Archives For defense

No matter the record or seeding, some teams just give you a tough time.

For Atlanta, that has been the Milwaukee Bucks so far this season after defeating them three out of the four meetings last year. But this year has been a different story, as the Bucks have defeated Atlanta twice with both games defeats ending in overtime. This matchup has a boxing match feel to it, two contrasting styles, Rocky versus Drago.

This one ended with Atlanta’s arm being raised up last winning 101-90, capturing their first win over the Bucks this season.

“At the end of the day they are in the top two or three, if not the best at scoring in the paint,”said Coach Mike Budenholzer. “We wanted to do everything we could to take that away.”

Hawks only trailed momentarily in the first couple minutes of the game, but never did thereafter despite not shooting the ball well — 42.3% from the field and 15.6% from 3 — because of yet another strong defensive effort. Milwaukee’s length and athleticism are the main reasons the Hawks have such a difficult time running their offense. The Bucks decided this game to place more emphasis on the Hawks 3-point attempts, which meant more opportunities inside for Atlanta. They were able to capitalize, scoring 58 points in the paint.

On defense, Atlanta decided to pack the paint and limit the longer Bucks from points in the paint. Games like is just another testament to the Atlanta’s ability to win in a variety of ways, which will come in handy in late April or May. This time instead of their usual emphasis on aggressively guarding perimeter players, they showed the ability to clog the paint and still be effective.

“This is a team that has given us problems over the last couple years,” said Kyle Korver post-game. “They are a tough team for us to play against. We wanted to protect the paint and force them to shoot from the outside. It is important for us to grind games out against a team thats big when we are not shooting the ball that well.” Continue Reading…

Similar to the first meeting back in January, the lowly Bucks gave the Hawks all they had and then some.

Atlanta weathered the storm, came back, took the lead, but eventually fell in double OT 117-109. It’s the third straight loss at home, which has not happened since 2004.

“Anytime the game goes two overtimes, there are opportunities for both teams. In the second overtime, they got a little separation, a couple baskets we were not able to score. Our execution could be better in some situations, including at the end of games.”

So much buzz surrounded the team over the break about the futures of Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder, back-to-back losses like these only bring on more questions and frustration. The offense is a little out of sync, piling up 21 turnovers versus Miami on Friday and shooting just 44% from the field against Milwaukee.

“It’s very disappointing,” Horford, who ended with 17 points and nine rebounds, said postgame. “We have nice homestand here. This is not the way we pictured it going. We are really in a hole right now.” Continue Reading…

There are a lot of pains on both ends of the game by adding a new coach with a completely new system. Terminology, roles, sets, and various other things can be so vastly different that even the most intelligent players can look out of sorts. For Atlanta’s offense, the transition has been much smoother than we expected. Usually that is the first place that people like to look for stuggles with a new coach, as typically it is assumed offense is more complex than defense. However, when you have bell-cows down low such as Paul Millsap and Al Horford who can consistently score the ball at the high level that they are, the growing pains are dramatically lessened.

The defensive cramps that come from change have been much more than cramps though. Atlanta’s defensive rating through six games is 103.7, which is poor enough to be tied for the 7th worst mark in the league. The main cause of this low mark has been opponents shooting the ball from deep often and effectively. The Hawks are giving up 9.8 threes a game, which is second most in the league, and they are also giving up a 40.7% 3PT% to the other team, which is the fourth worst mark. This combination is extremely deadly and is accentuated by teams like the Denver Nuggets going 14-for-25 this past Thursday night. Denver isn’t known as a team that is trying to beat their competition by shooting threes and shouldn’t have that kind of mark against anyone.

Let’s take a look at the shot chart on opponent’s three-pointers against the Hawks. Continue Reading…

joshsmith alhorford

Do you remember, before the season started, when I said that the Hawks defense would take a bit of a step back and they would be mainly reliant on the offense to get wins? Yeah, forget that.

Thirteen games into the season, the Hawks are first in the NBA in defensive rating (points given up per 100 possessions) at 98.5, first in forcing turnovers (by percentage), and second in opponent’s field goal percentage. Considering that the offense has been a bit below average so far, the team’s 9-4 record is largely a reflection of the team’s defensive efforts.

Last season, Atlanta was 6th in defensive rating mostly without Al Horford, so it’s not like they were supposed to fall off of a cliff with Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams (both plus defenders) leaving town. It just seemed like they would tumble a little closer to the league average.

Well, Horford, with the help of Josh Smith, said no to that theory.

Looking at the numbers, Horford and Smith have been absolutely dominate defensively when they are on the floor together. According to, when the two are on the court, the Hawks have a D-Rtg of 93.7, which is five points better than the team’s overall, league-leading D-Rtg. Individually, Josh has been a terror upon opponents, holding opposing power forwards to a PER of 11.7, and opposing small forwards to a PER of 3.1. (!!!)

However, the two’s biggest contribution to the Hawks’ defense is their abilities to switch.

Started under Mike Woodson, and perhaps perfected by Larry Drew, the Hawks have always been a team that will constantly switch on screens. Josh and Al are probably two of the best bigs in the NBA when it comes to this, and they essentially offset the pick-and-roll threat of most teams. Continue Reading…