Archives For Mike Muscala

Happy Friday!

It’s that time of the week again, This Week in the Hawks Episode 5 covers a wide range of topics including:

  • The All-Star reserves and why Paul Millsap deserved his spot
  • The Hawks’ pending D-League move
  • Game recaps including the comeback against the Bulls, Wade’s and Butler’s comments
  • Stats from the week
  • A look at the Hawks’ upcoming fixtures

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

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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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks bounced back from their disappointing loss against Al Horford and the Boston Celtics on Friday night with a 111-98 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday evening. Giannis Antentokounmpo led the Bucks with 33 points on 13-of-22 shooting. Greg Monroe added 13 points off of the bench.

Welcome back, Baze

The Hawks are just so much more fun when Kent Bazemore has it going and he had his best game in a long time this evening. Baze scored 24 points (the most he has scored in a game since November 8th when he scored 25 points against the Cavaliers) on 8-of-13 shooting and 4-of-7 from behind the arc.

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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks’ offense sputtered down the stretch as they dropped another home game to another team below .500, this time to the Minnesota Timberwolves (who were 8-19 heading into this game), 94-82. Karl-Anthony Towns posted a nasty double-double, 17 points and 18 rebounds while Andrew Wiggins scored a team high 19 points. Per Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, Towns is the first NBA player this season to record three consecutive games of at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in a game. The last player to do it was… Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2014.

Offensive woes in final period

Despite a woeful start to this game (the Wolves quickly running out to 12-2 and 15-4 leads respectively), the Hawks — again without Dwight Howard — were in a decent position to win this game, tied at 80 apiece with 5:41 remaining in your own building. Thennnn… the offense broke down, the Hawks only scored four points the rest of the way while the Wolves scored 12 points to take them to victory, only their 10th victory of the season.

So, what happened? The Hawks could have easily won this game… what happened down the stretch? Let’s go through it chronologically.

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Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks (without Paul Millsap) dropped their fourth game in succession — and their seventh in eight games — after losing out to the Phoenix Suns at Talking S(h)tick Resort Arena, 107-109. Brandon Knight led the Suns in scoring with 23 points while receiving other significant contributions from P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley, who scored 17 points each.

End of the road (trip)

Atlanta’s five game road trip is finally over. It’s been a rough week and a bit for the Hawks, five games in seven nights and only a 1-4 record to show for all their efforts. It’s safe to say everyone is looking forward to putting this road trip behind them and getting back home to Atlanta.

“…it’ll be good to get back home, sleep in your own bed and get ready to get back at it.” — Kent Bazemore

“You never feel good when you have a tough road trip and you’ve lost a few in a row. But I think we are looking forward to going home…” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

It was a weird game for the Hawks to drop. Not so much of the opposition (although the Suns were 5-13 heading into last night’s game) but listen to these stats from last night’s game:

The Hawks shot 50% from the field, shot 36% from behind the arc, scored over 100 points, scored 21 second chance points, scored 20 fastbreak points, scored 29 points off of the Suns’ turnovers and had three players who scored 20 or more points… And still lost. Kent Bazemore had an… interesting, shall we say, way of describing how the Hawks have been playing of late.

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 Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks suffered their sixth loss in seven games as they dropped a tightly contested fixture against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, 105-100. The Warriors had three players who scored 20 or more points, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry both scored 25 points while Klay Thompson added 20 points to the Warriors’ cause.

A valiant effort, reason for optimism going forward

Although the Hawks did lose their sixth game in their last seven games, they can be proud of how they played competed against arguably the best team in the NBA, the Warriors now winners of 12 straight games. This was not a bad loss. The Hawks played some good defense — holding the team with the highest offense efficiency in the Warriors (115 points per 100 possessions heading into this game) to 101 points per 100 possessions — and played some good offense, much better than we’ve seen it of late and they cracked 100 points for the first time in six games.

“Definitely better than what it (the Hawks’ offense) has been. We still have to get better. It’s a loss. It goes on to the record. It’s tough but we’ll take and build on it.” — Paul Millsap

The Hawks seemed to run out of gas a little bit in the fourth quarter, where the Warriors outscored the Hawks 25-19. The Hawks missed some decent looks and when the Warriors’ defense clamped down, you just weren’t sure who was going to step up for the Hawks offensively.

A period of the game that, I thought, proved costly for the Hawks was that period of the game where end of the third quarter ends and the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr. misses a three-point attempt in the dying embers of the third quarter, and from the resulting stop Ian Clarke drains the buzzer-beating three to cut the Hawks lead from four to one heading into the fourth quarter. The Warriors, with the crowd now energised, reeled a quick 6-0 run that gave the Warriors a five point lead, a lead they would not relinquish.

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Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks snapped their three game skid — and began their five game road trip — by knocking off the Indiana Pacers 96-85 in Indiana. We’ll get to Dwight Howard’s line in a bit, but Paul Millsap also had a significant impact in this game, scoring 18 points, collecting 11 rebounds, dished out five assists, came up with four steals and blocked three shots.

Reacquainting with an old friend

Jeff Teague spent seven years in Atlanta before requesting a trade this summer. This request was granted with Teague heading to Indiana in the deal that sent George Hill to Utah and the 12th overall selection in the 2016 draft heading to Atlanta.

Chris Vivlamore of the AJC posted a story about Jeff Teague, it’s worth worth checking out. Jeff talks about Atlanta’s ceiling with himself and Al Horford, Dennis Schröder and more. Here’s an excerpt from the piece, the day Teague found out he was headed home:

“When Bud calls you it’s either really good or really bad,” Teague recalled Wednesday morning before his new and former teams met for the first time since the trade. “I said most likely it’s really bad because it’s the summer time and he’s calling me.”

Teague said Budenholzer’s voice cracked. That’s when he knew there had been a trade. The first thing Teague wanted to know was where he was headed.

“I kept reading that I was going to Philly,” Teague said. “I was like he’s going to send me to Philly. Nothing wrong with Philly, great place, great organization. I was like ‘C’mon. C’mon.’ I didn’t even think this (Indiana) was happening. I thought it was Utah, Dallas or Philly. He said, ‘I sent you home.’ I said, ‘Indiana?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I might regret this, but I’m thankful for what you did, and I appreciate you.’”

Ha-ha, “I might regret this”. Considering the Pacers are now 7-9, it’s pretty unlikely (even though it’s still early) that the Hawks and Pacers are going to meet in the playoffs, I don’t think he’ll be regretting it too much now.

Anyways, last night was the first time the two parties met since that trade, in a matchup that Teague called “awkward”.

“It was awkward but it was fun to compete. I wish we could have won.” — Jeff Teague

It was cool to see Teague smiling and catching up with his old teammates pre-game and fun to see him head over to Bob Rathbun and Dominique, as they were live, and pretend to stroke Bob’s hair.

I was excited to see him and Dennis Schröder get after each other, but the matchup was underwhelming in the end. The two didn’t really get after each other and the two didn’t have the greatest games, Teague scoring 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting while Dennis put up nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. That was disappointing, and now we have to wait until March to see Jeff Teague again when the Pacers come to Atlanta.

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Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

On the second night of a back-to-back, without Dwight Howard and Thabo Sefolosha, the Hawks notched their six consecutive victory after they topped the Milwaukee Bucks 107-100 in Atlanta. Paul Millsap led the way with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting while Jabari Parker scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half for the Bucks.

Decisive second quarter

The Hawks entered the second quarter trailing 26-21 and reeled off a 19-0 run to begin the second period in what proved to be a decisive run as the Hawks outscored the Bucks 31-9. The Bucks shot 3-of-28 in the period and faced an uphill battle the rest of the way.

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“We couldn’t make the ball fall in the second quarter. We scored just nine points. It was hard to recover.” — Giannis Antetokounmpo

This run was sparked by the second unit and their energy was instrumental in reeling off the run and with Thabo Sefolosha sitting this one out, Taurean Prince finally got the opportunity to showcase what he’s all about.

Prince had the building rocking when he exploded to the rim for this dunk.

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Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images

Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks made it five wins in a row following their latest conquest over the shorthanded Miami Heat — who were without Goran Dragić and Justise Winslow — with a 93-90 road victory. The Hawks were led by Dennis Schröder’s team high 18 points while the Miami Heat were led by Tyler Johnson’s game high 19 points and Hassan Whiteside’s 19 points, 25 rebounds performance, the most rebounds in a game by any player in the league so far this season (as well as a season high 10 offensive rebounds).

Dwight Howard’s injury: last night and going forward

The Hawks got the win but the big news from Miami was that Dwight Howard injured his left quad and sat out of the fourth quarter. Speaking after the game:

“It’s super tight right now. Really painful. I wanted to come back out there but they said it wasn’t worth it this early in the season. There is a lot of pain. We are going to get treatment tonight, get treatment in the morning and see how it feels.” — Dwight Howard

Howard sustained the injury when he banged into Hassan Whiteside late in the third quarter. Coach Bud said that the Hawks would be “aggressive” when it came to treating the injury (since the Hawks play again later today at home to Milwaukee) and Dwight is officially listed as “questionable” for tonight’s game.

Dwight had been doing a good job defensively on Whiteside, but his absence meant that the Hawks had their hands full trying to deal with Whiteside in the fourth quarter. They struggled initially but Paul Millsap decided he wanted to guard Hassan as the Hawks’ center in crunch time.

“Usually whenever Paul asks for something, he gets it.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

Millsap took up that position with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Whiteside had grabbed five rebounds (three of them offensive) in the fourth quarter up to that point, how many did he secure in crunch time after Paul checked in at center? One.

“I feel like I can cause him some problems. I can get to his body, get low, keep him out of the paint. If he catches it, use my hands to disturb him. The few times he got it, I was able to deflect it.” — Paul Millsap

Yes, with those “f***ing amazing hands” Millsap’s hands can indeed cause problems… But it’s worth pointing out that Whiteside (on the second night of a back-to-back) was pretty gassed by this stage of the game and I’m sure it did contribute.

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David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks handed the last unbeaten team in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers, their first loss of the season — in the Q no less — triumphing 110-106 over the defending champs. The Hawks were led by a career night from Dennis Schröder (which we’ll get to) while Paul Millsap poured in 21 points and Kent Bazemore added 23, picking up from where he left off against Houston.

Streaks snapped

Not only did the Hawks halt the Cavs’ six game win streak but they ended their own 11 game losing streak that the Cavs have held over them since 2015.

The Cavaliers were just that one team (besides the Spurs) that the Hawks just couldn’t beat. Prior to this season, the Cavs were just built to beat the Hawks. No one could stop LeBron at the rim and Tristan Thompson did whatever he wanted on the offensive glass as the Cavs would destroy the Hawks in the rebounding battle. But if last night was any indication of things to come, that might be a thing of the past…

“It’s definitely a different year.” — Kent Bazemore

Dwight Howard, though only joining the Hawks this summer, was aware of the Hawks’ 11 game losing skid to the Cavs and he wanted to right that wrong.

“I aware of it (the losing streak to the Cavs). I’m from Atlanta. I’ve watched in the playoffs. That’s all in the past. We want to change that. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to think about it. It happened but we want to make sure it never happens again.” — Dwight Howard

Dwight played a key role in snapping this streak and we’ll get to that very soon.

I thought this was such an important win for the Hawks. This Cavs team has held a vice at Atlanta’s neck for the past two seasons and for the Hawks to exorcise some of those demons with this win (even though this wasn’t a playoff win) was so important heading into future games between these two sides, just to give them the confidence of “You know what, we can beat this team”.

As Kent Bazemore said, this year sure is a different year, and there was one aspect of this game where things were definitely different…

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