3-pointers in the second half. The shooting was so bad that Al Horford’s 4-for-12 (33%) second half shooting was the best performance by any Atlanta player in the second half. Continue Reading…

The games in the Atlanta Hawks’ series against the Brooklyn Nets have all had a similar story. The Hawks would take an early lead with their starting unit, then Brooklyn would cut into that lead with their bench, make the game close by halftime, and then threaten to take the lead for the remainder of the game.

Game 6 of the series looked like it was going to continue following that formula. The Hawks jumped out to a massive early advantage, making 13 of their first 18 shots to create a 36-23 lead after 12 minutes of play. However, the Hawks’ shooting then went cold and Joe Johnson was able to pull the Nets back within six by the halftime buzzer, with the Hawks’ lead down to just 51-45.

However, in the third quarter, the 60-win Hawks finally arrived to the series.

The Hawks scored 41 points in the third quarter, with Paul Millsap leading the pack with 11. The ball movement was crisp and the shots were crisper, as Atlanta saw 16 (15 assisted) of their 24 shot attempts in the quarter go through the bottom of the net. The Hawks absolutely blew the doors off of the Nets with a 23-3 run to open the period and finally sealing the series by a count of four to two. Continue Reading…

The Hawks started hot and staved off another Nets comeback in Game 5 at Philips Arena on Wednesday night. Coach Budenholzer implied in the time leading up to the game that the players were raring to go, and they showed it. Atlanta led 33-16 after one quarter, but the Nets pulled within two with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter before the Hawks put together a 10-2 run to close out the game and take a 3-2 lead in the series. Jeff Teague had a hand in eight of the Hawks’ final ten points, assisting on an Al Horford jumper and scoring six straight to put the Nets away.

DeMarre Carroll led all players in scoring with 24 in a game that saw each of Atlanta’s starters play at least 34 minutes and virtually all of the fourth quarter. “Coach came to us each individually and told us we were probably going to pick up some more minutes,” Carroll said after the game. The shortened rotation is something that Budenholzer will use going forward, as most coaches do in the playoffs. Mike Scott has fallen out of favor recently and played just over two minutes in this game as Budenholzer opted for a three-man rotation at the power forward and center positions. Pero Antic played almost 18 minutes and provided some much needed defense and rebounding against Brook Lopez. Continue Reading…