The Atlanta Hawks managed to come through in the clutch to pull off a surprise victory on the road in Dallas against the Mavericks (117-111) to begin their season with bang. Dennis Schröder led the way — as you’d expect — with 28 points and seven assists while the Mavs were led by Nerlens Noel’s 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks while rookie Dennis Smith Jr. notched a double-double in his debut game with 16 points and 10 assists.
Ending the game on a run and coming through in the clutch
This was a tight game heading down the stretch (tied at 111 with 1:13 remaining) but the Hawks managed to end the game on a 6-0 run while also holding the Mavericks to just five points over the last 3:59 and two points in the final 1:46. The Mavs shot 1-of-5 from the field in the final 3:58 and shot 0-of-4 from behind the arc.
The Mavs were cold from beyond the arc in the first half (5-of-23) but caught fire in the second half (12-of-23) so, perhaps, it’s no surprise that — since the three was falling in the second half for them — the Mavs shot quite a number of threes down the stretch, but they couldn’t get them to fall, and the Hawks were able to execute down the stretch.
It was interesting to see this Hawks team pull through in the clutch, down the stretch, and Dewayne Dedmon was particularly impressive down the stretch too, scoring six points in those final few minutes, including a huge offensive rebound and put-back and he knocked down the free throws that iced the game.
It was also encouraging to see that the Hawks didn’t panic when the inevitable Mavericks run (the Hawks were leading by 11 points at one stage of this game) came, and they managed to hold on and pick up an impressive road win to begin the season, thanks to their play down the stretch.
Um, is anyone going to guard Dennis Schröder?
Schröder was really effective in this game (28 points, seven assists) partly/mostly because no one on the Mavericks could stay in front of Schröder (no matter who they threw on him) and the help defense didn’t come often enough and when it did it wasn’t good enough.
Dennis Smith Jr. is a rookie, he can’t be expected to stay in front of Schröder:
When Dennis is coming downhill like that, he’s so difficult to stop. It’s a lot to ask of Dennis Smith Jr., he needs his defensive back-line to help him in situations like this — no one even looked like they were coming to help at any stage.
The Mavericks did make an adjustment during this game, switching Yogi Ferrell onto Schröder but it didn’t really help much...
Wesley Matthews tried too, he couldn’t stay in front of Dennis either:
Come on, Wesley, I thought you were a better defender than that... That’s disappointing (because I personally rate Matthews well)...
Nor could Harry B (Harrison Barnes):
You would’ve thought, given the matchup and Dennis’ strengths, that Nerlens Noel — who is a shot blocker and help defender — would’ve either started this game and/or played significant minutes to combat the matchup but, alas, he did not, playing only 19 minutes coming off of the bench, and Dallas paid the price for their defensive choices.
I get the whole ‘Mavs want to space the floor, Noel doesn’t do that’ thing, and sure, they got going from behind the arc in the second half (and, to be fair, Dirk Nowitzki was stretching Dedmon in the first half of this game but couldn’t get many shots to fall) but I don’t know... Personally I think possibly limiting Schröder with Noel would’ve helped the Mavs...
When you’re able to get to the rim as often as Schröder did last night, you’re going to be in with a shout of winning games.
Again, credit to Dennis for punishing the defense and for taking what the defense was giving him, but Dallas helped him out with this one — it won’t always be this easy. There will be teams with players who stand a much better chance of staying in front of Schröder and/or teams who will give the sufficient help defense if he does get past. And the Hawks will face such a side on Friday.
Rebounds and second chance points
A very important aspect of last night’s game... In fact, without it, you could argue the Hawks wouldn’t have won this game.
The Hawks out-rebounded the Mavs by a 50-41 margin while also grabbing 14 offensive rebounds which led to 20 second chance points for the Hawks, which also helped the Hawks score 56 points in the paint (outscoring the Mavs 56-38 in that category).
Dewayne Dedmon, Ersan Ilyasova and John Collins all chipped in here, but it was Dedmon who secured the biggest offensive rebound of the game, which he tucked away, to put the Hawks up for good at 113-111 with just under a minute remaining.
Not long after this, Taurean Prince also came through with a huge offensive rebound which forced the Mavs to foul, with the game slipping away, and TP would convert the two free throws to help seal this win.
Again, can’t help but feel Nerlens Noel would’ve helped Dallas here, but the Hawks won’t care one bit.
John Collins’ energetic debut
John Collins has been waiting for his proper NBA debut for a long time and he certainly didn’t let the moment pass him by. Collins finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and five rebounds in 22 minutes of play.
Collins was exactly as advertised: athletic and energetic. These two traits will help any player stay on the floor in their rookie season, and Collins was all over the place with his activity, his first bucket coming in transition for an ‘and-1’ opportunity:
The rook's first official NBA bucket! pic.twitter.com/xRxn7hz3Eg— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) October 19, 2017
Collins was also cleaning up the boards, again, displaying that energy and activity:
Anyone up for a John Collins jam counter? pic.twitter.com/UUJE179Ozj— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) October 19, 2017
Or was that a pass from Marco? Hmmm...
Either way, Belinelli and Collins linked up again in the third quarter for this nice basket:
We didn’t get to see much Belinelli-Collins in the preseason (due to Marco’s absence) but I wonder if this sort of chemistry (with Marco dancing behind Collins screens while also having the ability to slip Collins the killer pass) will continue...
Collins was also involved in a funny little snafu. Late in the third quarter, Collins is on the wing next to the Hawks’ bench. It looks like he’s having a little chat (as play is going on) but quickly finds himself being shouted at by coach Mike Budenholzer to go set an on-ball screen.
Gotta stay alert, young fella!
Still, great game from Collins, who only played a few minutes less than starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova. Something to keep an eye on in the near future?
Marco Belinelli’s bench surprise
The Hawks hadn’t seen Marco Belinelli in action since their preseason opener (nursing an Achilles) but he returned for this game and returned to great effect — 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, 4-of-6 from behind the arc, three assists and three steals.
Belinelli looked like he hadn’t missed a beat on the offensive end, despite his lengthy absence, and he spearheaded the Hawks’ great bench effort — 57 points in total with 34 of those coming from both himself and John Collins.
I don’t think you should expect Belinelli to play like this and pour in 20 points every night (he’ll have bad games too and, oh boy, they will be bad some nights, that is the Marco Belinelli experience) but he was great on Wednesday night.
A good start to the season for Belinelli.
Josh Magette’s debut
Josh Magette made his NBA debut on Wednesday at the age of 27 after years of hard work in the NBA G-League.
Magette’s stint on the court was brief, but effective. He hit a three-pointer and was part of a lineup (along with DeAndre’ Bembry, Belinelli, Collins and Luke Babbitt) that reeled off a 10-0 run that helped the Hawks take an 11 point lead into the half.
I wouldn’t read too much into this, though. Magette won’t be with the Hawks often this season (the two-way contract he’s signed only allows him to be with the senior team for only 45 days, though I believe any days spent with the Hawks before the start of the G-League season do not count towards those 45 days) and I think coach Bud wanted to give him some burn.
Still, can’t argue with what he did while he was on the floor. He moved the ball, facilitated the offense (which he does better than Dennis Schröder, I might add) and finished with plus/minus rating of plus-9 in four minutes.
Is it still preseason?
Coach Budenholzer is a man who likes to dig deep into his bench and Wednesday night was no exception, as Bud used 12 (twelve!!) players as part of his rotation. Around the league, teams are usually rolling with 10, maybe, 11 players (or eight if you’re the Houston Rockets on opening night).
You’d hope that Bud will run with a more...normal rotation in normal game situations in the future, but at least it gives everyone something to poke fun at on Twitter.
Shots, shots, shots, or lack thereof...
Whoo boy... Let’s just come out and say it...
Dennis Schröder took a whopping 26 (!!) shots on Wednesday night. Twenty-six shots.
We all knew Dennis was going to let it fly this season, but that’s a lot of shots to take in one game. Surprisingly, however, it wasn’t the most shots a player has taken in one game in the very young NBA season — John Wall took 28 shots against the Sixers on Wednesday night.
So, sadly for Dennis — just as was the case in April in the playoffs — he’s trailing John Wall yet again... Oh well, at least Schröder hit 13 of his 26 shots while Wall made just 10 of his 28 shots.
Marco Belinelli, meanwhile, managed to launch 14 shots, which means, between them, Schröder and Belinelli combined for 40 of the team’s 94 shots — 43% of the team’s overall shots (12 total players as we’ve discussed) from just two players.
Meanwhile, Kent Bazemore, (who had a very so-and-so game) who was tipped by many to be the Hawks’ second leading scorer, shot the ball just seven times. Seven...
It’s great to have the NBA back again.
Next up for the Hawks — in the second of their five game roadtrip — are the Charlotte Hornets, and the first opportunity for former Hawk Dwight Howard to put up a 30-20 line on the Hawks on Friday evening, 7 p.m. ET.
Should. Be. A. Hoot.