Archives For Bradley Beal

Atlanta has suffered through several blowouts so far this season that should give pause to whether or not this team is capable of making a deep playoff run.

In every single one of those blowouts, they looked unequipped and unenthusiastic facing opponents with several shooters and playmakers. Washington, Detroit, and Utah all showed just that this year’s defense, allowing the most points per game under Coach Budenholzer’s tenure, does not seem to be imposing their will on teams as in seasons past.

The reason that may be? Those aggressive teams mentioned above have figured out the weaknesses of the Hawks’ defense, and they are well-equipped to attack it.

“We know that they are a team that likes to have their bigs play back in pick and roll coverage,” said Washington’s Bradley Beal. “So we took full advantage of it and were able to come off screens for jumpers or get in the lane and create for someone else.”

Beal’s teammate — star point guard John Wall — added on to that assessment.

“They are a type of team that closes out the paint first, then closes out on shooters, so with me and Bradley being aggressive in pick and rolls, guys just have to be ready to shoot.” said Wall. “More teams are just going to give me the shot in pick and rolls by allowing me and Gortat to play two-on-tow or take us away and let the weak side score.”

In Washington and Atlanta’s Jan. 27 meeting that the Wizards won 112-86, the box score said the Wizards posted a 42% 3-point field goal percentage, but witnessing it felt more like 52%, as many of them were taken without much contest from defenders. More alarming than some of those other blowouts was that the Hawks were fully aware stepping onto this court that they were facing a Top 10 3-point shooting squad in Washington and apparently made no adjustments from their usual scheme.

The pick and roll scheme, along with electing to pack the paint, seems works well when you face teams like the Bulls or Nets that lack floor spacers. Honestly, it was very apparent last season when Cleveland swept Atlanta for a second straight time that eventually talents trumps scheme; we see that every year during march Madness when a Cinderella run ends once they face an overwhelming gifted roster.

Some believed heading into the season that Dwight Howard could take this Hawks defense to a level that Al Horford could not. Although Howard thrives in rim protection, teams have steadily tried to force him into defending the pick and rolls more frequently, an area he may not be completely comfortable in. Combined with that, the farther Howard is away from the rim, the less of a rebounding presence he becomes. This then results in more offensive opportunities for opponents, as evidence by the Hawks’ currently ranking 26th in opponent second chance points and 23rd in opponent offensive rebounds. While many put a lot of stock in Howard’s pure rebounding numbers, replacing Horford — who excelled in reading coverages and moving his feet well enough to disrupt ballhandlers — is not a skill you can find just anywhere in this league.

The focus in this series of clips is to watch how Howard and Mike Muscala have been instructed to sag back into the paint.

Now when Budenholzer chooses to blitz the ballhandler off the pick and roll by forcing him to one side of the floor, there are only two reactions from opponents: panic or patience. Teams like Washington and Cleveland play with a certain level of patience because they have multiple sources of offense. Those secondary options can make the right pass or drift to the right spot on the backside of the defense for higher percentage looks from downtown. Utah is another team this season who has proven that with length, shooting and playmaking, this Top 5 ranked defense can look discombobulated.

While the Hawks often excel at trapping, this series shows just how vulnerable the weakside is whenever the Hawks trap one side. Not every team can take advantage of that, but Utah’s Gordon Hayward explains why some of the top teams in the league are able to do so.

“They do a good job of coming over, shifting early and shutting down rolls,” said Hayward. “We are unique because we have a lot of playmakers and taller guys so we can see over the defense, which helps make that extra skip pass.”

Hayward’s teammate and point guard George Hill echoed similar sentiments.

“You have to be fundamentally sound when you play these guys,” said George Hill. “Coach Bud is a great coach and they have a lot of great players that are active. So you have to strategically pick them apart as far as attacking the bigs getting them in two-on-one options, where we can get the ball out of the trap and try to play two-on-one on the backside.”

For the last couple seasons, it always felt as though no matter how poorly the Hawks struggled to score the ball that the defense would always be there to keep the game close. They could buckle down in any moment and jumpstart some type of offense, but not so much this season. Yes, the defense enabled them to comeback from 20-point deficits in Milwaukee and Houston, but in order to think like a champion, you must think pessimistically. In the Hawks’ case, it’s not just about blown leads and lost games, but wins too; even in victories in which they had a substantial lead, they closed out the game rather poorly from a defensive standpoint.

Playoff time is just around the corner and no considerable changes to the roster seem forthcoming. The scheme can be and has been very effective obviously, but its weaknesses could very well be the reason they won’t make it very far in this year’s postseason.

On Monday night, the Washington Wizards snapped the Atlanta Hawks’ five game winning streak. Last night, the Hawks returned the favor by ending the Wizards’ newly acquired five game winning streak with a 122-101 victory in Washington. The Hawks were led by Dennis Schröder’s 23 points, while the Wizards were led by Marcus Thornton’s 23 points.

Revenge game

The Hawks haven’t fared too well in these ‘home and away’ fixtures this season. After winning two straight against Charlotte in their third and fourth games of the season, the Hawks dropped both of their home and away games against the Knicks and the Magic. Having dropped the first game of this home and away sled, the Hawks treated this game as a revenge game.

“…Guys might not say that but in my mind, we had to come out and get this. We did and it feels good.” — Al Horford

“It was a pride thing. We didn’t like the way we played (Monday). Obviously, they played well in Atlanta. It was definitely good to come out and win the game and get a little bit of revenge.” — Thabo Sefolosha

“Yeah, you can’t let a team beat you twice. It’s a tough league but as a team, as a team that wants to be great, you’ve got to take some pride in that. We took a little pride in that tonight. We came out and played angry and came out with the win.” — Paul Millsap

The victory sees the Hawks return to third seed (tied with Boston), in what is a very tightly contested race for home court advantage between Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, and Boston.

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The Washington Wizards snapped the Atlanta Hawks’ five game winning streak (so the ‘HaWWWWWks’ W’s disappear on Twitter, sadly) after triumphing over the Hawks 117-102.

Led by John Wall’s 27 points and 14 assists, the win puts the Wizards back in the playoff hunt with a .500 record — 35-35. The Hawks, meanwhile, were led by Jeff Teague’s 23 points, and Al Horford’s near triple double of 14 points, nine rebounds, and a season high nine assists.

The bottom line

Sometimes, in a loss, we try and pick at tiniest details as to why the Hawks lost, but that just isn’t necessary here. The bottom line is this — the Wizards just played better.

They scored more points (obviously), out rebounded the Hawks (44-33), dished out more assists (27-23), took more shots than the Hawks (91 FGA-78 FGA), turned the ball over less (9 TO’s-14 TO’s), came up with more steals (10 STLS-5 STLS), shot a better percentage from the field (50.5%-48.7%), shot a better three-point percentage (52%-39.4%), scored more second chance points (15-5), scored more points off of turnovers (14-9), scored more points in fast break situations (14-7), scored more points in the paint (36-34), held a lead as large as 16 (edging the Hawks’ largest lead of six), and never trailed in the second half.

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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…

Paul Pierce had another chance to terrorize the Hawks on Monday night. With eight seconds left on the clock, Pierce shot around a huge Nene screen and had an open 3-pointer for a chance to tie the game.

Apparently he didn’t call game this time.

Pierce missed the open shot, allowing the Hawks to walk away with a 106-101 victory to tie the series at two games apiece. The win gives home-court of the series back to the Hawks, having lost it by dropping Game 1 at home.

The biggest change for the Hawks was the play of Jeff Teague, who had his best game of the playoffs. Teague was out of control at time, but his aggression was a welcome sight from how he had played the first three games of the series. Teague finished with 26 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and what became the dagger 3-pointer, which he hit with 1:12 left to put the Hawks up seven.

Teague’s play did enough to offset the work of Washington’s Bradley Beal, who was absolutely magnificent with 34 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. In the absence of John Wall, Beal took over the Wizards’ offense successfully, often imitating Wall by just out-dribbling the Hawks down the floor in transition. Beal has been great for Washington in this series and there is a huge reason for the Hawks to be concerned by him in Game 5. 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 Hawks may have lost their franchise-record 19-game winning streak on Monday in New Orleans, but they were right back on track when the Washington Wizards came to Atlanta on Wednesday night. As soon as the game tipped off, news broke that the Hawks had won the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award for January. Not one player, but the entire starting lineup.

Any worries that the Hawks would be looking forward to Friday’s matchup against the Golden State Warriors were put to bed in the first quarter, in which Atlanta closed on a 16-3 run. The Hawks took a 13-point lead into halftime, but the Wizards were quick to bounce back, opening on a 20-10 run in the first six minutes of the third quarter and taking the lead late in the quarter.

Atlanta took a slim 77-74 lead into the fourth quarter but turned up the heat, culminating in the Hawks’ Dunk of the Year.

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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 were in Washington on Tuesday night for the first game of a four-games-in-five-nights stretch and walked away with the win, 106-102. Jeff Teague led the way with 28 points and Mike Scott came up big off the bench with 17 points and seven rebounds, with 12 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks took a 41-39 lead into the break, but it was an uglier first half than the scoreline indicates. The referees were prominently involved on both ends, and when the teams weren’t being fouled, they were turning it over. There were 18 fouls called in the first half, split evenly between the two teams, and the teams combined to turn the ball over 23 times. Both teams shot under 40% in the first half, including a disastrous 1-for-7 performance from DeMarre Carroll and a combined 2-for-14 from the Wizards’ Paul Pierce and Bradley Beal. The two point guards led the way for their respective teams; Teague had 10 points and John Wall had 13 at the half.

Atlanta cleaned up their offense in the second half and continued to force turnovers from the sloppy Wizards guards. Wall and Beal accounted for 13 of the 25 Wizards turnovers and the Hawks took full advantage, scoring 32 points off of those 25 turnovers. Atlanta finished with 13 steals and 6 blocks, including a season-high four steals for Carroll. Continue Reading…