How a phone call helped heal the Hawks’ wounds

Five observations from the Hawks’ 110-105 victory over the Nets Wednesday.

1. Dennis Schroder called. Paul Millsap answered. The conversation lasted an hour.

The Hawks point guard sought out advice a night after he spent all but 3:19 of the second half on the bench in a loss to the Warriors Monday. Schroder exchanged heated words with Dwight Howard, which led to a Stephen Curry 3-pointer, and then with coach Mike Budenholzer. The disciplinary action made Schroder a spectator despite his 23 first-half points.

“He’s an All-Star,” Schroder said of Millsap after the win over the Nets. “He’s carrying this team. He told me he wants to take it to the next level, too. Talk to the teammates and talk to the team overall. I think he did a good job of tonight of talking to Dwight and talking to (Kent Bazemore) and all them.”

Earlier in the day Wednesday, Millsap said he regarded Schroder as a little brother. A sibling who needs direction from time to time. Millsap had harsh words for Schroder immediately after the loss to the Warriors. He had comforting words the following day. Neither Schroder nor Millsap would reveal details of the conversation but gave a sense that it was positive.

“Personally, I’ve seen some growth,” Millsap said. “I’ve seen some maturity. I’ve seen a guy who didn’t let what happened the last game get to him. The guy came out and busted his butt, regardless of what happened, disciplined or not. He didn’t play (the second half) of the last game but he came out with a good attitude and helped us win. I see a lot of maturity and a lot of growth in that.

“We are brothers. We go to war every night. I’m there for him always. He knows that. When he calls, I answer. When I call, he answers. We had a good talk (Tuesday) night. I’m glad he’s receptive to what was said and came today and busted his butt.”

2. Schroder had a strong game coming off the benching. He finished with a game-high 31 points, including 10 of 10 from the free-throw line. Four of his free throws came with less than 16 seconds remaining. However, it was a steal from behind of Sean Kilpatrick that sealed the game. The Nets had pulled within a point and had the ball with a chance to take the lead when Schroder delivered his thievery.

“I just tried to do a better job talking to them,” Schroder said of controlling his emotions. “Just pick the points when I’m talking to them. Because I’m so competitive that sometimes in the game when it’s heated, everybody is emotional and when say stuff everybody gets kind of mad. So you’ve just got to pick the spots when you do it and tonight it worked well and we just try to keep going forward.”

3. Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to be a major scoring option for the Hawks – as a starter or a reserve. He finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals off the bench. He has scored in double-figures in 19 straight games – 11 as a starter and eight as a reserve. The recent starts came with Thabo Sefolosha missed time with a groin injury.

Don’t look for Hardaway to return to the starting lineup despite his scoring prowess of late.

“Not really,” Budenholzer said when asked whether he would consider starting Hardaway. “I think we like having the scoring punch coming off the bench. He is getting lots of opportunities. It’s best for our group to keep him in that spot. Baze and Thabo starting, they are contributing and doing their thing too.”

4. Jose Calderon made his Hawks debut less than a week after he was claimed off waivers. He appeared in the first quarter as the backup point guard. Calderon played a total of 11:32. He did not score, missing two shots, but had an assist.

Malcolm Delaney, who was the only Hawk to appear in every game this season, did not play. Delaney has been the backup to Schroder all season.

“We want to see what we have on our roster,” Budenholzer said. “See what we have available to us. He has only been here a few days so it’s a tough spot to throw him into but at the end of the day you have to test your guys. … I think we are fortunate now we have three solid point guards.”

5. The Hawks needed the victory – even against the lowly but improving Nets. They had lost three straight and six of the past eight games. They are closer to the sixth playoff spot than the fourth in the Eastern Conference.

The issues were before the latest drama.

“This one was a big one,” Ersan Ilyasova said. “Obviously, we have extra motivation moving forward. Every game from this point has big meaning. We have to secure our spot in the playoffs and obviously higher is better. We have to take care of ourselves first.”

With 18 games remaining in the regular season, the fifth-place Hawks are two games ahead of the Pacers and three games behind the Raptors.

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