Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with a career-high 29 points while Dennis Schröder added 27 points — both on very efficient shooting (62% for Bazemore, 47% for Schroder).
(Very quickly since we won’t be talking about him much, shoutout to Dennis for this crazy shot at the end of the third quarter):
For the Warriors, they were led by the combined effort of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, who both scored 28 points (Curry’s 28 coming in less than three quarters after he tweaked his right ankle, preventing him to return to the game).
All the way to the end...
After carefully navigating their way out of a potential blowout-sized hole in the third quarter (trailing by 15 points within the first minute of the second half), the game looked like it was up in the fourth quarter: a three-pointer by Klay Thompson put the Warriors up by 14 points with 7:06 remaining in the game, prompting Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer to call for a timeout, leaving him with just one timeout remaining.
But the Hawks, as we’ve seen often this season, didn’t surrender and they kept at it as the two teams went back and forth in the final period. It wasn’t until the final two minutes of the game where the Hawks reeled the Warriors in with a 9-0 run behind Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore (with Taurean Prince also chipping but mostly the former) to cut the lead to just two points at 111-109.
Forced to foul, the Hawks send Kevin Durant to the free throw line with 18 seconds remaining. KD goes 1-for-2 to give the Hawks a chance to tie this game with a three, the score 112-109. The Hawks call their final timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Hawks run a Schröder and Muscala pick-and-roll. Durant switches onto Schröder and the first phase of the possession passes without any fruit. Dennis gives it up to Bazemore near the baseline. Baze directs traffic, and as he starts his dribble Andre Iguodala gets his hand in there, pries the ball loose, comes up with the steal and goes the other way and dunks it home to put any idea of overtime out of the picture — game over:
I don’t think you can fault Bazemore too much here — that’s just a great defensive play by Iguodala, who, postgame, talked about the psychology behind play in, which is interesting to listen to.
“It was just all feel, honestly,” said Iguodala of the play. “You’re up three, so worst-case scenario, you don’t want to give up a three. So you just pressure him up with D. A two won’t kill you, so you can be a little bit aggressive in that situation. I was timing things up throughout the game, counting people’s cadence and pace, and I got a little lucky.”
That’s just a very smart piece of awareness and awareness of the game-situation. Recognising what the score is, what they need (a three) and what isn’t the worst case scenario (giving up a two or sending someone to the line for two) — credit to Iggy, you have to be fair.
We saw Bazemore busted his butt to try and block the shot (longtime Hawks photographer Scott Cunningham got absolutely barrelled into and required medical attention afterwards), and for that reason Iguodala took no chances, choosing to dunk the ball and praised Bazemore for his effort, saying that he was almost successful in his chasedown attempts.
“You have to try to finish the play,” said Iguodala. “He almost blocked the shot actually. He made a good effort to try to get down there. You can’t chance it. The ball can come out of your hands. People can strip you. So you just try to go for the easy two points.”
It was a bitter end to what was a really strong effort from the Hawks. Every team gets up to play the Warriors (especially when they make their one and only visit to your respective city) but not all teams find themselves down 14 points in the fourth quarter and come all the way back to make a game of it as the Hawks did.
Mike Budenholzer was happy with his side’s progression throughout the game and praised his side’s effort against one of the best teams in the league.
“One of the things we said after the game is we feel like we got better as the game went on,” said the head coach postgame. “You think about the first basket of the game, Steph Curry laid it in, our rotations, and our defense wasn’t where it needed to be. There were still mistakes in the first half and we end up down 12. But as the game went on, we just got better and better. The execution, the competitiveness, the effort was great. Obviously, Golden State is deserving of all the accolades and compliments. Great team, great players, great coach, but I’m really proud of how our guys played tonight.”
Bud deserves his fair share of credit (for this game and every game) and his opposite number, Steve Kerr, was full of praise for his former coach (Kerr was a player for the Spurs while Bud was an assistant coach there).
“He’s a great coach and they (the Hawks) always play hard against us,” said Kerr postgame. “Everybody gets up for us. Every team we play can’t wait to tee it up against us. They made a lot of shots tonight and they played hard. I thought they were great. They outplayed us most of the night, actually.”
The Warriors definitely seemed to go through some of the motions. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green both seemed to drift through the game at times — just nine shot attempts for Klay (though, Bazemore deserves credit for this low number of field goal attempts) and just two points for Green which came in the final period near the end of the game.
The Iguodala steal and dunk was an unfortunate end to this game for the Hawks but they deserve a lot of credit for their fight (both in the third quarter when a blowout was looming and in the fourth quarter when they went down by 14 points). There’s obviously those who are opposed to the ongoing rebuild but they can’t be opposed to the effort and fight this side show on an almost nightly basis.
Kent Bazemore’s career-night
Kent Bazemore registered a new career-high with 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field, 5-of-7 shooting from three and 4-of-5 from the free throw line.
Here’s Bazemore’s shotchart:
As you can see from where the shots were taken and the ones that went in, it was a case of the hot hand for Bazemore.
After scoring three points in the first quarter, Baze ignited in the second quarter for 11 points and three three-pointers as he and Steph Curry went back and forth. And it didn’t stop there as Baze added another 10 points in the third quarter.
There was one particular shot (that stood out to me) that, when it went in, you just knew it was going to be that kind of night for Baze:
Bazemore added another five points in the final period to take his tally up to 29, a new career-high.
Postgame, Bazemore discussed how the game was the first one in a while that he has enjoyed in a tough season.
“It was the first time I’ve had fun in a while,” said Bazemore of his night. “The season being where it’s been, I’ve been frustrated. It’s human nature. I’m playing angry, and that’s not who I am. It’s not what got me here. It was good to have a night like tonight against guys that I started with, chatting a little bit with them, laughing, joking. I just kind of let go and my teammates did an amazing job of keeping me in it, kept finding me. Great passes in transition from the guards. It’s amazing what having fun can do.”
You could tell Bazemore was definitely hyped to play not only one of the best teams in the league but a former team where he still has friends in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
“It’s kind of like a sibling rivalry against those guys,” said Bazemore. “Klay and I, he was one of the first guys that I started guarding. He’s gotten so much better. He’s taken tremendous steps and he’s lighting it up. I’m so proud of him, and I’m sure he’d say the same for me. I love battling against him. Steph (missed some of the game) tonight, but he still filled it up. Kevin Durant. Just a lot of great players on the court. It raises your game.”
Coach Budenholzer was very praiseful of his guard, brandishing Bazemore’s performance as one of the best he’s had since Bazemore came to Atlanta while also praising his defense of Thompson.
“I thought he was great,” said Budenholzer of Bazemore. “Obviously, there were a couple times we went down 10 or 12, maybe more, and he strung together a three or two, and out in transition, big baskets and big plays. His defense – Klay Thompson only had 15 on nine shots. One of Baze’s best games since he’s been in Atlanta. Both ends of the court, just really happy with how he played.”
Budenholzer mentioned how Bazemore helped keep the Hawks in this game...
There was one basket by Bazemore that was absolutely massive in the context of this game. The Warriors are up by 15 points in the third quarter — if the Hawks can’t find themselves a bucket and the Warriors score, they’re in big trouble. Kent Bazemore helps slice into that lead and keeps the Hawks in it with a big three-pointer:
Bazemore would go on to score the next five points to cut the Warriors lead to eight points, capping off 10-4 Bazemore-Warriors run — a hugely important stretch in this game that kept the Hawks in the game when a blowout loomed.
Great night for Bazemore — he continues to showcase why he has been the Hawks’ best and most important player this season.
Lack of bench production
The Hawks’ bench has been one of their strong points this season — ranking 8th in the league with 40.7 points per game.
Last night was probably one of their worst outings of the season as they scored 16 points, comprehensively beaten in that regard by the Warriors’ bench total of 39. In fact, the entire Hawks’ bench was matched by Nick Young’s 16 points.
The bench’s time on the court was limited more than it usually is as the starters all totalled 30+ minutes. We only saw seven minutes of Tyler Dorsey (who has averaged 21 minutes a game over his last eight games) and just eight minutes from Miles Plumlee.
The plus/minus story doesn’t paint a nice picture. The Hawks’ bench registered a total of minus-61 — plus/minus can paint an inaccurate picture but the bench didn’t really give the Hawks a huge lift offensively last night.
To be fair, a good chunk of that is due to the fact that Golden State’s bench is obviously very strong and made life, on the offensive end, for the Hawks’ bench difficult...
Turnovers and points off of turnovers
A tale of two halves with this one.
In the first half, it was the Hawks who were coughing the ball up and the Warriors taking advantage — 10 Atlanta turnovers led to 18 turnover points for the Warriors in the first half.
In the second half the roles were reversed: 10 Warrior turnovers leading to 19 Hawks points in the second half.
In the end, the Hawks scored 30 points off of 18 Warrior turnovers (having scored 29 in the last game against the Pacers) and Warriors finished with 27 points off 22 Atlanta turnovers.
The recent outburst from the Hawks in turnover points isn’t a coincidence, as coach Bud discussed postgame how the Hawks are working on their defense in practice, how they’re playing faster (and faster off of opponent turnovers) and how he’s seeing the benefits of that.
“They’re so hard to guard,” said Budenholzer of the turnover points. “We were really engaged defensively. We’re working on it in practice. We’re talking about playing faster. We’re talking about getting outlets up the court. You’re seeing it and feeling it. The turnovers, that was igniting our pace and our transition. If we can create more turnovers, we’ll be (playing) fast.”
In fact, over the last 10 games, the Hawks lead the league in points off of turnovers at 20.1 points per game.
Jaylen Morris’ defense
We saw Jaylen Morris, again, feature in the Hawks’ rotation last night and his defense was something that really stood out in his 12 minutes on the court.
Here, we see Morris coerce Iguodala into a turnover in the first half:
There were also a very good defensive possession on Kevin Durant in the second half.
Morris meets Durant near halfcourt and does a great job staying in front of KD — even after the Bell screen — and forced KD to look elsewhere for offense. In the end, Nick Young airballs a three:
Hard to understate that’s Kevin Durant, one of the best offensive players in the league. That’s fantastic one-on-one defense. As a team defender in the NBA, Morris still has some learning to do but the one-on-one potential is fascinating.
After the game, Budenholzer said the defensive end is where Morris has to hang his hat on.
“That’s where he’s got to start,” said Budenholzer of Morris’ defense. “He’s got to be great defensively. I think in a short period of time he’s made a good impression with how he can move his feet, how he can stay with his guy, the toughness, a little bit of strength. I think that’s usually, anytime you’re coming from that level— I guess there’s a few exceptions but, for sure, he’s got to be great defensively and I think he can help offensively also.”
We’ve yet to see much of Morris’ offense (just two points last night after scoring two points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Pacers on Wednesday) but I, like Budenholzer, believe he can contribute offensively: his pace seems to be genuinely very strong and it would be interesting to see the Hawks utilize that over the next few games as Morris’ 10-day contract ticks down.
Another Hawks halfcourt shot
Because we haven’t seen enough of these already... Yes, another half-court shot by a fan was made, the third one this season:
Perfection. Congratulations, sir.
The Hawks (19-44) wrap up this current four-game homestand against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon, in a fixture many people (for reasons relating to the NBA draft lottery...) will have a keen eye on.
Should be interesting at the very least. Stay tuned.