Archives For Pero Antic

The Atlanta Hawks’ 2015-16 is now officially over, meaning the journey that they set out on — when training camp began — has ended, at least for another season. And when a journey ends, one gets reflective and casts an eye back to when the journey began and upon the journey itself, armed with the knowledge that they did not have when the journey started. So, let’s do exactly that today. Let’s cast an eye back on the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks season.

The big story heading into the Hawks’ season was that DeMarre Carroll had left Atlanta for pastures new north of the border, to be a part of the Toronto Raptors. I don’t think there was any question that the Hawks wanted to keep DeMarre, but his breakout season and his great playoff run meant that he priced himself out of a return to Atlanta, who could not afford to keep both him and Paul Millsap, with the Hawks only reserving the Early Bird Rights as both had only been with the Hawks for two seasons.

The Hawks did not sign a wing to replace Carroll, knowing that either Thabo Sefolosha (once he recovered from his leg injury) and the developing Kent Bazemore would be more than capable to step up in his absence. However, as both of these guys were bench players while Carroll was at the club, the Hawks’ bench would take a hit from either Thabo or Bazemore — obviously — needing to leave the bench in order to step into the starting lineup. So, the Hawks traded for some wing depth on draft night, sending the 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft to acquire Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr., in a move that certainly raised eyebrows.

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As reported by Eurohoops.net, Pero Antic will be leaving the Hawks to return to Europe. The deal is expected to be finalized within the next week.

Despite not starting, Antic was an important part of the shift in the Hawks’ offensive philosophy under head coach Mike Budenholzer. Antic’s 3-point threat spread out opposing defense and often allowed for the Hawks offense to be more efficient. If Antic is gone, the Hawks will likely look to Mike Muscala to fill the role that Antic had been filling over the last two seasons.

It is amazing how times have changed.

On November 7, the Hawks fell to 1-3 on the season in a loss to the Hornets in overtime. You may remember that Lance Stephenson hit a banked, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win that game for Charlotte. That loss certainly left a bad taste in the mouth of many Hawks fans and left some wondering if this team’s playoff hopes were not as good as previously perceived

Fast-forward five months and the Hawks are the 1-seed in the East, raising banners for their Southeast Division title, and have 60 wins under their belt after controlling the Hornets in a 104-80 win on Friday night.

Once again, the star of the game for the Hawks was Mike Muscala filling in for the injured Paul Millsap. Muscala was 8-for-9 from the field with 17 points, good enough for the third game of 15 or more points over his last seven contests. The development of Muscala over the past several weeks has been a revelation for the Hawks, as Muscala gives Atlanta yet another capable rotation big to fall back on. Continue Reading…

Pero Antic and Thabo Sefolosha have been arrested for “trying to prevent police from setting up a crime scene”, according to reports from a stabbing incident early Wednesday morning in a New York City nightclub.

A man reportedly attacked Pacers’ forward Chris Copeland and his wife after an argument, and, according to sources, Antic and Sefolosha refused to move while the police were setting up a crime scene. A spokeswoman for the police department said that Sefolosha “charged at an officer” and Antic “physically grabbed another police officer”. Antic was charged with obstruction, disorderly conduct, and menacing, while Sefolosha was charged with obstruction, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.

Copeland suffered a broken elbow during the attack in addition to the stabbing to his abdomen, but his wounds are not life-threatening.

Zwerling is also now reporting what role Antic and Sefolosha had with the affair:

As of now, Antic and Sefolosha have been released on their own recognizance and will not play tonight against the Nets. The two players released this joint-statement through Hawks PR:

As members of the Atlanta Hawks, we hold ourselves to a high standard and take our roles as professionals very seriously. We will contest these charges and look forward to communicating the facts of the situation at the appropriate time. We apologize to our respective families, teammates, and the Hawks organization for any negative attention this incident has brought upon them. We are unable to provide further comment as this is an ongoing legal matter.

Hawks Collapse in OKC

Bo Churney —  March 21, 2015

It was the end of the west coast road trip. The Hawks were down three key rotation players with the absences of Mike Scott, Kyle Korver, and Thabo Sefolosha. And most importantly, individual regular season games are not that vital when you have clinched the division and are likely to take the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.

But boy was this game a stinker.

Russell Westbrook and Anthony Morrow ran wild on the Hawks in the fourth quarter, scoring 27 of Oklahoma City’s 33 fourth quarter points on their way to completing a comeback over Atlanta to win 123-115. Westbrook coordinated a 23-6 run in the quarter that was a result of great execution by Oklahoma City and non-existent execution by the Hawks.

The first half started off extremely hot, as both teams were shooting a high percentage from the field. Even Pero Antic woke up from his shooting slump, tying a career-high 18 points before the half had even ended. Antic finished the game with 22 points, and overall, the Hawks shot 58% in the half and maintained a 68-61 lead into the intermission.

The Hawks started to show some cracks in the third quarter, but were able to keep their lead thanks to some great play from Paul Millsap. Millsap was 4-for-5 from the field in the quarter with nine points, which were enough to keep the Hawks afloat. Millsap finished the game with a line of 19 points, three rebounds, three assists, four steals, and two blocks.

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The Hawks looked to win their 14th game in a row Wednesday night as the Pacers came to town. Indiana has put Atlanta out of the playoffs each of the last two years, but this Pacers team is a much different animal without Paul George and Lance Stephenson patrolling the perimeter on defense. Atlanta took full advantage from the tip to the final whistle, quickly opening up an eight-point lead early in the first quarter and not relenting until it was time for John Jenkins and Mike Muscala to make their way into the game late in the fourth.

DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague led the way for Atlanta with 17 points apiece and six of the Hawks were in double figures, including an impressive 4-for-7 shooting performance from Pero Antic. The Hawks took an 11-point lead into the half, but came out on fire in the third quarter, scoring 36 points and ending all hope the Pacers had to stop Atlanta’s win streak. Carroll and Teague combined for 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting in the period, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, as the Hawks’ lead ballooned to 27.

For the game, Atlanta shot 50% from the field and 44.8% from 3, but it was the passing that caught Coach Budenholzer’s eye after the game; the Hawks had 30 assists on 39 made baskets. Atlanta has had six games with 30 or more assists in the last ten days, two more than the rest of the NBA combined over that stretch. As the Hawks get more and more acclimated to one another, the passing has become the trademark of their fantastic start to the season. Continue Reading…

In a matchup of two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks destroyed the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon, winning by a final score of 120-89.

The Hawks had eight players in double-figure scoring, led by Kyle Korver’s 19 points. The Hawks made 16 3-pointers, had 34 assists on 42 made field goals, and only turned the ball over eight times. “We were clicking tonight,” said Kyle Korver. “At this point, I don’t think we’ve played a better game.”

The Hawks’ offense was great, but the defense is where they really beat Washington. The Wizards had 20 total turnovers, 14 of which came via Atlanta steals. The Hawks were constantly swarming and disrupting Washington’s offense, using the energy off of the turnovers to create easy points in transition. The Hawks finished with 31 points off of the 20 Wizard turnovers, 21 of which came off of the fastbreak.

“The turnovers and activity fueled our offense,” said coach Mike Budenholzer. “The ball was moving, the guys were attacking and playing with a lot of confidence.” Continue Reading…

We’ve all heard about the award-winning offensive genius of Coach Bud and how Kyle Korver is lighting the world on fire with his shooting, but what about the other side of the court? The offense has been there all season for the Hawks, but the defense has taken a big leap forward in the past six weeks.

In their first 13 games, Atlanta had a defensive rating of 107.2, good for fifth-worst in the league. Since November 28, they’ve won 20 of their last 22 behind an NBA-best 96.1 defensive rating. The offense hasn’t changed; it’s actually scoring one fewer point per 100 possessions than it was in the beginning of the season. The improved defense has vaulted the Hawks from the dregs of mediocrity (a place all too familiar to Atlanta sports fans since, well, forever) to the top of the Eastern Conference and into the conversation as Finals contenders.

So how have things changed? What are the Hawks doing differently on defense?

In short, they’re doing a better job of protecting the rim and forcing opponents further away from the basket. Al Horford has taken his lumps in the media for not being able to protect the rim, but he’s allowing just 51.4% shooting inside of six feet during this 22-game run, over seven percentage points better than league average and ten percentage points better than what he was allowing in the first 13 games. Paul Millsap is still a below-average inside defender, but his opponents are shooting six percentage points worse during this run than they were during the early part of the season. Pero Antic has been a consistent rim defender all season, giving up 45.6% shooting at the rim, ranking him 21st amongst 135 players who see at least three shots at the rim per game. On the season, the Hawks are still giving up the third-worst field goal percentage at the rim in the league, but they’re slowly but surely getting better inside as Horford regains his health and the perimeter defenders work better together to force opponents into long jump shots.

To aid their below-average percentage at rim protection, the Hawks are moving teams further away from the rim, choosing to give up contested mid-range jumpers and 3-pointers over shots in the restricted area. Atlanta’s opponents have the longest average shot distance in the league (per Basketball-Reference), which allows their long perimeter defenders to force contested jumpers.

The main benefit of moving teams further away from the basket is that Hawks’ opponents aren’t getting to the free throw line for easy points. Atlanta commits the second-fewest fouls and gives up the third-fewest free throw attempts per game, which forces opponents to earn their points from the field and has the additional benefit of helping the Hawks turn great defense into easy offense on the other end.

These numbers get even better in crunch time, when the Hawks defense turns from above-average to downright scary. During this 22-game run, the Hawks have put up a ridiculously low 88.9 defensive rating in clutch situations (defined as a game in the last five minutes with one team leading by five points or less), a mark that would easily lead the league over the course of a full season. Opponents are shooting just 18.8% from three in these situations and 38.1% overall, both top-ten marks in clutch situations. Meanwhile, on the other side of the court, the Hawks are posting a 129.7 offensive rating in crunch time, bested only by Dallas, Golden State, and Portland. Whether or not the crunch time offense is an aid to their defense is debatable, but the numbers don’t lie; the Hawks are one of the two or three best teams in the league in the last five minutes.

The defense isn’t nearly as sexy as the offense, but it’s getting the job done in a big way over the last 22 games as Horford has regained his health and the players are buying into the coaching staff’s defensive system. If Atlanta truly wants to make a run to the Finals, they’ll need every bit of this top-ten defense to hang with the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

All stats are courtesy of NBA.com unless otherwise noted

The Hawks continued their winning ways on Wednesday night, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies by a score of 96-86 in the NBA’s first ever Tinder “Swipe Right Night”.

Atlanta was again led by starting point guard Jeff Teague, who cracked 20 points for a career-high sixth straight game. Teague took it upon himself to be the closer late in the game when the Hawks needed it, scoring 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a late 3 where he was wide open in semi-transition.

“We were just playing,” Teague said on both his and Kyle Korver’s late 3-pointers. “It was the flow of the game — early offense. Coach always says if we see something out there that we can do and we have the confidence, we can do it. I felt confident in that shot.”

The whole team seems confident lately and the shot Korver hit showed it best. After getting open in transition, the Hawks’ bench was already celebrating before the shot even went up.

The celebration capped off what had been a hardly fought game between the two teams. While the Hawks were usually the ones holding the lead, the grit and grind play of Memphis allowed them to muck up the game and slowly let the Grizz creep back into it after a few successful possessions. As usual, both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley anchored the team on both ends of the floor, creating the opportunities that Memphis needs in order to win. Continue Reading…

The Hawks fell behind early to a hot-shooting Boston Celtics team, allowing 42 points on 17-for-22 (77%) in the first quarter. The lead ballooned to 23 early in the second quarter as Rajon Rondo continued to dish to open men, who promptly sank their uncontested jumpshots.

The Hawks battled back in the second half, mostly behind the hot shooting of Kyle Korver and superb play of Dennis Schröder. Korver scored 10 points in the third quarter to help cut into the large Boston lead, and then Schröder took over in the fourth, scoring 10 points and failing to turn the ball over despite the intense defensive pressure applied by Avery Bradley. Schröder also gathered the final defensive rebound in a scramble with 14.9 seconds left, leading to a Kent Bazemore run out layup to secure the game for the Hawks with a score of 109-105.

“Our aggressiveness and activity wasn’t where it needed to be for a half,” commented Budenholzer on the team’s poor defensive start. “I give our guys a lot of credit for finding a way to bounce back and giving ourselves a chance to win a tough game.”

One part of the Hawks’ renewed defensive effort in the second half was Korver matching up on Rondo. “[Rondo] was kind of picking us apart like a quarterback with 14 assists at halftime,” said Budenholzer. “We just wanted to try a different look.” After 14 assists in the first half, Rondo was limited to five assists, three turnovers, and zero points in the second half and a lot of that had to do with Korver’s length and intelligent footwork on defense. Continue Reading…