ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The thing that has made the Atlanta Hawks so tough to defend this season is that offensively, the Hawks are completely committed to finding the best possible shot they can find. This means that you often see players give up good shots in order to find a teammate with a great shot. Which means you might get multiple players who are named All-Stars, but there may also be nights where those guys don’t score a ton and instead act as facilitators for the other players.
This was the kind of game Kyle Korver was having last night for the Atlanta Hawks, acting most as a decoy and making life easier for his teammates. Then, all of a sudden, halfway through the third quarter everything opened up for Korver and he got 4 consecutive long jumpers (three threes and one with his foot on the three-point line). Before you watch this clip below, remember that Korver had not scored at all in the game when this stretch below happened. He didn’t score after this stretch. And the Hawks won by 13.
It’s rare when a heavyweight bout lives up to its billing, but that’s what we got when the NBA’s top teams met in Atlanta on Friday night. With NBA supremacy — at this point — on the line, folks circled this date weeks ago. Beyond the battle for the top record, the game featured five All-Stars on the court. Three of those All-Stars will participate in the Three-Point showdown next week in Madison Square Garden.
But to keep us company for now, they decided to give us a “exhibition” in Philips Arena. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver combined for 13 3s (both teams shot 27-for-60 from deep, good for a 45 percent clip) in the Hawks’ 124-116 win.
Neither team will be any less gun-shy in their rematch next month. Now is as good a time as any to circle March 18 on your calendar.
In case you’ve missed it, the Hawks have been nothing to play with as the Pacmen have racked up 16 straight wins and counting.
They’ve been getting the job done with everything from top-notch ball movement to lock-down defense to lights-out shooting.
And then Kyle Korver happened.
No, not from downtown like we’ve come to expect from the sharpshooting deep threat. Instead, Korver took to the air and stole the show with a rare jam.
But wait! There’s more!
Who knows if Korver popped in Jay-Z’s “Encore” before the Hawks’ Jan. 23 game against the Thunder. But as if his comfort level with the sky was on the rise, he served up a second helping of Korver Slam for good measure. And this time he threw it down with two hands, no less.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — How well are things going for the Atlanta Hawks these days? Last night’s win over Indiana pushed them to an eye-popping 35-8 on the season. They have won 14 games in a row, and won 28 of their last 30 games. But maybe the most clear sign that the Hawks are rolling? Kyle Korver dunked a ball last night.
Now, it’s no surprise that Korver was able to dunk a ball last night — he’s 6-7 and in terrific shape, so being able to dunk probably is no problem. The big surprise here is that Korver chose to dunk the ball. The last time Korver dunked in an NBA game? November 16, 2012, over two years ago.
How big a deal was this? Well, first just listen to Hawks announcers Bob Rathbun and Dominique Wilkins freak out when Korver dunks. Then take a look at the players on the Hawks bench. Think they loved it?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — On Sunday afternoon, the Atlanta Hawks hosted the Washington Wizards, in a game between the best teams in the NBA’s Southeast Division. Going in to the season, the Wizards were tabbed by many to win the division, but while their start has been slowed by an injury to Bradley Beal, the Hawks have surprisingly turned into one of the best teams in the NBA. I know, it’s shocking, but it’s real and the Hawks just keep on rolling — heading into yesterday they had won 21 of their last 23 games and lead the Eastern Conference with a 28-8 record.
So yesterday’s match between the Hawks and Wizards had some ramifications. But the Hawks took control from the start, weathered a run from the Wiz, and won it going away, 120-89. And it wasn’t just that the Hawks won, it was how they did it — the Hawks had a bunch of pretty cool highlight reel plays.
Let’s start with Kyle Korver, who is having an historic season shooting the ball. He leads the league in three-point percentage, shooting over 52-percent from beyond the arc. So when Korver has the ball, defenses pay attention. Which gives him the opportunity to do stuff like this…
And then there’s second-year point guard Dennis Schröder, who has had a breakout season. With the shot clock running down at the end of the game, Schröder took a three to beat the buzzer, and he pulled a Nick “Swaggy P” Young…although Schröder had better luck at it…
Western Conference supremacy? Tell that to the Atlanta Hawks right now, who have won nine straight games against the West, including a stretch through Houston, Dallas, Portland and L.A. (Clippers).
If there was a mystery as to why they are playing so well over the past six weeks, last night’s performance against the Memphis Grizzlies was illuminating. Jeff Teague balled for 25 points and a late-game closeout performance. Kyle Korver sealed matters with a trey in the final minute.
But it was their defense that shined the most. Simple plain harassment. By the time the final buzzer sounded, “Da Hawks” plucked the Grizzlies 17 times, the most ever in Philips Arena. Putting it into more context, over the past six games, the Hawks have forced 111 turnovers. That’s 18.5 a night. The Philadelphia 76ers cough up the pill a league-worst 19.2 times a night.
Last night, we saw a principled defensive bunch pester its way to another win.
VIDEO:Hawks fly everywhere vs. Memphis, set franchise home record with 17 steals
You know what Atlanta Hawk Kyle Korver is really good at? Right, shooting 3-pointers. You know what he’s just as good at? Right, swatting the shots of 7-footers … wait, WHAT?!?!
That’s right, in the Hawks’ Game 1 win over the Pacers, the man with the NBA’s longest 3-pointers made streak sank as many long-distance shots as he had blocks of Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. Read that again. And then watch it …
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — It’s been three weeks since we last fired up the Horry Scale, and in the time since, we’ve been mostly focused on the playoff race. As teams fought for position, somehow we had no game-winning buzzer-beaters that would require the Horry Scale to be utilized. Tonight that all ended, in the inked-out arms of Charlotte’s Chris Douglas-Roberts, as the Bobcats knocked off the Atlanta Hawks, 95-93.
Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain why we’re here: What is the Horry Scale? For those who are new around these parts, the Horry Scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?) and celebration (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?). Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
One thing I’d like to clear up: The Horry Scale does not measure only a game-winning shot; the Horry Scale measures several facets of a Game-Winning Buzzer-Beater. So we’re talking about not only the shot, but also the play that creates the shot, the situation and the drama, the celebrations … basically, everything surrounding and including the shot. So when I gave Randy Foye a 3 Horry rating, that wasn’t only a reflection of his shot, which was admittedly remarkable, as I wrote, but also the play, which was awful. Taj Gibson’s lefty layup wasn’t the toughest shot, but that inbounds play was terrific. Basically, everything matters.
We all clear? OK, let’s break tonight’s shot down, our 17th Horry Scale entry of the season…
A runner over two defenders? Tougher than it sounds. We should say here that the Hawks weren’t playing with a full deck, as they gave rotation members DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap the night off. (The Bobcats also limited the minutes of their key players.) With playoff berths secure for both teams, they seemed content to let some of their bench players battle this one out. That said, CDR was well defended, and his shot flew high into the air before splashing through the net.
GAME SITUATION Gary Neal and Sekou Smith’s favorite player, Luke Ridnour, carried the Bobcats throughout the fourth quarter. But the Hawks rallied late after a 5-0 run from Shelvin Mack brought them within two, and then a jumper from Lou Williams with 2.6 to play knotted the game at 93. With the game tied, the Bobcats inbounded the ball on the side in front of their basket. With Martin Sargent-lookalike Josh McRoberts inbounding, the Bobcats sent Ridnour and Chris Douglas-Roberts running in a wide arc, as Al Jefferson set a pick and Gary Neal flashed to the corner. The Hawks covered all of this very well, and none of the initial options were open. With maybe a second left to inbound the ball, Douglas-Roberts flashed from the basline to the top of the key, and momentarily lost defender Lou Williams on a brush screen from Jefferson. CDR drove left, pulled up from just inside the free-throw line, and knocked down the game-winner over a recovering Williams and help defender Mike Muscala, with no time to play.
The celebration was mostly subdued. Gary Neal wrapped Douglas-Roberts in a bear hug in front of the Hawks bench, and even Bobcats sideline reporter Stephanie Ready got in a high five. it felt like both teams were more concerned with the playoffs starting later this week.
I’m going to give this one two Horrys. It was a nice shot, sure, but when one team doesn’t care enough to have their best players in the game, it detracts from the fun a bit. Not that this should matter to Charlotte — they wanted to win and ran the best play possible for them to win it. Heckuva shot from CDR, no doubt. But all in all, I’m going two stars …
What say you? How many Horry’s would you give Chris Douglas-Roberts’ GWBB?
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — As the NBA has worked to expand its global reach, more and more games have been played in locations around the world. Next week the NBA returns to England, as the Hawks and Nets will play a regular season game in London’s O2 Arena. To get into the international spirit of things, the Hawks recorded a video where several players try to speak with an English accent. The key word there is “try”…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Perhaps you thought you were done unwrapping presents, but tonight in Cleveland, the Hawks and Cavs had one last gift for you. It was one of the most entertaining games of the season, so of course it had to end (not in regulation, not in overtime, but in double overtime) with a game-winning buzzer-beater from Hawks guard Jeff Teague.
Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain: What is the Horry Scale? For those who are new around these parts, the Horry Scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?) and celebration (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?). Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
With the rules in place, tonight we look to the shores of Lake Erie, to Cleveland, where Jeff Teague could not be stopped…not even by Uncle Drew.
To be fair, it wasn’t the toughest shot in the world — Teague drove left and pulled up for the right-handed jumper, kind of like Hawks guard Mike Bibby used to do. The simple genius in this play was the Hawks running Paul Millsap at Teague with about 6 seconds left to ostensibly set a screen. Millsap got to Teague and set what was basically a token screen, and the Cavs switched the pick. Now, we’ve talked about switching picks here previously — pretty much every NBA team switches picks in the final seconds because the last thing you want is someone who is totally unguarded. You might end up with a mismatch, but at least you’ve got someone defending everyone. On this play, that meant the Cavs went from having Kyrie Irving on Teague to having the 6-foot-9 Tristan Thompson guarding Teague. (Kyrie, by the way, was equally huge tonight, finishing with 40 points and 9 assists). This is what is known as a mismatch, and it only took Teague a few dribbles to shake Thompson and clear room for the last-second shot.
It is in this category that this shot really soars. To begin with, Teague missed a floater with seconds left in regulation that would have broken the tie at 95. Not long into the first overtime, Hawks All-Star center Al Horford had an injury to what appeared to be his right shoulder/chest that took him out of the game, and forced the Hawks to use a variety of makeshift lineups down the stretch. With about 7 seconds left in OT and the Hawks down three, Teague drained a long three-pointer to tie the game at 108. Then with 2.4 seconds left in overtime, the Hawks had a shot at a GWBB from the baseline that Teague couldn’t connect on, sending the game into double OT. In the second OT, Teague had a huge drive-and-one to give the Hawks a 125-123 lead, and then with the game level at 125, Teague ended it. Basically, the situation couldn’t have been much more dramatic. And Teague put the bow on top.
I’m going to lump the ball going through the rim as part of the celebration, because it doesn’t really fit anywhere else (it’s not “difficulty,” it’s just lucky) and that was a huge part of what made this such a great shot. The ball hit the rim five times, I believe, and it may have even kissed the glass somwhere in there, all while the buzzer was sounding in the background and you wondered, “It’s not going to…no way…that can’t…ohmygoshhemadeit!” And then after the ball drops, you see Teague laying flat on the ground celebrating — not only the GWBB but also a career-high 34 points — with Kyle Korver pounding on his chest. This was the first prone Horry Scale celebration of the season, I believe.
For reasons that will become evident in the next week or so, I watched this game intently from the Turner Studios in Atlanta, and the deeper the game went, the more sure I was that we’d have a GWBB. It was an exciting, close game, and it had an equally exciting finish. So for all the reasons detailed above, I’m giving this Four Horrys. I thought seriously about giving this a Five just because it was such a great game, but I felt the actual shot could have had a bit of a higher degree of difficulty.
What say you? How many Horrys would you give Jeff Teague’s GWBB?