Archives For Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals (93-104) on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as LeBron James led the way (as he so often does) with 25 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists. Kyrie Irving added another 21 points to Cleveland’s cause. The Hawks still have an opportunity to capture home court advantage when the two teams go at it again on Wednesday for Game 2.

There’s lots to get to today because, as always, the Hawks know how to make things interesting for Hawks bloggers/writers etc.

A very winnable game escapes Atlanta’s grasp

The Hawks had, somehow, managed to keep themselves within arms length of the Cavaliers (10-ish points) when they ought to have been down by at least 20. However, as much as the Hawks were one run away from making this a game, the Cavaliers were always one run away from blowing this game wide open.

And that’s exactly what happened in the third quarter, as a 12-4 Cavs run meant that the Hawks were suddenly trailing by 18 points, with the crowd fully engaged fresh off of a thunderous LeBron dunk that put the Cavs up 72-54. Now all of a sudden the Hawks have gone from within a run of being in this game, to being in real danger of being blown out in Game 1 — how was their response? Immediate. Mike Scott canned a three-pointer to immediately hush the home crowd, the Hawks got a stop the other way, and then Dennis Schröder drained another three-pointer. In the blink of an eye the deficit was just 12 and the Cavs called for a timeout.

Great initial response from the Hawks not bury their heads after what could’ve been a game breaker for so many teams. A power-dunk from LeBron that put the Cavs up by 18 in the third quarter, with the crowd going nuts. Many teams never recover from that, but I think Mike Scott (being Mike Scott and doing Mike Scott things) shooting and making that three was massive at that time for the Hawks. The crowd is instantly hushed after that shot, and that helps the Hawks in their quest to get another stop. It fuelled the comeback. Never change, Mike Scott…

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The Atlanta Hawks are now on the brink of a second round matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as they blew out the Celtics 110-83 in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead. The Celtics were led by Evan Turner’s 15 points while the Hawks were led by Mike Scott’s — yes, Mike Scott’s Game 5 game high — 17 points. The scene now shifts to Boston for Game 6 where the Hawks will have the chance to close out the Celtics for good on Thursday night.

Limiting Isaiah Thomas

Heading into Game 5, Isaiah Thomas wasn’t just the top scorer of this series, but the top scorer of the entire playoffs, averaging 28 points. After he averaged 35 points between Games 3 and 4, the Hawks had an adjustment waiting for Thomas. A lot more trapping and double team action.

They basically forced Thomas to give up the ball and said to the other Celtics “Hey, you go make a play, you make this shot”.

And the Hawks set this tone very early in the game. Here, they try to trap Thomas by extending the double team near the halfway line. Thomas is forced to give the ball up, forcing Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson to try and make a play. In the end, Johnson gets tied up with Bazemore for a jump ball.

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The Atlanta Hawks dropped Game 4 in Boston in OT, 95-104, on Sunday evening. The loss means that the series is now tied 2-2 heading back to Atlanta for Game 5 on Tuesday. The Celtics were led by Isaiah Thomas’s 28 points, and… we’ll get to the Hawks’ leading scorer right now, in greater detail

Millsap’s career night marred by others not making shots

After struggling in the first three games of this series, Paul Millsap turned in the greatest scoring night of his career, scoring 45 points on 19-31 shooting — the most points scored by any Hawk in the playoffs since Dominique Wilkins back in the late 80’s. That’s just incredible, and Millsap was just incredible.

“Just put an emphasis on being aggressive, I felt like I wasn’t aggressive in the first three games and especially on the road, your backs against the wall you got to be aggressive. So, I just wanted to do that tonight and set a tone that way.” — Paul Millsap

“He was our offense. … His performance was amazing. That Paul Millsap right there was pretty awesome. He was in a funk the first couple of games. We knew that he was due to explode. It was good to see. That was the only positive out of this game.” — Al Horford

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The Boston Celtics gave themselves life in this series as they defeated the Hawks 111-103 in Game 3. The Hawks now carry a 2-1 series heading into Game 4 on Sunday. Isaiah Thomas led Boston to victory with a career high 42 points on 12-of-24 shooting. For the Hawks, they were led by Jeff Teague’s 23 points.

The Isaiah Thomas slap/punch on Dennis Schröder

Let’s just address the elephant in the room now and get it over with.

And I’m not sure what to call it, a punch or a slap… Whatever it was, it was pretty dirty and cheap from Thomas either way. If you haven’t seen it…

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In what was a defensive — and at times ugly — affair the Atlanta Hawks triumphed (89-72) over the Boston Celtics to take Game 2 and, with it, a 2-0 series lead in the first round. Kyle Korver and Al Horford both notched 17 points for the Hawks, while Isaiah Thomas led the way with 16 points for the Celtics.

First quarter blitz

In the last few games before the playoffs began, and Game 1 of this series, the Boston Celtics have been known to start the game off very slowly and this has left themselves facing an uphill battle from the very early stages of the game. That trend continued in Game 2, as the Hawks bolted out of the gates to take a 24-3 lead in the first seven minutes, eventually ending the first quarter with a 24-7 advantage (despite not scoring in the final 5:28).

The two teams would score the exact same number of points in the final three periods (65) so, in the end, the difference in this game was the first quarter. There were a few reasons why the Hawks blitzed the Celtics in the first quarter, let’s start with the Hawks defense, which fuelled everything else and set the tone for the rest of the game.

This was one of the first defensive possessions of the game. The Celtics try to run their offense, and it ends up with Jae Crowder attempting to get the ball over to Marcus Smart. Kent Bazemore reads the play, picks off the pass, and gets out in the open floor. He turns down the option to set up Kyle Korver and gets the friendly toilet rim roll on his three-point attempt.

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During Game 1, Celtics guard Avery Bradley suffered a hamstring injury mid-way through the fourth quarter. He tried to walk off the court by himself but was unable to do so, needing help to get back the Celtics dressing room.

The diagnosis, as given by head coach Brad Stevens, the following day was the one Celtic fans feared — Bradley is doubtful for the remainder of the series.

“The update on Avery is Avery has a pretty significant strained hamstring. I would say would be doubtful for any of the remainder of the series, certainly very unlikely Tuesday night (for Game 2). As of right now I would say he’s out Tuesday night, but obviously he’ll continue to get treatment around the clock and go from there. So I would say very unlikely the rest of the series.” — Coach Brad Stevens

Devastating news for the Celtics, but what does it mean for the series going forward?

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The Atlanta Hawks drew first blood in their round one matchup against the Boston Celtics, 101-102, to take a 1-0 lead in the series. The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague and Al Horford, who both registered  double-doubles, while the Celtics were led by Isaiah Thomas’ 27 points and eight assists.

Kent Bazemore also had a great game for the Hawks, scoring 23 points and was a constant menace to the Celtics’ defense with his cutting action.

A tale of two halves

The Celtics were pretty poor on the offensive end in the first half — 12-of-52 (23.1%) shooting and 2-of-16 (12.5%) from behind the arc made for a very disappointing first half for the Celtics. Bad shots, settling for jump shots, and some great defense displayed by the Hawks limited the Celtics to 34 first half points. However, sometimes words simply aren’t enough, and with that I present you the Celtics’ first half shot chart.

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Atlanta came into the game as the veteran team and they responded like one lead behind a strong fourth quarter performance from Jeff Teague in a 102-101 Game 1 win over the Boston Celtics.

“Last year was a great run for us, Eastern Conference Finals,” said Kent Bazemore in postgame. “Going that deep it does help, some people think it does not just because it’s a different year. Experience at times does beat talent.”

“I have been in the playoff every year, so I’m used to how it goes,” said Jeff Teague, who scored nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. “You cant get too high when you win and you cant get too low when you lose. We have a veteran group around here. We have been through some wars.”

Two teams that mirror one another in many ways were easily distinguished by defensive intensity early on. Even with the playoff experience from last season, Boston looked as if that experience had never happened in the first half. For most of it, Isaiah Thomas probed and probed searching for a soft spot in the Hawks defensive shield, but to no avail. The team shot just 23-percent from the field and 12.5-percent from downtown.

Surely, the Hawks were aware of the fight Boston has shown throughout this season, just recently coming behind from a 20 point deficit to defeat the Miami Heat. They trailed by 17 after the first half against Atlanta.

“They are great team coming from behind,” said Bazemore. “You look at the last regular season game, down huge to Miami. They came out in the third quarter to make it interesting. They have some blue collard guys over there that I really respect. They are not going to quit.” Continue Reading…

Every October, 30 NBA franchises (well, 29, discounting the Sixers who have no interest in the playoffs right now) begin a journey, a journey whose destination lies in the form of post season basketball, the playoffs – the pinnacle of professional basketball. The place where champions are crowned and legends are made. Only 16 teams will arrive at this destination come mid April. And out of those 16 teams, only eight of them – four East, and four West – will begin their playoffs journeys at home. The opportunity to play the first two games of a seven game series (at least in the first round of the playoffs) at home. The home fans cheering, feeding, and fueling their team with their energy and excitement, hoping they can use it to gain an advantage. This, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is known as home court advantage – something many teams strive for throughout the regular season in order to give themselves the best chance of success in the playoffs.

The Atlanta Hawks are one of the four teams in the Eastern Conference to secure home court advantage, thanks to the Boston Celtics’ loss against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night. Who they will face in the first round is unclear, that is to be determined on the final night of the regular season, tonight. They could face anyone of the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, or Boston Celtics.

But the objective of the Hawks’ season is not just to make the playoffs, nor to win just one playoff series and crash out in round two, happy with one playoff series win. I mean, that’s fine if you’re one of the lower seeds like the Detroit Pistons, but this Atlanta Hawks team is beyond that point in their journey. They are a team stacked with many veterans who have tasted the playoffs on many, many occasions (this current Hawks roster combine for 568 playoff games), and one playoff series win/getting KO’d in round two this season simply wouldn’t be good enough – especially for a team who made the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

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Clinching the 3-seed is unquestionably a present goal for the Atlanta Hawks, but performances like tonight against a high caliber opponent like the Boston Celtics is more paramount heading into postseason.

“The most important thing for us is to keep winning and playing well,” said Al Horford. “That’s the most important thing.”

Atlanta’s defense was at the top of Budenholzer’s list for most important adjustment to make at the half. The Hawks’ defensive coverages, mainly its ability to guard the 3-point line, were a tad bit late and against a team that moves the ball as well as Boston, that leads to them shooting 59% from downtown and scoring 71 points in just 24 minutes.

“We were just making mental mistakes, so many mental mistakes on the defensive end of the floor,” said Kyle Korver. “Against a good team, you cant make those mistakes. You cant just try and run the coverage, you have to be great.”

In the second half, they looked great, lead by Paul Millsap’s energy — 17 of his 31 points came in the 2nd half — and a collective defensive conscious to make life just a little harder on Boston. One thing about these Hawks is that they always seem to find a way to make adjustments without sacrificing their identity in the process. They came out with mindset to force more ball pressure on pick and rolls at the top, but to never over-extend too much, leading to mismatch after mismatch. This is what repeatedly occurred in the first half.

That began with the head of the snake, All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who shot just 2-for-12 from the field in the second half along with three turnovers. They then made a valiant effort on reacting much sooner within their coverages on the 3-point line in order to limit or contest the Celtics attempts from the three point line. (just 1-for-11 in the second half)

Coach Budenholzer later spoke about the success of these adjustments.

“Sometimes there are subtle changes, every teams does different things -o pick and rolls — you try to have a few things that you can use. To be honest with you, we looked at some clips at halftime. There was basic breakdowns, and there was some shot-making. I think we thought we could reduce our mistakes and not give some open looks and opportunities.” Continue Reading…