Archives For Dwight Howard

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Monday afternoon’s game against the New York Knicks marked the Atlanta Hawks’ 41st game of the regular season, the halfway point of the Hawks’ regular season. It has certainly been a topsy-turvy 41 games to say the least and with the Hawks not in action until tomorrow, now seems like a good time to breakdown the Hawks’ season so far using a number of different headings and awards.

Team stats

Let’s go through the splits — and where in the league the Hawks rank — first and then we’ll have a lovely little chat about it.

(Stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference and are correct as of January 16th)

Record: 24-17 (4th in the East, 11 overall)

PPG: 103 (19th)

FG%: 45.6% (14th)

3PM: 9 (19th)

3P%: 34.6% (23rd)

FT%: 71.8% (28th)

RPG: 44 (13th)

ORPG (offensive rebounds per game): 10.6 (12th)

APG: 24.1 (6th)

SPG: 8.7 (3rd)

BPG: 5.1 (10th)

TOV: 15.5 (25th)

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Glenn James/Getty Images/NBAE

The Atlanta Hawks increased their winning streak to six following their 97-82 triumph against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center on Saturday night. Harrison Barnes led the way for the Mavericks with 21 points while Devin Harris and Dirk Nowitzki both added 11 points each.

Taking care of business

The Hawks are now six games unbeaten, however, the counter-argument to that would be their last three wins have comes against teams below .500. And that’s a fair point, but the Hawks are still taking care of business as they should be.

“We did what we set out to do. We got three out of three. We are pleased with it. We are pleased with our play. We still can get better in some areas but we are happy with where we are now.” — Paul Millsap

The Mavs are probably the worst team out of the bunch that the Hawks have played of late, sat at the bottom of the Western Conference with an 11-26 record. The Mavs played the Hawks well for three quarters, recovering from a nine point deficit in the third quarter with a 9-0 run to tie the game, but a 10-0 Hawks run the fourth quarter left the Mavericks in a difficult position: a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of. The Hawks outscored the Mavs 31-23 in the final period, winning by 15 in the end.

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A new era of Atlanta Hawks basketball began on Saturday night in Dallas. The Kyle Korver-less Hawks took on the Dallas Mavericks in a battle of two teams constantly in the middle of trade rumors. After a mostly pac-and-forth affair, the Hawks made it six wins in a row as they outran the Mavericks in the fourth quarter 97-82.

Much like the North Texas weather, were icy cold from the field. The Hawks had trouble with Harrison Barnes and Devin Harris in the first half, but managed to keep it close during a strong Mavs run. When the starters were inserted back into the lineup near the end of the 2nd quarter, the Hawks gathered some steam and went into halftime with a solid lead.

At one point in the 2nd quarter, two straight Mavs possessions ended in Deron Williams backing down Dennis Schroder in the post. Dennis the Menace flopped both times, resulting in an embarrassing, laughing-at-himself no call, and then a charge on the second. Dennis must be preparing for the Golden Globes this weekend.

The Hawks exploded offensively in the fourth period as they relied on their leader, Paul Millsap. He attacked the Mavs relentlessly and scored ten points in the frame, six of them coming from the foul line.

Hack-a-Dwight returned halfway through the 4th quarter as Rick Carlisle searched for answers. However, Dwight was the victor from the line in this ball game. In total, he shot seven of nine from the charity stripe and four of six during the Hack-a-Dwight period. After failing to make up any serious ground, the Mavs essentially conceded the game by inserting in their reserves with about three minutes remaining, which led us to the 97-82 final score.

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6-17 at 10.05 PM

The roller coaster ride for the Hawks so far this season cannot be resolved in a few adjustments, the roster is what it is and therefore instead of asking what they’re missing, ask who needs to step up. Out of all the lineup changes and injuries this team has endured so far, they will need more production out of their first year starting point guard Dennis Schroder to be that stable force.

Now that may seem unfair for a guy playing at the deepest position in the league with a team lacking shooters and a real on-court identity. Preseason polls predicted the Hawks would finish in the bottom half of the East, but this team believes they have all the right pieces to finish well beyond that prognosis and in order for them to meet those goals they need Schroder at his best. Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard may draw the most attention from opposing defenses, but make no mistake Schroder is the most important component and this team follows his lead.

“When he’s playing downhill it opens everything up, not too many people can stay in front of him,” said Kent Bazemore on Schroder. “He does such a great job putting pressure on the rim. I think he is a very underrated passer. Some of the passes he makes can shock you. When he is balling like that it gives us a very good chance of winning. But it is an adjustment for him playing starter minutes and us demanding so much from him.”

Three-time Hawks All-Star Paul Millsap gave Schroder similar praise.

“He puts a lot of pressure on the defense, especially when he’s attacking downhill,” said Millsap. You have to respect it and when he doesn’t have it he’s good at making the pass to get another guy a shot.”

 

Here you can see Schroder’s knack of finding the open man and not only finding the open man. He not only finds the man but uses his penetrating ability to draw defenders and create easier scoring opportunites for guys like Sefolosha, Bazemore and Millsap. These plays also show his development in reading defenses properly and making the correct pass.

The numbers don’t lie, when Schroder scores 24 points or more the Hawks are 6-2. In those eight games he went for 31 against Westbrook, 27 against Derrick Rose, 28 against the Golden State killer that is Kyrie Irving and 24 a piece facing Steph Curry and Kyle Lowry. Majority of those games have two things in common: matchups with elite point guards that were on the road.

That brings forth another task within this quandary to solve, because it is apparent he’s carrying a little extra motivation away from Philips Arena than in it. Schroder admitted postgame after falling to the Timberwolves for a third consecutive home loss that he has a bigger appetite for away games. Now that may be due to the lack of home court advantage offered to him in Atlanta, but regardless, admitting is one thing; actually dissecting as to why there is such a vast difference in production is another. Along with his home-away dilemma, Schroder’s ability to dissect the way defenses are choosing to guard him is still a work in progress, but his level of aggressiveness can’t be, it must be there every night for this Hawks team.

“Being a point guard is a hard job because you need to score,” said Kyle Korver on Schroder. “Getting into the paint sucks in the defense, but you also need to get everyone involved. I think Dennis has done a good job, especially the last couple weeks of finding a balance of knowing when to score and when you need to get the ball moving, get others involved, get them feeling like they are on their game. It’s a hard thing to do and honestly there aren’t a lot of guys in the NBA that do a great job at it. Its tough to be a real scorer and real playmaker, there’s not many, but I believe Dennis has the talent to do that and he’s been finding his way.”

As Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard have adjusted their games to the individuals surrounding them by accepting more responsibility and being that catalyst, so should Dennis. Even in an offense that believes strongly in sharing the ball, head coach Mike Budenholzer trusts Dennis more than any other guard as he is presently accounting for a 26-percent usage rate. The time is now for him to place more attention on looking for his own shots just a bit more than being a distributor with the team consistently fluctuating in and out of playoff contention.

So far he’s accepted the challenge from the doubters who said he couldn’t shoot the deep ball, he’s currently shooting career best 36-percent. When they said he’s not enough of a mid-range threat, he’s responded by shooting 52-percent from 15-19 feet. The season is still relatively young, but these are big strides for such a young player stepping into a bigger stage.

 

Many were wondering coming into the season how Schroder would fair as a shooter now that he is the starting. He began the year struggling, but since has improved significantly. During the 9-2 start he was shooting just 34% from 20-24 feet and since has upped that to 42%. He looks a lot more confident stepping into those shots and is understanding defenses are playing him for the drive.

Even nine time all-star Chris Paul is plagued with the same dilemma, whether to look for his own early or to defer to his teammates. It’s a tough balance for pass first primary ball handlers who are  surrounded by dependent pieces.

“I like to feel the game out in the first few minutes and see what they [defense] are doing,” said Schroder. “If they are heavily shifting I have to pass the ball more and if they are not then I just try to be aggressive. Coach is letting me know every time that I have to be aggressive for us to be successful, so I am just trying to find the balance.”

Those dependent pieces like Sefolosha, Bazemore and Howard do not thrive strictly on whether or not they take a certain amount of shots per game, but playing alongside a point guard who is looking to annihilate defenses anyway possible can also affect those individuals to play at a level much higher than their ceiling. Jason Kidd accomplished that in 2001 with the likes of Keith Van Horn, Kerry Kittles and Todd MacCulloch. After the departure of Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton stepped up and led his team to a first round appearance in 2000.  Allen Iverson’s MVP season and Finals run is even more remarkable looking at the parts around him. Schroder can relate closely with Derrick Rose’s time in Chicago, who also played alongside few legitimate scoring options for a defensive minded head coach. Those are some of the greatest basketball talents this game has ever seen and comparing Schroder to them may seem unfair, but the focus is the intent, not from whom it came. Each of those guys precisely gauged the hand they were dealt and responded in the only way they knew possible.

“There are times we go in a scoring drought and we just look at him like you can get your shot, get to that pullup, get to the rim, and get us going,” said Bazemore post Hawks victory versus the New York Knicks. “He did that tonight, there was a point there where it was back and forth and we weren’t getting any stops. He came back in and hit some very big pullups for us and that’s what you need out of your point guard. Being that floor general and seeing that his guys aren’t doing well or cant it going, to step in and fill that void is huge for us”-

For the past couple years this team have relied on Al Horford and Paul Millsap for majority of their offense, but this is a different team now that requires a bigger scoring presence from its point guard than ever before.

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks avenged the ghosts of Christmas past/December 2nd (the day the Hawks lost by 36 points at home to the Pistons) and knocked off the Detroit Pistons 105-98. The win is Atlanta’s second in succession and — given the Hawks’ yo-yo nature this season — their first back-to-back victories since November 15th (vs. Miami) and November 16th (vs. Milwaukee). The Pistons were led by a season high 22 points from The Tackle Box: Jon Leuer.

Season high from Korver and defense lifts Hawks to victory

Kyle Korver poured in a season high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, with most of those 22 points off of two-pointers rather than threes.

korvervsdet

Korver’s 22 off the bench helped the Hawks’ bench outscore Detroit’s bench 38-15 which was huge for the Hawks. Per Chris Vivlamore of the AJC, when Kyle was asked what the difference was to this game and the last game the Pistons played, Dennis Schröder — at his own locker — said “Kyle Korver“.

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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks won their first overtime game since the March 18th 2014 as they outlasted the New York Knicks in overtime, 102-98. In what was an ugly affair to watch at times, the Hawks evened up the season series with the Knicks 1-1 and the victory lifts the Hawks back to .500 at 16-16. Derrick Rose led the way for the Knicks with 26 points while Kristaps Porzingis added 24 points.

An ugly game but Hawks get it done… eventually

While this was a closely contested and chippy game (no team led by more than eight points while four technical fouls and two flagrant fouls were issued) it was certainly not a pretty game. Both teams shot below 40% (37% for the Knicks, 36% for Atlanta) and both shot 7-of-27 from behind the arc. But those numbers don’t do this game justice, it was ugly to watch.

“It was scrappy. We did a lot of good things on the floor. The defense was pretty good down the stretch. We have to continue to get better.” — Dwight Howard

But the bottom line is the Hawks got this one done, snapping a long streak of losing in overtime. I want to look at the last possession of regulation, because the Hawks had the opportunity to win this game in regulation. Let’s take a look at it first.

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 26: Dwight Howard #8 of the Atlanta Hawks dunks the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 26, 2016 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks fell — in spectacular fashion — to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time this season, falling 104-90 at Target Center. And, to be honest, that scoreline flatters the Hawks, the Wolves just ran the Hawks out of the building. The Wolves outscored the Hawks 66-40 in the second and third quarters, sending the Wolves to just their fifth victory at home. Karl-Anthony Towns shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the field on his way to 22 points while Zach LaVine torched the Hawks from the outside, shooting 6-of-9 from three-point range on his way to 21 points.

For the Hawks, no one outside of Dwight played particularly well, the starters (outside of Dwight) combining for just 30 points.

Raining threes 

The Timberwolves tied their season high of 15 three-pointers last night as they shot 15-of-31 from behind the arc. The Wolves were on fire from three but they sure had help because the Hawks did not defend the perimeter very well. That’s not to say the Wolves didn’t deserve the shots they took/made because they moved the ball well last night and made some tough shots too, but they shouldn’t have made as many as 15. Let’s take a look at some of the easier threes the Hawks allowed last night.

A poor pass from Dwight is telegraphed by Ricky Rubio and LaVine drifts out to the three-point line. Kent Bazemore is supposed to be guarding LaVine, but decides to head towards Karl-Anthony Towns instead and leaves LaVine wide open and he knocks the three down.

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