The Atlanta Hawks saw their four-game winning streak go up in flames Saturday night in Cleveland in the form of a 127-94 loss to the Cavaliers. Over the course of a long season games like this are bound to happen and its important that the team garner anything it can from the performance and then move on quickly. We aren't going to dwell on it too much either but here are a few things of note.
Defensive effort has to be more consistent
In Atlanta's last three games they have allowed the Jazz to shoot 50 percent from the field, Miami 47.3 percent and Cleveland 54.4 percent. They were able to win the first two by leaning on their offense and then clamping on defense when they had to. Atlanta held Utah to just 22 percent shooting int he fourth quarter and nine points overall to pull out the win. That they still cracked the 50 percent mark for the game illustrates how little defensive resistance Atlanta put up for most of that game. Against the Heat, Atlanta was able to head off a couple of Miami stops with good defense but again they leaned heavily on an offensive attack that was in a great rhythm.
The Jazz and Heat can be good offensive teams but neither is on par with what the Cavaliers bring to the table. Defending Cleveland requires the right mindset and that quickly went by the wayside for the Hawks on Saturday.
Throughout the first nine games of the season, the Hawks have shown to be a better defensive team over last year. A lot of that is because they have better defenders on the roster with Al Horford back, the addition of Thabo Sefolosha and Dennis Schröder has had a positive defensive impact as well. However, it is still a process getting everyone to understand the level of defensive effort they must expend on a nightly basis. Its an ongoing process and there is still plenty of room for improvement.
The blowout provided opportunities for John Jenkins and Mike Muscala
Throughout the early part of the season, Atlanta's rotation in many ways has been the dominant early storyline. Atlanta has a much deeper roster over last season and there hasn't been a lot of minutes available for guys like Mike Muscala and John Jenkins to play. Saturday's blowout provided an opportunity for extended playing time and both took advantage of it.
Saturday's game was the third that Muscala has played this season and he finished with 13 points on 5-8 shooting to go along with four rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Muscala has been stuck behind Mike Scott, Pero Antic and Elton Brand in Atanta's rotation but he is showing in the early going that he is capable if the Hawks need him.
Jenkins made his season debut on Saturday and finished with 12 points on 5-10 shooting. Atlanta's backcourt is crowded and Jenkins has been the odd man out spending most of the early part of the season on the inactive list. With guys like Schröder, Shelvin Mack and even Kent Bazemore ahead of him on the depth chart, it appears that Jenkins still has a long way to go to garner playing time of any variety.
Still Bazemore is off to a slow start and all Jenkins can really control is how he approaches practice and how he plays when he does get an opportunity like on Saturday.
Atlanta's coaching staff likely won't dwell on Saturday's loss too much, but they could use it as an opportunity to turn up the competition in practice. Ultimately that is Jenkins' path back to the rotation.