Atlanta Hawks: five takeaways from the win over the Kings

The Atlanta Hawks improved their record to 3-0 on the season with a win over the Sacramento Kings. Here are five takeaways from the game.

Oct 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks bench players react with the players in the game during a time out against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Kings 106-95. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks continued their winning ways last night with a 106-95 win over the Sacramento Kings. The best word to use in order to describe this game would be “weird.”

It wasn’t necessarily a pretty win for the Hawks in that there were plenty of sloppy plays throughout the 48 minutes. Taking that into consideration on top of the refs blowing the whistle in what seemed to be every trip down the floor made for this game to stretch on much longer than it had to be.

Nevertheless, a win is a win and it brings the Hawks to a 3-0 record on the season. All three games have been against inferior teams, but taking care of business and winning games you are supposed to win are all characteristics of a top team.

What are some takeaways from last night’s win? Let’s take a look at a handful.

Oct 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) controls the ball in front of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Kings 106-95. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

A New, Welcomed Strength

One glaring weakness that haunted this Hawks team for the past couple season has been the rebounding category. In 2014-15, they finished 28th and finished 24th last season. Though it is still early in 2016-17, the Hawks rank sixth in rebounds per game with 47.7 and eighth in offensive rebounds per game with 12.7.

Last night, the Hawks outrebounded the Kings 44-38. They were relentless in crashing the offensive glass, especially Dwight Howard (7 off. rebounds) and Paul Millsap (5 off. rebounds).

A big reason why the Hawks signed Howard this offseason was because of their struggles on the glass with former center Al Horford. Howard’s 12.3 rebounds per game average and Millsap’s effort shown so far this season can be a clear indication that it will no longer be a weakness going forward.

It wasn’t just the big men being sure to grab boards.  Thabo Sefolosha was also making evident efforts at closing down the Kings’ possessions and and corralling the basketball for second-chance points opportunities. Sefolosha with six rebounds on the night.

Oct 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) and Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) go after a rebound during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Limiting Avoidable Turnovers

Turnovers have never been a huge issue for the Hawks under head coach Mike Budenholzer, but there are still some here and there they are committed and can be avoided.

It’s not like there were a ton last night, but one in particular that stuck out happened mid-way through the first quarter. The Hawks were up 34-23 when Ty Lawson took a trip to the free-throw line. After making the first attempt, he missed the second only to get his own rebound. Here’s how the next two plays went:

As you see in the video, McLemore hits a three from a Lawson kick-out. Following that shot, Kris Humphries and Schroder were lazy on the inbound pass as Lawson stepped in front for the steal, which led to an easy dunk for DeMarcus Cousins to extend a Kings run to 8-0.

This is just one example, but the point is it can be avoided. This is the type of play that gives a trailing team life and confidence when the Hawks had the opporunity to continue to pour on the lead.

Oct 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) controls a rebound defended by Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Wizards 114-99. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Getting Howard Touches

One of the big questions surrounded the Howard signing was how Budenholzer would feature him within the offense. In years past, all five players would be perimeter based and were expected to handle the ball from anywhere on the floor. With Howard, he has limitations (to put it nicely).

Anyways, the Hawks were making it a point to pound the ball into Howard last night in halfcourt sets. Whether it was high-low passes from Muscala or Millsap, lobs from Schroder or Malcolm Delaney, or just a simple post-entry from the wing, Howard was getting the ball.

Of his 45 total touches, 12 were post touches and 9 were in the paint. Not only were the Hawks trying to get Howard involved simply to keep him engaged, but he also had the glaring mismatch with Kosta Koufos matching up on him. DeMarcus Cousins was forced to guard Millsap in hopes that he could stay in front on penetration.

Keeping Howard involved is imperative in order to keep him active on the glass and blocking shots. As seen by the numbers, Howard’s involvement carried over into the defensive end as he blocked four shots and pulled down 11 boards.

Oct 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) dribbles as Philadelphia 76ers forward Jerami Grant (39) defends during the fourth quarter of the game at the Wells Fargo Center. The Atlanta Hawks won 104-72. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Millsap’s Versatility On Full Display

When it comes to discussing the versatile power forwards of the NBA, Millsap’s name often doesn’t come to mind. He won’t blow you away with blazing speed or freaky jumping abilities, but last night his versatility was showcased.

Millsap finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. If it weren’t for getting into foul trouble, his onslaught in the first half would’ve been even worse. In the first quarter, it seemed like no matter what type of play was happening, Millsap was involved.

Millsap’s six assists per game average ranks second in the NBA behind Draymond Green, but you can argue especially right now that Millsap is playing like the best power forward in the entire league.

Early on, Millsap was completely controlling the glass and set the tone for the remainder of the game. Offensively, Millsap was making it a point to collapse the defense and kick the ball out to open shooters–many of which resulted in made baskets.

The Hawks have fed off Millsap’s energy in every game this season. He doesn’t have to go for 30 night in and night out. If he can finish with a stat line similar to what he did tonight (with maybe just a couple more buckets), the Hawks will be extremely difficult to match up against.

Oct 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) shoots against Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Kings 106-95. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Constant Whistles Were Blown

The referees had a busy night last night, or at least they made it busy for themselves, with 54 total personal foul calls.

The Hawks were the beneficiary in the calls and visited the free-throw line 47 times. Much because of Howard’s 8-for-20 shooting from the line, the Hawks finished 29-for-47 (.617) as a team for the game.

The Kings were caught out of position in most of the calls, but there were a few that seemed to be ‘tic-tac’ foul calls.

It ultimately made the game somewhat difficult to watch because of the constant pause in action. Fortunately for the Hawks, they didn’t allow it to impact their pace and control of the game.

The Hawks play again this Wednesday night at 7:30pm EST as they welcome the Los Angeles Lakers (0-3) to town.

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