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Hawks exploit Cavaliers defense to snap eight-game losing streak

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The Hawks almost found a way to blow it late on but they got the job done in the end.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks snapped their eight game losing streak after the conquered the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday afternoon.

Dennis Schröder led the way with 28 points and nine assists while Taurean Prince and Luke Babbitt both added 17 points apiece.

For the Cavs, they were led by LeBron James’ 26 points and 13 assists while Dwyane Wade added 25 points off the bench, but it wasn’t enough for the Cavs to overcome the Hawks, who won their third straight game over the Cavs.

Hawks almost find a way to lose in final 25 seconds but hold on to snap losing streak

Holding a seven point lead (115-108) with 25 seconds remaining in the game, you’d have thought that the Hawks would’ve seen out the game without making things desperately uncomfortable.

Nope.

Kyle Korver drained a three almost immediately coming out of a timeout to reduce to Hawks lead to four. Right after that, Isaiah Taylor stepped out of bounds after the Hawks had issues inbounding the ball and the Cavs get a layup courtesy of LeBron James to cut the lead to two points, just like that.

The two clutch free throws from Dennis Schröder were instantly cancelled out as LeBron went coast-to-coast for a layup with 12 seconds left. The Cavs are still forced to foul, and they send Taylor to the free throw line. Taylor misses them both, giving the Cavs the chance to either send the game to overtime or win it with a three.

They get a great look through Channing Frye, but his three rims out, Dwyane Wade’s tip also falls short and the Hawks manage to hold on for the win.

The Hawks had every right to win this game but, if that shot had gone in, it would’ve been fair to say they deserved to lose it for their execution in the final 30 seconds of this game — allowing the Cavs to recover from a seven point deficit in the final 25 seconds. That’s not something that should really happen.

But they didn’t, and the Hawks snap their eight game losing streak.

“Happy for our guys to come on the road and get a win, in Cleveland, not easy to do,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer.

This was a quality win for the Hawks. Sure, the Cavs and their defense (which we’ll get to) were bad but you play who’s in front of you, and that’s all you can do. During this eight game losing streak, the Hawks have played well at times, and have hung around in games in the fourth quarter — things just didn’t bounce their way at times.

Picking up a win like this should boost the Hawks’ confidence, and it’ll be interesting to see what effect that has when the Hawks play the Celtics tonight.

‘You want it? It’s yours, my friend...’

You know, we obviously cover the Hawks here but there are 29 other NBA teams out there, and you hear the whispers around the league about other teams — especially when a LeBron James-led team is struggling, how their defense is struggling.

It was incredible to see Cleveland’s defense in action against the Hawks — they were truly horrific defensively for most of this game.

Not to put a downer on this Hawks win (because the Hawks did play well and there were some really good performances) but if this was against, pretty much, any other team in the NBA with a competent defense, the Hawks probably don’t win. The Cavs made the Hawks look so much better than they really are on the offensive end, and they’ve been doing that for a lot of teams of late.

Dennis Schröder could just get whatever he wanted going to the rim — no one could stay in front of him and the help defense never came (which is part of the reason the Cavs miss Tristan Thompson so much right now, sidelined with injury).

To be fair, you don’t really expect Derrick Rose to be able to stay in front of Schröder but, perhaps, more surprisingly Jae Crowder was easily beaten too:

Crowder was pretty bad defensively on Sunday, which isn’t something you come to expect from a guy like Crowder. There were a few possessions where he was helpless and he was driven past.

The Cavs’ pick-and-roll defense was also poor. Here, a total breakdown leads to a Luke Babbitt dunk:

Before a pick is really even set, Kevin Love appears to extend pressure on Kent Bazemore too early, leaving Dedmon unguarded with a path to the rim. LeBron slides over to prevent the dunk, but a nice move from Dedmon leads to a score anyways:

These clips don’t really do the Cavs’ defense justice, it really had to be seen — in the flow of the game — to be believed.

According to NBA.com’s hustle stats, the Hawks contested 93 of the Cavs’ 96 shots. The Cavs contested just 55 of the Hawks’ 86 shots. When that many shots are uncontested, it’s no wonder how a team shoots 47% from the floor and 44% from three as the Hawks did.

This Hawks side has been offensively challenged at times this season but there was never a sense in this game that they couldn’t score at almost any time. And that’s why they won this game.

Team effort and remembering who Isaiah Taylor is

While Dennis Schröder led the scoring effort with 28 points, this was definitely a team effort. Seven players (including all five starters plus John Collins and Isaiah Taylor) scored in double digits, and the starters scored 91 points in total.

Everyone just came ready to play for the Hawks, something that, pretty much, all of the Cavs lamented postgame.

Cavs head coach Ty Lue had an interesting quote to say afterwards.

“...These guys are grown men. Just tell them the truth that teams are going to play hard. Isaiah Taylor and (Taurean) Prince, these guys are going to play hard, they're going to compete. Whether we know who these guys are or not, we've got to respect them."

“Whether we know them or not”... Well, the Cavs might remember who Isaiah Taylor is now after his heroics at the end of the third quarter to beat the buzzer:

Another example of poor Cavs D, but credit to Taylor who used his blistering speed to his advantage all night long.

John Collins: A force on the glass

John Collins, again, was a factor in this game, and he caused havoc for the Cleveland Cavaliers on the glass — 13 rebounds in total including seven offensive rebounds which helped lead to 17 second chance points for the Hawks.

Collins just has a knack for rebounding the ball, some players just have it on that endrebounds just seem to attract themselves to certain people and Collins definitely falls into this category. Tristan Thompson is another example, as Hawks fans know too well...

Look at this possession in the first half: no one wants that ball more than Collins does, no one shows more desire to grab that ball, and on multiple efforts too. It eventually leads to an ‘and-1’ opportunity for Isaiah Taylor.

If there was a word to describe Collins’ effort last night: ‘relentless’, ‘tenacious’ would come to mind.

He scrapped all game long, and was unlucky that many of shots he took just seemed to roll off the rim:

I mean, when it comes to the problems Collins caused for the Cavs, I could go on:

And on:

“That’s what I do,” said Collins when his rebounding was mentioned. “That’s my meal ticket, part of my game, so just I got to keep attacking the boards.”

Collins finished with 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting, 6-of-8 from the line (which he earned by forcing the Cavs to foul him when he came up with offensive rebounds underneath the rim) and 13 rebounds and, again, was a major talking point postgame.

“I thought it was one of John’s best games,” praised coach Bud postgame. “His activity, there were some things we were doing a little bit different and he followed through on a lot of possessions, a lot good things from him. I thought his effort on the offensive boards and getting there, getting us extra possessions and extra free throws... One of John’s best games.”

Though Collins was unlucky with some of the shots he missed, he did manage to thunder a dunk home in the fourth quarter:

“I was sick and tired seeing it rattle in and out,” said Collins postgame. “Gotta use some of this bounce I have, just put it through ... had to get one down.”

As a rookie you learn many things in your debut season, and yesterday John Collins learned — and experienced first hand — that LeBron James is mean when it comes to blocking your shots:

Don’t worry about it, John. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last to experience that. And at least it wasn’t in The Finals down the stretch in Game 7...

Cleveland’s miracle bench effort

LeBron James may be LeBron James, but the Cavs are absolutely nowhere in this game without two individual efforts from two members of their bench — Dwyane Wade and Hawks fan favourite Kyle Korver.

Wade finished with 25 points, Korver with 23 points.

The majority of Wade’s work came in the first half, and a time when the Cavs needed something, anything. When Wade entered the game for the first time with 4:09 left in the first quarter, the Cavs trailed by 15 points (26-11). When Wade checked out in the second quarter with 5:29 remaining, he had scored 19 points and the Cavs down by just one point (44-43).

Without Wade’s ignition off the bench in that period of the game, the Hawks could’ve easily found themselves up by 15-20 at the half. But Dwyane Wade is a future Hall-of-Famer for a reason...

Similar to Wade, the majority of Korver’s work came in one particular period of the game: the fourth quarter.

19 of Korver’s 23 points came in the fourth quarter as he ignited in a fashion Hawks fans grew accustomed to over the years, and why he became a fan favourite.

Similar to Wade’s efforts, the Hawks would’ve cruised to victory had Korver not exploded into life in the final period. It felt like, with how passive LeBron James seemed at times, that he was almost single handedly carrying the Cavs in the fourth, being the only person who could hit consistent shots down the stretch.

The Cavs’ bench outscored the Hawks’ bench 64-26 but this was effectively cancelled out by the Hawks’ starters outscoring the Cavs’ starters 91-51. Yikes.

"I want one time for the first unit to get on the second unit because we blew a lead," Wade said postgame with somewhat of a chuckle. "I'm waiting for that day to happen."

Maybe another time for the Cavaliers but Sunday wasn’t to be that day...

Props to Wade and Korver: they kept the Cavs in this game with great performances.

Luke Babbitt’s career night (of sorts)

Luke Babbitt played a large role in this game as he stepped into the starting lineup at power forward in place of the injured Mike Muscala.

Babbitt was integral to the Hawks on the offensive end — scoring 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from three. Babbitt has been dependable in these last three games (more on that in a minute) and this dependability placed in him by coach Bud — as well as the body shortage — meant that Babbitt played a career-high 41 and 37 seconds minutes on Sunday afternoon.

And he felt the affects postgame.

“I don’t know the last time I played 42 minutes,” said a tired Babbitt. “I don’t even know if it was in college. Maybe an overtime game. But it’s been a while. I’m going to hit the ice tub tomorrow, for sure.”

“...He played a ton of minutes,” added coach Bud postgame with a bit of a chuckle. “I’m assuming we got to put him on an ice bucket and get him ready for tomorrow.”

Babbitt’s previous career-high in minutes played came in April 2012 when he played... Wait for it... Yep, 41 minutes and 29 seconds against the Grizzlies — an eight second difference.

What? I’m reaching? Nope, no idea what you’re talking about...

Babbitt and Belinelli: A contrast in form

Prior to last Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Marco Belinelli was on fire, shooting 55% from behind the arc. In contrast, Luke Babbitt was struggling from the field, shooting 25% from three.

Things change quickly in the NBA.

It’s Babbitt who has found form of late while Belinelli has slid. Since that Philly game, Babbitt has shot 10-of-16 (62.5%) from the three-point line after his 4-of-8 performance against the Cavs on Sunday afternoon — he’s now up to 43.8% on the season.

Belinelli, meanwhile, is in a shooting slump. After his 0-of-4 performance from the field against the Cavs (which, oddly, featured no three-point attempts), Belinelli has shot 1-of-11 (9.1%) from three in the last three games (but, really, in his last two games, since he didn’t attempt a three in this game).

Even though both players are going through different patches of form, things are simply evening out — Belinelli was never going to sustain that level of shooting and Babbitt was never going to shoot 25% from three on the season.


The Hawks (2-8) return home to Philips Arena where they’ll take on Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics on Monday night in the second game of this back-to-back. Having just ended their own eight game losing streak, the Hawks will be looking to end Boston’s own eight game winning streak.