Hawks’ defense doesn’t rest as it baffles opponents

The Hawks allowed the Indiana Pacers just 75 points in a lopsided victory Sunday. It represented season-lows for points allowed by the Hawks and points scored by the Pacers.

It’s the latest example of the high level of play from the Hawks’ defense with the regular season nearing an end.

The Hawks are second in the NBA in defensive efficiency at 98.6 points per 100 possessions. They trail only the San Antonio Spurs at 95.5. However, the Hawks are first in the league in the statistic since Dec. 12 at 96.2.

The Hawks are sixth in the league in points allowed at 98.6 points per game. However, they are second since Jan. 1 at 97.1 and first since Jan. 12 at 96.0.

The numbers are, as they say, trending.

“They look a lot like San Antonio, for obvious reasons,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said before dropping the 104-75 decision. “They just play extremely hard. Their intensity and tenacity and in-your-face-idness is tremendous. It’s admirable. They are chest-to-chest on every screen. They get over every screen. They work extremely hard and are tied together in a good scheme. This particular team has really good individual defenders. (Paul) Millsap with his hands, (Jeff) Teague with his hands, (Kent) Bazemore does a great job, (Kyle) Korver’s intelligence, he gets knocked for his mobility but he’s actually a really, really good defender. (Al) Horford is strong in there. They’ve got good defensive talent and are obviously really well coached.”

There are more statistics to support what the Hawks are doing defensively. They include:

  • First in the league in defended field-goal percentage at 43.2 percent
  • Third in the differential from a players’ defended shooting percentage and when he is defended by the Hawks at minus-1.7 percent
  • Second in opponent field-goal percentage at .433
  • Third in forced turnovers at 15.8
  • Third in steals at 9.3
  • Fifth in defended field goals attempted and eighth in defended field goals made
  • Fifth in opponent 3-point field-goal percentage at .334.

“Their length at all positions, their athleticism, their speed and quickness,” Raptors coach Duane Casey said of the difficulty in preparing for the Hawks’ defense. “Teague is sneakily quick. (Dennis) Schroder gets up the court and pressures the ball. It starts with him when he’s in the game. He’s really into the ball and now the guard is turning and turning. All at once you look up and there is (Thabo) Sefolosha over-playing the wing and Bazemore over-playing the wing. They have tremendous speed and athleticism with guys who have defensive mentalities. Sefolosha has always been one of the best wing players in the league. Bazemore is an excellent defender. You go right down the list. Al is so smart. Millsap is an excellent defender. You got right down their roster and there are no weak links as far as their defensive acumen is concerned.”

Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder knows all about the Hawks’ defense. He spent a year as a Hawks assistant before joining the Jazz two seasons ago. He has tried to model his defense after that of the Hawks. There are some differences.

“We don’t have Dennis Schroder. We don’t have Kent Bazemore. We don’t have Thabo Sefolosha,” Snyder said. “To me, those guys have a unique level of length and quickness.”

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer and players reiterated Sunday night that the team’s defense has allowed time for the offense to develop in what has been an inconsistent season. Budenholzer said following the latest win “defensively and offensively, that’s close to what we’d like to look like.” Millsap said the offense is still lagging but Sunday was another step in the right direction. With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Hawks’ defense is still a constant.

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