In a very balanced scoring effort (with six Hawks scoring in double-digits), John Collins led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds while Dewayne Dedmon and Taurean Prince both added 15 points.
Briefly, speaking of Prince and Dedmon: two strong performances, though, all of Prince’s work was essentially done in the first half (scoreless in the second half) but Dedmon seemed to be everywhere in this game in the first three quarters as he procured two steals and blocked four shots in addition to his 15 points and nine rebounds. Isaiah Taylor (13 points) also had a very strong game.
For the Pacers, Bojan Bogdanović ignited in the fourth quarter for 17 points and five three-pointers and finished with 26 points while Victor Oladipo added 22 points but took 25 shots to get there.
Let’s get to what stood out in this game.
Hawks survive Pacers comeback... just, thanks to big baskets from Schröder
It was all going so well for the Hawks, so swimmingly...
After a fantastic third quarter — a quarter where the Hawks quickly established a double digit lead and led by as many as 23 points — the Hawks entered the final period with a 20 point lead, with victory seemingly all but secure. The Hawks were never really threatened in this one in the first three quarters...
No matter what kind of team you are — be it playoff or lottery — it’s hard to blow a 20 point fourth quarter lead, but the Hawks sure got close as the Pacers, mostly behind the 17 point fourth quarter of Bojan Bogdanović, managed to cut the lead to two points after a layup by Damontis Sabonis with just over a minute to go.
Enter: Dennis Schröder.
It hadn’t been the best game for Dennis leading up to this final minute — he was scoreless in the first half and had scored nine points on just 2-of-11 shooting from the field.
But he came up big when it mattered.
Here, he rejects the Dedmon screen, drives to the rim, adjusts mid-air and just about evades Oladipo for the tough layup:
And from another angle:
That’s a really tough shot made by Dennis, the adjustment mid-air and the oncoming challenge from Oladipo...
That shot put the Hawks up by four points, and the Pacers couldn’t cut into that on their next trip down as they turned the ball over with Bogdanović:
They had the ball in the hands of the man they would’ve wanted but to no avail... And this really left the Pacers in a tough spot: if they couldn’t get a stop on this next possession it leaves them in a spot where they likely lose the game.
Dennis sizes his fellow 2013 draftee Victor Oladipo, beats him off of the dribble and scores the layup at the rim, pushing the lead to six points:
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Schröder postgame of his play late in the game. “I thought I didn’t do that in the first half. I tried to be aggressive defensively and get my team going. In the fourth quarter, I felt like attacking. That’s what I did. (Dewayne) Dedmon and John (Collins) set great screens.”
That’s exactly what that move was: aggressive, and now the Pacers are in real trouble.
Cory Joseph puts the icing on the cake for the Hawks with this drive and poor layup attempt and the Hawks secure the rebound, leading the Pacers to foul and the Hawks ice the game from that point:
Pretty bad shot from someone who was scoreless all game but the Hawks won’t care as it basically sealed the game and they snap their four-game losing streak, thanks to Dennis’ big plays down the stretch.
Postgame, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer praised his side’s aggressiveness and defense.
“We talked about it some before the game: the aggressiveness, the physicality, the 50-50 balls, possessions or situations,” said Bud. “We were really engaged in all of that, in all of those areas. Your defense on the ball…it’s hard. It takes a lot of effort. There are a lot of pick-and-rolls in the league. When you bring it with that kind of energy and effort, I think you can have a good defensive game. (I’m) pleased with how the guys guarded tonight. The pace going back and playing the other direction was good too. Able to get a big lead and hold onto it down the stretch.”
Despite a tougher than normal night for Dennis, Bud was pleased with the effort of the Hawks’ leading scorer.
“He (had) some big possessions, when he finished there with about 26 seconds to go, the layup. It’s a tribute to him,” said Bud of Dennis. “At least scoring-wise, he wasn’t having a big game, but he gets two or three baskets late to keep us with our cushion. His defense, his effort, getting everybody involved, his leadership, super-positive for Dennis tonight.”
Dennis’ defensive effort was decent in this game, to be fair, so credit to Dennis for that because that certainly isn’t always the case.
For the Pacers, hard to say what went wrong (besides turnovers, which we’ll get to). They just didn’t seem to take the Hawks seriously enough, and when they flicked the switch it wasn’t enough and it won’t be enough against this Hawks side, who we’ve seen beat quite a number of playoff teams this season.
In the NBA, no matter who you’re playing, you have to be ready to play and if you’re not, chances are, you’re going to get beat.
“Once again, we got outworked tonight,” said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. “I thought in the Dallas game, we got outworked. I thought tonight, we got outworked. We’re getting a taste of what it’s going to be like going down the stretch with these remaining games - teams stepping their game up, even these teams that people are saying don’t have anything to play for. Those guys over there, they have pride, and they’re going to play hard. And they outworked us tonight.”
Bang on from McMillan here: the Hawks just outworked the Pacers, scrapped harder and just played to a higher standard over the course of the 48 minutes. The Pacers showed up for the last quarter and, unless you’re one of the elite teams, isn’t enough. The Hawks deserved to win this game, despite almost throwing it away at the end...
Hawks punish Pacers turnovers
Probably the most important aspect of this game; why the Hawks ultimately won it and why the Pacers ultimately lost it: turnovers and points off of turnovers.
The Pacers committed a total of 24 turnovers off of which the Hawks scored 29 points. The Hawks committed 21 turnovers themselves but limited the Pacers to 16 points off of those.
The majority of this damage was inflicted in the third quarter: the Pacers committed eight turnovers in the third period leading to 14 Atlanta points.
“That’s what went wrong,” said McMillan when asked about the Pacers’ four turnovers start to the third quarter. “You can’t have 24 turnovers. We’ve been a team that has taken care of the ball – one of the better teams in the league. Tonight, there was a lot of one-on-one play, playing in traffic, just loose with the basketball. We had several guys with three or more turnovers. We were not sharp at all out there.”
This was quite unusual for the Pacers as McMillan mentioned — the Pacers rank 6th best in turnovers per game at 13.5 turns per contest and the 24 they committed last night was a season-worst.
Just a few examples from the third quarter...
As Cory Joseph drives and attempts to kick it back behind the three-point line, Dennis Schröder deflects the pass and the Hawks come up with the steal. Kent Bazemore leads the way and finds John Collins for the lob-layup:
Shortly after that, the Hawks come up with another deflection on the pass and it leads to a steal. Off of a miss by Taurean Prince, John Collins is there underneath the basket to pick up the pieces and scores two of the Hawks’ 14 second chance points to put the Hawks up by 11 points, leading to a Pacers timeout:
When you cough it up 24 times, it’s going to be hard to keep opponents in check. The Pacers were careless with the ball and they know it, but credit the Hawks too who forced a lot of those turnovers and then punished them for it. It’s one thing for your opponent to turn it over but another to score off of them.
The Hawks did just that (29 points off of 24 turnovers) and the Pacers did not (16 points off of 21 turnovers, which is a lot of turnovers it should be noted) and that’s one of the key reasons why this game swung in favor of the Hawks.
Jaylen Morris’ NBA debut
Freshly signed to a 10-day contract earlier that day, swing-man Jaylen Morris made his NBA debut as he saw some rotation minutes.
In 11 minutes on the court, Morris scored two points on 1-of-6 shooting and 0-of-2 from three.
The main thing that instantly stood about about Morris (other than how he kind of looks like Markelle Fultz from afar) was his speed, his burst:
There is an element quickness about him and if he can fine-tune some of the other aspects of his game, his potential in pick-and-rolls (especially when it comes to using his speed and turning the corner) could be interesting for a team.
In the fourth quarter, Morris displayed his pace again, grabbing the rebound and turning on the jets, getting to the rim but he couldn’t hit the reverse layup:
Wasn’t the best night shooting the ball for Morris but he seemed to get an ‘A for effort’ from his coach, who has been impressed with what he has seen from Morris in the G-League and in practise.
“I liked him,” said Budenholzer of Morris. “Even in the 11 minutes you see a little bit of athleticism. There’s a confidence, he shot it well this morning in our little shootaround. I think he’s definitely somebody that has impressed us in the G-League. Decision making and playing in the pick-and-roll, maybe it didn’t look great tonight but the fact that he’s trying to make the read, he sees the pass, he sees the decision... I thought there was a lot of positives for Jaylen.”
Without DeAndre’ Bembry and Antonius Cleveland currently sidelined, we should see a little more of Morris in the near future.
Really solid night for Mike Muscala coming off of the bench: 12 points, eight rebounds (six of them offensive) and a team-best plus-10. He played well defensively and mixed things up on the offensive glass, which is something he discussed postgame.
“They were playing small for the majority of the game, so I was trying to take advantage of that and be a threat,” said Muscala postgame. “Sometimes with being small, we don’t post up much. I tried to be on the glass a little bit. Just happy with the win.”
He certainly did that but what also stood out were his 14 field goal attempts, the most Muscala has ever attempted in a game. It does seem like a lot of attempts but they pretty much all came in the flow of the game.
An interesting sight to see in the boxscore... Doesn’t happen everyday.
The Hawks (19-43) are back in action on Friday night when they’ll take on... the Golden State Warriors at Philips Arena. The game is sure to be a sellout and one not to be missed.
Should be fun. Stay tuned.