After a comeback victory on Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards, the Atlanta Hawks returned to action on Thursday night in a back-to-back against the Orlando Magic at State Farm Arena where the Hawks took care of business with a 116-93 victory.
The context of this game lies in where the two teams are at at this time of the year: the Hawks are attempting to secure homecourt advantage while the Magic are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 21-49 record following last night’s defeat.
This was very much reflective in the betting lines, where the Hawks, despite being on the second night of a back-to-back, entered as 13 point favorites.
Both teams did not enjoy a good start offensively but such was the advantage and the difference between the two sides that the Hawks opened 8-of-23 from the field and 1-of-8 from three and still led by seven points — it was a little rough to watch but it was fun to see Clint Capela just grab everything: nine rebounds and six offensive rebounds.
What might be more notable from this game, was that Trae Young had his floater going last night. Young’s floater this season has come and gone but of late Young has found more success on his floaters and it was encouraging to see him carve open the Magic with said floater, time after time.
On the pass from Bogdan Bogdanovic, Young rejects the screen from Capela as he gets inside to stick the floater before the contest of Wendell Carter Jr. can affect the shot:
This time using the slip from Capela, Young is able to get inside and, again, get to his floater very easily as Carter sits back:
The Hawks clinched a playoff berth and this next play reminded me of that last playoff series in 2017 when Dwight Howard refused to step up on, well, any pick-and-roll leading to Bradley Beal mid-range jumpers as Young comes off of the screen where Carter Jr., again, does not challenge Young on the floater:
Young finished with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting, seven assists and just one turnover in just under 26 minutes of action, 16 of those 18 points coming in the first half.
Bogdanovic also found good fortune off of the pick-and-roll as he also enjoyed a strong first half, scoring 16 points in the first half.
Here, Bogdanovic comes off of the Capela screen and is uncontested by Carter Jr. coming off of the screen for the jumper:
Carter Jr. did eventually offer a contest coming off of the screen but not an effective one, as Bogdanovic rises into another jump shot coming off of the screen:
Bogdanovic himself got in on the floater-action as he comes off of the Capela screen where, again, he’s uncontested:
A nice flash to the three-point line from Young too to draw Cole Anthony, who elects to move out of the way of Bogdanovic when he was in front of the ball and right in front of Bogdanovic and make his life even easier.
On the dribble hand-off from Capela this time, Bogdanovic patiently works himself into an open shot in the paint:
Again, Carter Jr. is just absolutely no where to help and completely ineffective when he does attempt to contest.
For the game, Bogdanovic finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 from three as he and Young combined for 32 points in the first half, a first half where the Hawks took a 20 point margin into the half.
From there, this game was very much a formality (if it wasn’t from the start) as the Hawks eventually ran their lead to 30 points before some of the end of the bench unit got some burn to end this game. For both teams, the end result was simply a formality both ways, and the Hawks are one win away from securing the Southeast Division title, their first since 2015.
Simply put, the Hawks took care of business.
“It was good to get all those guys minutes,” said Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan. “I basically went into the game with that mindset and approach with us playing a back-to-back. We had a lot of guys that were questionable heading into the game and we really needed to get our bench minutes tonight, the starters have been playing heavy minutes. My game-plan going in was to sub early, allow our bench to play. I thought our guys came out with a business mindset, take care of business right from the start. They were solid throughout the game.”
“I think it just continues to show growth in this team,” added McMillan of last night’s performance. “Coming out with a mindset that Orlando was really shorthanded, we’re coming off of a really good win last night, clinching, and knowing we’re playing for something bigger than what we played for last night. They came out and took care of business right from the start, both units. I thought the first unit did a good job establishing the defense. Offensively, we had good rhythm, good ball movement. The second unit continued that and we pretty much played like that for 48 minutes.”
With Miami winning against the Sixers last night and the Knicks victorious against the Spurs, the Hawks have homecourt advantage in their sights, with Miami in 5th. Should the Heat lose to the Milwaukee Bucks and the Knicks remain on an even record with the Hawks, the Hawks would fall to the fifth seed with New York owning the tiebreaker.
Should the Hawks, Heat and Knicks all finish with the same record, the Hawks will finish ahead of both for the No. 4 seed and homecourt by virtue of the Southeast Division title, as they own the tiebreaker over Miami.
With the Hawks now 24-11 at home and on a 10 game home winning streak, there’s little doubt it’s where the Hawks want to be beginning things come playoff time.
The Hawks have won 10 consecutive home games, the longest active streak in the NBA … Atlanta is 18-2 in their last 20 home games.— Hawks PR (@HawksPR) May 14, 2021
“It’d be great,” said Kevin Huerter of the importance of homecourt advantage. “We’ve played well at home as of late, we want to be at home, we want to be in front of our own fans. Obviously if we can control that we’d rather be at home than on the road to start off.”
The Hawks are very much aware of what New York and Miami are also doing and insist they’re not letting up with one game remaining.
“We still got one more game left,” said Huerter postgame. “The teams that are locked up with us both won tonight. There’s no relax. Our goal is to win-out. We said a couple of days ago that we have a really good homestand coming up to control our own destiny. We’re looking at Sunday as a game we have to win if we want to be in that 4-seed, get homecourt.”
The team that stands in the way of the Hawks and potential homecourt advantage (depending on other results) are the Houston Rockets, who own the NBA’s worst record.
“It’s the NBA, we don’t look at any team any differently than anybody else,” said Huerter of the 16-54 Houston Rockets standing between the Hawks and homecourt advantage. “If we don’t come in and focus and play our game we can get beat.”
The Rockets have nothing to play for, but they also can afford to win the game as they own a massive advantage compared to the team with the next-worse record, the 20-50 Detroit Pistons.
For Thursday night, the Hawks did what they needed to and that’s all that needs to be said about it.
The Hawks will be fairly well rested for their regular season finale on Sunday against the Rockets while the Knicks play Charlotte in New York on Saturday (who are jostling for play-in position) and then the Celtics on Sunday afternoon (also in New York, also playing for play-in seeding). The Heat play the Bucks in Milwaukee on Saturday before facing the Pistons on road on Sunday evening.
All to play for. One more time for the regular season.
Until next time...