If you haven’t noticed by now, the Hawks have a new identity due to the changes over the offseason and everyone’s question was if they can actually compete against the defending champs.
Well, they can.
Multiple things were in the Hawks’ favor: They were able to match the Cavs’ physicality, holding LeBron James to two points in the first half and putting on a display of magnificent ball movement.
|Atlanta Hawks’ Dwight Howard (8) and Cleveland Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson vie for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Cleveland, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Phil Long)|
However, the notable difference in this year’s Hawks roster was their inside presence and the matchup most Hawks fans and other speculators would watch is how Dwight Howard fared against Tristan Thompson. Last night, Atlanta out-rebounded Cleveland 50-39; One of the biggest reasons for their success was Howard who posted 17 in the victory while limiting Thompson to just two. Yes, two rebounds, it demonstrates how much of an upgrade Dwight is and surely it’s paying dividends for Atlanta.
|David Richard-USA TODAY Sports|
Dennis Schröder, whom posted a career-high (28) points and Kent Bazemore with a (25) point outing was the outbreaking performances from the victory; especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The Hawks biggest lead was 18, but elite teams like Cleveland were going to make a run at some point (which they did). In the 4th quarter with 2:27 to go, the Hawks were up 103-97, Schröder pulled up and hit a clutch 3-pointer to put Atlanta up 106-97.
However, Cleveland responded and cut the deficit to 106-103. With 32 seconds left, Schröder and Millsap ran one of the Hawks best plays, the pick & roll, which Millsap capitalized by knocking down a key basket to give the Hawks a 108-103 lead. Cleveland wouldn’t go away easily as AND 1, plus the free-throw attempt by Kevin Love trimmed the lead to 108-106. On the ensuing Hawks possession, with 10.5 seconds left, Kent Bazemore had a wide open look and knocked down the big jumper to help seal the victory for the Hawks.
|Baze gets Baze Gazed by Dwight|
“Its definitely a different year,” Kent Bazemore said. “We matched their physicality. Dwight cancelled out and did a lot more against Tristan Thompson. That allowed him not to be able to guard Paul Millsap. Paul was able to have his way tonight. It’s a different look. We are playing super confident. We believe we can beat them.”
The Hawks are back on the court tonight at Philips Arena to take on Dwayne Wade, Rajon Rondo and the Chicago Bulls. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Southeast and radio on 92.9 The Game. Go Hawks! #TrueToAtlanta