Hawks Can’t Slow Down Hot-Shooting Mavs

Thursday, October 31, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Atlanta Hawks v Dallas Mavericks

The Hawks opened their season in Dallas and fell 118-109 to the hot-shooting Mavericks. The Mavs came out shooting the lights out in the first quarter, jumping out to a quick 28-18 lead in the first nine minutes of the game. Dallas cooled off in the second quarter, allowing the Hawks to take a 55-53 lead into the half, but came back out firing in the second half, rolling to the nine-point victory. The Mavs shot 57.1 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from three-point range as a team, and were led by Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Vince Carter.

Hawks vs. Mavericks
Photo Gallery

Nowitzki had 24 points on 8-14 shooting and made 4-6 from beyond the arc including a pair of late threes that sealed the game for the Mavericks. Dirk added five assists and four rebounds and was one of the major reasons the Hawks’ bigs got into foul trouble in the first half.

Ellis had an impressive Dallas debut, scoring 32 points and dishing out eight assists while shooting a very efficient 11-17 from the floor. Ellis got in a groove early in the game and was able to keep the Hawks’
defenders on the wrong foot by mixing up step-back jumpers and drives to the lane.

Carter, who has always excelled against the Hawks, came off the bench to drop 21 points on 9-16 shooting with a pair of made three-pointers. Carter, like Ellis, got going early and stayed hot even when the defense was in good position, making a number of difficult contested jumper.

Atlanta Hawks v Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks made a lot of jump shots, some of which were contested, but the Hawks defense left a lot to be desired. There is still a lot of work to do, especially in building chemistry on the defensive end and communicating better on pick-and-rolls and off-ball screens. There appeared to be confusion about when to switch pick-and-rolls, when bigs should hedge hard on pick-and-rolls, when to fight over screens, and when to slide under screens. That will all come in time, but it will definitely need to be a focal point for the Hawks if their defense is to get better.

On a brighter note, the Hawks offense looked very solid, especially Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap. The Hawks shot 48.7 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three, and 77.1 percent from the free throw line. Teague ran the offense very well with 24 points on 7-13 shooting and nine assists, along with four steals on the defensive end. He had six turnovers on the night, but many of those were due to miscommunication rather than poor decision-making. Teague did a good job pushing the ball up the court, got into sets quickly and attacked the rim, which allowed him to go to the free throw line 12 times.

Millsap had a very nice Hawks debut, scoring 20 points, gathering in five rebounds, and dishing out three assists. Millsap was efficient from the field, going 9–15, and was very successful facing up the Mavericks’ bigs in the high post and attacking the paint off the dribble. Defensively, Millsap got into foul trouble early and had some trouble with Nowitzki, but he atoned for those defensive struggles on the offensive end.

Two of the Hawks’ normal stand-out players, Al Horford and Kyle Korver, had tough nights from the field, going a combined 8-21. Korver kept his three-point streak alive with a three-pointer (his lone make) in the fourth quarter, but had trouble finding open spots on the floor all night. When he did find an opening behind the arc, the Hawks did not do a good job finding him on time. Horford knocked down the first two Hawks’ shots of the game but only took four shots in the second half and got out of sync with the offense. He finished the night with a solid overall stat line with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, five steals and four blocks, but didn’t seem to find his normal offensive rhythm.

The Hawks have positives they can take away from their first game, most notably the offensive success that they lacked in the preseason despite rough shooting nights from Horford and Korver. The ball movement continues to be excellent, and the Hawks had 27 assists on their 37 made field goals. It was also good to see Cartier Martin have a nice night with 17 points off the bench, and he brought a lot of energy to the Hawks’ bench unit.

The defensive issues seemed to be more of a combination of bad communication, lack of experience as a unit, and a hot-shooting Mavs team than a fundamental problem with the defense. If they can get their coverages straightened out, get on the same page on pick-and-roll, and do a better job chasing people off the three-point line, this defense will be just fine. We’ll find out if they make those adjustments Friday when the Raptors come in to town for the home opener.

Tweet of the Night

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,