The Atlanta Hawks are 22-16 entering a big Friday matchup with the Boston Celtics. Here are five midseason takeaways as they approach the All-Star break.
The Atlanta Hawks began the season 15-16, but have won seven straight games. With two days of rest, they look to extend their streak to eight games on Friday against the Boston Celtics.
At fourth in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks are looking to turn the corner as the Celtics are right above them in the third spot. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games. They rank 20th in the NBA in offense at 102.7 points per game and ninth in defense, giving up 102.6 points per game.
Trade talk hasn’t slowed down the Hawks much. They dealt sharpshooting forward Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 8. They were also actively shopping forward Paul Millsap, but he’s since been removed from current trade talks.
The Hawks are 22-16 and surging despite all the off-the-court stuff. On-the-court, team play has ruled the day. Defensively, the Hawks haven’t allowed more than 100 points in their last four games. Offensively, they are sixth in the NBA in assists per game (23.9).
Jan 5, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Three-Point Shooting A Struggle
The Atlanta Hawks are fourth in the Eastern Conference, but their three-point shooting as a team has been an eye sore. They rank 25th in the league in three-point shooting percentage at 33.9 percent.
The Hawks average 8.7 makes (23rd in the NBA) on 25.7 three-point attempts (19th) per game. Forward Kyle Korver was arguably their best three-pointer and with his trade to Cleveland, it leaves the Hawks’ offense at a crossroads.
Korver shot 40.9 percent for the Atlanta Hawks, which was second on the team.
Its been a struggle for Atlanta behind the three-point line so far. Power forward Mike Muscala is shooting 44.9 percent, while shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is at 35.3 percent.
However, there’s still hope, as their numbers have improved over their last 10 games. As a team, they’re shooting 35.5 percent from three-point line with 8.9 makes per game in their last 10 games. It will need to improve if the Hawks’ hope to make a deep run in the playoffs.
They’re not one of the best three-point shooting teams, but they make up for it in other ways, like with Hardaway off the bench.
Jan 5, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore (55) during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Hawks defeated the Pelicans 99-94. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Bench Play Has Been Superb
In his second year with the Atlanta Hawks, shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is having a much better season in 2016-17. Hardaway Jr. is averaging 11.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game on the season.
In the team’s 114-112 against the San Antonio Spurs, he scored 29 points off the bench and grabbed five rebounds as well. Hardaway shot 11-for-13 from the floor and 6-for-7 from three. Six three pointers is his current season-high.
Hardaway has made at least one three pointer in all but nine games this season for Atlanta. He ranks fourth on the team in points per game and fifth in three point shooting percentage (35.3). Along with him, the Hawks also play power forwards Mike Muscala, Kris Humphries and Mike Scott and point guard Malcolm Delaney.
The bench is 16th in the NBA in points per game (36.2), 12th in assists per game (8.2), and 7th in field goal percentage (45.3). With Hardaway and Co., the Hawks have found a happy medium. Dealing Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers doesn’t look like such a bad idea.
Jan 10, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Looks Comfortable
The Atlanta Hawks and Dwight Howard seem to be a match made in heaven. Howard is playing on his fourth NBA team since arriving in the NBA in 2004. In his 14th NBA season, he’s found a way to rejuvenate his NBA career.
Howard is averaging 14.0 points, 13.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.3 blocks per game this season for the Hawks. He is shooting 63.2 percent from the floor this season, a career-high. He’s scored 20 points or more in eight games this season and proven to be a key piece for the Atlanta Hawks.
D12 has proven to be a good fit so far for the Hawks. At 31 years of age, he returned to his hometown of Atlanta last offseason. He has 25 double-doubles in 34 starts this season.
On their seven-game winning streak, Howard has six double-doubles and recorded more than 20 rebounds twice. He’s recorded double figures in rebounds in 26 games and had 20 rebounds or more in four games.
As the Hawks’ move forward, look for D12 to play a key role in the team’s success. He has shown he still has the ability to be one of the better centers in the NBA.
The Atlanta Hawks are enjoying their current winning streak partly because of the performance of power forward Paul Millsap. Despite being on the trade block for roughly the past week, Millsap is still averaging 17.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game this season.
Millsap hasn’t let the trading block distract him from playing well. He’s only shooting 38.1 percent from the floor and 29.6 percent from three. Although his shooting hasn’t been the greatest, he still has 11 double-doubles on the season.
He’s scored in double figures in every game during the Hawks’ winning streak.
The 10th-year power forward scored a season-high 32 points against the San Antonio Spurs on January 1 in their 114-112 victory. He also had 13 rebounds and three assists. Millsap had his best shooting night of the season on Jan. 1.
He made 11-of-23 shots from the floor while going 3-for-6 from three. He’s made three three-pointers three times this season.
In his fourth season as an Atlanta Hawk, it looks like Millsap is here to stay, for now.
Since moving point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers, point guard Dennis Schroder has come into his own. Schroder signed a four-year, $70 million contract extension before the Hawks’ began the season and it’s largely paid off.
Schroder is averaging a career-high 17.8 points, 6.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds in his fourth NBA season. The 23-year-old put up a double-double in the Hawks’ most recent win 117-97 over the Brooklyn Nets. He poured in 19 points and 10 assists in the victory.
The German native has six double-doubles and has set a new career-high in points with 33 so far this season. He shot 12-for-19 from the floor and 4-for-7 from the three-point arc against the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 9 in a 114-110 win.
Schroder has elevated his play during the Hawks’ winning streak as well. He’s averaging 20 points, 6.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals in the past seven games. Look for him to continue to play well, the Hawks have Boston Friday, which will be a good test for them.