The Atlanta Hawks are still looking for a consistent offensive rhythm, but they continue to get by thanks to a strong defensive effort. Wednesday's game was a perfect example as Atlanta scored just 41 points in the first half and found themselves trailing the Brooklyn Nets by two points at the halftime buzzer.
The defensive effort however, continues to get better and it is allowing the offense time to get more comfortable. The Hawks totaled 15 steals and 10 blocked shots against the Nets and held them under 40 percent shooting in the first half. The recent addition of Justin Holiday to the rotation has added another defensive element to the lineup.
"The activity and the effort, particularly in the first and the fourth quarter, really allowed us to win a game tonight," Mike Budenholzer said after the game. " Kent Bazemore and Justin Holiday's activity, and their length on the wings, and Kent tracking down blocked shots in transition.....Justin with multiple efforts and multiple contests. Steals and hands, that is part of who we are. That's what we have to continue to do."
Atlanta's offense found a groove in the second half thanks to big performances from Al Horford and Dennis Schröder who combined to score 29 of the team's 60 second half points. The Hawks shot 59 percent from the field after halftime and were 6 for 12 from three-point range. A consistent three-point shot has been one area that has been missing from Atlanta's attack. After finishing last season as one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league, the Hawks are 17th in three-point percentage converting 32.9 percent so far this season.
When asked about Atlanta's second half surge, he linked it to improved ball movement. The Hawks recorded 27 assists in the game with 16 of those coming in the second half.
"I think the ball movement was much better, much quicker decisions," Budenholzer said. "The ball was moving from one side to the other. When the ball moves and you it in rhythm, you're going to shoot a better percentage. You're going to feel more confident. I think the ball movement led to making shots."
Justin Holiday getting his shot
Justin Holiday saw his most extensive playing time so far this season playing 29 minutes while finishing with six points on 3 of 9 shooting. His true value however, comes on the defensive end of the floor where he recorded a team-best four blocks and helped spearhead the Hawks defensively.
"Justin has been good. I think he really helps us defensively with his length," Budenholzer said before Wednesday's game. "He is great in some of our principles, understanding how important the weak side is and each kind of role or responsibility on a given play. Offensively he is finding a way to make a couple of shots and get to the basket. I think he is fitting in well."
This was the second straight game that Holiday saw extended minutes with those coming at the expense of rookie Lamar Patterson who didn't make an appearance until garbage time. Patterson was a surprise entry into the Hawks' rotation on opening night and played at least 18 minutes in each of the first three games. However, he played just nine minutes in Sunday's win at Charlotte and just eight in Tuesday's win at Miami. Mike Muscala also got into the game late in the fourth quarter for his first action since suffering an ankle injury in the season opener.
A tale of two halves for Schröder
Dennis Schröder made his second start of the season for the Hawks with Kyle Korver getting the night off due to the back-to-back situation. He came out aggressive early and the results were not pretty. At halftime he had two points on 1 of 7 shooting to go along with four turnovers.
However, he gave the Hawks a spark in the third quarter scoring 13 of his 20 points in the period. Schröder went 6 for 8 from the field with no turnovers after halftime and was a catalyst for Atlanta down the stretch.
Shelvin Mack makes season debut
Schröder's first half struggles combined with Korver's night off allowed Mike Budenholzer the opportunity to play Shelvin Mack for the first time this season. Mack was admittedly rusty going scoreless in eight minutes with a pair of turnovers. With Mack getting into the game that leaves just Tim Hardaway Jr as the only player on the roster not to make an appearance in a game so far this season.
Jeff Teague moves into 9th place on Hawks career list for assists
Jeff Teague moved into sole possession of ninth place on the Hawks' all-time list for career assists passing Jason Terry. Teague has 2236 career assists and is just six behind Cliff Hagen for eighth. Doc Rivers holds the franchise record with 3866.