In a Saturday night match-up of last place teams from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, the Atlanta Hawks (7-25) took the floor at home to face the Dallas Mavericks (9-24) one night after Russell Westbrook beat the Hawks with a last second three point shot in Oklahoma City. Starting point guard Dennis Schroder took the floor with the starting unit after sitting out Friday night’s tilt with the Thunder while dealing with an ankle injury.
In a closely contested game that included 18 ties and 18 lead changes, the Hawks were able to prevail by a final score of 112-107. The Hawks clinched the two-game season series versus the Mavericks and have now have won nine consecutive games against Dallas, including five in a row at home.
Mike Budenholzer was pleased with the energy and effort after losing a close game in Oklahoma City on Friday night and traveling to get back to Atlanta for the Saturday night match-up. “Just to come back from last night.. I thought there was 48 minutes of competitive togetherness,” Budenholzer said. “A lot of guys stepped up and played well. Pleased for our guys, happy for our guys.”
Both teams have been plagued by numerous injuries this season. The Hawks played without Mike Muscala, who was expected to play a second rehab game with the Hawks’ G-League affiliate Erie BayHawks on Saturday night, as well as Dewayne Dedmon (leg). The Mavs played without Seth Curry (leg), Nerles Noel (thumb), Josh McRoberts (knee) and Dorian Finney-Smith (knee).
First Quarter (Hawks 25, Mavericks 25)
The Hawks used two baskets each from Taurean Prince and Ersan Ilyasova to quickly jump out to a 9-4 lead prompting a timeout from Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle. After the timeout, the Mavs made a 7-0 run to take an 11-9 setting the stage for a first quarter that would include in four ties and seven lead changes.
Ersan Ilyasova paced the Hawks’ offense in the first quarter with ten points on four of four shooting from the field. John Collins quickly brought his typical energy and scoring from the bench contributing six points of his own making all three field goal attempts. Prince added five points, three rebounds and two assists but committed four turnovers including two offensive fouls.
Maxi Kleber led the Mavs with eight points while Yogi Ferrell and Devin Harris each added five from the bench. The Mavs struggled to make shots in the first quarter (9/22 FGA, 3/10 3PA) but used an edge in offensive rebounding and turnovers get extra possessions and stay with the Hawks who shot 11 of 19 but made just one of five from behind the arc.
Second Quarter (Hawks 23, Mavericks 28)
In the second quarter, the Hawks and Mavs continued to trade baskets before the Mavs used a 8-2 run to take a 46-41 lead with 3:10 to go in the half. Dwight Powell fueled the run for the Mavericks scoring all eight points during the run. Atlanta pulled within two on a Collins’ dunk with 13.5 seconds remaining in the quarter but Harrison Barnes converted a three point play with 0.2 seconds left to give the Mavs a five point lead at the half.
Both benches were integral in the first half. The Hawks’ benched scored 23 of the Hawks’ 48 first half points (Collins 10, Cavanaugh 7, Delaney 4 and Taylor 2). The Mavs’s bench scored 25 (Powell 8, Harris 8, Ferrell 7) of the team’s 53 in the first half.
For the Hawks, Dennis Schroder was efficient on offense with six points, five assists and no turnovers. Ersan Ilyasova led the team with twelve points in the first half. The Mavs were led by Barnes with 9 points. Both teams combined for 33 assists on 40 field goals in the first half.
Third Quarter (Hawks 31, Mavericks 27)
In the third quarter, Dennis Schroder caught fire. After being more of a distributor in the first half, Schroder scored seven points in the Hawks’ first three possessions of the second half to tie the game at 55-55.
Budenholzer felt the quick transiton basket to open the half was important. “He caught a good rhythm coming out of halftime,” Budenholzer said about Schröder. “I think it started with the transition layup to start the third quarter.”
“I just tried to be aggressive,” Schröder agreed. “The layup might be the reason I started to get it going. Then from there on, I was just aggressive trying to attack Nowitzki and all of the big guys.”
After a Miles Plumlee dunk forced a Dallas timeout, Kent Bazemore scored seven consecutive points of his own to open a 64-59 Hawks’ lead with 7:43. The Hawks continued to dominate building a 75-65 lead with 4:5 remaining in the third quarter on a three pointer from Prince.
The Mavs then found their rhythm on offense to finish the quarter with a flurry of scoring. Turnovers and missed free throws by the Hawks allowed the Mavs to use a 15-4 run to close the quarter and carry a 80-79 lead into the fourth quarter.
Fourth Quarter (Hawks 33, Mavericks 27)
Starting the fourth quarter with Schroder on the bench, the Hawks used a three pointer by Ilyasova then another from Delaney to keep pace with a quick five points from Dirk Nowitzki and tie the game at 85-85.
Mike Budenholzer didn’t wait long to go back to Schroder and Bazemore bring his starting back court back with 10:19 to go in the game. Rick Carlisle stayed with his backup point guard who immediately used a three point play and then a layup on back to back possessions to push the Mavs to a 90-85 lead.
Then Dennis Schroder took over on the offensive end. In their next ten possessions, the Hawks scored 18 points, including 12 by Schroder. But they were trading baskets as the last six scores by the Hawks during this stretch either tied the game or gave the Hawks a one point lead.
Schroder broke a 107-107 tie with 1:21 remaining with yet another three pointer giving the Hawks the lead for good and tying a career high with 33 points.
The Hawks came up empty on their next two possessions but were able to get consecutive stops on defense to preserve the lead. Ilyasova iced the game with two free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining giving the Hawks a 112-107 victory heading into the Christmas holiday.
Schroder scored a total 15 points on six of nine shooting, three of four from the three point line. Ilyasova finished the game with 21 points while Collins (13), Bazemore (11) and Prince (10) also finished in double figures.
Harrison Barnes led the Mavs with 22, Nowitzki scored 18 while J.J. Barea contributed with 15 points and 12 assists of the bench.
The Dennis Schröder Show
For some reason, perhaps in facing revered fellow countryman Nowitzki, Schroder plays his best basketball against the Mavericks. Entering the game, Schroder had averaged more points per game (16.8) and posted his field goal percentage (52.4%) and best three point shooting percentage (50.0%) against the Mavs in eight games, with four of those contests in a bench role.
Saturday night was no different. Schroder was not very aggressive looking for his shot in the first half but was locked in coming out of the half. He scored 27 second-half points on 10 of 14 shooting, four of five on threes and making all three attempts at the free throw line.
“We didn’t have an answer for (Dennis) Schröder,” Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He beat us on drives. He beat us on pick-and-rolls. He beat us on traps. Much like he did the first game,” referring to the season opener when Schroder scored 28 in the Hawks 117-11 victory.
NBA point guards are expected to take over basketball games in the fourth quarter. They are expected dictate pace, make shots and limit the teams’ turnovers. After committing 14 turnovers in the first three quarters, the Hawks turned the ball over just once in the fourth quarter which integral to getting 33 points on the board as a team in the final period.
It was encouraging to see Schroder find his shooting stroke one night after sitting with an ankle injury. Schroder has struggled with his jump shot, particularly his three point shot since late November. In his last 14 games entering tonight, Schroder was 11 for 47 (23.4%) and had made more than one three pointer in a game just once during that stretch. Saturday night, Schroder made four of eight of his three point attempts and made three of five long two-point jump shots as well.
Quietly, Schroder has been transforming his offensive game. As he has struggled with his shooting, he has been more careful as a ball handler. In his first fifteen games this season, he shot 45.0% on field goals and 36.4% form the three point line while averaging 7.1 assist and 3.2 turnovers (TO/ASST ratio: 2.2). In fifteen games since, he has shot 45.3% on field goals, 27.3% from the three point line while averaging 6.3 assists and 1.8 turnovers (TO/ASST ratio: 3.5).
Point Guard Rotation
The point guard rotation off the bench has been very sporadic this season. At times, whether due to performance or injuries and player availability, Taylor and Delaney have each had stretches when he was the primary backup to Schroder. Saturday night, Budenholzer deployed both Taylor and Delaney off the bench together.
As a veteran, Ilyasova understands how Delaney and Taylor have to stay prepared regardless of playing time. “This is the NBA,” the veteran said. “Everybody knows you have to be ready no matter what. When opportunity comes, you have to present yourself.”
Both entered the game together when Schroder went to the bench late in the first quarter. For the game, Delaney played 27 minutes and added seven points and five assists one night after scoring a career high 20 points versus the Thunder. Taylor played 11 minutes adding 2 points and three assists. Each turned the ball over just once.
Ilyasova expressed respect for Delaney’s contributions. “Malcolm did a great job,” he declared. “He was great scoring, defensively, he helped us a lot with moving the ball. He’s one of those guys who can create shots for himself and for others.”
The player that was shuffled out of the rotation for this game was DeAndre’ Bembry. Bembry has struggled tremendously on the offensive and of late and will have to work to get himself back into Budenholzer’s rotation.
Defending the Three Point Line
Defending the three point line has been an Achilles heel for the Hawks this season. The Hawks rank near the bottom of the league in three point makes allowed, three point attempts allowed and three point field goal percentage by opponents. The Hawks are near the top of the league in three point shooting percentage but still get outscored at the three point line by nearly three points per game.
Coach Budenholzer was clearly frustrated with the Hawks’ failure to defend the three point line at times during the first half using his first two timeouts following uncontested three point baskets by the Mavericks. When Budenholzer called the second of those two timeouts with 7:47 remaining in the second period, the Mavs were four of 12 (33%) from the three point line.
For the balance of the game, the Hawks held the Mavs to five of 21 (23.8%) including misses on their final four attempts from the arc inside the final two minutes of the game.
Collins continues to impress
Collins delivered another strong performance of the bench with 13 points and four rebounds, shooting six of nine from the field. Coach Budenholzer chose to use a small lineup down the stretch with Ilyasova as the only big on the floor with Schroder, Delaney, Bazemore and Prince to match up with the three guard lineup the Mavs used. As a result, Collins was limited to 20 minutes.
But Collins has scored in double figures in three consecutive games and in his six games since returning from injury is averaging 12.2 points, 7.0 rebounds while shooting 73.2% from the field. Also encouraging is that Collins’ foul troubles that plagued him early in the season have all but disappeared. He has averaged just 1.7 fouls per game during this six game stretch.
The Hawks now enjoy a three day break over the Christmas holiday before taking on the Wizards at home on Wednesday night before playing six of the following seven games on the road.