Hawks Feel Double The Heartbreak

One of the major storylines of the early NBA season has been the steady success of the new look Atlanta Hawks (20-12), but back-to-back demoralizing losses has coach Larry Drew a little concerned about his team.

The first loss came Friday night on the road at the hands of the lowly Detroit Pistons (13-22). After struggling for the majority of the game, the Hawks found themselves down 83-66 about halfway through the fourth quarter. Atlanta managed to fight all the way back with a 16-0 run, but a Horford jumpshot, initially ruled as 3-pointer but reversed to a two, saw the Hawks fall 85-84.

Last night, the Hawks looked to put the tough loss behind them and came out smoking behind a 21-point first half explosion from Louis Williams. The Hawks were forced to swallow their second dose of heartbreak, however, after a complete collapse in the third quarter saw the Celtics battle back from a 19-point deficit and cruise to a 89-81 victory.

The Hawks have now lost three of their last four but still find themselves in the third spot in the Eastern Conference. With the Indian Pacers (20-14) breathing down their necks, Drew said he is concerned about the team’s mental toughness. He said he thinks the turning point in last night’s game was in the second quarter when Boston began to play more physical. As to be expected, Drew isn’t happy with how his team responded.

“I’m concerned because this is the NBA and you have to expect that,” Drew said. “When you play against teams that do smack you, you have to respond. It’s just the way it is. Everybody has to do it. Every team in this league has to do it. When you don’t’ do it you get labeled. You get a tag on you. That’s the last thing I want to happen to my ball club.”

This is the first time Drew has expressed concern about his team’s toughness, but he said the fact that the defeat came from a team that has given them similar problems in the past was even more frustrating.

“This is a very, very disappointing loss,” Drew said. “Probably, for me, the most disappointing loss of the season for the mere fact of playing against a team we have battled in the past and we’ve seen this type of scenario before where we have played well and then when it starts to get a little bit physical, when they start playing a little bit rougher, when they start make things a little more difficult for us, we don’t respond. That was clearly what happened tonight.”

Although Louis Williams has been impressive in his 8-game stint as a starter, the Hawks have struggled a bit to replicate his production off the bench. Over the last two games the Hawks have only mustered 23 points from their bench. The lackluster numbers, however, must also be in part attributed to injuries to Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow who both sat out Saturday night and DeShawn Stevenson who played limited minutes as he is recovering from an injury.

The Hawks will look to right the ship as the take on the banged up Minesota Timberwolves (15-15) Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Catching Up With Klay Thompson

The Golden State Warriors (15-8) are currently ranked 5th in the Western Conference, despite being without Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush. Second-year guard Klay Thompson took a moment to talk about their success this season and his evolving role with the team.

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Horford, Hawks Back On Track

Two weeks after being awarded, Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, center/forward A Horford has yet to slow down and the Atlanta Hawks (10-5) are benefitting big time.

Horford is averaging 16.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He is also doing a great job passing the ball, averaging 3.5 assists per game, which ranks 3rd amongst all centers.

One knock on Horford in that past has been that at times he is too passive. Over the past few games, however, Horford has done a good job looking for his own shot.

In their most recent outing against the Denver Nuggets, Horford was a critical part in securing a 108-104 victory, as he went off for 25 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and four assists. He shot 12-20 from the field and pulled in , a season high, six offensive rebounds.

Hawks head coach Larry Drew said that Horford’s on the boards was the most impressive part of the performance.

“Al was really good,” Drew said after the game. “He got into a rhythm very early in the game. I was really impressed by the fact that he was being really active on the offensive glass. Those that he didn’t get, he got his hands on them to slap them out.”

The Hawks have now won eight of their last ten games. Last Friday, the Hawks dropped one against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which brought their six-game winning streak to a halt.

Before Wednesday night’s game against Denver, Drew said he felt like it was only a matter of time before the hot streak ended. During the streak, the Hawks barely squeaked out wins against the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats. So, what’s a coach to do after their team drops a game against a bottom-feeding team who is missing it’s best player?

“We took a couple days off after [the Cavs] game,” Drew said. “We have a few guys that are banged up, but I thought from a mental standpoint we really needed it.”

The casual approach seems to have been the right as the Hawks managed to turn in their most dominant rebounding performances they have had all season. With a rebound differential of -4.00 per game the Hawks rank 27th in league in this category. The Nuggets rank second with an impressive +5.37 mark, but the Hawks managed to win the battle on the boards 47-40.  In the loss against Cleveland they were outrebounded to the tune of 49-28.

In The Scrum With Alonzo Gee

After hitting the first game winner of his NBA career to snap a 6-game Atlanta Hawks win streak, Cleveland Cavaliers foward Alonzo Gee took a moment to reflect on his highlight-reel worthy lay in.

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Hawks Win Five Straight

Entering the season, the Atlanta Hawks (8-4) had plenty of questions to answer with a number of new pieces and a tough schedule right from the jump. Twelve games into the new year, the Hawks seem to have found their stride.

Some might be surprised by Atlanta’s recent success, but Hawks forward Josh Smith said the hot start doesn’t come as a surprise.

“Like I said, when we find our stride we are going to be a pretty good team,” Smith said. “We are starting to gel and everybody’s starting to figure out. We look pretty good.”

Atlanta is currently riding a five game winning streak and have won six of their last seven outings. The Hawks have been moving the ball well and have the fifth highest assist total in the league (22.9 assists per game).

Much of the early success can be attributed to Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. Teague is averaging 13.8 points and 7.3 assists per game, and he finished the last two games with double-doubles. Against Charlotte Bobcats he finished with 13 points and 12 assists, and against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night Teague went for 19 points and 12 assists.

Another factor that has helped the Hawks run off five straight is a balance of contributors. Atlanta currently has five players averaging 11 or more points per game.

Kyle Korver is just one of the Hawks who has helped to provide a bit of an offensive boost over the past couple of weeks. He netted season highs of 22 points and seven rebounds against the Sacramento Kings to get the Hawks winning streak going. Korver also lit up the Washington Wizards for 16 Wednesday nigh, including a game-winning three pointer that prevented the Wizards from earning their first win of the season.

Louis Williams has served as one of the most potent scorers any NBA bench has had to offer over the past few years while playing with the Philadelphia 76ers. Williams is reprising that role in his first season as an Atlanta Hawk. He is averaging 13.3 points and 3.4 assists per game. Against the Clippers, Williams scored 18 points—14 during the 2nd and 3rd quarters, a period in which the Hawks outscored the Clippers 64-36.

“I was just playing aggressive,” Williams said after Saturday night’s win. “That’s what I bring to the table, just to be aggressive and try to create as many plays as I can.”

The Hawks will look to extend the winning streak to six as the take on the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday November 30 in Atlanta.

 

 

Josh Smith Not Fazed By His Critics

Atlanta Hawks fans would probably be more at ease watching Jeff Teague jump off a 20-foot ladder into a shallow pool of water than watching Josh Smith catch a pass anywhere outside of 12 feet from the rim. Considering Smith only knocked down 28-of-109 3-point attempts (25.7 percent) last season, there is a reason to be concerned.

Frequenters of Philips Arena have not forgot either. In the Hawks home opener—a 109-102 loss to the Houston Rockets—Smith was met with a chorus of gasps when he got the ball on the 3-point line with literally no one near him.

Boos followed, as Smith was unable to knock down the wide-open shot.

Still, Smith seems unfazed by the naysayers and focused on making his jump shot better. This year, he will benefit from having a new set of accomplished shooting coaches — his teammates.

Smith has already spent time working with Kyle Korver, the man who holds the record for highest single season 3-point percentage in NBA history. Korver said he thinks, with a little direction and practice, Smith might be able to silence some of his critics.

“I think Josh has the ability to be a great shooter,” Korver said. “I’m just working with him on some small things.”

Korver said he is impressed by how fast Smith is picking his tips up.

“He is a quick learner,” he said. “You don’t ever want to do a total overhaul of a guy’s shot right before the season starts, but I think there are some things that he can focus on that will help out quite a bit.”

Continuing to launch up shots, is definitely not what most would recommend for Smith given his explosiveness and ability to score around the rim, but Korver said staying the course is just one of the ingredients to being a good shooter.

“He has the mentality of ‘I don’t care if I missed the last ten, I’m going to throw up the next one,’” said Korver. “That’s what good shooters have. You can knock that, or you can praise that. The bottom line is, he has the ability to be a very good shooter.”

Although Hawks head coach Larry Drew has criticized Smith’s shot selection in the past, he seems very confident in the abilities of the versatile big man.

“The beauty about Josh is Josh knows every position on the floor,” Drew said in an interview before the season. “I can play him at three and also at times I can move him to some two. We can use him in different ways in what we do.”

It may take a while for Smith to gain the trust of the Atlanta Hawks fans, but with a visibly improved shot stroke and the right mentality, he might be on his way.