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Kemba Walker’s third quarter explosion ultimately proves too much for Hawks

It took a while for Kemba to get going but, when he did, it was lethal...

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks couldn’t chain together a second consecutive win as they fell short to the Charlotte Hornets at home on Wednesday night, 123-110.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 25 points while Marco Belinelli added 22 points in a strong outing off of the bench.

For the Hornets, Kemba Walker scored 38 points and made a career-high and Charlotte Hornets franchise record nine three-pointers while Nicolas Batum added a very low-key triple double: 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Kemba Walker’s third quarter the turning point

The Hawks did not lead in this game but came very close in the third quarter after Dennis Schröder’s basket made it a 77-76 game in favor of the Hornets with 5:15 remaining in the third.

Enter Kemba Walker, who scored 18 third quarter points including five threes, the majority of which came in the final 5:15 of the third quarter: 15 points and four three-pointers.

Walker began with a three-pointer to push the Hornets lead back to four points in what was just the beginning of a manic end to the third quarter for Kemba:

Looked like a bit of miscommunication from Dennis and Baze on this one. Baze was trailing the play somewhat and Dennis rushed out to try and take away the Batum three that Bazemore probably wouldn’t have gotten back to in time. Nice swing from Batum back to Kemba for this first three in this stretch.

Next, Marco Belinelli leaves Walker open behind the three-point line off-ball and Treveon Graham — who had a cracking game in this one — finds him, and Marco can’t recover quick enough as Walker hits the three:

Leaving Kemba Walker open behind the three-point line is never a good idea, whether it’s Marco himself or the Hawks’ defensive scheme...

Next, Walker does a good job baiting Prince, using the Graham screen before quickly going back to his left. Graham sets a good screen on Prince and Dewayne Dedmon isn’t in a position to contest the Walker three and it’s money:

Now, all of a sudden, it’s a nine point game...

And to finish off this 15 point burst in the final 5:15, Walker heads up the court in transition and isn’t met quick enough at the three-point line and he needs no second invitation to shoot:

This three for Walker was the finishing touch to an 18 point third quarter after a quiet first half, on his way to 38 points and nine threes.

“I believe at halftime he’d only attempted four shots,” said Hornets head coach Steve Clifford. “I think he was 2-4. I think he had 10 points because he got to the free throw line. Dwight got off to such a good start early in the post that we didn’t get to as many pick-and-rolls, but when the game got going up and down in the third quarter, he was unbelievable.”

“The ball was just falling,” said Kemba Walker. “I got great looks. I was just locked in. I was able to knock them down. My teammates did a great finding me and I did a great job at creating for myself at times as well.”

Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said postgame that Walker got his threes in many different ways but mostly in scramble situations.

“Kemba…he got some in the pick-and-roll, and then it seemed like a lot of scramble situations, they’d end up with the ball and end up in his hands and he’d make a three. He got them every way...”

Kent Bazemore, meanwhile, talked about his fandom for Walker’s game.

“I’m a big fan of his,” said Baze of Kemba. “I call him Cardiac Kemba. He just kept going. I think he had like 10 points at the half and really got away from us there in the second half. He’s a good player. He’s a special player and he made some big plays for his team and carried the win for them.”

Rolls off the tongue well, to be fair...

That final three-pointer of the third quarter from Walker capped off a 20-8 run for the Hornets in the final 5:15 and this was the game-changer for the Hawks: down one with 5:15 remaining in the third, they had an opportunity to really to enter the fourth quarter right in this game. Instead, the Hawks are down by 13 points and in a dangerous position: blowout territory.

The Hawks were able to cut the lead to 10 points but no lower and the game eventually ended in a blowout, the Hornets leading by as many as 21 points in the end.

Postgame, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said his side needed to make things harder for the Hornets, especially from three where the Hornets were 17-of-32 — 53.1%.

“A lot of credit to the way Charlotte shot the ball, the way they played offensively,” said Bud. “They were very, very good, especially from the three-point line. We have to do more to make it harder on them, do more to impact them, with them feeling us. But they played well. Credit to them.”

The Hawks did not do a very good job defensively, giving up two 30+ point quarters to the Hornets in this game — it was just too easy for the Hornets at times.

“Losses like this are going to happen,” said John Collins. “Players are going to make plays. Guys are going to heat up. But we have to put a better emphasis on stopping guys from having nights like that. And we have to build off the positive things we’ve done in the past and the positive things we did tonight in the loss. We’ll try to keep moving forward and try to build.”

“We didn’t guard at all today,” added Dennis Schröder. “We didn’t do a great job running them off the three-point line. We got to give them credit too. Kemba Walker had nine threes. We got to give them credit.”

In a game that the Hawks never led, they’ll be disappointed with their defensive effort, especially their defense of Kemba in this game, particularly in the third quarter... A disappointing end to a stretch of nine home games in the last 10 games.

Things only get harder from here...

Dwight Howard’s return to Philips

This was the third meeting between the Hawks and Hornets — Southeast Division rivals, of course — this season but the first at Philips Arena this season.

Dwight had a strong game of 20 points and 12 rebounds and was the recipient of a video tribute:

Not much of a reception from Dwight himself or the fans.

I’m sorry, but this is complete nonsense.

There is absolutely no reason why Dwight should receive a video tribute: he was in Atlanta for one season before being traded. ONE. And it was a fairly mediocre season too, depending on who you talk to of course... He was also so average in the playoffs it was unbelievable for a ‘star player’...

Dwight, according to rumours and reports, was also a divisive figure in the locker room in his one season in Atlanta — reports in the summer that teammates actually celebrated when he was traded.

And for him to get a video tribute... I just don’t get it...

Dwight had himself a pretty nasty poster on Mike Muscala in the fourth quarter:

Then Dwight — because he’s Dwight — had to get in one cheap shot before he left, popping Dennis Schröder in the face as he jogged by:

The officials reviewed this action but did not deem it to be a technical foul.

Dwight Howard: not calculated? Hmmmm...

Strong back-to-back games by Baze

On a much more positive note, Kent Bazemore had another strong game: chaining back-to-back 20 point games for the first time since November 2016, per the Hawks broadcast crew — 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, 3-of-5 from three and 6-of-6 from the line to go along with five assists:

Bazemore was easily the best player on the court for the Hawks last night and was one of a few positives for the Hawks last night. Bazemore did a lot of his work in the third quarter where he scored 12 of his 25.

There’s not a whole lot to say here. It’s just great to see Baze have strong games back-to-back.

Again — and arguably — he has been the Hawks’ best player this season and it’s going to be interesting what happens with him as the trade deadline approaches...

Dennis Schröder’s tough night and shoulder

It was a difficult night for Dennis Schröder, and in more ways than one.

First, it was a tough night shooting from the field: 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field and 0-of-5 from three — another tough shooting night from behind the arc, something that has, sadly, been a story this season for Dennis.

That said, he did have nine assists and just one turnover, including a couple of very nice drive and dish assists to John Collins, here’s one of them:

The other tough part of Dennis’ night affected the first part: Dennis was experiencing pain in his shoulder after aggravating it in the first half — not sure how, not sure where but it was something that clearly bothered him from that point on.

Dennis had it wrapped in the third quarter before coming back briefly in the fourth quarter but was taken out again shortly after.

Postgame, coach Bud said that Schröder wanted to try and play through it and that he was experiencing considerable pain with his shoulder.

“... Something happened in the first half,” said Bud on Dennis’ shoulder. “He’s pretty sore. He felt like he could play. He wanted to play and test it. I thought we started the third quarter well. I thought he competed, but we’ll know more when I go back (to the locker room), or tomorrow we’ll see how he wakes up and how he feels. Something happened in the first half. I don’t think he’s even sure when or how it happened. Just a sore shoulder.”

Dennis himself was unsure how the injury happened, only sure that it hurts.

“I don’t even know how it happened. Was one play in the second quarter, late second quarter... We’re going to check it with the trainers now and see what happens.”

“It hurts, obviously,” Dennis added. “Like I said, we’re going to check it with the trainers and we’ll know more.”

“I don’t know, I’ve never had a shoulder injury so I can’t tell (if it’s a strain or not). It’s not that bad...” finished Dennis about the injury.

It’s going to be hard to tell what happens from here until we learn more about the injury. The Hawks will have to hope it isn’t too serious because this team struggles to score in his absence.

We shall see...

Taurean Prince

Just another tough game for Taurean Prince: 0 points on 0-of-2 shooting in 24 minutes of action.

Again in the postgame interview, Bud had to clarify the physical condition of Prince — that injury did not play a part in this performance.

“He’s fine, physically,” said Bud of Prince.

“I just think it’s not about Taurean, it’s about our whole team,” added Bud. “We’re just not good enough defensively. I think we need to be a lot more active, a lot better. He can be a big part of that. Offensively, just two shots . . . we just got to keep working with him, he’s a good young player.”

TP just doesn’t look like himself: it’s not like him to float through games as he has at times during this slump, especially when he’s taking just two shots.

Hopefully Prince can have himself a strong game against the Boston Celtics on Friday, everyone knows he could do with a strong performance to boost his confidence again. Let’s hope so.

Mike Muscala

I want to talk about Mike Muscala...

It was a good game for Moose: six points on 2-of-4 shooting and 2-of-4 from three. Now, that stat-line isn’t going to do much for you but when you look a little closer, you’ll see that Moose was plus-10 in his 18 minutes: by far the highest on the Hawks who played rotation minutes.

There were a number of good thing Moose did last night and I want to share them, because people are quick to disregard Muscala — possibly because he’s been around for as long as he has that people just don’t pay attention/the toy isn’t shiny and new anymore — and they underrate him/don’t see what he brings.

He had a great little stretch in the second quarter where he hit a three-pointer:

Played some good defense, gets into the chest of his opponent and claims the rebound:

And then comes down the other end and sets up Bazemore for a three-pointer:

That’s a great stretch of plays on both ends of the floor. All of that happened in just over a minute of play.

One thing I love about watching Muscala is that he runs the system, plays the right way.

Here, Muscala does a great job playing Hawks basketball: pass, screen/slip, move and pass again, finding a good opportunity for Tyler Dorsey:

I’ve said in places before, but Mike Muscala is/has been one of the very few players on this team who just facilitates the Hawks offense and what they want to do nearly every time he’s on the floor: he just plays the right way.

Moose also got the nod to start the third quarter in place of Miles Plumlee with Bud wanting to do something different, to draw the defense out of the paint somewhat. And Muscala responded by hitting a three straightaway to begin the third quarter. He also added a quick block:

“Just go the opposite (way) and try and pull them away from the basket,” said Bud of the decision to start Muscala over Plumlee in the second half. “We started the third quarter well, thought it gave us a little boost. And then we just weren’t able to maintain it. But Muskie has played really well here in the last 3, 4, 5, 6 games. Hits the three to start the quarter and did some other things. I thought it helped us but we couldn’t sustain it.

No minutes in the second half for Miles Plumlee until garbage time (where he hilariously shared the floor with Dewayne Dedmon), so that’s something to monitor going forward...

But a really good game from Moose that the boxscore wouldn’t immediately suggest...

John Collins’ monster oop

How could we not mention John Collins’ monster dunk in the first half?


Just a great catch and finish by Collins after the pass from Dedmon was pretty far away from the rim.

This has to be in the running for Hawks dunk of the year, if not the top spot?

Dewayne Dedmon’s dunk against agains the Nuggets early season comes close for me. If you need reminding:

I’ll let you decide, but damn, that was a wild play... Fantastic.

The Hawks (15-36) are on the road for two games, the first being a trip to the TD Garden on Friday night in a matchup against the Eastern Conference’s top seeded Boston Celtics.

Should be interesting... Stay tuned.