You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Energy and effort at issue as Hawks pile up lopsided losses


The Hawks have lacked energy and effort in what is becoming a trend of lopsided losses, according to coach Mike Budenholzer and several players.

A Hawks loss tends to be a big loss.

When the Hawks lost by 25 points to the Jazz on Monday it was their eighth loss of the season by 20 or more points. The team lost nine times by such a margin in the previous three seasons combined under Budenholzer. That tally include five losses of 20 or more points in his first season and two in each of the next two seasons.

“The key to the whole season has been energy and mindset,” Paul Millsap said. “If we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”

Millsap was asked whether he considered the inordinate number of bad losses for a highly defensive team a trend.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I agree. It has been a trend. It’s becoming a habit. It’s something we have to break. By doing those key things I said earlier, that will help break it.

“If we come focused, come with a competitive mindset, then we won’t get ourselves in a hole like that. When we do, we put a lot of pressure on the defense, a lot of pressure on the offense. The outcome is never good when we do that.”

The trend of lopsided losses has been in full effect of late. In the past 12 games, the Hawks are 7-5. Of those five losses four have been by at least 23 points – Pistons (23), Wizards (26), Heat (23) and Jazz (25). The other loss was by 10 points.

The Hawks have lost four games by 25 or more points this season, including back-to-back losses of 36 and 44 points in December. They lost a combined four games by such a margin the previous three seasons.

The losses to the Jazz this season have come by 27 and 25 points. The loss to the Jazz was surrounded by wire-to-wire wins over the Magic by 27 points and the Nuggets by 11 points.

Of the Hawks 22 losses this season (through Thursday), 13 have been by double digits. It’s a good thing they erased two 20-point deficits for road wins.

“It’s not something that you can ignore or not acknowledge,” Budenholzer said. “We are having games where on both ends of the court we probably aren’t competing and we are not as active as we need to be. Defensively is where we pride ourselves and pride ourselves on being consistent. Some nights the offense will come and go. But even offensively, I think the way we play requires a lot of effort and a lot of activity. When we are having a poor effort and a poor execution on both ends, it’s happening too often.”

This season, the average scores in Hawks losses has been 110.0-95.3, a difference of nearly 15 points a game. Last season, the margin was 104.8-95.1. It was 108.7-97.3 in the 60-win season of 2014-15 and 105.4-96.0 in Budenholzer’s first season of 2013-14.

Overall, the Hawks are fifth in the NBA with a defensive rating of 103.4. They trail only the Spurs (101.3), Warriors (101.3), Jazz (101.5) and Grizzlies (102.4). The numbers make the frequency of blowout losses puzzling.

“We’ve just got to come out focused,” Dwight Howard said. “Everybody has to come out on the same page, especially on the defensive end.”

Budenholzer said the opponent deserves credit. Still, a hot team can be cooled off and the Hawks have not done that on a consistent basis.

“Sometimes you catch teams and they are playing at a high level,” Budenholzer said. “I think we have caught some of that. But it’s the NBA, you have to be ready every night. You are playing good teams who are capable, you have to get them out of their comfort zone and do something to impact how well they are playing.”

The Hawks (31-22) remain in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings. They entered Thursday fifth in the conference just a half-game out of third/fourth and 2-1/2 games out of second. However, they are also a 1-1/2 game ahead of the Pacers in sixth. Howard said the team wants to be a top-four team in the conference come the playoffs. Just 29 games remain in the regular season.

Millsap has tried, on several occasions, to be the lopsided losses in perspective. A loss is a loss no matter the final score. However, he admitted Wednesday a defeat by such a large margin stings.

“It sucks to lose,” Millsap said. “It sucks to lose by 20. It sucks to lose by 25. But it’s still a loss. It only goes as one loss on the stat sheet. We don’t want to get any losses but we definitely don’t want to lose by 20.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Atlanta Hawks

Millsap to miss fifth straight game with knee injury
Millsap to miss fifth straight game with knee injury

Still no Paul Millsap. The Hawks will be without their starting power forward for a fifth straight game, according to the injury report released by the team Saturday. Millsap was listed as out due to left knee tightness for Sunday afternoon’s home game against the Nets. The Hawks have lost six straight games, including the past four without Millsap...
How the Hawks failed to make ‘winning plays’ in loss to Bucks
How the Hawks failed to make ‘winning plays’ in loss to Bucks

Five observations from the Hawks’ 100-97 loss to the Bucks Friday. 1. Winning plays. The Hawks cost themselves down the stretch against the Bucks by failing to execute in key situations. Dennis Schroder got called for a charge with 2:01 remaining and the Hawks up 92-90. Dwight Howard mad a bad pass that was stolen by Giannis Antetokounmpo with...
Inside the box score: Bucks 100, Hawks 97
Inside the box score: Bucks 100, Hawks 97

Inside the box score and more of the Hawks’ 100-97 loss to the Bucks Friday night: Key players * Giannis Antetokounmpo had game-highs with 34 points and 13 rebounds for the Bucks. He also had five assists and three blocks. * Greg Monroe had 14 points and 10 rebounds but it was his baskets with 40 and 17.9 seconds left that lifted the Bucks. *...
Hawks come up short late in loss to Bucks
Hawks come up short late in loss to Bucks

The Hawks are learning how to play without Paul Millsap. They just aren’t winning without their best player. The Hawks dropped a 100-97 decision to the Bucks Friday night at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Hawks (37-35) have lost six straight games, four without Millsap. They are 0-7 on the season without their All-Star. Schroder led the Hawks...
Hawks still evaluating backup point guard spot
Hawks still evaluating backup point guard spot

The Hawks backup point guard position continues to be under evaluation. Malcolm Delaney served in the role for most of the season behind starter Dennis Schroder as the Hawks went without a third true point guard on the roster. Jose Calderon was claimed off waivers on March 4. Upon his acquisition, the Hawks played Calderon in the backup spot for five...
More Stories