Archives For John Wall

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their fifth consecutive game in a tightly contested affair against the Washington Wizards in D.C. on Wednesday night. For the Wizards, they were led by Bradley Beal’s 28 points.

The Hawks had done a decent defensive job on John Wall, who was scoreless in the first half on 0-of-8 shooting but came to life in the second half, all 22 of Wall’s points coming in the second half. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Hawks with 29 points.

Standings watch

The Hawks retain the fifth seed in the East despite this loss after the Indiana Pacers lost in Boston on Wedneday night but there’s a new threat for the Hawks to worry about: The Milwaukee Bucks, winners of 10 games in their last 12. With the Bucks’ victory against the Kings, the Bucks move to just one game behind the Hawks and have wrestled the sixth seed away from the Pacers.

Atlanta’s next game? Yep. The Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee… What a huge game that will be.

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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.

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks began their new season with a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards at Philips Arena. Let’s dive right in.

Fourth quarter burst led by Tim Hardaway Jr.

Wow, those are words I didn’t think I’d type this season…

The Hawks led this game by one point (81-80) heading into the fourth quarter but a 20-4 run — with a lineup Paul Millsap and the second unit — in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quickly turned this game from a tight one to a near blowout. But it was Tim Hardaway Jr. who absolutely exploded in the fourth, scoring 12 of those 20 points during that decisive run. He shot 5-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 from behind the arc in the fourth, it was so good to see Tim have a game like this. He had a bad, very bad, beginning to the preseason but started to turn it around near the end of preseason and he showed up last night when the Hawks really needed some offense because it wasn’t looking pretty at time with Dennis Schröder running the point.

That lineup that led the fourth quarter charge — Delaney, THJ, Sefolosha, Millsap and Moose — had astronomical offensive ratings (points per 100 possessions). Malcolm Delaney, 121. Tim Hardaway Jr., 135. Thabos Sefolosha, 126. Paul Millsap, 115. And Mike Muscala, 116. And all of these guys played over 20 minutes too, not garbage time. Well, except for Malcolm Delaney, he played 19 minutes and 58 seconds…

Regardless, THJ provided the Hawks with the spark they needed in the fourth, he was fantastic. More of this, please!

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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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Last year the Atlanta Hawks took the NBA by surprise as they finished 60-22 and 12-4 in divisional play. This year poses a different challenge for Coach Bud and the team with expectations much higher than in recent seasons. Additionally, not only did the Eastern Conference get a much-needed face-lift, but the Southeast Division will also pose a much tougher challenge to these Hawks. Here’s a preview of what to expect from Atlanta’s division opponents in 2015-16:

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets fan base came into last season with high hopes coming off a 7th seed finish two years ago and the acquisition of Lance Stephenson in the offseason. So last year’s 33-49 record along with Stephenson’s 39% field goal percentage seemed like a bad joke Michael Jordan played on everyone.

In his third season, coach Steve Clifford will need to take the next step by placing more emphasis on improving the offensive scheme that ranked 28th in offensive efficiency last year. The addition of Nicholas Batum adds to an already stout defensive unit as well as a small forward that can stretch the floor. His presence on defense will be much needed with the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a torn labrum and seperated shoulder, suffered in last weekend’s preseason game against Orlando, that will sideline him for 6 months. Continue Reading…

For the fans, it seemed like this was going to end the most Atlanta-way possible.

Late in the fourth quarter with a four-point lead, all the Hawks had to do was get the ball inbounded and take the foul to go to the free throw line. The inbound pass found its way to Al Horford, the steady rock for the Hawks, the franchise cornerstone… but Horford panicked, causing a turnover.

The turnover led to two free throws for the Wizards and with with seven seconds left, the Hawks found themselves in the same spot: they just needed to get to the free throw line.

This time Horford held on to the ball and took the foul, and he headed to the free throw line. There, Horford missed the first, the ball bouncing off the rim four times before finally caroming out. Horford connected on the second free throw, putting the Hawks up three with seven seconds remaining.

And then Paul Pierce happened… or at least, so we thought. The Hawks’ defense on the Wizards was stifling for those seven seconds, forcing Pierce to take a heavily contested, fadeaway corner 3. Pierce, who has been a thorn for the Hawks ever since the 2008 first round series between the Hawks and Celtics, continued to torture the fans of Atlanta, sinking the improbable shot as the buzzer was sounding. Continue Reading…

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…

The way the Hawks played at the end of Game 3 against the Wizards was a breath of fresh air. There was defensive activity, ball movement, and open shots that actually went it.

Of course, this was not from the Hawks’ starters. This was Mike Muscala, Mike Scott, Dennis Schröder, and Shelvin Mack finally playing the way that the fans were accustomed to in the regular season. These players fought back from 20 points down to tie the game. Of course, the Hawks wound up with a loss, but the effort and revitalization of the bench was a welcome sight for Atlanta fans.

On Monday night, it’s time for the fans to see that effort from the starting unit.

In the first-round series against Brooklyn, the problem with the Hawks is that the bench unit was awful, save for Pero Antic. This somewhat carried over in the start of the series against the Wizards, forcing Mike Budenholzer to shorten his bench rotation as much as possible. However, the Hawks’ starters — except for DeMarre Carroll — have also had a problem for the nine games they have played so far in the playoffs: they have not made shots.

Jeff Teague’s true-shooting percentage in the playoffs? 46.0%, down from 56.6% in the regular season, a difference of 10.6%. Kyle Korver? 58.9%, which is still good, but it is down from 69.9% in the regular season. Paul Millsap? 50.4% in the playoffs, 56.5% in the regular season. And Al Horford? 49.2% in the postseason compared to 56.3% in the regular season. Continue Reading…

John Wall may be out, but the Wizards still had enough to hold off the Hawks on Saturday, beating the Hawks 103-101. The Hawks rallied back from 21 down to tie the game with 13 seconds left, but still fell victim to Washington. Here’s how it happened.

1. Paul Pierce still has it
Okay, he doesn’t always have it. He shot 5-for-12 from the field including 3-for-7 from 3, but in the deciding moment he scored the biggest two of his 13 points. Pierce in his 17th season saw that he would be guarded by Dennis Schroder and knew he would take the 21-foot game winning shot as the buzzer sounded. The veteran of many playoff battles also still has his quick wit, too. When Pierce told that Schroder called his bucket “lucky”, he game a wry smile and responded only as he can.

“He’s a little young, barely in his second year; of course he’s going to say that,” Pierce said. “He’s hasn’t been around long enough and probably missed with me in NBA 2K.”

Whenever Pierce decides to retire, he’ll be missed by the entire NBA community.

2. The wait for the Hawks to have a performance reminiscent to their regular season is becoming as long as the wait for Doctor Dre to drop Detox
Paul Millsap didn’t start the game due to flu-like symptoms, and it appeared the rest of the starting lineup caught whatever he had, because they all looked sluggish. Hawks got out to yet another lethargic start and didn’t seem like a very confident team after the game. DeMarre Carroll, who prior to the Game 3 defeat had been the Hawks best player in the playoffs, only saw the court for two seconds in the fourth quarter. That’s troubling enough, but his response was to why he wasn’t in on the last possession was even more puzzling: Continue Reading…