The Atlanta Hawks fell short at Madison Square Garden as the New York Knicks defeated the Hawks 111-107 in what was a rugged affair.
The Knicks were led by Kristaps Porzingis’ 30 points and eight rebounds while Doug McDermot added 23 points.
For the Hawks, they were led by Ersan Ilyasova’s 20 points while Dennis Schröder added 21 points in 22 minutes (more on that soon).
Going down the stretch...
Jumping ahead to the fourth quarter, it didn’t look good for the Hawks, as the Knicks jumped out to an 11 point lead with just over half the quarter remaining.
Behind free throws, some interesting lineups and Ersan Ilyasova (who was huge in this game for the Hawks), the Hawks — as they often have done — found a way to stick around and make things interesting... And make things interesting they did.
A lot of games have defining moments, defining stretches. This game hadn’t really revealed one of those until the final minute.
The Hawks trail by just three points (102-105) and off of a steal by Isaiah Taylor on Jarrett Jack, the Hawk push in transition. Kent Bazemore finds Taurean Prince, who finds the streaking Marco Belinelli. As Belinelli prepares to shoot, he pump fakes, sending a Knick defender flying and he launches a three...which misses:
What’s amazing here is that Belinelli didn’t use his dribble, and looks off-balance as he takes the shot — a weird moment there. Sadly, it was also a massively important shot, and this game might have taken on an entirely different look had he tied the game there and then.
But it’s a make or miss league, and the Hawks — despite that miss — somehow managed to find another way in this game, thanks to some missed NY free throws.
However, the Knicks made the excellent decision to not allow the Hawks to shoot a three-pointer that would tie the game at 109 apiece if it went in — instead, sending the Hawks to the free throw line to shoot just two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining with no timeouts.
This left Kent Bazemore in a difficult position, and after making the first free throw, intentionally missed the second but did not hit the rim which resulted in a violation and the ball back in NY’s hands and that was that.
A difficult loss for the Hawks to swallow, because they were really there for pretty much all of this game (except for the part where they trailed by 11 points). This was a game of the Hawks ‘giving themselves a chance’ to win, and they had chances to win but just fell short.
Still, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was proud of the effort from his side.
“I’m proud of a lot of the night,” said Bud. “I think we got to keep competing for more of the 48 minutes, stay together for more of the 48 minutes and find a way to win on the road in a tough environment. Proud of the way our guys gave themselves a chance to win.”
Normally the Hawks losing the game would be the major talking point but on this occasion, there’s something that eclipses that...
The benching of Dennis Schröder
Dennis Schröder checked out 8:14 mark in the fourth quarter and did not return as the Hawks battled down the stretch, with Isaiah Taylor seeing Dennis’ minutes instead.
Postgame, Bud labelled the decision to bench Schröder as a “coaches decision” but Dennis had a bit more to say about it himself...
“You’ve got to ask Coach and then let me know,” Schroder said via Michael Cunningham of the AJC. “I’m supposed to be out there but it didn’t happen. So, that’s it.”
“I will just wait until he comes to me (to talk about the benching).”
In 22 minutes, Schröder scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting with three assists and two turnovers to boot.
And here’s the thing: Dennis was doing some good stuff offensively but tried too often to take matters into his own hands without getting other teammates involved, such as this play:
He also had some ‘not good’ moments on offense.
How many times have we seen this this year, where Dennis, on a switch tries to take a big (Porzingis in this instance) off the dribble and just gets his shot blocked?
This has happened so many times this season...
And then, Dennis gets another switch at the top of the three-point line, a much better switch because there’s more space to drive into, more distance to cover and shed Porzingis with his quickness. Aaaaaaand he hoists a three-pointer and hits nothing but air:
Not like the floor wasn’t spread specifically for him to drive to the basket or anything...
But more than some bad offensive trips was Dennis’ defense.
Look, let’s be honest, Schröder’s defense is woeful a lot of the time, despite how he has recently talked about wanting to be a better defender. If you watch games on a regular basis, you’ll know that to be true.
The fact is that he just can’t be bothered to be a good defender. He could be a good defender if he put in the effort on that side of the ball but he doesn’t do it consistently enough. He has all the tools he needs to be a, heck, to be even be a great defender — length, quickness etc. — but he doesn’t utilize them.
Jarrett Jack scored a season-high 19 points, why? Because he’s being guarded by Dennis Schröder.
Where is the resistance, where is the challenge/contest on Jack here?
Again, how easy does Dennis make Jack’s job here? Dennis is more than athletic enough to keep up with most guys coming off the dribble, but he should be easily quick enough to keep up with a 34 year old who has recently tore his Achilles and meniscus off of the dribble:
The screen comes from Enes Kanter and there is absolutely no effort or desire from Dennis to get back in the play, just lumbers back to the paint:
You compare this to Isaiah Taylor...
Body language can say/tell a lot about you (not even just in basketball but in life) and look at Taylor: you can tell he’s committed to his defensive assignment, he wants to fight, he fights over screens, there’s a sense of urgency. The flop, a little much and Jack scores, but it’s the body language, the desire to defend, the urgency that stand out:
This just isn’t something we see from Schröder enough — the intensity or desire to defend at a high level. Again, he has the tools to be a good defender but he has to want it more.
So, really, for all the evidence above (both offense and defense) it’s no surprise Bud took Dennis out and benched him down the stretch because, yes, he had 21 points on great shooting but the numbers don’t tell the whole story — he was bad last night, and Bud was also seen laying into his point guard — who also struggled with foul trouble (and some silly fouls too) — after he picked up his fourth foul:
With the point guard that did play down the stretch, Isaiah Taylor, Bud was happy with.
“Isaiah gave us a big lift,” said Bud. “Malcolm (Delaney) came in, in the first half, gave us a big lift.”
Yes, Malcolm Delaney did play in this game in what was a weird point guard rotation night given Dennis’ foul trouble and discipline. Delaney came in and played some first half minutes and played a lot of second half minutes as he shared point guard duties with Schröder while Taylor sat a lot of the second half before obviously playing down the stretch, so that was certainly interesting.
A final word on Schröder’s benching: you have to keep all players accountable, and your star players can’t be an exception, and I think it’s fantastic that Bud — because he hasn’t really done it often (certainly, not as extreme as this) this season — kept Schröder accountable for his torrid defense and generally poor play, because he was bad last night.
(To clarify, because I’m sure it will come up: I want Dennis to succeed, I want him to be a good defender. But the fact is he just isn’t, and not because he isn’t capable...)
Ilyasova’s strong play continues
After a perfect game (in terms of shooting) against the Magic on Saturday, Ersan Ilyasova followed up with another strong outing — 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 5-of-6 from three.
Ilyasova was particularly effective in the fourth quarter, and a huge reason why the Hawks made a game of this in the end — scoring nine points in the final period.
In his last two games Ersan has shot 10-of-11 from behind the arc. In his last five games, Ilyasova is averaging 13.8 points per game on 54% shooting from the field and 54% from three.
In a stretch where Dewayne Dedmon, Mike Muscala and John Collins are out, Ilyasova’s production has been big for the Hawks.
A understated but key part of last night’s game was the bench battle, and it was one that went to the Knicks.
The Knicks outscored the Hawks’ bench 45-31, but it was in the plus/minus where the Hawks bench just got killed.
New York’s bench combined for a plus/minus rating of plus-49 — Kyle O’Quinn leading the way with plus-14 while three other Knicks were plus-10 or more — while the Hawks’ bench plus/minus was minus+26, Marco Belinelli the highest in plus/minus with plus-4 while DeAndre Bembry was minus+16.
The Knicks also got a key contribution from Doug McDermott, who went off for a season-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
A sloppy affair...
This game in general was a mess.
It never really got into a flow, the officials were very whistle happy (particularly in the fourth quarter), there were several video reviews for fouls that really shouldn’t have taken as long to look at as they did, lane violations (with which Luke Babbitt was furious about, so furious that he picked up a tech) and the game just draaaaaaged — 2 hours 36 minutes was the runtime of the game...
Just a sloppy game of basketball...
The Hawks (6-20) are back in action on Tuesday, when they’ll take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.