Archives For Eastern Conference

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Second game of a back-to-back at home following a great win Cleveland… Perfect setup for a let down game, right? Wrong. Behind a total team effort (eight player scoring in double digits), the Atlanta Hawks won their second game in two nights with a 107-115 victory over the Chicago Bulls. Thabo Sefolosha led the team in scoring with 20 points while Dwight Howard added another double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Thabo and the bench

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 Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America

It’s time. After a whole summer of talking and a little bit of action in the preseason, it’s time for Atlanta Hawks basketball — proper. This Thursday, at Philips Arena, the Hawks tip off their season against the Washington Wizards. And let’s be honest, we have no idea how this Hawks team is going to fare this season in the Eastern Conference. We’ll get to why that is in a bit, but first let’s go over what the Hawks did this summer and we’ll take it from there.

In: Dwight Howard, Malcolm Delaney

Out: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich,

Drafted: Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry

For better or for worse?

Al Horford is gone — gone because the Hawks didn’t want to max him (and not even the max as it turned out) for five years and gone because he wasn’t the front office’s top priority. It’s as simple as that. Jeff Teague requested a trade, that was granted and now he resides in Indiana. The two most important positions on the court are, arguably, the point guard and center positions and now the Hawks have to plug in new players into those respective positions. That’s always a concern heading into a new season, especially for a team that preached continuity at the end of the season.

To replace Horford and Teague the Hawks added Dwight Howard and gave the point guard reigns to Dennis Schröder.

I still believe that Schröder is not ready to be a starting point guard in this league. I feel he’s still too erratic and one of those players where he’ll do something and you’ll sit there and think “What the flip was that, Dennis???”. And that happens often too. I also worry about his shooting. One of the better things Teague did last year was shoot 40 % from behind the arc — a team best. Schröder shot 32% from behind the arc. Offensively, Jeff just makes better decisions and is a better offensive player than Dennis. But the one thing Dennis does have going for him is his defense — his defense is absolutely ready for a starting role and he should improve the team at the point guard position from a defensive point of view. I still think it’s too soon though…

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Home is a place of refuge, a place to reset, regroup and re-energize; but for the Hawks, all they received was a 121-108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the first two and a half quarters, they returned back to the style of basketball that brings the most success to them as they forced turnovers, played physical and mailed in good looks from 3-point land. This game, Coach Budenholzer decided to shake things up a bit by adding more defense and hustle to the lineup, replacing Kyle Korver with Thabo Sefolosha and giving Kris Humphries more meaningful minutes.

“You have to change. We’re in the playoffs,” said Al Horford, who scored 24 points. “We’re fighting for our playoff lives right now. At this point, we have to do some changes because what we’ve done hasn’t worked. We felt good about tonight, but we had some mistakes that cost us.”

Those mistakes Horford referred to came mostly in the the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, as Cleveland made adjustments that then forced the Hawks into questionable shot selections, wasteful possessions and worst of them all, turnovers. The fourth quarter defense looked much like every quarter in Game 2, as Cleveland’s ball movement found the right shooter at the right time.

Atlanta plays best when their defense initiates their offense, but that was no more, and they were forced into a shootout they had no bullets for. 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…

After a couple days of much needed rest, the Hawks returned home to get their first win in 16 days against the Chicago Bulls. In the past three games, Atlanta has had no problem scoring the ball, but it has been their most reliable asset, defense, that hasn’t looked quiet the same.

Today, shooting just 42% from the field and 20% from 3, they buckled down and showed why they are currently the third ranked defense in the NBA.

“Before the All-Star break, I thought we were playing great defense,” said Kyle Korver after a 103-88 win over the Bulls. “If you look at all the analytics and rankings, I think we were number one in the NBA for a month and a half. We were playing great defense. We came out of the break and had a slippage. So it was good for that to end and get back tonight.”

The Bulls were under a constant barrage all night, as both units from the Hawks capitalized on the absence of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Aaron Brooks and E’twaun Moore attempted to hold the fort down, but never seemed comfortable and the lack of chemistry could not be more obvious. The two, who are viewed more as scorers than distributors, were accountable for nine of the teams 21 turnovers. Continue Reading…

As we reach the end of the season the bottom half of the Eastern conference is in a tight race. The Nets have been pulling away as of late, but they aren’t out of the woods yet. The Wizards are holding on to that 5-6 range for dear life and the Bobcats are making a mad push for the sixth seed.

But where does this leave Atlanta? Currently at the bottom of the East playoffs in that eight spot. It’s possible with the team finally healthy (when Korver gets back into the lineup) they will make a run at a higher seed. I decided to take a look at their remaining schedule, along with everybody else in the 5-7 slots, to see how they might finish position wise.

Ground rules:

I will use my judgement to try and figure out who I think should win the game based on factors such as skill, being on a back to back, and home/away.

Games between Atlanta, Charlotte, Brooklyn, and Washington will use a 1-10 number generator: 1-5 is a win and 6-10 is a loss. For the Hawks, I rolled on them. For other games, I rolled on the home team.

If there are extraneous circumstances then I will consider those. For instance, Atlanta had a back to back where they had to play in Charlotte then go back home to Atlanta. That’s a 40 minute plane flight, not the roughest travel for the Hawks.

Remember this is all in a vacuum under a certain set of rules to try and look at the remaining schedules. The intent is to give us an idea of how the season might finish out. I am not saying this is how it will end or if this is how I think it will end.

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