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  1. Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images The Atlanta Hawks picked up a comfortable victory on Sunday evening, putting together an offensive explosion against the Washington Wizards. With that said, the game took place in the shadow of Kobe Bryant’s passing and it was an emotional night for all involved. After a day off from game action on Monday, the Hawks will look to build on their positive on-court momentum on Tuesday with a tough road test against the Toronto Raptors. The same two teams met only eight days ago, with the Hawks nearly pulling off a comeback win against the Raptors at home on MLK Day. Atlanta dug a deep hole in that game but, for much of the afternoon, the Hawks competed at a high level and they will look to replicate the more optimistic points of that match-up on Tuesday. From a player availability perspective, the Raptors are relatively healthy, with only Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (ankle) and Patrick McCaw (nose) listed as questionable among regular contributors. The home team has more issues, though, with Bruno Fernando (left calf strain) listed as questionable and DeAndre’ Bembry (hand), Alex Len (hip) and Jabari Parker (shoulder) out of the lineup. As of Tuesday morning, the Hawks are installed as 12.5-point underdogs in this match-up, illustrating the perceived difficulty against a strong playoff team on the road. Atlanta has been playing better basketball, though, and it will be interesting to see how they respond to the challenge. Stay tuned throughout the day and be encouraged to utilize the comments below as a “game thread” for the action. Game Info Game Date/Time: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 7:30 pm ET Location: Scotiabank Arena TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass View the full article
  2. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports Taking a look at this week’s power rankings. The Atlanta Hawks managed to post a .500 record in a week, punctuated by a nice win over the Wizards amid tragic circumstances. At this point in the year, going .500 seems to be a very small victory for this team compared to the beginning of the campaign. In addition, some of the young players, namely Cam Reddish, have improved as the season progresses, which is very noticeable to even the average fan. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s batch of power rankings. John Schuhmann over at NBA.com is one person that seems to think this, as the Hawks have moved up to No. 25 in his ranking. The Hawks traded for Jeff Teague to back up Trae Young. But in two of the last three games that Young has missed, Brandon Goodwin (the back-up point they already had) has stepped up in what have been the Hawks’ two biggest comeback wins of the season. Against the Clippers on Wednesday, Goodwin scored all 19 of his points in the fourth quarter of a game the Hawks trailed by 21 and won by seven. John Collins has shot 62% as the Hawks have scored 113 points per 100 possessions over a 4-3 stretch, capped by a 152-133 win over Washington on Sunday in which Young had an incredibly efficient 45 points and 14 assists. Both Goodwin and Teague have been playing off the bench with Young back in the lineup, but two-point-guard lineups have not worked well thus far. In 88 total minutes with two of the three on the floor, the Hawks have been outscored by 46 points. The folks at ESPN keep Atlanta at the bottom this week. Trae Young is the Hawks’ first outright Eastern Conference All-Star starter since center Dikembe Mutombo in 1998. Young’s growing popularity is evident, as he led all East guards with more than 2.8 million fan votes. — Spears Tommy Beer of Yahoo Sports and Rotoworld keeps Atlanta from reaching the bottom but puts them at No. 29. Trae Young erupted for 45 points, 14 assists, six 3-pointers, six rebounds in Sunday’s victory over Washington. He is the first player to tally at least 40 points and ten dimes in a single game before turning 22 years old. Young, who was a huge fan of Kobe, wore a Hawks No. 8 jersey to honor Bryant at the start of the game. Remarkably, the last player to have a 40-point double-double vs. the Wizards was… Kobe Bryant in 2006. Finally, CBS Sports brings up possible trade piece Evan Turner in this ranking as they put the Hawks at No. 25. Evan Turner: Truth be told, nobody who’s available on the Hawks roster will be very attractive to buyers at the deadline, but if we have to pick somebody I suppose it’s Turner, who’s on an $18.6M expiring deal. If Atlanta can find a taker, it would likely be in exchange for longer-term bad money with an asset attached. That’s it for the rankings and, at the very least, the Hawks seem to be at the very least becoming more popular, thanks in large part to the work of Trae Young. In some areas, they are trending up. However, in others they are still at the bottom, and it will be interesting to see if Atlanta makes another move closer to the trade deadline. As always, leave your thoughts below. View the full article
  3. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports The Atlanta Hawks hosted the Washington Wizards Sunday evening, with the game becoming a backdrop for a more serious issue: the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash that occurred this morning in Southern California. Lloyd Pierce was very emotional when making his pre-game remarks, sharing that his cousin was also killed in a helicopter crash in 1998. “In ‘98, I lost my cousin,” Pierce said. “He was a pilot in the Navy, stationed in San Diego, Coronado and he was in a helicopter crash. His widow comes to every game, she lives here in Atlanta. Two sons. It was March 1998. My senior year of college. I told you guys I did a breakfast club this year with our group and I’ve never been able to talk about my cousin. I talked to our guys in the breakfast club about that and I just told the guys. One thing I failed to mention is that to this day, I still have a hard time looking at helicopters. There are just certain things you don’t get over. Today is that day.” Pierce continued to speak on the legacy Bryant not only made on the NBA, but the work he was doing for the women’s game with his daughter Gianna. “I never had a personal relationship with Kobe,” Pierce said of Bryant. “He’s spoken to me a bunch of times and he’s always told me he respects me, he respects the work that I’ve done and he’s watching me from afar as a head coach and as an assistant. He said it to me in Philly, he said it to me in LA. It’s who Kobe is and what I know of Kobe. What I respect the most is, I grew up on the west coast, I’m a Lakers fan as a child and I had to denounce being a Lakers fan once you get into the profession, but I’ve always respected his greatness because of his detail and his passion and the intensity with which he plays. But there’s nothing more than the respect I have for him as a father. Every image you see of him post-retirement is with his daughters and with his family. Everything you see online on Twitter is about positivity. “He’s encouraging others, retweeting positive comments to others,” Pierce continued. “I think it’s been the biggest transformation of a competitor to a human being that I’ve ever seen and that’s the sad part about today. He was someone that everyone looks up to, especially this generation of players, and to see the way he was coming out of retirement and playing to just being a leader of people: WNBA, AAU programs, children’s books. We lost a leader. It’s hard. Our locker room is shaken, the NBA is shaken, the community is shaken, everyone is, because at the end of the day, you respect what he’s been able to accomplish for so many years and in so many different ways.” With many discussing whether the Hawks and Wizards (along with the rest of the NBA) should play at all on Sunday, both Atlanta’s ownership and Pierce expressed the difficulty and magnitude of the situation. “Today’s tough, as a competitor in our sport, it’s really tough to navigate through today,” Pierce said. “Should we play, shouldn’t we play is not up to me. Today is not going to be the end of mourning. It’s really just the start. I told our guys in there, ‘I’m not a high-low guy’ and why, and they understood that. Because of the breakfast club, they know my story. But it’s a reminder of perspective, as to why and to what’s most important. The now is most important. The who. Who do you need to say hello to? Who do you need to reach out to? The perspective of all of this is tough because Kobe’s untouchable in a lot of those guys’ eyes.” “When we speak of greatness, we speak of the accomplishments. What any competitor knows about Kobe is the work and the detail....You think of greatness, it’s not just the accomplishments, it’s what he poured into it.” The Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and all of State Farm Arena honored the Bryant’s with a moment of silence prior to tip. Following the silence, a “Kobe” chant broke out amongst the crowd. Young finished with 45 points, 14 assists and six rebounds in the win. Hunter added 25 points on 8-of-11 from the floor, while Bruno Fernando posted career highs in both points (14) and rebounds (12). It was ultimately a historic offensive performance for Atlanta, with 152 points being the most points the Hawks have scored in a regulation game since 1970. Bradley Beal led Washington with 40 points and six assists. View the full article
  4. Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images The second half of Friday evening’s game got away from the Atlanta Hawks, leaving a sour taste in the team’s mouth as they entered the weekend. On Sunday evening, Trae Young and company will have the chance to right the ship with a home game against the Washington Wizards. At present, the Hawks are considered to be the favorites to secure a victory, marking one of the few times this season in which Atlanta has entered in that position. Part of that stems from Washington’s injury situation, with a number of players projected to be absent, but the Hawks are also arguably the more talented team. From there, the benefit of home-court advantage is a considerable factor, even with the Hawks also projected to be without both Alex Len (hip) and DeAndre’ Bembry (hand) for injury reasons. Young and Bradley Beal are the headliners, but the game could also be decided by players like John Collins, Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter. Washington’s defense is the worst in the NBA, providing hope for Atlanta’s offense in this spot, but it will be interesting to see if the Hawks can slow what has been an above-average Wizards offense this season. Regardless, Sunday evening’s game should be interesting as a measuring stick for the Hawks and, frankly, it is a contest that Atlanta should view as winnable. Stay tuned throughout the day and be encouraged to utilize the comments below as a “game thread” for the action. Game Info Game Date/Time: Sunday, Jan. 26, 6:00 pm ET Location: State Farm Arena TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass View the full article
  5. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Trae Young’s All-Star starter selection has started quite the chatter online. This is not an introspective piece. This is not an extensive, well-researched feature. I look forward to reading more insightful, analytically-based pieces on why there’s a new All-Star starter in Atlanta from my colleagues. This is me simply publicly admitting, again, I was wrong about Trae Young. When he first burst on the national scene on a mainstream level as a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, I was on the bandwagon of the freshman guard at the University of Alabama, Collin Sexton. Sexton is a hometown kid from the Atlanta area, and while Young proudly wore the underdog cape throughout his entire basketball life, Sexton’s underdog story was even grimier. “Young Bull” went from unranked to five-star prospect within a year. He enchanted the internet by calling Penny Hardaway’s son trash and staring into the eyes of a defender during a free throw in a petty manner. He became a viral sensation without having his own personal social media presence. Although Sexton has the athletic ability to jump out the gym at 6-foot-1, he was never the most naturally-skilled basketball player amongst other elite players in the country but his motor made him stand out. Young’s game remained the same — flashy and fun to watch. However, as his efficiency declined after carrying the Sooners all season, Sexton kept Alabama’s NCAA hopes alive by sprinting the length of the floor and hitting a game-winning floater at the buzzer against Texas A&M. While Young opened the season with high-scoring performances filled with aesthetically-pleasing highlights, Sexton literally scratched and clawed his way to 40 points in a three-on-five battle against Minnesota. Yes, Young led the nation in assists and points as a freshman but who was he playing with? Sound familiar? All-in-all, I slowly adopted the idea Young was the high risk, high reward pick who fit Travis Schlenk’s vision in Atlanta as the rumors that led up to the draft heated up. Instead of picking “safe,” swing for the fences and send the flashiest player and biggest name in college basketball to a city thirsty for an NBA star. I was in. My doubt is a common theme in the long list of Young’s well-documented underdog journey. He should’ve left his hometown high school for a prep school. He should’ve chosen Kansas, Kentucky or Duke instead of Oklahoma. He should’ve stayed another season after a forgettable and inconsistent second half of freshman year. Not big enough. Not strong enough. Not tough enough. Won’t be able to do the same thing at the next level. Last but not least, the centerpiece of “one of the five worst trades this century.” Young is the talk of this year’s All-Star starters because of his team’s record. He is the talk of these All-Star starters because of his defense. He’s the talk of these All-Star starters because of his clutch shooting numbers or whatever stat you want to nitpick at next. He’ll be the first one to tell he needs to continue to improve his defense, as well as cut down on his turnovers. His primary partner in crime, John Collins, would be the first to tell you it wasn’t Young’s fault he was suspended for over a quarter of the season, or the team’s third-best player Kevin Huerter also dealt with injuries that held him out for a handful of games. Young is top four in the league in scoring and assists. Many of his starting lineups have featured two-to-three rookies and Damian Jones, who averaged 10.5 minutes per game in his first three seasons. Before the return of Collins or the recent comeback heroics of Brandon Goodwin, the Hawks often looked like five men on the court who had no idea what to do with a basketball in their hands when Young was off the floor. He has consistently been the best point guard in the Eastern Conference this season. Blame the record, defense or say he was only voted in because of a popularity contest (even if the media and players also ranked him highly). It’s the only way Young should be received after earning his biggest accomplishment yet. Some of the outrage is justified, some of it stems from not watching a full-length Hawks game, some of it is from fans of other teams who will rant regardless. A lot of it, however, comes from a place of long-rooted stubbornness. Many of us were wrong about Trae Young in high school, college, in the summer league, rookie preseason and his first two months in the NBA. While Sexton is holding on fairly well for a second-year player and doesn’t look like an absolute bust, I was extremely wrong in thinking he was better than Young. Cat’s out the bag. I was way off on that take. Now, it’s the time to, finally, admit many of you were also wrong about Trae Young. View the full article
  6. Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports The Atlanta Hawks entered play on Friday evening in Oklahoma City looking to win their second consecutive game against a Western Conference opponent. Beyond that, it was the second straight night contest against a team playing well enough that they would qualify for the playoffs (in the more competitive half of the NBA) if the season were to end today. On Wednesday night, they came back to beat a Los Angeles Clippers team that was playing without their two best players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. In fairness, Atlanta was playing without Trae Young, their presumed sole representative in the NBA All-Star game (to be held next month in Chicago). After some uncertainty, Young would be cleared to play against the Thunder on Friday, the team that he followed most closely, having grown up in Oklahoma. The home team would play without their starting center, Steven Adams. On paper, it looked like a matchup that the Hawks might be able to make interesting, despite the fact that the Thunder rank as roughly league average on both ends of the court while the Hawks rank toward the bottom of the league offensive and defensively. Entering play, Atlanta ranked second from the bottom in opponent second chance points allowed. This is an area in which they often bleed points to the opposing team even when they are doing a solid job defending at the point of attack and challenging shots. However, Oklahoma City ranks last in the league in generating points after offensive rebounds. So, there was some reason for optimism that the Hawks might be able to keep the score in range. They were able to do that for much of the game but lost contact in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. In the end, they would give up 140 points to an opponent for the fourth time this season. They entered the final period down by 14 points. Instead of closing the gap, they saw the Thunder more than double their lead in the final frame in the eventual 140-111 loss for the visitors. The risk was there throughout the game that if the Thunder starting making their shots at a normal clip that Atlanta would be unlikely to be able to shoot well enough to keep pace. Oklahoma City is fifth in the league in field goal percentage while the Hawks are No. 23. As the home team got separation in the game, it was their ability to make more shots than their opponent that stood out. The Thunder shot a scalding 58% from the field and 56% (14 of 25) from beyond the three point line. Despite trading Paul George to the Clippers after last season (mostly for future draft collateral), Oklahoma City also got a very good young player in the form of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. From there, exchanging Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul — another move that seemed to indicate the organization was looking to the future — brought in another top-tier veteran and Danilo Gallinari came alongside. As such, Oklahoma has two of the hardest players to defend and the point guard and power forward positions. He may be past his prime — and there may be real questions about how much he can be relied upon across the entirety of an NBA season — but Paul can use his skill and intellect to manipulate defenses as well as any lead guard in the league. Despite his defensive issues, Gallinari is the prototypical stretch power forward. And the two veterans can really do a number against a young team. They did just that to Atlanta in this contest. While the game was close, for the better part of three quarters, and as they got separation, in the fourth quarter, the Thunder used offensive actions and sets that were just sophisticated enough to overwhelm their young opponent and just simple enough that they were able to run everything with crispness and precision. The result was 48 minutes of comfortable and desirable shots, which they were able to ride to their best offensive output of the season. The Hawks used good shooting of their own for the first three periods of play to mostly keep pace. At the end of the third frame, Atlanta had amassed 90 points on 51% shooting from the field, 44% from the three point line and by converting 14 of their 17 shots from the free throw line. On most nights, that would be more than enough. But, as Oklahoma City caught fire, the shooting of Atlanta fell off of a cliff. They generated 27 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter but connected on just nine of them. That insufficient shooting performance included a 1 for 13 effort from three-point distance. The one aspect of play for the Hawks that is just starting to resemble their exciting performance from the second half of last season is that Young and John Collins are, collectively, starting to regularly lead the team in offensive production. Collins led all scorers in the game with 28 points on just 16 shooting possessions. He was 13 of 16 from the field and converted two of his four shots from the arc. After a slow shooting start upon his return from suspension, the third-year big man is now shooting 36% from the three point line on four attempts per game. Young struggled to get his shot to fall with any consistency in Oklahoma City, but he generated 26 points (on 26 shooting possessions). His 16 assists were a season high and was just one shy of his career best mark. Cam Reddish continued his competent offensive play of late. He had 20 points and six rebounds. He made shots attacking the rim with his dribble and connected on four of his six attempts from deep. Success can be fleeting and fragile for young players but it looks like the game might be starting to slow down for him in a potentially permanent manner. His counterpart from the lottery portion of the 2019 draft, De’Andre Hunter, made a handful of impressive plays but struggled significantly at other times. He had 10 points on 12 field goal attempts. He missed on each of his three attempts from deep. Kevin Huerter made a few nice plays but had just six shot attempts (five points). Jeff Teague had nine points and two assists off of the bench. After contributing 19 points in the fourth quarter to help lead Atlanta to comeback victory on Wednesday night, Brandon Goodwin could not get it going in this game. He had just four points on a one for six shooting performance. The Hawks ran all of the things they normally run offensively and it largely worked for them for the first 36 minutes of the game. But when they most needed it, no one was able to step up and help them match the scoring output of their opponent down the stretch. “I thought our guys were playing well tonight for about 34, 36 minutes,” Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce commented after the game. “They (Oklahoma City) hit eight threes in a 14-minute span from halftime on. on. Some were miscues. Some their guys just got going a little bit. I thought our guys were playing well up until that point. And then they just had a combination of getting beat off the dribble in the fourth quarter and an inability to score for us.” “It was kind of a bad combination in that fourth quarter,” Pierce continued. “We could never really slow them down or take them out of rhythm. But I thought our guys were at least competing and kept the game close. And then it just got away from us.” Two former Hawks excelled for the Thunder in reserve play and played in stretches in which their team was able to get the most distance. Point guard Dennis Schröder, currently a leading candidate for sixth man of the year award, had 21 points (on efficient shooting) and eight assists. Center Mike Muscala had 14 points on just seven shot attempts. The two combined to convert seven of 10 three points attempts. Gallinari led all Oklahoma City players with 25 points and was the toughest player for Atlanta to defend throughout the game. He knocked down seven of his 10 field goal attempts which included four makes on six shots from the three point line. in short, he made it look easy. Paul, as he does most of the time, made a lot of the success happen. He posted 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. Gilgeous-Alexander was nearly unstoppable with his dribble penetration. He had 24 points, six assists and three blocks. “This team, one of the things we talked about, it wasn’t going to be a real scheme game,” said Pierce about the play of the victors. “Obviously their two bigs got going from three, Muscala and Gallinari. But for the most part if was going to be a lot of can you guard your own man? And, can we show a crowd? And in the fourth quarter that’s what you saw.” “He’s (Paul) communicating all the time,” responded Pierce about the advantages the Thunder have in their veteran point guard. “He’s orchestrating and instructing his guys on where they need to be. So, the game management, the flow of the game is always in their favor because of what he brings and what he does on the court.” “We just couldn’t get stops when we needed them and we couldn’t take away the three ball in that third quarter,” Pierce said in summary. Let’s take a look at some of the action. On their second offensive possession, the Hawks demonstrate what they are wanting to do to the Oklahoma City defense. They are able to use a lot of motion from their ball handlers to get the defense really spread out and then attack with quickness and urgency. Collins is eventually able to slip behind the Thunder defenders for a lob from Young. On this Oklahoma City possession, Paul is able to attack the defense of Young. Hawks defenders are taught to use the baseline as an additional defender in this situation. So, Young takes position to attempt to push Paul away from a potential ball screen higher on the floor. He, per the scheme, expects a help defender to appear at the rim if he is unable to contain Paul’s dribble advance. Young’s execution here is decent. Huerter and Bruno Fernando work well together on the weak side to free up the latter to help on the strong side at the rim. But, Hunter, who should account for Luguentz Dort after Huerter slides down to help on Nerlens Noel, loses track of his responsibility on the back side of the play and the result is a cut and dunk by the Thunder rookie. Hunter’s play has been, unsurprisingly, up and down during this, his rookie season. But a consistent theme in his struggle on both ends of the court is his tendency to lose track of what is happening behind him. More to come on that. On this play from early in the game, the youthful Hawks defenders are not able to get organized. Once again, Young is matched up on Paul. Here, Paul does something he seldom does. He becomes the screener in pick and roll action with Gilgeous-Alexander. By all appearances, Hunter and Young never get a plan identified, nor communicated. Despite Collins, Huerter and Bruno Fernando holding up to their responsibilities solidly on the weak side of the play, the result is an easy basket for the Thunder. After playing heaving minutes at the power forward position the past several games, Hunter moved back to small forward, mostly, in this game as Atlanta started a traditional lineup. Presumably to avoid wear and tear, Paul is matched up with Hunter, who spots up off of the ball more than any other Hawks player. Atlanta looks ready for this match up and enters the ball to Hunter in the post. After establishing nice, deep position on the play the rookie is able to use a spin toward the baseline to create the easy shot and score. On this play near the midpoint of the first quarter, we see a situation the Thunder want to avoid and that Atlanta wants to try to create. Young attacks the Oklahoma City defense before they can get all five defenders back. As a result, Noel has to try to account for both Fernando and Collins. What foot speed Gallinari once had in his career the 31-year-old no longer deploys as a result of lower body injuries and normal wear and tear. This will become a significant thing for Thunder fans to watch if and when their team plays in the postseason.., the opponent looking to push the pace in this manner with Gallinari on the floor. Collins collects the pass and finishes with the lay up. Here, we see Hunter post Paul again from the left block. Notice that Paul is more assertive defensively on this play and is able to deny Hunter the deep position he had on the previous similar possession. Also notice Hunter, with his back to the other defenders, did not find the arrival of Gallinari as a second defender. He makes the shot as a result of his length advantage over Paul and because Gallinari is not well equipped to impact a play in this manner. But this is not a recipe for sustainable success against this defensive look. Here, we see Young again attacking early in the shot clock with a dribble. He is able to get into the heart of the Thunder defense with no resistance. He delivers the ball to Reddish on the right wing who knocks down a three point attempt. What is noteworthy here is the timing and feel of Reddish. He lifts out of the corner and toward the three point break just as Young demands the attention of his defender, Gilgeous-Alexander, which gives him the space to shoot. Reddish was not demonstrating subtle movement such as this early in the season. This is progress. On this play, we see an offensive set that appears to be run for Collins. It’s unclear if the Hawks coaching staff is still professing to “not run plays” for him. It’s a set they don’t often run. And when they have run it, the arrangement has usually been for Young to start in the left corner and to move along the path that Huerter does here, but to set a cross screen in the process, for a shooter to be freed to move to the left corner. Here, they are able to get Collins a comfortable face up look from the baseline, which he is able to convert. On this Oklahoma City possession, we see Paul know exactly what is coming and turn it into an easy mid range shot. His defender, Goodwin, sets up near the ball screen to deny a path to the middle - the famous “no middle” posture. Paul recognizes this along with Alex Len dropped deep into paint and dribbles into a comfortable jumper. On this second quarter possession, we see another example of the growth of Reddish as a shooter. Simply put, he did not move in the half court as a confident shooter earlier in the season, and perhaps understandably so. He wasn’t making shots. This time around, he sees the Thunder defense load up towards the strong side of the floor and notices a free and clear left corner. He moves there with good pace, catches a timely pass from Huerter and knocks down the shot. As Collins potentially continues to knock down perimeter shots, we may see more of this action. Here, he operates in side pick and roll with Young. The Thunder are “icing” this action on this play which calls for Noel to place himself directly in between Young at the paint. This allows for a simple pass above the three point break to Collins who is easily able to get a shot off before Noel can recover to him. This play is a simple illustration as to why Gallinari is so difficult to defend. After helping on the ball handler, Collins works to close out on Gallinari as a shooter after the ball is moved to him. He gets there in a reasonable amount of time and offers an acceptable contest. But the efficient shooting form and unusually high release point of the Thunder veteran renders the Collins effort to be of no consequence to the result of this play. This is a fun look at, perhaps, the most impressive of Young’s 16 assists in the game. He threads the needle to Huerter who is racing up the floor in transition and benefits from the pass in the form of his sixth dunk on the season. Also, notice how the lack of foot speed from Gallinari, again, factors into this play. Lastly, let’s take a look at a play from the second half that is encouraging. This reflects team growth. The Thunder don’t get matched up here the way they would like. In this case, Hunter ends up with a bigger defender (Muscala) on him. Young recognizes this and advances the ball to the rookie in the right corner. Hunter immediately recognizes why the ball has been pushed ahead to him and takes the slower, bigger defender off of the dribble for the easy score. They Hawks have not demonstrated a lot of quick recognition, quick execution on offense this season. That’s something to keep an eye on as Atlanta faces the second half of the season. Up Next After an off day (for travel) on Saturday, the Hawks will host a divisional match-up on Sunday evening. They will take on the Washington Wizards, who currently lead the season series 1-0, at 6:00 pm ET at State Farm Arena. View the full article
  7. Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images The Atlanta Hawks made their way to Oklahoma City on Friday night to do battle with the Thunder, with the home team having been surprisingly good this season. Before the game, Steven Adams was ruled out for OKC, which was some good news for the Hawks who have struggled all season long against good big men. In addition, Trae Young was upgraded to available early in the day, returning from a one-game absence with a thigh contusion. Adams’ absence was not really a problem for OKC, though, with Bruno Fernando was struggling on defense against Nerlens Noel, and generally flailing overall. As a result, the rookie big man only saw seven minutes of action in the first half, scoring no points and grabbing just one rebound. The Hawks turned to Alex Len, who did quite a good job of picking up the slack defensively. However, the big man that lifted Atlanta the most was John Collins. Collins piled up 17 points in the opening half while grabbing 3 rebounds in 14 minutes. The Hawks closed the gap to just four points, but OKC got their lead back to eight in the final two minutes to take a 66-58 lead into the break. Atlanta shot 49% from the floor in the opening half and 43% from beyond the arc. The Thunder shot 53% overall and 39% from deep. Things would get more difficult after halftime for the Hawks as Len was ruled out for the remainder of the night coming out of the locker room with a right hip flexor strain. Atlanta did come out of the break with some nice intensity though. The Hawks were able to whittle the deficit down to three as they scored the first five points of the second half. The score tightened down all the way to just one point at the 6:09 mark as OKC led 77-76. Things quickly turned from there as Damian Jones was forced into action. Jones picked up two fouls in just six minutes and was pretty horrendous on defense as the Thunder built their lead to a game-high 14 points. Overall the Thunder shot 65% from the floor in the third quarter and 7-of-9 from three to basically put the Hawks in their coffin. The final nails were still yet to come as the fourth quarter approached with OKC up 104-90. From the start of the fourth quarter it was pretty apparent that the Hawks were doomed. Oklahoma City opened the period with a 10-4 spurt which got the lead up to 20 points and basically put a ribbon on things. The Hawks did have a few bright spots in this game though. Trae Young finished his night with 26 points and 16 assists while John Collins added 28 points of his own. Reddish had a good night with 20 points and six boards and De’Andre Hunter made his way to double figures with 10 points in 31 minutes. OKC had a really good game by spreading out their offense as seven players made it to double figures. That group was headlined by Danilo Gallinari who scored 25 points in 28 minutes. Chris Paul scored 18 points to go along with five assists and six boards. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander poured in 24 points and old friend Dennis Schröder had 21 points and eight assists. The Hawks had several chances to take this one, but the loss of Alex Len really hampered their ability to compete as Fernando and Jones continue to struggle this season. Atlanta will be back in action on Sunday to face the Washington Wizards at State Farm Arena. Stay tuned. View the full article
  8. Photo by Shane Bevel/NBAE via Getty Images The Atlanta Hawks put together a memorable comeback on Wednesday evening, toppling the L.A. Clippers behind John Collins and Brandon Goodwin. After a break on Thursday that included an All-Star nod for Trae Young, the Hawks will take the floor in Oklahoma City on Friday evening, and Atlanta will face a stiff test. At the forefront of the pre-game analysis is the injury report for both teams. The Hawks will once again be without DeAndre’ Bembry (personal) and Jabari Parker (shoulder), but the biggest domino is the availability of Young. The star guard is listed as questionable with the same right thigh contusion that kept him off the floor on Wednesday, and it will be interesting to monitor his status. On the Thunder side, Steven Adams is listed as questionable with a left ankle sprain and Terrance Ferguson is out for personal reasons. Adams’ availability will be big in determining expectations, as Oklahoma City relies heavily on the veteran for his two-way impact. At present, there is no point spread available for Friday’s game, largely because of the uncertainty surrounding Young and, to a lesser extent, Adams. Still, the Hawks will be underdogs against the red-hot Thunder with or without Young, Atlanta will be looking to pick up a second straight win while stopping Oklahoma City’s winning streak at three games. Stay tuned throughout the day and be encouraged to utilize the comments below as a “game thread” for the action. Game Info Game Date/Time: Friday, Jan. 24, 8:00 pm ET Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass View the full article
  9. Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images It’s official. On Jan. 2, word broke that Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young was leading all Eastern Conference guards in fan voting for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. From there, Young continued to operate at the top of the fan vote in three straight public releases from the league. With that in mind and with fans accounting for 50 percent of the formula as the NBA chooses its starters for both conferences, the second-year guard was seemingly in the driver’s seat. Everything led up to Thursday, Jan. 23 for the final verdict, though, and Young ultimately garnered the starting nod. Young will be joined in representing the East by Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam and captain Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the starters in place, it should be noted that the NBA All-Star Draft will not take place until Thursday, Feb. 6, leaving some uncertainty as to whom Young will be playing alongside under the bright lights. While it isn’t a surprise to see the uber-talented guard rewarded in this way, Young will become the first member of the Hawks to start the All-Star Game since Dikembe Mutombo in 1998. Young is averaging 29.2 points and 8.6 assists while maintaining strong efficiency (59.4 percent true shooting) and, in short, he is carrying a massive workload for the Hawks and doing it quite well. In fact, Atlanta’s offense craters when Young leaves the floor and he acts as the centerpiece of the organization’s roster rebuild. In addition to his responsibilities as an All-Star Game starter, Young is seemingly on track to be involved on All-Star Saturday Night, potentially taking part in the Skills Challenge and the Three-Point Contest, even if the NBA has not formally announced the fields for either event. It remains to be seen as to whether he’ll suit up for the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday evening (though he’ll surely be invited) but, either way, Young will have a full dance card when the NBA descends on Chicago in February. Stay tuned. View the full article
  10. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images A return to winning ways, a return of Brandon Goodwin’s fourth quarter heroics. The Atlanta Hawks returned to winning ways as they topped a shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers — playing without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley — on Wednesday night, 102-95. The Hawks — playing without Trae Young, DeAndre’ Bembry and Jabari Parker — were led by John Collins’ 33 points and 16 rebounds, while Brandon Goodwin added 19 points, all coming in the fourth quarter. For the Clippers, Montrezl Harrell scored 32 points off of the bench while Lou Williams added 18 points. Brandon Goodwin takes over the fourth quarter...again You would’ve been forgiven for thinking this game was, perhaps, over in the first half as the Clippers — with relative ease — opened a 21 point lead (as well as a stretch that saw the Clippers go on a 26-1 run). The Hawks entered the break trailing by 19 points and, really, you were just waiting to see how long it took before this game got away — it just looked like to be too much of a challenge offensively without Trae Young (highlighted by a huge dry spell in the first quarter that saw the Hawks go without a field goal for over seven minutes). The Hawks, however, weren’t done and a 12-1 run kept them there-or-thereabouts and they managed to cut the lead to single-digits and when the Clippers re-established a double-digit lead in the final quarter, you wondered if the Hawks had another run in them. Enter, Brandon Goodwin. Backing up Jeff Teague in the absence of Trae Young, Goodwin ignited in the fourth quarter for all 19 of his points. Goodwin scored a three toward the start of the fourth quarter but there was a key stretch where he really got it going, turning the deficit into a lead. So, naturally, we’re going to look at a few of these plays from the final quarter from Goodwin. With the Hawks trailing by 11 points, Goodwin brings the ball up the court and gets a good screen from Alex Len, opening an opportunity to launch from the outside and Goodwin connects: After two free throws from Collins, Goodwin rejects the screen and drives by Rodney McGruder and gets all the way to the rim for the score: Goodwin seemed to relish facing Lou Williams last night — both obviously share a Gwinnett County high school connection — and on this possession he sizes up Williams, works an opening and hits the three: Goodwin turns facilitator as Collins creates separation, forcing Harrell to have to prevent Goodwin from turning the corner and getting to the rim, opening the path for Collins and Goodwin to connect on the alley-oop: After another Collins basket — there were a few of those to be had last night — Goodwin would give the Hawks their first lead since the first quarter as he drives by McGruder once again to score at the rim, plus the foul: Two easy layups for Goodwin at the end of the day, no help defense for the Clippers to attempt to block the shot. Now that the Hawks had taken the lead, they needed to try put a gap between themselves and the Clippers and, again, it’s Goodwin who provides, drawing the shooting foul on a three-point attempt as Landry Shamet fumbles into Goodwin: Goodwin would hit all three free throws, giving the Hawks a five point lead and some breathing room. Switching focus away from Goodwin briefly, the game saw its biggest swing not long after this play. The Clippers reduced the lead to three points and carry possession of the ball with just under two minutes to go. Lou Williams shoots a three-pointer that would’ve tied the game, only for it miss and the Hawks go down the other end with Goodwin, and De’Andre Hunter — who struggled mightily shooting the ball — hits the three from the corner on the find from Goodwin to put the Hawks up by six points: And to wrap up, with the game basically over, Goodwin ices the game with a little shake-and-bake before hitting the finger-roll: It capped off a 19 point final quarter for Goodwin, a 33 point fourth quarter for the Hawks and a second half where the Hawks outscored the Clippers 61-35 — impressive, since the Clippers scored 32 points in the first quarter alone. It’s quite remarkable that the Hawks managed to win this game despite shooting 35% from the field — in fact, it’s the third lowest shooting percentage from a team in a win (Phoenix and Minnesota have each won a game shooting 34% from the field) in the NBA this season. It highlights the imperfect nature of this game for the Hawks, especially the first half where the game obviously threatened to get away, but Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was pleased with how his team responded after a poor first half. “Hate to start with the negative but there’s nothing more disturbing than watching our guys in that first half,” opened Pierce. “The message was we’re just not in a position to come out and not compete the way we were in the first half and to not have a sense of urgency against a team that played the night before. I hope this is a momentum builder. I hope this is an understanding of how we have to play from start to finish. But, I couldn’t be prouder of the guys in that fourth quarter and the way they battled. We out-rebounded them by 17 in the second half and it’s just effort, it’s just effort. I don’t think there was anything other than us trying to wear them down and us playing with a lot of effort and energy, so I’m happy for our guys.” The Hawks — and it was evident from the first few minutes of the third quarter when they went on that 12-1 run — showed much improved defense and energy, not by coincidence. “It was a rough start,” said Collins of the first quarter. “We didn’t like the way we started competitively. When we got into the locker room at halftime, we just made an effort. It was our talking point to come out with more emphasis and more energy. We did that and accomplished our goal.” “We tried not to quit,” said Kevin Huerter. “We’re a young team. We have young legs. They’re on a back-to-back. There’s no excuse for us to not have more energy than them.” As Huerter eluded to, the Clippers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but they refused to allow that be an excuse. “It’s a cop-out,” said Montrezl Harrell of the idea fatigue played a role in the loss. “We were up at the beginning of the game. We should have finished the game the same way that we started off. We thought our scoring was going to carry us all the way to the end of the game and it didn’t.” Pierce referenced the rebounding differential and we’ll talk about the Hawks’ rebounding in a little more detail soon, but it was obviously key. Another key? Brandon Goodwin. Interestingly, however, had it not been for a silly fourth foul picked up by Jeff Teague to end the third quarter it may not have happened. “Well, when Jeff picked up his fourth (foul), that’s where we put Brandon out there and he started the fourth quarter and obviously it just kind of spiraled from there,” said Pierce of Goodwin’s fourth quarter. “He got going. He gave us a punch. He made a couple of shots, but he really settled us. It’s just one of those things. You could feel the momentum going and he was the main reason behind it. But I liked his composure. I thought he gave us great execution down the stretch. He obviously made a bunch of shots, but I thought he gave us great execution. We were organized on every set. It was just a slow, slow process throughout the entire fourth quarter. I’m happy for him, I really am.” Execution is an excellent way to describe Goodwin’s fourth quarter. ‘Scrappy’ was how Goodwin himself described it. “I’m coming off the bench, so I get a better feel for the game watching it as things are going on,” said Goodwin postgame. “I see what’s not working, so I have an advantage in that way. (Coach) just told me to bring energy. Be scrappy. Pick up Lou (Williams) full court. I think those little things got me going offensively instead of just trying to come in and shoot the ball.” This isn’t the first time Goodwin has taken over a fourth quarter, memorably doing so in Orlando — another game Trae Young did not play. Naturally, the question again arises of Goodwin and his contract situation. Goodwin has shown he belongs (even though the three-point shot has regressed of late) and I think he will be once the futures of impending free agents Evan Turner and Chandler Parsons are resolved. Former Hawks guard Lou Williams is hoping the Hawks ‘do the right thing’ and sign Goodwin. “I hope they do right by him and sign him long-term,” said Williams of Goodwin. “He’s proven his worth on this team, not just tonight but his ability to be able to stick around and change games. I thought he single-handedly changed the energy, changed the momentum of the game tonight and went and got that win for them.” Time will tell on Goodwin’s future but last night, it was his show in the fourth quarter (and that’s despite Collins’ big night). Attacking the glass Arguably the biggest aspect of this game that went in favor of the Hawks — offensive rebounding and second chance scoring. The Hawks out-rebounded the Clippers 63-45, secured 23 offensive rebounds (the second-most in any NBA game this season) leading to 25 second chance points. You can shoot 35% from the field and still win when you snatch 23 offensive rebounds and shoot 24 more field goals than your opponent (102 to the Clippers’ 78). The Hawks picked up offensive rebounds all across the board (only Goodwin and Damian Jones failed to collect an offensive rebound) but were led by Collins (seven offensive rebounds) and Bruno Fernando (six offensive rebounds) in particular. “...To have seven offensive rebounds tonight but to get nine defensive rebounds against a team that had 19/20 offensive rebounds last night was tremendous,” said Pierce of Collins. The Clippers, as we’ve talked about, were on the second night of a back-to-back. While they didn’t want that to be an excuse, the Hawks tried to prey on that and wear the Clippers down, and Pierce attributed that to the Hawks’ rebounding differential (most of which came in the second half, where the Hawks out-rebounded the Clippers by 17). “You have to understand that this is the NBA. We’ve been on the other end of the back-to-backs a lot this year, and we feel it,” said Pierce. “So, we wanted to pick up full court. We wanted to keep the ball out of Lou Williams’ hands. We wanted to blitz him every time he touched it, and the overall effect was to try and wear them down because they played last night. That’s why I think there was a bigger rebound differential in that second half...” The Hawks played a little larger than previous games (something Pierce referenced postgame when talking about Collins playing more of the four last night). Part of it was the bigs avoiding foul trouble this time, part of it was due to the lineup change the Hawks rolled with (starting Jeff Teague, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Bruno Fernando — Collins has obviously been starting at center of late) and part of it was due to the return of Alex Len, returning from a back injury. Len grabbed three offensive rebounds (seven in total) as he played just under 20 minutes (as part of his minutes restriction). Not a ton else to say in this spot — a huge effort from the Hawks on the offensive glass, absolutely instrumental in the Hawks taking home this victory. Lifting the offense without Young The absence of (potentially, All-Star, as of tonight with the All-Star starters being revealed) Trae Young obviously leaves a large offensive hole, and the obvious question is: where is the scoring going to come from? Ideally, it’s Collins leading the way and wings like Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Cam Reddish contributing at least 10 points. Collins did indeed lead the way, scoring 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the field, 3-of-6 from three and 6-of-6 from the line. I think Wednesday’s box score might flatter Collins somewhat — 33 and 16 (rebounds). Not in the sense of ‘he’s not that good’, but it just made it looks as though Collins dominated this game. He was good, don’t get me wrong, but I think he was more so consistent. ‘Consistent’ would be a better way to describe Collins’ scoring output: seven points in the first quarter, 10 in the second, eight in the third and eight in the fourth — a nicely balanced scoring effort across the game. It was the type of game where you glanced over at the box score and ‘Oh, Collins has 17 points in this first half? That was quiet.’ And that’s not a bad thing, there was plenty of good things Collins did offensively last night, highlighting his diversity. From finishing in the pick-and-roll: Hitting the three-pointer (often): (Collins hit a few catch-and-shoot threes last night but I liked this one in particular because the play develops, Collins realizes he’s on his own and basically says ‘Oh, no one is here? I’m just going to shoot this.’ And he makes it.) Creating his own shot off of the dribble: And, as you would imagine, scoring in second chance scenarios (scoring 11 second chance points last night): Defensively, Collins enjoyed more good moments — some instinctive steals, another block (the one block he picked up last meant that he surpassed his block total from last season, in just 19 games played) It was a complete night for Collins, a mature night. And then he proceeded to get roasted for his postgame outfit, which looked like a young Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Elsewhere, Huerter got going in the third quarter — particularly in that opening 12-1 run to begin the third quarter (he eventually finished with 12 points) but De’Andre Hunter struggled, shooting 3-of-16. Hunter hit that clutch three-pointer to give the Hawks that six point lead but 3-of-16 is obviously rough going, especially in a game where the Hawks just need offense from anywhere without Young. And Hunter can provide that, we (collectively) have seen him score 13/14 sometimes more in a half, or even a quarter — it’s happened a number of times this season. Reddish added 10 points and Goodwin, as we’ve talked about, obviously ignited in the fourth quarter for his 19 points. Huerter, I thought, had a standout quote from the postgame interviews when asked if he felt the burden offensively with Trae Young on the sidelines. “Everyone has to,” said Huerter. “With a game like this, you move the ball as much as you can. Whoever has it going, whoever is making shots, you just try to have the ball find those guys.” Everyone has to... The Hawks (11-34) are back in action on Friday, where they’ll make a trip to Oklahoma City for their annual road matchup against the Thunder. A good test awaits the Hawks there, as well as a few old friends. Until next time... View the full article
  11. Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images The Atlanta Hawks hosted the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night after losing a wild one Monday afternoon to the Toronto Raptors. The Clippers beat the Mavericks in Dallas last night. Trae Young (right thigh contusion) was unavailable for the Hawks, while Alex Len (back) returned to the bench on a 20-minute restriction. Jeff Teague started in Young’s place. With this game being the second of a back-to-back for Los Angeles, star forward Kawhi Leonard was unavailable for the game tonight. Joining him on the Clippers inactive list, Paul George (hamstring) and Patrick Beverly (groin) were also unavailable to play. Teague to John Collins to kick off the scoring: The Goodwin Show continued as he got fouled on a three-pointer, making all three and giving Atlanta a 96-91 lead with 3:22 to go. De’Andre Hunter hit a three to make it 99-93 in favor of the Hawks with 1:43 remaining. After a pair of free throws from Lou Williams, the Hawks led 99-95 with 37.4 on the clock. The Clippers were unable to comeback from there as Atlanta pulled out the 102-95 win. Collins led the Hawks with a season high 33 points to go with 16 rebounds Goodwin added 19 points (all in the fourth) to help seal the win. Harrell led the Clippers in the loss with 30 points and seven rebounds. Lou Williams added 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds. The Hawks travel to Oklahoma City next for a Friday night matchup with Chris Paul and the Thunder. View the full article
  12. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports The Atlanta Hawks nearly pulled off a stunning comeback on Monday afternoon, pushing the Toronto Raptors to the brink before ultimately falling by a five-point margin. After a day off on Tuesday, Lloyd Pierce’s team returns to action on Wednesday, with the L.A. Clippers in town for their annual visit. The Clippers arrive on the second night of a back-to-back and, while that always adds some intrigue, that is especially true this time around. L.A. hasn’t released an official injury report as of Wednesday morning and that brings mystery. Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played in a back-to-back all season and, considering the reigning NBA Finals MVP took the floor on Tuesday, precedent would dictate that he would not play in Atlanta. On the flip side, Paul George (hamstring) traveled with the Clippers to Dallas and he could conceivably play for the first time since Jan. 5. Finally, Patrick Beverley (sore right groin) left Tuesday’s game early and, as such, could be unavailable. Even if the Clippers don’t have Leonard or George, L.A. still arrives with plenty of firepower, with Montrezl Harrell and Gwinnett County’s own Lou Williams at the forefront. On the Hawks side, there is uncertainty with Alex Len, as the veteran center has missed four straight games with a back ailment and he is listed as questionable on the team’s official report. Expectations could vary wildly based on the availability of Leonard and George (or even Beverley) but, at the very least, the Hawks will likely enter the game as underdogs. It remains to be seen as to how the team will respond to Monday’s loss, but this is an opportunity for a bounce-back win before Atlanta hits the road to Oklahoma City for a game on Friday. Stay tuned throughout the day and be encouraged to utilize the comments below as a “game thread” for the action. Game Info Game Date/Time: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 7:30 pm ET Location: State Farm Arena TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass View the full article
  13. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports Taking a look at this week’s power rankings. It was a fun week for fans of the Atlanta Hawks, especially considering what transpired up until this point for this season. The Hawks started the week off with bringing point guard Jeff Teague back to the team the drafted him, and Atlanta managed to pick up a couple of wins in the process. One of these wins happened to be in San Antonio, which we all know hasn’t occurred in a very, very long time. With that in mind, we dive into this week’s power rankings, and Tommy Beer of Yahoo Sports has the Hawks at No. 30 this time around. Jeff Teague made his Hawks debut on Saturday and scored 15 points with three rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer in 25 minutes. It will be interesting to see how much time Teague sees playing alongside Trae Young over the second half of the season. The folks at ESPN also puts the Hawks at No. 30. The Hawks defeated the Spurs on Friday, earning their first win inside the AT&T Center. It was Atlanta’s first victory in San Antonio since Feb. 21, 1997, snapping a 21-game road losing streak. The Hawks have lost 18 road games this season, worst in the Eastern Conference. — Spears Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated continues the trend with putting Atlanta at No. 30. Trae Young received some help last week as Jeff Teague returned to Atlanta, though Teague’s arrival may not be the assistance Young was looking for. The Hawks are dreadful defensively, and they have a glaring weakness in the frontcourt. Teague is a familiar face and a fan favorite. He won’t help stabilize the Hawks anytime soon. John Schuhmann of NBA.com manages to change things up a bit with putting the Hawks at No. 28. The very early returns on the quest of Jeff Teague (re-acquired on Thursday) to keep the Atlanta offense afloat when Trae Young sits down: Though Teague made six of his nine shots against Detroit on Saturday, the Hawks scored just 43 points on 44 possessions with Young on the bench. Of course, the offense wasn’t any better with Young on the floor and the defense was downright awful as the Hawks allowed the Pistons to score 32 points or more in all four quarters. Prior to that, Young totalled 67 points as the Hawks won two straight games (vs. Phoenix and at San Antonio) for the first time since the first two games of the season. When the Spurs trapped him in the final seconds on Friday, he quickly got off the ball, allowing Kevin Huerter to hit the game-winner from the weak-side corner. Red Velvet is 3-for-3 on shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. Finally, CBS Sports also seems to break the trend with moving the Hawks up to No. 27 overall. The Hawks finally got to tally something in the win column this week, beating the Suns and Spurs before being blown out at home by the Pistons. Trae Young averaged 27.7 points and 8.7 assists for the week, while Jeff Teague put up 15 points and seven assists in 25 minutes in his return to Atlanta. Well, that’s it for this week’s rankings and it appears the Hawks, for the most part, are still in the very bottom tier of the league. The Hawks have been a bit more competitive, however, and it would take a bit more to convince some of the nation’s writers to move the team up. As always leave your thoughts below. View the full article
  14. Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images The Raptors tried to give this one away but the Hawks’ comeback just fell shy... The Atlanta Hawks hosted festivities on Monday afternoon as they hosted the Toronto Raptors while celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In the end, it was a spirited game but one the Hawks eventually dropped 122-117, but that doesn’t tell the full story of how this game unfolded. Trae Young led all scorers with 42 points and dished a season-high 15 assists while the Raptors were led by Norman Powell’s 27 points, the Raptors enjoying double-digit scoring efforts from six players. As always, if you’re looking for how the game unfolded as it happened — you’re covered in this space. We’re just going to dive in... Fourth quarter mayhem — how the game slipped away, how the Hawks almost took it back Frankly, there’s not really time to look at this game as far as the first three quarters are concerned because it all went down in the final period. Let’s set the table first, and then we’ll dive in. The Raptors — having fought back from a nine point deficit in the second half to take the lead into the fourth quarter — would go on to establish a 21 point lead after Serge Ibaka hit a three-pointer to put the Raptors up 112-91 with 4:30 remaining, and even before this the game was up for the Hawks. Somehow, the Hawks closed the gap — with a large helping hand from Toronto — and made it a three-point game (114-111) with 1:23 remaining (and even a two-point game inside the final minute), but the Raptors were ultimately able to close it out, mostly from the free throw line. Firstly, how did the Raptors take control to begin with? Well, it was due to the work of Norman Powell for the most part, who scored 12 straight points for the Raptors to create the separation as the Hawks’ offense got stuck on the perimeter. Powell started his personal run by converting all three free throws after a costly fifth foul committed by De’Andre Hunter, but after that it was all about Powell detonating from behind the arc (shooting 4-for-4 from deep) on his way to 17 fourth quarter points. For his first three-pointer, Powell is guarded by Kevin Huerter, who tries to get around the Ibaka screen before getting hit in the face by him, thus, freeing up Powell to knock down his first three of the quarter: Probably an offensive foul but alas, just one of many calls that would’ve left people unsatisfied with the officials’ performance in the afternoon. For Powell’s next three-pointer, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson hands the ball of to Powell on the wing and spins into the body of Huerter to try and protect the shooting Powell. To be fair, Huerter gets a decent contest in with his left-hand regardless but it’s not enough to deter Powell as he sinks the three: Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was particularly unhappy with this three-pointer. On the drive this time, Huerter is credited with the block on Powell, Powell, however, collects the offensive rebound, passes the ball to Terence Davis, fans out to the corner, receives the ball from from Davis and hits the contested three-pointer: Sure, there was a slight hesitation on the part of Huerter initially as Powell passed the ball, but even despite that, Huerter still gets in a good contest on Powell — he’s just hot at this point. The Raptors’ three-point barrage continued, this time Serge Ibaka takes advantage of John Collins sagging off enough to the point to give Ibaka permission to give the Raptors a 13 point lead: Ibaka shoots 36% from three on the season (and 35.7% for his career from behind the arc), so perhaps not the best decision from Collins on this possession. Powell struck once again from behind the arc, this time hitting over the contest of Vince Carter to push the Raptors’ lead to 16 points: When you’re hot, you’re hot. Lloyd Pierce lamented the lack of urgency when defending Powell, admitting that it was too easy for Powell at times. “...(Rondae) Hollis-Jefferson is bringing the ball up the floor right in front of our bench, and we let him touch it and shoot a three. That’s too easy,” Pierce said. “At that point, it’s a state of emergency. You deny him. You make Hollis-Jefferson score one-on-one, but you don’t let him (Powell) touch it. You definitely don’t let him touch it and shoot a three in front of you. And all of them- it wasn’t the urgency for the entire roster. We were switching after he made his second, we were switching everywhere, (our defensive call where) we just switch on the basketball and we try and make him drive. All of his shots, I think, were, were off the catch. “So it’s just not this type of urgency that we need defensively to make that adjustment,” Pierce continued. “In the fourth quarter, we talked about doing it stronger, doing it harder, doing it a little bit more. That’s on both sides of the ball. It’s easy to come down and hit a home run. It’s easy to come down and just sit down and defend but can we do more? Can we do it a little bit harder? Can we be more engaged? We dug ourselves in a really deep hole. We were down (21) in the fourth quarter.” “It was just him being him,” added Young of Powell. “He’s a great scorer. That’s why he’s in the league, why he’s on that team. He can really score the ball. It’s tough when he gets going. We had some good contests. Sometimes he got away from us but most of the time, it was good contests. Better offense always beats better defense.” Ibaka would get in on the action one more time from behind the arc as Terence Davis draws the defensive attention of Collins, pulling him away from Ibaka. Davis finds Ibaka, who is unfazed by the closeout by Collins and hits the three: Perhaps this could have been avoided, as Collins, perhaps, didn’t need to leave Ibaka on this play. Trae Young is still in front of Davis and DeAndre’ Bembry is close enough to rotate and help at the rim if needed. Should Davis kick out to then-open Powell in this hypothetical, Reddish can rotate if need be toward Powell. To be fair, it didn’t really even matter at this point — even before Ibaka made this three, the game was, realistically, over. It was over. Even with 2:24 to go in this game, it was still over as the Raptors held a 114-100 advantage — and then began the Raptors’ implosion. A turnover from Powell — marshaled out of bounds on the sideline by Bembry — hands possession of the ball back to the Hawks. Off of the pass from Young, Hunter’s quick drive inside draws Powell away from Cam Reddish in the corner. Hunter finds Reddish, who hits the three to begin the comeback: Two missed free throws and a wild layup at the rim — both courtesy of Hollis-Jefferson — allowed the Hawks to further cut into the lead, Young obliging on this possession with the cold, step-back three. Oh, plus the foul: Now, you some would argue that Young may have stuck out a leg there to draw the contact but it wasn’t spotted and the Raptors had already used their coach’s challenge, and Young heads to the line where his four-point play is completed, cutting the Raptors’ lead to seven points. Prior to the free throw, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, re-inserted Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam, highlighting just how things had unravelled for the Raptors in this small stretch. The Hawks extend the defensive pressure, first on VanVleet inside the Raptors’ half and again as Siakam tries to traverse half-court. Bembry’s pressure forces Siakam to pass but his pass sails out of bounds (initially called as a deflection off of Bembry, but this was overturned following a review): Off of that turnover, Young drives by Patrick McCaw (with ease) and his path to the rim is made easier by the hesitation of Marc Gasol to help on the drive, and Young has an easy layup at the rim to cut the gap to five points with just under a minute and a half to go: From the inbound after this bucket, the Raptors cough it up again, as Powell finds Young as he stumbled inbounds, unable to find a teammate as the Hawks press full-court. Young’s floater is goal-tended (after another review) and the lead is cut to a single possession: The Raptors, however, respond right away as VanVleet sheds Huerter and rises for two: The Hawks are able to find an immediate response themselves, as Young skips by McCaw and into the paint where he sticks the floater despite the contest from Powell: VanVleet splits a pair of free throws to put the Raptors up by four points but the Hawks, again, respond and cut the lead to just two points as Collins makes the cut and is found by Young, who draws the Raptors defense in transition: Then comes the most important possession of the game as the Hawks — once trailing by 21 points in the fourth quarter — now need one more stop before they can attempt to complete this comeback. With only seven seconds left on the shot clock, Siakam is forced to pass to the perimeter and to VanVleet, who gets a good look at an open three but misses. However, as Collins closes out, he makes contact with VanVleet, who goes down and Collins is called for the shooting foul: The foul not only marked Collins’ sixth foul but, obviously, resulted in three free throw attempts. Speaking postgame, Collins believed that VanVleet stuck out his hip as Collins closed out, to create the contact and, subsequently, the foul. “Tough foul,” said Collins of his sixth foul. “I definitely thought he leaned out a little bit with his hips. But contact was made.” Perhaps Collins had a legitimate point: Seems pretty clear from this angle, we’ll see what the Last Two Minute Report has to say about this call... This was tough because the Hawks had already used their coach’s challenge — needlessly, I might add — on an out-of-bounds call when the game was still over in the fourth quarter, which was unsuccessful. Speaking of the play, Pierce was of the opinion that another Hawk, other than Collins, should’ve been the one to challenge VanVleet and/or force the pass. “He’s making an effort,” said Pierce of Collins and the foul. “He’s trying to fly out and contest a shot. He (VanVleet) misses the shot. It’s questionable whether or not he landed and then (Collins) bumped him or... I’m not worried about that. It’s really the ‘more’ that we’re talking about. John was down the floor protecting on the drive and then he makes a second effort to get out and contest. We need the other guy to make the second effort and go out and contest and make them have to make the second and a third pass. “So, I appreciate his effort to fly out there. It’s tough when you’re just lunging and doing everything you can to contest the shot and you get the bad end of the whistle, or the landing or whatever it may be, but someone else should’ve been rotating to that. And that’s the ‘more’ that we don’t have right now. We were doing a great job of it for three quarters and we just didn’t do a good job in the fourth quarter.” When you look at that play again after reading that quote and think, ‘Well, who was it that could even have rotated at that point?’ and, I’m guessing, perhaps it’s Bembry but, really, it’s a tough ask — on this possession — for anyone else to make the rotation. Perhaps Pierce is just looking for those second rotations in a general sense but I’m not sure how else this would’ve been prevented on this possession. Perhaps it is Bembry, perhaps not... Alas... VanVleet proceeds to convert all three free throws, re-establishing a two-possession lead for the Raptors, now leading by five points with 14 seconds to go. The Hawks, out of a timeout, get two points back on the board with a Bruno Fernando dunk but still have to play the foul game. The Hawks are unable to send anyone other than VanVleet to the line — he converts the subsequent free throws and the Hawks, who were already up against it, are unable to score and there is your ball-game. It was a valiant effort by the Hawks to, somehow, make this a game again, and by the Raptors for almost throwing away a 21 point fourth quarter lead and a 14 point lead in the last two minutes. But to have to try and comeback from a hole that size in the first place, that’s always going to be extremely difficult, nigh-on-impossible. “...We just put ourselves in such a big hole, it’s hard to come back from,” said Young postgame. For a team as defensively advanced as the Raptors are, it was odd to see them — albeit, not the starting group — almost crumble under a bit of pressing. Perhaps the Raptors just expected the Hawks to just see out the quarter with the final result seemingly a formality? To be fair, the Hawks have rolled over in the past this season but showed spirit on MLK Day to launch an unlikely comeback attempt. “I tell y’all all the time, whether we’re on the winning side or the losing side, the game’s never over until it’s over,” said Young postgame. “We’ve been good some games finishing and sometimes we’ve lost the lead. “...I think we surprised them a little bit with how much we still had left in the tank,” said Collins after the game. “We made a nice run. We competed.” Pierce, meanwhile, was left to reflect on a missed opportunity to punish a Raptors side that certainly didn’t play like a 28-14 side yesterday. “It was a good, bad game all in one,” said Pierce in his opening statement. “We did everything we could to win that game and everything we could to put ourselves in the position we did in the fourth quarter. And it’s kind of just where we are. Fourth-quarter execution, we give up a 6-0 run; just not managing that game or managing the approach to the game in the fourth quarter. “That extra-pass mentality that we talked about previously, they were scrambling. Their starters weren’t very good. They brought in some energy guys and we didn’t punish that group. We had them where we wanted them from a psychological standpoint, just having a cushion. They were trying to rest their guys and buy some time and we didn’t take advantage of it. “I thought our guys played well enough to win, we just couldn’t figure it out from an execution standpoint, which is frustrating. And even with the effort to come back, it’s just frustrating.” You can understand why Pierce was frustrated — he feels as though Hawks definitely could’ve won this game. A poor end to the third quarter combined with that poor start to the fourth quarter — it was a stretch that clearly irked Pierce, and it meant the Hawks were chasing the game from the offset of that final period. Another factor that did not help the Hawks’ cause were fouls. Hunter, Huerter, Collins and Fernando (who managed to pick up two fouls in the space of one second) all struggled with foul trouble yesterday, limiting their minutes in the second half and, thus, limiting the Hawks in their lineups and their strength of lineups. Huerter and Hunter logged just under 11 minutes of action in the second half, while Fernando scratched just over four minutes and this was a blow because Fernando was showing positive flashes last night and still scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in 16 minutes. With Alex Len still sidelined, the Hawks can ill-afford foul trouble amongst their bigs right now. While Damian Jones can provide some solid minutes, these were not so abundant last night as Jones struggled to limit the Raptors’ scoring opportunities near the rim when he was on the court, and obviously didn’t have it going offensively as Fernando did yesterday. Speaking of the rookies, they enjoyed solid performances last night (fouls aside) — Cam Reddish continued his positive trend behind the arc in January (knocking down another three three-pointers yesterday), Hunter was a team-high plus-13 despite his limited minutes due to foul trouble (27) and Fernando, as mentioned, also produced in his limited showing. “We’re so hard on those guys in practice as rooks to get better,” said Collins of the performance of the rookies. “So we always love to seem them get in the game and actually do it.” Ultimately, this game was as Lloyd Pierce described it — good and bad. Yes, they almost came back and won this game, but they ended up in a 21 point hole having entered the last quarter trailing by just one point... Trae Young continues to make history I’ve been fairly silent on Trae Young’s performance so far, but only for the reason to make special mention of it as a separate note. Like Powell, Young ignited in the fourth quarter for 18 points en-route to 42 points and 15 assists (marking a new-season high). Added to that, Young also got to the free throw line on 21 occasions (a new career-high in attempts), converting 18 of those. As you can imagine, this stat line made various little bits of history, both in the NBA and for the franchise. This is truly remarkable for Collins. We (collectively) had seen a big improvement in Collins as a shot blocker down the stretch of last season (where he averaged over a block a game) but he’s managed to take that to another level this season so far. It helps that he’s playing a lot more of the five (obviously to start games too) but even still... This block in the fourth quarter was particularly fun: The step John Collins has made defensively has been fun to watch so far this season. We’ll see if he can continue to block over two shots a game long-term, but right now he shows little sign of stopping. Rotation notes A few things to note with the rotation last night... Obviously the Hawks are still missing Jabari Parker and Alex Len, though it seems both of them will be returning to action sooner rather than later (and it appears it’ll be Len first). Jeff Teague only played 11 minutes last night, for reasons that weren’t quite clear. Teague’s first stint was disrupted by two fouls in the first quarter but he played very little after that. Ideally, it would be nice to see Teague play a little more alongside Young — I think everyone is curious as to what that might unlock for Young’s offensive game if Young is deployed off-ball for a few possessions. You would imagine Teague will obviously play more than 11 minutes going forward, but it was just interesting to note, especially when the Hawks went to Brandon Goodwin for the first time during the second half for two minutes. The other player acquired in that trade, Treveon Graham, did not feature in last night’s game, having featured against the Pistons on Saturday. The minutes and rotation itself, in general, were a little more scattered than perhaps normal, given the foul issues the Hawks faced in this game — I think high 30’s across the board for the starters would’ve been the way had Hunter and Huerter not ran into foul trouble. The Hawks (10-34) are back in action on Wednesday night, when they take on the Los Angeles Clippers at State Farm Arena. Until next time... 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  15. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images With few exceptions, the Atlanta Hawks host an annual contest on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and, in short, it is always a date to circle on the team’s calendar. 2020 was no different, with the Hawks welcoming the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors to town for an afternoon battle. Given Atlanta’s shaky performance in a blowout home loss at the hands of the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, there was likely a bit of additional urgency for the home team and, for three quarters, that was evident. The closing period belonged to the visiting Raptors, however and, despite a valiant comeback attempt, the Hawks fell by a final score of 122-117. Before tip-off, an off-court highlight occurred with the always fantastic choir intros of Atlanta’s starting five. With the Raptors melting down against pressure defense from Atlanta, Young scored four more points in three (yes, three) seconds and the Hawks were within a single possession at 114-111. Toronto finally stabilized, ceasing the monsoon of turnovers, but the Hawks were still able to slash the margin to two with 34.5 seconds remaining. The back-breaker then arrived when Collins fouled out on a three-shot foul against VanVleet, who knocked down the trio of free throws to put Toronto up 120-115 with 14.2 seconds left. Individually, Young led the way for Atlanta, scoring 42 points (including 18 of 21 from the free throw line) and dishing out a season-high 15 assists. Collins notched a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, with Hunter (11 points, six rebounds), Reddish (13 points, eight rebounds) and Fernando (12 points, four rebounds) making substantial contributions. After a day off on Tuesday, the Hawks will return to action at State Farm on Wednesday evening when the team plays host to the L.A. Clippers. Stay tuned. View the full article