The Atlanta Hawks wrapped up a brief two-game homestand in style with a 98-81 win over the Orlando Magic in an MLK Day matinee at Philips Arena. The Hawks came up with one of their best defensive efforts of the season and received splendid play from their bench for the second straight game.
"I thought it was a pretty consistent effort - consistent defense from our group," Mike Budenholzer said following the game. "At different times, the offense wasn't as pretty. But I think 31 assists and they're a pretty good defensive team that make you move the ball and share it. I think it's a good win for us. Hopefully, we can build on this when we go on the road and make some more progress."
Atlanta topped 30 assists for the fourth time in the last six games. 11 of the 13 Hawks' players to appear in the game recorded at least one assist.
We've got to keep doing it," Dennis Schröder said when asked about sharing the ball. "Sharing the ball, passing. If we do that, we'll be in good shape, and we're going to win a lot of games."
Schröder finished with a game-high eight assists and led another solid effort by the Atlanta reserves. The Hawks bench combined for 49 points and 19 assists. It was the second straight game that they come up big in support of the starters.
"The bench has been really good," Budenholzer said. "I think the starters got off to a decent start. It was 14-5 going into the first timeout. It was good to see the starters play well, and I think the bench has been coming with some great energy."
Mike Scott knocked down 5-of-6 from the field for 12 points. Thabo Sefolosha and Tiago Splitter each finished in double figures with 10. Tim Hardaway Jr continued his string of solid performances with eight points and three assists.
"I think both Thabo and Dennis, and Tiago and Mike Scott, really the whole group....and Tim Hardaway has been playing well. Their defensive energy is fueling everything else, so hopefully, we can continue to get the starters to feed off that too. It's been good to see that for a few games in a row."
Hawks clamp down defensively
Atlanta clamped down defensively during the second half of Saturday's win over Brooklyn and carried that effort over into Monday's game against the Magic. They held Orlando to just 35 percent shooting and held them to just 6-for-22 shooting from three-point range. After struggling defensively through the early part of January, the Hawks seem to have things finally headed back in the right direction.
Hardaway earns more praise
For the second straight game, Tim Hardaway Jr earned praise from head coach Mike Budenholzer during his post game media session. After spending most of the early part of the season on the team's inactive list, Hardaway has made the most of his recent opportunity to play.
"He's really added something to our group - his shooting," Budenholzer said. "But it's nice to see him attacking the basket, playing a little bit of pick-and-roll. I think his passing and decision making has been good. Then defense is the thing we've been really trying to work on and just get through some of the schemes and principles. He's worked really hard. He wants it badly, and he's adding to the bench that was referenced a second ago. His athleticism is good to have. Hopefully he can continue to grow and progress as he is now."
Hardaway played 19 minutes off the bench in Monday's win and knocked down a pair of three-pointers. It was his second straight game with three assists.
"It feels good," Hardaway said after the game. "I'm just making the right decisions and playing smart down the floor. Defensively I'm just trying to go out there and play hard every possession when I have minutes. It's helping me out as well as the team."
West Coast trip begins on Wednesday
Atlanta begins a four-game western road trip on Wednesday with a stop in Portland to face the Trail Blazers in a nationally televised game on ESPN. That game is the first of a back-to-back with the Hawks in Sacramento on Thursday. Atlanta will make a stop in Phoenix on Saturday and Denver on Monday before returning home to face the Clippers on January 27.
Atlanta has gone 15-7 at home so far this season but are a very ordinary 10-10 on the road and have lost two straight to sub .500 teams. The Hawks won't face a team with a winning record on the trip but their inconsistent play on the road prohibits them from taking any game lightly. Atlanta has an excellent defensive rating of 99.1 at home but that number balloons to 102.4 in 20 games away from Philips Arena this season.
The trip does however, provide an opportunity for the Hawks to build some momentum. Sometimes being away from home can galvanize a group and that was the case last season when they seemed to gel during an undefeated western trip.
"You don't have anybody else but your teammates and your coaching staff," Hardaway said when asked about the upcoming road trip. "You have everybody's back while you're out there. You have to play for one another when you're on these long road trips."