Archives For Mike Budenholzer

The Atlanta Hawks couldn’t stop the San Antonio Spurs from moving atop of the Western Conference as the Spurs topped the Hawks 107-99 in San Antonio. The Spurs were led by Kawhi Leonard’s 31 points while Patty Mills — in place of the injured Tony Parker — scored 15 points and dished out nine assists. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s double-double, 22 points and 10 assists.

The streak continues

February 15th 1997. That was the date the Hawks last beat the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio and last night that losing streak (now 19 games) continued.

Without LaMarcus Aldridge (get well soon) and Tony Parker, this was as good of a time as ever for the Hawks to, perhaps, emerge from San Antonio with a victory but, alas, it was not to be. Kawhi Leonard was just so good, a truly special talent and an MVP candidate. His contributions on both ends of the floor were a huge reason why the Spurs won this game, as is often the case.

Threes the key

You can look at this game in two different ways: The Hawks either lost this game because they couldn’t contain San Antonio’s three-pointers, or because they couldn’t hit their own threes. The Spurs hit a season-high 16-of-34 (47%) from behind the arc while the Hawks only hit 6-of-22 (27%) from behind the arc, San Antonio outscoring the Hawks 48-18 from three. Take your pick, either way, the three-pointer was the difference.

After, seemingly, taking steps forward when it came to defending the three — holding Memphis and Toronto to a combined nine threes — the Hawks appear to have taken a step back in San Antonio.

We’re going to take a look at some of San Antonio’s threes.

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This game symbolized the best of times and the worst of times. Atlanta for right now is enjoying the best of times these days and Memphis is stuck in the worst. The Hawks jumped out to an early lead in the early frame and it was all she wrote from there. The Atlanta Hawks went to Tennessee and turned the Grindhouse into a vacation spot dominating the Memphis Grizzlies 107-90. The struggling Hawks defense of late, who was without Dwight Howard,  being held out for rest held Memphis to 37.8% from the field. For a complete recap of the game, check out Graham Chapple on HawksHoop.com. As always, it is a thorough and informative read.

The Hawks were led by, you guessed it, Dennis Schroder. But not on the offensive end; on this night it was on the defensive end. Schroder locked in on Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley and made him work all night long. The rest of his teammates followed his cues and dominated the game start to finish. It’s the start to my…

Three Lessons

Lesson number one: Oh, the Atlanta Hawks have a bench now?

Breaking news to HawksHoop! The Atlanta Hawks have bench scoring for a change. Even more amazing, a bench player led the team in scoring! Hawks rookie Taurean Prince led the team in scoring with 17 points. Not Dennis Schroder, not Paul Millsap, but Taurean Prince. Prince had set his career high by the end of the first quarter with 12 and went on knock down five of his six shots. Prince knocked down three of four three pointers, hit all of his four free throws, grabbed three rebounds, dropped two dimes, had a couple of steals and a block. Quite a mouthful huh? Jose Calderon scored 14 points in 19 minutes (this was a bad night for the Grizzlies folks!) to lead the consistent production from the bench all night. The is not the bench mob, but for one night it’s not Tim Hardaway Jr. show by himself.

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Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks extended their winning streak to three games against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, with a107-90 victory at Fed Ex Forum. In a wire-to-wire victory, Taurean Prince led the Hawks with 17 points while Dennis Schröder and Paul Millsap both added 16 points. For the Grizzlies, JaMychal Green led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Mike Conley added 16 points.

Perimeter shooting proves decisive

A summary of this game — why the Hawks won and the Grizz lost — in nine-ish words: The Hawks made their shots, the Grizzlies did not.

Memphis’ shot chart

ATL’s shot chart

It really was as simple as that. The Hawks shot 50% from the floor and 50% from behind the arc while the Grizzlies shot 38% from the the floor and 17% (5-of-29) from three-point range. The Hawks’ defense was good but Memphis’ offense was quite poor and they settled for a lot of jumpshots that didn’t go down. But give credit to the Hawks, whose man and ball movement was very good but perhaps there’s another reason why the Hawks’ offense was a little more fluid in terms of ball and man movement…

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The Atlanta Hawks accomplished a very important task starting a interesting journey to the playoffs. After beating the Brooklyn Nets in an overall very lackluster performance (outside of Dennis Schroder), the Hawks finished a disappointing home stand with a 105-99 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.

With the win, the Hawks finished with a 3-3 record and possibly avoiding a potential collapse in the locker room and playoff race to end the season. Atlanta took the season series from the Raptors 2-1 and now own the tie-breaker if the two teams end the season with the same record to determine a playoff position. As always for a total recap of the game, please check out Graham Chapple’s piece on the game on HawksHoop.com. As always, it is a informative and thorough read. With Atlanta in the five slot and chasing Toronto in the fourth spot. THIS GAME WAS HUGE! This could be the start of something here folks.

Dennis Schroder scored 26 points, including 13 points in winning time to lead the Hawks. This has been a massive turnaround from the benching earlier on in the week. I have to admit, I thought this was a major issue (I think it may come back at playoff time but who knows?) but Schroder has done an outstanding job as of late of “walking the walk” and putting the situation behind him. A lot of times players and coaches say everything is okay for the cameras and reporters, but for now, it’s happening before our eyes. Paul Millsap had 21 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 20.

DeMar DeRozan finished with 28 points but he shot 12-for-30 to get those points including 1-for-8 from 3-point land. Serge Ibaka had 18 points for the Raptors.

Looking at this potential first round matchup, I learned a lot, but here are my most important…

Three Lessons

Lesson number one: Boy!!! Dennis Schroder is BALLIN!!!!

Like Jim Jones style…Schroder fly high…no lie…like show biz…BALLIN! The magic number for the Atlanta Hawks when it comes to Dennis Schroder is 25. When he scores more than 25 points in a game, the Hawks have lost only once this season. It bears repeating here, when the Hawks need a basket, Dennis can create offense for his teammates and himself. This was very evident in the fourth quarter when the game was close at 86 apiece.

This is where Schroder took over scoring two baskets in a row and eight of the next ten points to give the Hawks a 96-88 lead. Also read…The Raptors could not stop the Atlanta point guard in crunch time. Throw in six rebounds and five assists, Schroder played an efficient and strong floor game. This is what the Hawks envisioned giving him the keys to the franchise.

Dwane Casey called the struggle a “tough stretch defensively”

More thoughts from Casey, via ESPN.com:

“I thought, other than that, we were competing,”

How about Head Coach, Mike Budenholzer’s take on Schroder’s play…

“Dennis has the ball in his hands a lot of times in the fourth quarter  making decisions, making a good play,” Budenholzer said. “I think it was him offensively then our defense giving us that little bit of separation.”

The wonderful thing about the aggressiveness of Schroder is being able to break down the defense and disrupt the Raptors down the stretch. It seemed to Schroder could get to the paint at will.

Budenholzer’s take on that…

“He collapses the defense”…”He creates offensive rebounding opportunities. At some point, they start switching. Paul drives to the basket and gets the fifth foul on Ibaka after a switch. That’s a tough cover for a point guard covering Paul. I think there a lot of things between Paul and Dennis that they create good things for us.”

Speaking of Paul Millsap…

Lesson number two: Paul Millsap is a MAN!

The Toronto game marked the fifth game that Millsap topped the 20 point plateau. In various NBA circles it has been mentioned that Paul Millsap is one of the most underrated players in the league. In an era where numbers are considered the blueprint of how good players are, Millsap averages around 18 points a game but is a dominant dynamic to the Hawks…

Thabo Sefolosha’s take on Millsap’s importance, via ESPN.com:

“The whole team, we look to him a lot,” Sefolosha said. “He does a lot of things. He can score. He can pass the ball. He’s definitely our go-to-guy. He’s feeling good and he’s doing everything for us out there.”

What you see with Kawhi Leonard in the Western Conference with the San Antonio Spurs is what you get with Paul Millsap in Atlanta. I love the way he goes out and quietly puts in work. The numbers are not as gaudy, but just as important to the Hawks. Millsap is not the guy that is concerned about his “brand”. He’s concerned about being a professional NBA player that goes out and helps his team the best way he knows how. This is not limited to on the court play. He is a key locker room guy that the Hawks need for leadership. This was never more evident than this week, when he spent time on the phone with Dennis Schroder giving advice on moving forward with the benching incident against the Warriors. Since then, Schroder and the Hawks have been on a roll.

Lesson three: Dwight Howard was very active and engaged.

Maybe it was Shaquille O’Neal at courtside looking for Shaqtin A Fool clips. I don’t know, but Howard was active scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, three on the offensive boards. With two blocks and a steal, Howard showed life in a game he should have the matchup advantage. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Howard knocked down six of his nine shots in the game. It is going to be interesting how many fourth quarters Dwight is going to be sitting if he continues to shoot 4-for-10 from the free throw line. He has to shore that up.

Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder will get the headlines, but don’t get it twisted here, the most important player will be Dwight Howard. Howard has to dominate down low on the boards and provide the rim protection needed to get out of the first round which could easily be the Toronto Raptors.

Here’s what I learned…now learn from this!

Head coach Mike Budenholzer scratched Thabo Sefolosha from the starting lineup for being late for pregame warmups. Sefolosha was caught in traffic. The lineup change was only for one game. If there is one thing you have to give Budenholzer credit for, it’s consistency. Punishment is for the entire team. No favorites.

Boy that Atlanta Hawks bench is something. Zero points in the first half?! That’s not going to get it done.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks came up with a hugely important victory over the Toronto Raptors at Philips Arena on Friday night, 105-99, in a tightly contested affair that saw 17 game ties and 15 lead changes. The Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan’s 28 points while Serge Ibaka added 18 points. For the Hawks, they had three players who scored 20 or more points in the form of Dennis Schröder (26 points), Paul Millsap (21 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (20 points).

Hawks win potentially vital tiebreaker 

With this victory concluded the season series between these two teams, just three meetings this year between the Hawks and Raptors. With this victory, the Hawks won the season series 2-1, giving the Hawks the tiebreaker in the event of these two teams ending the regular season with the same record. Why is this so important? The Hawks are just two games behind the Raptors for home court advantage and now own the tiebreaker.

“It’s big, it was the same scenario as the game against Indiana where they were behind us in the standings, but this time we closed it out.”

— Dennis Schröder

This was a huge win for the Hawks. If they had lost this game, they may as well have kissed away any hope of home court advantage as they would’ve trailed the Raptors by four games. But this…this win gives the Hawks a chance of home court advantage but there’s plenty of work to be done yet…

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Trying to analyze this game will be summed up by a line I remember by Vin Diesel in the very first Fast and Furious movie in the wildly successful franchise. You see he had just beaten Paul Walker’s character for slips on a 10 second car. The line was…

“…It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile… WINNING IS WINNING!”

That is the best way of looking at this game if you are an Atlanta fan… ugh!

After three straight home losses, bad defense and a point guard that has made it clear that he’s not happy with his center or coach, the Hawks pull out a win over the Brooklyn Nets 110-105. Let’s be very clear here Hawks fans. The good news is that the losing streak is over…

The bad news is the losing style of basketball isn’t.

Dennis Schroder led the team in scoring 31 points on 10-21 shooting. Paul Millsap continued his consistent play with 24 points while Tim Hardaway Jr. and Ersan Ilyasova played well enough off the bench. Sometimes learning is hard and so are these…

Three Lessons

Lesson number one: The Atlanta Hawks defense is just plain bad right now

I mean really bad. Okay I get it. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the world champs, so I guess we all can turn a blind eye to giving up 135 points in a game. This also included giving up a whopping 77 points in the first half, which is easily the most given up by the Hawks this season. That’s Magic Johnson Showtime Lakers totals people. Okay giving up 119 points to the Golden State Warriors maybe can be over looked. I mean, the Splash Brothers were in town right?

Let’s take a closer look at this shall we? The Cleveland Cavaliers knocked down a NBA record 25 3-pointers last Friday night. Most of the threes were shot in the realm of the Cavaliers offense. This means they got what they wanted, when they wanted it. Sure the game was close at the end, but that was when Tim Hardaway Jr. went nuts in the fourth quarter leading a furious charge. But let’s be clear here. There should be no way a team should allow two players (Kyrie Irving [43 points] and LeBron James [38 points]) combine for 81 points in a single game.

Looking even closer at Kyrie Irving’s 43 points, it seems that he shot an absurd 14-for-21 from the floor. Umm, he’s the point guard right? Who’s got him on defense? Oh yeah. Dennis Schroder. You see, if the point guard can break down the defense, it opens up shots. It looked like a Cavaliers passing drill at times.

The Warriors game was bad, too. The Splash Brothers were off a couple of nights ago and the Hawks still couldn’t stop the Dubs. Ask any current or past players of basketball, if the coach sits you down… FOR THE REST OF THE GAME for a defensive breakdown, things are bad. That’s what happened when Schroder allowed Steph Curry to line it up for three while barking with Dwight Howard.

Here’s the point. The Brooklyn Nets are easily the worst team in the NBA. They lack the talent and assets to even stay competitive even though the effort is there every night. The Hawks should have blown this team back to the Barclay Center so they could watch the ACC tournament. Instead because of lackluster defense, the Hawks allowed this team to stick around.

Lesson number two: The Dennis Schroder dynamic has to addressed

Dennis Schroder had a strong comeback from the fiasco on Monday. His scoring totals seem to bode very well for the Hawks. This game was the ninth time that he scored over 25 points. The Hawks are 8-1 when he accomplishes that feat. For the entire first half, Schroder kept the Hawks afloat with 17 points to keep things close at halftime 50-46.

But…

The offense struggled. Big time. Outside of Schroder’s production of the dribble, the offense was stagnant and Brooklyn was pretty much in control for much of the first half.

Who’s job is it to get the offense started? Yep, Dennis Schroder.

As we learned in the first lesson, the Hawks are not good enough defensively right now to have an offense that depends on offense that showcases one-on-one basketball with Dennis Schroder.

At least the off the court issue was dealt with. Schroder had a meeting with head coach Mike Budenholzer and other teammates. Schroder’s take via ESPN.com:

“Because I’m so competitive that sometimes in the game when it’s heated, everybody is emotional and when you say stuff everybody gets kind of mad,” Schroder said. “So you’ve just got to pick the spots when you do it. Tonight it worked well, and we just try to keep going forward”

Paul Millsap on Schroder from ESPN.com:

“Personally I see some growth, some maturity, a guy that didn’t let what happened last game to get to him,” Millsap said. “I see a guy who came out and busted his butt regardless of what happened. Discipline or not, he didn’t play (much) the last game, but came out with a good attitude today to help us win. I see a lot of maturity and a lot of growth in him.”

What does Budenholzer have to say, again via ESPN:

“I thought he was great,” Budenholzer said. “The way he attacks the basket, the way he gets inside, the way he’s shooting the 3 ball with so much confidence. He’s just going to keep getting better.”

Hawks fans better hope so. Look nobody is denying Dennis Schroder’s talent. The Brooklyn game was a perfect illustration of why Atlanta moved on from Jeff Teague and locked Schroder in for the future with a $70 million dollar contract. When the offense stalls, Schroder is the guy that can make a play for himself and his teammates. But with the playoffs coming around the corner, Schroder is going to have to keep his head and use this rough patch as a learning experience. But if he starts believing his own hype or playing like he did against Brooklyn to prove a point against Howard and Budenholzer, it will come out eventually.

Lesson number three: Outside of Tim Hardaway Jr., where are the bench people?

Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals. Ersan Ilyasova had 10 points and seven rebounds. The rest of the Hawks bench combined? Two points by Taurean Prince. That’s not a good look for a Hawks bench. Sure Hardaway Jr. has been great, but Ilyasova has been subpar for the most part since his trade from Philadelphia. Jose Calderon played 12 minutes and scored the same amount of points I did writing this article and you guys reading it. All of this while Mike Muscala, Kris Humphries, DeAndre Bembry and Malcolm Delaney never saw the floor. The Hawks are going to have to figure out a second unit for the playoffs.

Here’s what I learned…now learn from this!

Dwight Howard finished with a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. He knocked down five of his seven shots. Moving forward, the Hawks need to make sure that Howard believes that he is a part of the offense. He doesn’t need to be a number one option (or two for that matter, three could be a stretch!) but he needs to feel a part of the equation on the offensive end. If not, he’ll start sulking and stop doing the work down low the Hawks pay him to do.

Benchmark to the Hawks season is coming up…Raptors on Friday, a tough Memphis team on Saturday and San Antonio on Monday.

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

It was ugly, it was boring and horrible to watch but the Atlanta Hawks snapped their three game losing streak, defeating the Brooklyn Nets 110-105 at Philips Arena. Sean Kilpatrick led the Nets with 27 points (13 coming in the third quarter) while Brook Lopez added 18 points. For the Hawks, Dennis Schröder scored a game-high 31 points while Paul Millsap added another 24 points.

“It was a little bit ugly at times, but we needed to win. I’m proud of guys for finding a way to get it done. A lot of different guys contributed.”

— Coach Mike Budenholzer

Dennis’ bounce back game

After being benched for most of the second half against the Warriors, Dennis has been the talk of Hawks town and he produced a quality bounce back game in the face of adversity scoring a game-high 31 points on 10-of-21 from the field and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.

Dennis also came up with a game-saving steal. After he missed a shot at the rim, the Nets held possession of the ball trailing by just two points with a chance to tie the game or take the lead. But Dennis sneaks around Sean Kilpatrick (who’s handling the ball) and pries the ball away and takes possession, forcing the Nets to foul. The Hawks would seal the game with free throws.

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Well Hawks fans, stop me if you’ve heard this one since the All-Star break: Dennis Schroder has run afoul of head coach Mike Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks… again.

First it was Schroder getting back to the team late after the All-Star break citing visa issues, which garnered him a one-game suspension.

Then a couple of days later, Schroder misses the team bus in Orlando. He gets benched for the first quarter.

Now this…

Going into the game last night against the two-time NBA Finalists and the greatest show on court Golden State Warriors, the story of the night was supposed to be a measuring stick of how much of a contender the Hawks are going into the playoffs.

Umm, to quote that old Blue Magic song…

“Let the side show begin…HURRY HURRRY!…step right on innnnn”.

By the end of the night, the Atlanta Hawks were handed their third consecutive loss, getting beat by Golden State 119-111 and Schroder doing his best version of being “Dennis the Menace”.

Anybody missing Jeff Teague yet? The way things are going, you will by playoff time. Trust me.

The Atlanta Hawks capitalized on the same issues that the Warriors have had since Kevin Durant injured his knee. They come out a little slow and sluggish; meanwhile the Hawks used an early 10-0 run to grab an early 14-7 lead. The Hawks extended the lead in the first quarter riding the outstanding play from Dennis Schroder, keeping the Warriors at bay for the rest of the first quarter.

How good was Schroder? Dennis dropped 19 points in the first quarter on the strength of knocking down seven of nine shots including four of five from the land of 3. Atlanta rode that wave to an early 42-35 lead at the end of the first quarter. He went on to finish the game on the bench after playing about three minutes in the second half.

Was he injured? No.

But this scenario had a little bit to do with it.

Dwight Howard tossed an outlet pass out of bounds. Seems harmless, happens all the time in an NBA game. For some reason, it seemed to tick off Schroder. It ticked Schroder off so much that he forgot to cover Steph Curry and Curry knocked down a three pointer.

Yeah, that Steph Curry. The two-time MVP. There’s a nasty rumor going around that this guy can shoot…

His brother Seth can shoot.

His father Dell can shoot.

I bet his wife Ayesha can shoot.

I could believe his kids can knock down ten footers… like now.

Get the point? Well Schroder apparently didn’t get the point and Budenholzer made his by showing Schroder the bench for the rest of the night.

Let’s get Dennis Schroder’s insight after the game courtesy of ESPN.com:

” I don’t understand Coach’s decision,” he said. “Maybe I’m too competitive, trying to win games. But I don’t get that one.”

Okay let me help shine the light a little bit in that regard. Since the All-Star break, Dennis Schroder has forgotten the number one rule in being a point guard…

You have to be a leader on the floor and off.

This is a microcosm of what is wrong with the Atlanta Hawks and why they have dropped six of their last eight games. Leadership. Cleveland have leaders in LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and a ton of veterans in the locker room. Boston has Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford (Remember him Hawks fans?) and Avery Bradley. Toronto has Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan. Notice every team that was mentioned had a point guard listed above.

I’m not getting in the mind of Howard, but I can’t blame the guy for being slightly irritated for being yelled at by a guy that seems to struggle reading a calendar and a time clock. Throw in the fact that Howard dominated the backboard grabbing 19 rebounds, it’s not a good idea to get on a guy that is working hard down low. Furthermore as a point guard and a leader, Schroder needs to learn that you deal with player’s personalities differently. ESPECIALLY DWIGHT HOWARD!

To Howard’s credit, he downplayed the incident (for now)…his take courtesy of ESPN…

“It happens during the course of the game,” he said. “It just cost us a 3. We’ve got to make sure we nip it in the bud quick and move on to the next play.”

If history teaches us anything Hawks fans, this team is in serious peril. Dwight Howard is notoriously sensitive and he tends to get frustrated with ball dominant guards. Don’t believe me? Go have a long chat with James Harden and Kobe Bryant and see what they say. Sure, what he said above sounded real dandy and sweet. But in Los Angeles and Houston, even Orlando when Howard gets unappreciated in his own mind, he can shut down like your power bill for lack of payment. Remember the infamous Stan Van Gundy press conference before he got fired? They looked like “Goodfellas”, didn’t they? With Howard smiling?

Only Van Gundy knew it was fake. Pray that quote isn’t fake either.

I’ve already shined the light on Budenholzer and the classy way he does things in Atlanta. He showed no less last night not throwing his point guard under the bus courtesy of ESPN.com…

“Just a coach’s decision,” Budenholzer said. “We need to learn to play together and stay together for 48 minutes.”

This is a critical time in the season and Mike Budenholzer knows it. With about 20 games left in the season, it is plainly clear that the Hawks are in disarray and problems behind the scenes are leaking out on the court. Hopefully, the Hawks will discuss it behind the scenes and right the ship.

At least that’s the intention of Dennis Schroder as he stated again from of ESPN.com.

“We got to figure it out me and Coach,” Schroder said. ” I want to talk about it. Dwight’s got to be in there too. Get on the same page. Then we’ll be all right.”

Stay tuned Hawks fans, we’re all in for a wild ride.

Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their third straight game (and the sixth of their last eight) as they were topped by the Golden State Warriors at Philips Arena. Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala led the Warriors with 24 points each. For the Hawks, Dennis Schröder scored a team-high 23 points while Paul Millsap also added 20 points. 

More Dennis drama

Dennis Schroder has made plenty of Atlanta Hawks headlines since the All-Star break and — once again — he was the talk of the town last night, benched for pretty much all of the second half, having ignited Philips Arena in the first quarter with 19 points and 23 first half points. 

There was an incident early in the third quarter where Dwight Howard and Dennis had an on-court disagreement (and that’s what it was, a disagreement, come on now. It was a disagreement not an argument, there’s a difference) after a poor outlet pass from Dwight sailed out of bounds. Dennis, I can only imagine, was unhappy that he didn’t receive the ball while Dwight made his case for attempting to pass to the open Thabo Sefolosha. Meanwhile, while the two bickered, Steph Curry was allowed to shoot an open three-pointer (not a good basketball shot to give up) prompting Coach Budenholzer to immediately call for a timeout.

Dennis was reinserted following the timeout but proceeded to take this poor shot shortly afterwards:

As highlighted, Kent Bazemore clearly had the better shot here and shortly after this, Dennis was quickly yanked and did not return.

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The Atlanta Hawks took another step back in their six game home stand losing to the Indiana Pacers 97-96 on a last second shot by Glen Robinson III. For more information on this game and total analysis, please check out Graham Chapple’s article on HawksHoop.com. It is as always a detailed and informative read.

Going into this game, it seemed the Atlanta Hawks was already stuck behind the eight ball. The Hawks were without the services of their Head Coach Mike Budenholzer against the Pacers after getting hit with a one game suspension for making contact with official Brian Forte during Friday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Assistant coach Darvin Ham assumed the coaching duties in Budenholzer’s absence.

The situation occurred around the 2:42 mark of the third quarter when the officials missed (or ignored based on how Budenholzer reacted) a LeBron James push off to get space to shoot a 3-pointer. Budenholzer lost his cool and made slight contact with an official and was assessed a technical foul.

Here’s what Mike Budenholzer had to say when he found out about the suspension courtesy of ESPN and the Associated Press…

“I fully understand and respect the decision of the NBA. I plan to reach out to Brian as soon as possible and intend to apologize for the contact that I made during last night’s game. The referees have the most difficult job on the court and do an outstanding job of managing the needs of the game, players and coaches. I accept the suspension, will learn from it and lok forward to getting beyond this.”

This is a classy move Head Coach Mike Budenholzer. I mean can you expect anything less? The guy comes from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree in San Antonio. But the call was missed by the officials. In the NBA most every player uses their off arm to create space to get their shots off. The problem in this situation was that LeBron James allowed his off arm to get away from him which for the most part gets an easy call.

There is no excuse for what happened and Budenholzer probably deserved the suspension. However, the technical foul did light a spark under the Hawks. Atlanta came out listless and without energy early and the defense was a joke. It seemed that the Cavs got everything they wanted and more. A lot more. Cleveland set a NBA record hitting 25 3-pointers in the game. What was worse, a lot of the shots were considered “comfortable”, meaning that the Cavs were getting clean looks at the basket. Giving up 77 points in the first half is not where you need to be defensively when you are fighting for playoff position with about a month and half left in the season. Before the technical foul, it looked like a Cavaliers blowout. After the incident, the Hawks mounted a furious comeback behind the strong play of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Paul Millsap.

Hopefully, for the Hawks sake, the players notice that Mike Budenholzer is trying to show a sense of urgency going forward into a tough schedule ahead. With this loss the Indiana Pacers pick up a full game on the Hawks in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Right now every game is critical, Budenholzer knows this, the Atlanta Hawk players better know it as well.