Hawks looking to reduce turnovers and return to playing as a connected team

When the Hawks have played as a connected team, good things have happened.

The team has won seven of its past 10 games and looks to build on the defensive connection that kickstarted a five-game win streak earlier this month.

It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for the Hawks, though, who have lost two of their past three games. They know that to execute a run that could lift them into the top six in the Eastern Conference standings, and avoid the play-in tournament, they’ll have to remain connected on both sides of the floor.

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With a fully healthy roster, the team is expected to have all of its players available for its game Saturday night against the Clippers. The Hawks were without Clint Capela for their last matchup against the Clippers, on Jan. 8. They also have missed the presence of one of their top options in De’Andre Hunter, who dealt with acute asthma symptoms in the previous two games.

But the Hawks will have to put a value on the basketball as they look to continue attacking the basket. Over the course of the season, the Hawks have averaged the third fewest turnovers in the NBA, giving up 12.3 per game. They boast the sixth-best assist-to-turnover ratio and have given up the eighth fewest points off of turnovers.

In their past three games, after reverting back to some of their bad habits, they had the fourth-most turnovers (18) in the league, the third-most opponents points off turnovers (28.3) and third-worst assist-to-turnover ratio.

So, getting to back to the communication that allowed the ball to move freely on offense will be important.

The players have worked hard to build their connection with each other amid some of the upheaval that has plagued the front office. Though a very minor moment in the amount of time they spend together, roughly 10 members of the team donned headbands at Friday’s practice. Justin Holiday is the only player on this year’s roster who regularly wears a headband.

Roughly 55.5% of the time the Hawks turn over the ball on miscellaneous plays. On set plays like isolation, post ups or handoffs, they turn over the ball less than 10% of the time.

“We pride ourselves on taking care of the ball,” forward John Collins said after the team’s win over the Thunder on Wednesday. “I feel like we just understand how much of a chance we’re giving ourselves to win the game when we do keep those possessions. I think it was 18 turnovers and 19 turnovers in back-to-back games. ... So we just understand the value of the ball, and we want to continue to use that to win more games.”

Hawks coach Nate McMillan said the team talked about getting back to playing connected basketball on their most recent road trip. He said they knew that they needed to beat the Thunder, especially after losing two consecutive games to the Hornets and Bulls.

“Just needed to find a way to get a win and try to get that rhythm, this consistency of playing both ends of the floor, back in our game,” McMillan said.

Saturday’s test against the Clippers will be perfect start with both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in the rotation. McMillan said the Hawks will have to make sure to keep both of them in front while keeping them off of the free-throw line.

Then the Hawks head west for a stretch of five games before they return to State Farm Arena to play the Suns on Feb. 9, which is the NBA trade deadline.