Archives For Washington Wizards

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.

Annie Finberg/NBAE/Getty Images

In one of the most important games of the season, the Atlanta Hawks laid an egg at Philips Arena as they were run out of their own building by the Washington Wizards, falling 112-86 to their division rivals. All five of the Washington starters scored in double digits, led by Otto Porter’s 21 points.

Horrible loss

This was such an important game for the Hawks. The Wizards sat 1.5 games behind the Hawks prior to this game and the season series was tied at 1-1. The winner of this game would be in the drivers seat for the tiebreaker and it’s possible that these two teams will finish the season with similar records, giving the owner of the tiebreaker a huge advantage in terms of playoff seeding. And for the Hawks to lay the egg that they did in this game…unbelievable.

The Wizards flew out of the gates here, an 8-1 start to this game quickly forced Bud into a timeout. But this did little to rattle the Wizards, who scored 37 first quarter points on 56% shooting while the Hawks scored 25 points on 38% shooting. The Wizards did shoot the ball well but the Hawks were poor defensively, their energy and effort lacking.

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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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The end of the All-Star break marks the beginning of a hugely significant time of the season — the stretch run. It’s crunch time across the NBA for many teams. You have teams gunning for the number one seed, teams gunning for home court advantage, teams gunning for the playoffs, and you have a few teams gunning for the lottery.

The Atlanta Hawks can be categorised into the second group mentioned — gunning for home court advantage. But they’ve ran into a wall. They’re currently on a three game losing streak and have lost five of their last six games. They currently occupy the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, with the Charlotte Hornets (who have been hot of late) sitting just two games behind the Hawks having played two games less. It goes without saying that the Hawks have to string together W’s down the stretch if they want to obtain home court advantage. What are they key games/road trips/stretches that the Hawks face as the season winds down?

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Kent Bazemore scored a career-high 25 points, pushing the Atlanta Hawks to their seventh straight win over the Washington Wizards 114-99 at Philips Arena. His catch-and-shoot three with 3:35 to play against Bradley Beal’s late defense put the Hawks up 103-94.

“Its good to see the ball to go in because maybe eight to 10 months ago that may not have been the case,” said a smiling Bazemore in the postgame locker room.

The confidence the team has in Bazemore and he has in himself is obvious as Kent is now shooting 50% from three, placing him at fifth in the league for 3-point percentage. Coach Mike Budenholzer credits both the team’s playmaking and Bazemore’s ability to attack the rim, which keeps defenses guessing.

“I think he’s getting a lot of good rhythm shots, he’s getting a lot of opportunities,” said Budenholzer during the postgame media availability. “Hopefully we’re creating a lot of pressure on the paint, creating a lot of pressure on the rim. And he can do that too. I think the great thing is, obviously he’s making shots but he can attack and break the defense down and finish also. Obviously he had a very good game.” Continue Reading…

The Hawks were originally supposed to have the 15th pick in the 2015 NBA draft. When they were on the clock at 15, they traded the pick to the Washington Wizards, who selected Kelly Oubre. In return, the Hawks received the 19th pick and two future second-rounders.

But the Hawks were not done making moves. When 19 came up on the clock, the Hawks again made a trade, sending the 19th pick to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr.

The move is a weird one for the Hawks, but there is some sense to be made from it. With the move, the Hawks will save at least $500,000 in cap space from not having to pay the required rookie salary for the 15th pick. Hardaway also has some value in that he’s an above-average shooter.

However, the weaknesses with Hardaway are clear. Despite his 6′-6 size, Hardaway has not been a good defender at the NBA level. Hardaway also has few established skills other than shooting, and he has a tendency to chuck the ball at an inefficient rate.

Considering the Hawks made two moves to get to this point, they may not be done. And just in my opinion, I hope they are not done, because this is not a good move, especially if the front office did it to save money; they could have just completely traded out of the first round, which would have saved them nearly $2 million in cap space instead of only a quarter of that.

Sometimes we, as fans, need to just sit back and enjoy what we’re watching. In today’s current age of basketball, we are obsessed with teams playing “the right way”, or the smart way. The basketball needs to be in its purest form with crisp passing, perfect rotations, and not a single iota of ugliness to be found. Well sometimes basketball ain’t pretty and that’s probably a nice way to describe the Hawks-Wizards series that just wrapped up.

Atlanta managed to pull out a huge victory over Washington in six dramatic games that involved everything we ask for out of a playoff series. It had story lines, game winners, players toughing it out through injuries, and all the trash talk we could ever hope for. The only problems is that it wasn’t always the prettiest basketball in the world.

Atlanta was an extremely enjoyable team for much of the regular season, and they were champions of exactly what everybody wants their basketball to be. Washington on the other hand was one of the more painful teams to watch. Their offense was composed of mid-range jumpshots and an outdated philosophy that left many modern NBA fans throwing their hands in the air. When the two teams met, the series felt like it had already been decided. Atlanta played “the right way” while Washington had only recently shown an acknowledgement of 21st century basketball with their sweep of the Toronto Raptors. However, due to a lackluster first round from Atlanta, and John Wall being one of best point guards in the NBA, there was reason to believe this might be closer than originally thought. Continue Reading…