Scouting Report: Toronto Raptors

Saturday, March 22, 2014
By Robby Kalland

The Hawks win streak ended Friday night with a loss to the Pelicans. Atlanta will look to get back in the win column in Toronto as they look for their second win over the Raptors in six days. The Hawks beat the Raptors 118-113 in overtime in Atlanta last Tuesday behind 34 points from Jeff Teague.

Teague and Kyle Lowry had a terrific battle in the fourth quarter, and their matchup will be one to watch. Lowry had a rough start, but closed strong finishing with 20 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Teague did well to be aggressive and took advantage of the Raptors interior defense that was without Jonas Valanciunas who left the game with a sprained back — Valanciunas was back in action on Friday night — and had a big second half to help lead the Hawks to the win.

DeMar DeRozan continued his great play this season against the Hawks with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. DeRozan was held in check late in the fourth and in the overtime period, as the Hawks defense was successful against him bringing a quick double team when he caught the ball on the wing or in the corner, forcing him to pass out or shoot a contested shot.

The Hawks, up three on the Knicks for the eighth seed and one back of the Bobcats for seventh, will have plenty to play for in Toronto. They will have to do it without Kyle Korver — still suffering from back spasms — who did not make the trip to Canada.

Hawks Win Streak Ends as Davis Powers Pelicans to Win

Friday, March 21, 2014
By Robby Kalland
Hawks Win Streak Ends as Davis Powers Pelicans to Win

The Hawks’ (31-36) five-game win streak came to an end at the hands of the Pelicans (28-40) who followed a monster performance from Anthony Davis to the 111-105 victory. Davis finished with 34 points and 11 rebounds on 57.9% shooting, including a pair of monster dunks late in the fourth.

Hawks vs. Pelicans

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Highlights

The Hawks were without Kyle Korver (back spasms) and without their sharp-shooter, the Hawks normally effective three-point attack was not able to get going. Shelvin Mack started in Korver’s place and did his part to pick up the shooting slack, going 4-for-8 from beyond the arc (7-of-11 overall) for 18 points along with four assists and three rebounds.

Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 21 points (2-of-4 from three) along with eight assists and three rebounds. Teague was aggressive in the second half, scoring 19 of his 21 in the final two quarters, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Pelicans, who dominated offensively down the stretch.

New Orleans shot 75% in the fourth quarter and made 16-of-17 from the free throw line in the final quarter on their way to a 42 point quarter. The Hawks had no answer for Davis or Tyreke Evans for most of the night. Evans was able to get to the rim seemingly at will and finished with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting and also added four steals on the defensive end.

The Hawks led late in the third quarter after going on an 11-0 run sparked by Mike Scott and the bench, but a Pelicans run capped by a  Luke Babbitt three at the end of the quarter cut the Hawks lead to just two heading into the fourth quarter. Babbitt opened the fourth with a three-pointer, as the Hawks struggled to cover him on pick-and-pop plays due to the Pelicans’ success getting in the paint forcing the defense to collapse. Babbitt finished the game with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting (3-of-5 from three), eight of which coming in the fourth.

The Pelicans offense dominated in the fourth quarter as they shot 12-of-16 (75%) from the field and 16-for-17 from the free throw line for 42 points. The Hawks’ offense was able to muster up 34 points, but much of that was too little, too late. Davis had 13 in the final period and Brian Roberts made a number of clutch free throws late for eight of his 16 points on the night.

The Hawks defense, which had been making strides during the five-game win streak, was not able to contain the Pelicans who shot 51.4% from the field despite making only 4-of-13 three-point attempts. The Hawks got themselves into foul trouble by being out of position, and the Pelicans made it to the free throw line a lot — 43 free throw attempts — even before the Hawks were forced to intentionally foul late.

Paul Millsap was one of those that was saddled with foul trouble, but despite picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter, he was able to finish with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Millsap had his hands full with Davis, and after doing well on him early, the Hawks defense got a little ragged leading to easy baskets and fouls.

Outside of Teague and Mack, the Hawks were just 2-of-16 from three-point range. DeMarre Carroll  had an off night shooting, with just two made field goals and seven points, but had seven boards and four steals. Scott had 10 points off the bench, all in the third quarter, but the rest of the Hawks struggled to have an efficient shooting night, which compounded the defensive issues.

With the loss and another Knicks win, Atlanta’s cushion in the eighth seed is down to three games. The Hawks will be back in action on Sunday afternoon in Toronto for another matchup with the Raptors, who they defeated in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Tweet of the Night:

Photo by: Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scouting Report: New Orleans Pelicans

Friday, March 21, 2014
By Robby Kalland
Scouting Report: New Orleans Pelicans

The Hawks (31-35) will look to extend their current win streak to six games when they face the Pelicans (27-40) tonight at Philips Arena. The Pelicans have lost three of their last four games, most recently a loss on Wednesday night to the Raptors when they were without their star forward Anthony Davis who was suffering from an upper respiratory illness.

Davis has been tremendous all season playing at an All-Star level for the Pelicans averaging 21.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. In just his second season, he has continued to improve his offensive game, particularly shooting the ball from the mid-range. Already a terrific ball-handler for his size, Davis’ improved shooting has forced defenders to play closer to him in the mid-range, making his off-the-dribble game when facing up from the high post even more devastating.

Defensively, Davis is the anchor at the rim for the Pelicans, and with his long wingspan and great leaping ability he is able to erase shot attempts at the rim better than anyone in the league — his 2.9 blocks per game leads the NBA. Davis is more than just a shot blocking specialist, and his athleticism and length makes him an effective one-on-one defender even when drawn out to the perimeter. The Hawks have done well this season when Pero Antic and Paul Millsap have shared the court together drawing shot blockers away from the paint to help open up driving lanes for the point guards and space for cuts from wing players. With Davis’ athleticism, the match-up between he and the Hawks’ stretch bigs will be one to watch.

The Pelicans’ backcourt combo of Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans has yet to really click as they initially envisioned it working this offseason — a big part of that difficulty has been due to the season-ending injury to Jrue Holiday. Gordon is averaging 15.1 points per game and has been excellent shooting from deep at 39.1%, while Evans is scoring 13.4 points per game on just 42.3% shooting and a dismal 21.3% from three-point range.

With Holiday out, the Pelicans have had to rotate Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts as their point guards, but they haven’t been able to recreate the impact — on either end — that Holiday had. Rivers has improved from last season but still struggles scoring efficiently, shooting just 39.3% from the field. Neither Rivers nor Roberts are the level of defender that Holiday was, so Jeff Teague should be able to find success penetrating the initial backcourt defense of the Pelicans to get in the lane to either score or facilitate.

 

TBT Special: Hawks Throw it Back to Their #FirstTweet

Thursday, March 20, 2014
By Jaryd Wilson

compiled by Michele Rochford

Ever wonder what you first tweet was?

In celebration of Twitter’s 8th birthday, the company is throwing it back…way back. They’re giving their millions of users the opportunity to search and discover their very #FirstTweet. It’s simple: just go to first-tweets.com and type in your Twitter handle and be transported back to likely some inane observation about something incredibly unimportant. Or maybe that’s just us.

So in honor of everyone’s favorite way to complain about the Super Bowl halftime show and Throwback Thursday, we decided to entertain you with some of your favorite players’ first tweets (for some reason, DeMarre Carroll’s won’t work – sorry Junkyard Dog!).

Cartier Martin was first into the Twitter pool in May of 2009…

Some showed their jokester personalities right away:

Some realized the platform’s value as a marketing tool:

Many chose simply to alert Twitter to their presence:

Some wrote things, frankly, we’re not sure what they say, but the emoticons give all the context clues we need:

And finally, some decided that Twitter just wasn’t for them.

Hawks Hangout with Mike Prada of SB Nation

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
By Robby Kalland

Rather than a podcast this week I jumped in a Google Hangout with Mike Prada of SB Nation to talk about the recent win streak, roster construction, Coach Bud’s first season in Atlanta, Pero Antic‘s impact, Jeff Teague, and much more.

Deadspin’s Drew Magary Takes Over @ATLHawks Twitter Feed

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
By Jaryd Wilson

Hawks Outlast Raptors in Overtime for Fifth Straight Win

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
By Robby Kalland
Hawks Outlast Raptors in Overtime for Fifth Straight Win


The Hawks were able to notch their fifth straight win beating the Raptors 118-113 in overtime. Jeff Teague tied a career-high with 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting (11-for-11 from the free throw line) and added five assists and three rebounds. Despite a tough start, Paul Millsap found a way to impact the game in a number of ways to get his first career triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Hawks vs. Raptors

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Millsap’s Triple-Double

The Raptors jumped out early and led by as many as 13 in the first quarter thanks to 11 points and four rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas finished with 16 points and five rebounds, but foul trouble and an eventual sprained back injury forced him to leave the game after only 20 minutes of playing time. The Hawks shot a dismal 6-of-24 (25%) in the first quarter, but got a late spark from Shelvin Mack off the bench who had five points in the quarter to keep the Hawks within range of the Raptors.

In the second quarter, the shots that weren’t falling for the Hawks early started to drop and Teague got aggressive as he erupted for 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, with all of his makes coming within 10 feet of the hoop. The Hawks outscored the Raptors by nine in the second and took a tie game into halftime.

The game yo-yo’d back and forth from the 5:52 mark of the second quarter as neither team could establish more than a five point lead for the final 34:52 of the game. In the third quarter, the two teams traded buckets, with the Hawks grabbing a narrow two-point edge heading into the fourth.

Atlanta had a lead from 4:42 in the fourth until there were 8.1 seconds left when Kyle Lowry drove to the hoop and got a fading layup to fall from high off the glass. The Hawks final possession ended with a contested Millsap jumper from 17 feet that bounced off the rim as the clock expired.

Pero Antic couldn’t get a three to fall in regulation, going 0-for-4 from deep, but he got the first shot of the overtime period and drilled a wide open three from the corner that gave the Hawks the lead. The Raptors answered back with a John Salmons three-pointer, but missed their next six shots of the overtime period, and despite the Hawks only made one of their next six shots they were able to hold the lead until the Raptors were forced to foul.

The Hawks made all seven of their free throws in overtime to seal the win, and bad fouls by Amir Johnson on offense and Terrence Ross prior to the subsequent inbound pass sealed the Raptors’ fate.

Kyle Korver had 16 points on an unusually inefficient 5-of-14 (3-for-8 from three) shooting night, but had back-to-back important threes in the beginning of the third quarter after Toronto took a four point lead, and another late in the fourth. Korver missed some looks that he normally knocks down — particularly a pair of good looks in overtime — but as always his spacing and the threat of him behind the arc was a big part of the Hawks offense and Teague’s ability to penetrate.

Teague had 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and he and Lowry had quite a duel going late in regulation. The two traded baskets on six straight possessions with about three minutes left in the game. As to whether he was fueled by Lowry going at him, Teague shrugged it off saying it was just the two competing for their teams, not necessarily against one another.

“He was trying to win and do what he could for his team. I was just doing the same thing. It looked like , I guess.”

As to what made Jeff so successful, he and Coach Bud pointed to his aggressive mindset.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Teague. “We just wanted to win the game really bad. We’ve been playing well lately, so we just came out with a lot of energy and a lot of effort, and made plays at the end.”

“He was just being aggressive,” said Budenholzer. “That’s been one of the themes all year is that we want him to be aggressive. Sometimes that means he’s scoring, sometimes that means he’s finding others or he’s making a pass that leads to the next pass. He was in an aggressive mindset and attacking. He made a lot of good things happen for us, and to step up and make all of the free throws down the stretch is obviously really important and big for him.”

Cartier Martin and Mack led the bench unit with eight points each, while Elton Brand and Mike Scott each had six points and four rebounds. The bench wasn’t asked to play a lot with the starters all playing near 40 minutes (except Antic around 30), but gave the team a nice lift particularly in the late first and early second quarters. Martin hit a pair of threes in the second quarter and his hustle was on display when he flew over the bench into the Gatorade cooler to save a ball.

DeMarre Carroll had a quiet offensive night with eight points and four rebounds, but was enough of a presence against DeMar DeRozan on the defensive end late to keep him from being a factor in overtime. DeRozan finished with a team-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists, but was just 1-of-4 in the overtime period — the make on a late dunk.

The Hawks move 4.5 games ahead of the Knicks for eighth in the East with the win, and pull within just one game of the Bobcats for seventh. The five game winning streak extends their season-long streak, and they will look to push it to six when they face the Pelicans at home on Friday.

Tweet of the Night:

Photo by: Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Scouting Report: Toronto Raptors

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
By Robby Kalland
Scouting Report: Toronto Raptors

The Hawks, currently riding a season-high four-game winning streak, will welcome the Raptors into town for a tilt that has serious playoff seeding implications. The Raptors sit in the three-seed in the East at this moment, but are just one game up on the Bulls. The Hawks extended their lead over ninth-place New York to four games with their win over the Bobcats last night, and closed the gap on the seventh spot to 1.5 games.

The Raptors come into this game off a loss to the Suns on Sunday, but Toronto is in form of late going 8-3 in their last 11 games. Since trading Rudy Gay to the Kings, the Raptors are 31-16 with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry leading the way. DeRozan is averaging 22.9 points per game on 43.5% shooting with 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game since the Gay trade. Lowry, since the Gay trade, has averaged 18.2 points and 8.3 assists per game.

DeRozan and Lowry will be the primary concern for the Hawks, particularly after the two dominated the Hawks in their last matchup. DeRozan dropped 31 points in both games on near 60% shooting in both games and Lowry added 16 points and 13 assists in the last matchup. Jeff Teague — coming off big second halves in his last two games — will be tasked with containing Lowry, while DeMarre Carroll will likely spend the majority of his night defending DeRozan. Carroll missed the last matchup, but DeRozan got the best of him in their first meeting of the year, although the Hawks got the win.

Defensively, the Raptors have been excellent since the Gay trade allowing just 95.5 points per game with a defensive rating of 101.0. The additions of Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson in that trade have been big for the Raptors’ defensive surge with both players posting defensive ratings under 100 for the Raptors this season and DeRozan and Lowry continue to be solid on the perimeter.

The weakness of the Raptors defense is in the paint where Jonas Valanciunas is still raw as a defender and is not adept at rotating to the rim yet. The Raptors can be had in the paint and it will be a test for Teague to attack the paint and for Paul Millsap and the Hawks’ bigs to try to expose that weakness.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

Hawks Beat Bobcats For Season-High Fourth Straight Win

Monday, March 17, 2014
By Robby Kalland
Hawks Beat Bobcats For Season-High Fourth Straight Win

The Hawks (30-35) trailed by six at the half, but dominated the second half on their way to a 97-83 victory over the Bobcats (33-35). Paul Millsap led all scorers with 28 points on 60% shooting (50% from three) along with five rebounds and two blocks. Millsap carried the Hawks offense at the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter, scoring 15 of the Hawks’ 17 points from 6:15 left in the second quarter to 8:19 left in the third quarter — the Hawks erased a nine point lead in that span.

Hawks vs. Bobcats

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Highlights

The win marked the Hawks’ fourth straight win — setting a season-long winning streak — and was the team’s 11th consecutive win over the Bobcats. With the victory, Atlanta opened their cushion on the Knicks for eighth in the East to four games and got them within 1.5 games of Charlotte for the seventh spot in the East — as well as giving the Hawks the tiebreaker in the season series.

Along with Millsap, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague got hot in the third quarter, with Korver scoring all 10 of his points in the frame — he also had nine rebounds and four assists. Teague had a tough first half and was outplayed by Kemba Walker, but got the Hawks offense clicking with five points and six assists in the third quarter alone. Teague finished the game with 11 points, nine assists, and four rebounds.

Pero Antic recorded his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds and made three of his seven three-point attempts. DeMarre Carroll was held scoreless for the first three quarters, but the Junkyard Dog found his way in the fourth with nine points — largely off of cuts to the basket — to help the Hawks seal the victory.

After an off night against the Nuggets on Saturday night, the Hawks bench came out and played much better on the road in Charlotte. Mike Scott broke out of his mini-slump with 10 points and three rebounds on 50% shooting to lead the Hawks bench, while Elton Brand was a monster once again on the defensive end, rejecting three shots and pulled down seven rebounds to go with four points in just 16 minutes.

Shelvin Mack and Dennis Schröder each had good bounce-back outings at the point. Mack struggled a bit with his shot going 2-of-6 from the floor with five points, but orchestrated the offense and was excellent facilitating as he dished out eight dimes. Schröder had six points on 2-of-3 shooting and grabbed three rebounds without turning the ball over in his 13 minutes of play.

Defensively, the Hawks struggled in the first half, particularly containing Walker and Al Jefferson. Walker had 15 of his 20 total points in the first half, getting the best of Teague, but Jeff and the Hawks did well to lock down on him in the second half. Jefferson — who finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds — had eight points and nine boards in the first half, asserting himself in the paint. Atlanta made a conscious effort in the second half to double Jefferson in the post and force him to pass out, and were much better about boxing out — and also made a lot more shots — in the second half to keep Jefferson to just three rebounds.

The Hawks held the Bobcats to just 31 points on 28.9% shooting — 16.7% from three — in the second half. That kind of defensive effort combined with a more efficient offensive attack allowed Atlanta to pull away from Charlotte.

The Hawks will be back in action tomorrow night against the third-seeded Raptors in Atlanta as they look to make it five straight wins.

Tweet of the Night

Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE/Getty Images

Scouting Report: Charlotte Bobcats

Sunday, March 16, 2014
By Jaryd Wilson
Scouting Report: Charlotte Bobcats

The Atlanta Hawks begin an important back-to-back with a trip to Charlotte to face the surging Bobcats.  The Hawks already have a win in Charlotte, but that was way back in game number seven of the season, long before the Bobcats starting showing signs of being a legitimate playoff contender.

The Bobcats are within one game of .500 and are 2.5 games ahead of Atlanta in the standings thanks to six wins in their past seven games.  One reason for the resurgence has been their stifling defense, as they’ve kept opponents under 100 points in all six wins during that stretch.

Center Al Jefferson will have his third run-in with former Utah frontcourt mate Paul Millsap.  Jefferson is a tough cover as is, but he’s been player at a different level since the All-Star break.  With another 20-point effort Sunday against Milwaukee, he’s at 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.  He’s developed a very good mid-range game, so he’s no longer a guy who you only have to worry about on the low block.  With Pero Antic starting, Jefferson will have a size advantage inside, but Antic’s advantage will be taking the slower Jefferson away from the basket on the offensive end.  I would expect the Hawks to send an extra defender at him, especially if he gets going early.

Point guard Kemba Walker’s assists don’t jump out at you, but he does have the ability to make plays.  He likes attacking off the dribble and going for that mid-range pull-up jumper that he’s good at, which means Jeff Teague will need adequate help from his teammates in pick-and-roll situations.

The other big scorers are Gerald Henderson and newly acquired Gary Neal.  Henderson, like Walker, will look to attach and pull up for twos, while Neal is probably Charlotte’s most prolific three-point threat, at least right now.  He doesn’t start, but he’s hit 16-30 from deep since joining the team at the trade deadline.

The Bobcats are good defensively because they’re so fundamentally sound (third in the East in opposing FG%), although very little jumps off the stat sheet.  They’re actually in the bottom five in steals, don’t rebound exceptionally well and only get 21 assists a game on the offensive end.  Still, it’s a team that’s playing well right now, and the Hawks need to win games like these if they want to make a move in the East standings.

Photo by Streeter Lecka/NBAE/Getty Images