Archives For Playoffs

The Atlanta Hawks were involved in another close encounter at Verizon Center in their best-of-7 series against the Washington Wizards but came up short 99-103, meaning the Wizards take a pivotal 3-2 lead back to Atlanta ahead of Friday’s Game 6, with the Hawks looking to take the series back to D.C. one more time…

The Wizards were led by Bradley Beals’ 27 points while John Wall added 20 points. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s 29 points and 11 assists (first Hawk since 1973 when Pete Maravich to record such a line) while Paul Millsap added 21 points.

A fantastic performance from Schröder, who has responded in a big way after his tough first half in Game 4.

Another close game slips away, now Hawks face elimination

One thing you have to give this group credit for: they never give up.

The Hawks trailed by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter and, let’s be honest, hadn’t exactly played the most amazing game in the world. Yet, somehow, the Hawks kept at it and, following a dunk from Taurean Prince in transition, cut the lead to two points with 2:52 remaining. And when it seemed to get away from the Hawks when Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat extended the lead back to five points with just over a minute remaining. But the Hawks weren’t done. Dennis Schröder responded with a huge three-pointer that cut the lead to just two points with 1:01 remaining in the game.

Immediately, however, the Wizards come down the other end and take the lead with a John Wall jump shot behind the Gortat screen. Though I, personally, thought that an offensive foul should’ve been charged for a moving screen by Gortat, not for his first screen but the second one, the one that frees up Wall:

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The Atlanta Hawks dropped Game 2 of their best-of-7 series against the Washington Wizards 109-101 at Verizon Center. John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 63 points to lift the Wizards to a 2-0 series lead while the Hawks were led by Paul Millsap’s 27 points and Dennis Schröder’s 23 points in what was a truly ugly affair. And unlike ripping a band-aid off, this horror show took forever and a day to pass…

Per Mike Conti of 92.9 The Game, the Hawks have never recovered from an 0-2 hole in the postseason.

A blown opportunity leaves the Hawks in real trouble

The Hawks held a 94-91 lead with just over 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and, with it, a great chance to emerge from Washington with a split. And then things went horribly wrong. Immediately, John Wall converted a three-point play after being fouled by Paul Millsap — who would commit a travel on the very next play — Bradley Beal then hit a shot, Dennis Schröder air-balled spectacularly, Kent Bazemore committed an offensive foul and then turned the ball over at a crucial point of the game…these were some of the things that happened in the final five minutes, things that helped the Wizards go on a 16-4 run that put the Hawks out of reach.

Atlanta’s best chance to steal a road game in this series came and passed them by, and they were left to rue this missed opportunity due to their poor offense and turnovers down the stretch.

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The Atlanta Hawks dropped Game 1 of their best-of-7 series against the Washington Wizards, coming out second-best in an ugly 114-107 encounter at Verizon Center. John Wall led the Washington Wizards with a new playoff-high of 32 points and 14 assists while Bradley Beal added 22 points. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s 25 points.

Turnovers prove costly

From our playoff preview:

Turnovers were a big factor in the regular season-series and whichever team takes care of the ball (and in the process, limits the opposing team’s points off of turnovers) is going to have a huge advantage over the other.

It was indeed a big factor in Game 1 and it was the Wizards who were the ones who took care of the ball while the Hawks were the ones who coughed it up. The Hawks committed 21 total turnovers which led to 23 Washington points. There wasn’t really one specific player who ran up the turnover counter (though Millsap did have four), everyone contributed in that department. The one thing the Wizards love to do is run and get out in transition, and when you fuel them with turnovers they’ll churn out the fast break/turnover points.

Here, Kelly Oubre Jr. gets an arm on a pass from Ersan Ilyasova to Tim Hardaway Jr., and Oubre takes advantage with a dunk in transition.

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In 2015, the Atlanta Hawks met the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after both teams knocked off the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors in the first round respectively. The Wizards took Game 1 in Atlanta but an injury to John Wall’s hand marred the victory. Wall would sit out Games 2, 3, and 4 with the injury before returning for Game 5 but clearly wasn’t 100%. The series was tied at 2-2 when Wall returned and the Wizards would go on to drop Games 5 and 6 as the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

While the Hawks celebrated their trip to the Conference Finals, the Wizards were left to wonder what could’ve been had John Wall been healthy. The Wizards believed, had Wall been healthy, they would’ve advanced to the Conference Finals.

“In my opinion, we should’ve won 4-1.”

— Bradley Beal

“You take away Al Horford or Jeff Teague from their team for three games, the series would be totally different. I’m a big key to this team. This team can still do great things without me. Those guys competed and gave themselves a chance to win. But I feel like if I was there we would have had a better opportunity of winning the series and probably could have went up 2-0 on the road like the Toronto series and came home with some momentum, and tried to close these guys out. But everything happens for a reason.”

— John Wall

“Healthy John. That’s all we’re missing. I think if he played all the games, I think we’d still be in the season today. That’s my opinion.”

— Marcin Gortat

And to close out:

“I give them credit. I always give a team credit. I give Atlanta credit. That’s a tremendous team. They’ve been playing like that all year. They’ve been playing great basketball. But whenever you’re playing against me, even if you beat me, I’m a sore loser. They didn’t really beat us.”

— Bradley Beal

“They didn’t really beat us”…

Those quotes came a few days after the Wizards exited the playoffs but I can’t imagine those feelings are much different now. The Wizards’ feelings about the 2015 playoffs are clear.

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(stats courtesy of NBA.com)

It’s a secret to no one that Paul Millsap is absolutely key to the Atlanta Hawks and any playoff run they hope to have. But he’s had to carry a very heavy burden this season…

Paul is averaging a career-high 18.1 points per game this season but you’d know, if you’ve watched the Hawks on a regular basis this season, that Millsap is the only consistent offensive player for the Hawks. Dennis Schröder is somewhat consistent but when he’s off…he’s really off. Tim Hardaway Jr. can bring the fire but he can be a little streaky — feast or famine, to an extent. Kent Bazemore has been extremely inconsistent this season whilst Thabo Sefolosha isn’t asked to score a whole lot and has struggled shooting the ball this season. Dwight Howard, meanwhile…the less said about Dwight’s offense the better.

When the Hawks have struggled on offense in games they dial-up Paul Millsap, and he’ll — more often or not — make something happen. Whether that’s outright scoring himself, get to the free throw line or make a play for someone else…Millsap just makes things happen for the Hawks. He makes them tick.

As we know, Millsap plays more than one side of the ball unlike the Hawks’ other offensive players, like your THJ’s and Dennis Schröder’s, whose defense often leaves a lot to be desired. Paul has been tasked — and has also asked in some cases — to check the opposing team’s best small forward/power forward and even center. In a game against the New York Knicks and where Carmelo Anthony is on fire, Millsap guarded him down the stretch and did a wonderful job, coming up with multiple, huge defensive stops.

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During Game 1, Celtics guard Avery Bradley suffered a hamstring injury mid-way through the fourth quarter. He tried to walk off the court by himself but was unable to do so, needing help to get back the Celtics dressing room.

The diagnosis, as given by head coach Brad Stevens, the following day was the one Celtic fans feared — Bradley is doubtful for the remainder of the series.

“The update on Avery is Avery has a pretty significant strained hamstring. I would say would be doubtful for any of the remainder of the series, certainly very unlikely Tuesday night (for Game 2). As of right now I would say he’s out Tuesday night, but obviously he’ll continue to get treatment around the clock and go from there. So I would say very unlikely the rest of the series.” — Coach Brad Stevens

Devastating news for the Celtics, but what does it mean for the series going forward?

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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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It was announced last weekend that Mike Scott will miss 4-6 weeks (the remainder of the regular season, possibly into the beginning of the NBA playoffs) with a broken toe on his left foot. Thabo Sefolosha is close to returning from a calf strain that he suffered January 30th against Portland. The Hawks don’t plan on bringing back 10-day contract signee Jarell Eddie and instead have signed Austin Daye to the same short-term deal.

Coach Mike Budenholzer has been resting starters on a game-by-game basis, preparing for a run deep into the playoffs. They seem content on using the players they have and not any major outside help, as shown with the silent trade deadline last month.

But with all of this talk of injuries and sitting starters, don’t you still feel good about these Hawks?

Compared to last season, the Hawks are a completely different squad – except for the fact that they really aren’t. Sure, they signed Kent Bazemore and the aforementioned Sefolosha. Yeah, they’ve had time to gel and find more of a rhythm in Coach Bud’s offense. Sure, they are winning games at a much higher clip this season. But, the biggest change this season – something that seemed so great earlier on in the year – was the health.

Here they are, sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference on the ides of March and they have had only had one major injury to this Mike Scott announcement. Look at the rest of the conference – the rest of the league, for that matter – and you see key players going down.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were without LeBron for eight games at the turn of the new calendar year. Kevin Love has been in and out of the lineup with back issues. The Raptors missed DeMar DeRozan during the month of December. The Pistons lost Brandon Jennings for the season to an Achilles injury. Blake Griffin was out of the Clippers’ lineup for a little over a month. Wesley Matthews is no longer a factor for the Trail Blazers due to a season-ending torn Achilles. Paul George hasn’t played for the Pacers this season due to the gruesome leg injury suffered while playing for Team USA last summer.

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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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