Mavs’ Kidd: ‘We gotta get better in that third quarter, and we will’

The Atlanta Hawks came into the 2021-22 season trying to prove that last season’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals wasn’t a fluke, while the Mavericks, with a new coach in Jason Kidd, are hoping to make a deep playoff run of their own. 

After one game, Atlanta looks deeper than they did last season and a team that will definitely be a factor in Eastern Conference. The Hawks had six players in double figures led by Cam Reddish’s 20 points off the bench, Trae Young had 19 points and 14 assists, and John Collins 16 points and nine rebounds as the Hawks routed the Mavericks 113-87 at State Farm Arena on Wednesday night.

The Hawks were big-time on the defensive end; they held the Mavericks to 33% shooting from the field and forced 15 turnovers. Atlanta blew the game open in the third quarter with 22-8 run. The Hawks led by as many as 22 points in the third and had their largest lead of 30 in the fourth. 

Young got off in the third. He scored 12 points and nine assists in the quarter, and Kidd, who knows a lot about excellent point guard play, talked about Young’s passing and Dallas’ struggles in the third.

“He’s improved, and I said that before,” Kidd said about Young. “He’s gotten better each year on the one side of passing the ball and not turning it over… “In the first half, we couldn’t ask for a better defensive performance. We just couldn’t make any shots. You’re talking about an All-Star in Young.. We gotta get better in that third quarter, and we will.”

Doncic, who led the Mavericks with 18 points on 6/17 shooting from the field, added on the third quarter: “They were making shots, and we weren’t making shots. They played great defense, and we weren’t at their level on defense, so that’s it.”

The Mavericks may struggle initially as the team learns to adjust to Kidd’s new offense and style, and it’s only one of 82, so there’s not much to worry about at this point. Plus, Atlanta appears to be a very good team.

Dallas gets back at it on Saturday in Toronto against the Raptors. 

 

 

Hawks extend Young, re-sign Collins, Williams

The Atlanta Hawks have signed point guard Trae Young to a max contract extension, which begins with the 2022-23 season, re-signed F John Collins and G Lou Williams, the team announced on Friday.

According to reports, Young signed a five-year, $172 million rookie max contract extension. Collins reportedly signed a five-year deal worth $125 million, and Williams signed a reported one-year deal worth $5 million.

Most recently, Young, 22, helped lead the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in Atlanta franchise history, averaging 28.8 points and 9.5 assists per game during the team’s run. The three-year veteran became the first player in NBA history to post at least 20 points and seven-or-more assists in each of his first 13 career playoff games.

In 63 starts last season, Collins, 23, averaged 17.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.0 blocks in 29.3 minutes. The four-year veteran finished 18th in the NBA in FG%, tied for 23rd in rpg and 26th in bpg.  

During the Hawks’ recent run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Collins put in 13.9 points and 8.7 rebounds.

In 66 games last season (24 with the Hawks and 42 with the Clippers), the 34-year-old Williams averaged 11.3 points, 3.4 assists, and 2.1 rebounds in 21.6 minutes. The 16-year veteran is a three-time winner of the NBA’s Sixth Man Award (2015, 2018, 2019, tied with Jamal Crawford for the most in league history).

The Hawks have a nice young core, and Young, who had a tremendous playoff run, is turning into one of the best point guards in basketball. Collins is young, athletic, and continues to grow his game. Hopefully, he continues to grow after getting paid. Williams is not a walking bucket any longer, but he can still score.

Atlanta might be better next season, but it might not be good enough. Even though they beat Philadelphia in the playoffs, I think 76ers, Bucks, and Nets are still better for now, but the Hawks are still a franchise that is trending upwards.

 

 

Listen to Go4it! Guest: Ex-NBA player C.J. Watson

Former NBA player C.J. Watson talks Chris Paul, Trae Young, can the Bucks win the Finals without Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Watson believes that Derrick Rose is Hall of Famer, Ben Simmons has to shoot if he wants to be better, Dame Lillard’s future in Portland, can LeBron James win another title, and who is the best player in basketball?

C.J. talks Foundation and children’s books:

quietstormfoundation.org

cjpens.com

Listen below:

Antetokounmpo on Middleton: ‘We were like, get the hell out of the way, give him the ball’

After struggling with his shot in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Hawks, Khris Middleton finally came alive at the right time, and that time was the fourth quarter of Game 3.

Middleton scored 20 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter as the Bucks defeated the Hawks 113-102 on Sunday night at State Farm Arena to take a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4 is on Tuesday night in Atlanta.

In the first two games of the series, Middleton, who also added 11 rebounds and seven assists on Sunday night, scored a combined 30 points, and he almost did that in the fourth quarter on Sunday night. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Middleton is the first Bucks player with 20 points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game over the last 25 postseasons.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists, but tonight was about Middleton. 

“Some games it’s me, some games it’s Giannis(Antetokounmpo), some games it’s Jrue(Holiday),” Middleton said. “We all have a great feel about who has it going, who has the best matchup, and who can create the best looks. When it’s my turn or my time to have it, I’m thinking the same way: just try to get the best shot up for everybody.”

Antetokounmpo added on Middleton: “Greatness. Greatness. What I saw today was unbelievable. He was freaking unbelievable. Carried the team at the end. Man, like he turned the ball over two times, and after that, he was locked in and like “pass me the ball,” and we gave him the ball. There’s moments that is we know when to set screens for him, and we know when he wants the ball, and that was the moment. We were like, get the hell out of the way, give him the ball, take us home, Khris, and that’s what he did.”

Trae Young led the Hawks with 35 points and four assists, but he injured his ankle late in the third quarter after he stepped on referee Sean Wright’s foot. Young, who is expected to get an MRI on Monday, returned in the fourth quarter, but he was clearly limited. 

“It was really my blow-by speed,” Young said. “That’s a big part of my game, my ability to blow by anybody. When you’re on the left side, and you’re trying to blow by, you’ve got to use your right foot. So my left-hand pass to Bogey — I was going down the left side; it was in a lot of pain going back. Like I said, it’s more just the push-off and the blow-by….

“When I came back in, it was kind of sore. It made me mad I couldn’t really go as fast as I wanted to, and when I did, it hurt. So I’ve just got to get treatment and hopefully get it better for the next game.”

If Young is not healthy, the Hawks don’t have a shot in this series. It’s a tough break for Young and the Hawks, but again, Game 3 was all about the greatness of Middleton. 

Hawks’ McMillan: ‘What I respect about Trae(Young), he’s going to always stay aggressive’

Trae Young has taken full advantage of his first playoff experience, and if you did not think he was a star before the playoffs, your mind has probably been changed.

Young had a playoff career-high 48 points, to go along with 11 assists, and seven rebounds as the Hawks defeated the Bucks 116-113 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night.

Game 2 is on Friday night in Milwaukee.

According to StatMuse, the 22-year-old Young is only player with at least 45 points and 10 assists in a conference finals game, and his 48 points is the most points in a conference finals’ debut. In addition, Young’s 48 points tied LeBron James for the most points by a player age 22 or younger in a Conference or Division finals game, according to ESPN Stats & Info

Young scored or assisted on 72 of Atlanta’s 116 points, and according to Elias Sports, that is the most in a Conference or Division Finals game all-time.

“What I respect about Trae, he’s going to always stay aggressive,” Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said. “He continued to stay aggressive and take his shots, and tonight those shots were falling for him. I thought he did a good job of, again, reading the defense and getting the ball and putting the ball in the hands of guys who had their matchups.”

Young added: “I’ve seen pretty much every defense. It’s really just figuring out what type of defense they’re showing that night. So I’m not surprised. For me, it’s just trying to make the right read and figure out how they’re going to guard. They guard a certain way and just trying to make plays and attack that way.”

For the third straight series, Atlanta won Game 1 on the road, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Hawks are the first team to win Game 1 on the road in three series within a postseason since the 1998-99 Knicks (excluding the bubble last season). In addition, Atlanta is 6-2 on the road in these playoffs.

“We didn’t get a high seed, so we’ve got to try to steal one on the road,” Young said. “Game 1 is definitely a game that you can really surprise that team. I think with the way we’ve been playing coming out of the gate; you can just tell we’re really focused on our attention to details when it comes to the other team.”

John Collins, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds in Game 1, added on team’s success on the road: ‘I feel like it definitely puts some respect on our name for sure. Going into hostile environments and coming out with victories in Game 1 is definitely something to be proud of. I feel like it’s prepared us for moments like this right now.”

The Hawks and Young are for real, and now after stealing Game 1 against the Bucks, Atlanta got the split that they needed, and Young’s stature in the league continues to grow.

Notes:

-Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists on Wednesday night, and Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.

-Collins and Young had the highlight of the game when Young threw a lob pass off the glass to Collins, who finished it with a dunk in the third quarter. Young discussed the play after the game.

“Yeah, like we said in the locker room, he(Collins) knew it was coming,” Young said. “He knew the difference between one of my floaters and one of my passes off the backboard. That’s just the connection we have, the type of chemistry we have. So it’s fun playing with him.”

Watch play below:

 

 

 

 

The 76ers will get to the Eastern Conference finals, guaranteed!

The Philadelphia 76ers were in complete control in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference second-round series against the Hawks on Wednesday night. Philly was up by as many as 26 points in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter leading by 18 points.

However, things went south for Philadelphia in the fourth. The Hawks outscored the 76ers 40-19 in the final quarter, and ultimately, the comeback was complete as Atlanta defeated the 76ers 109-106 at Wells Fargo Center to take a 3-2 series lead.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 26-point blown lead was the third-largest blown lead in a playoff game over the last 25 postseasons.

Game 6 is on Friday night in Atlanta, and if the Hawks could pull it off, they will return to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2015.

Trae Young had another huge game on the road. In six road playoff games, Young is averaging 32.2 points, 9.0 assists, and 3.0 rebounds. Young had 39 points and seven assists on Wednesday night, including 13 points in the fourth, and Lou Williams scored 13 of his 15 points in the final quarter.

What an amazing turnaround for the Hawks, and what a big-time letdown for the 76ers. In the past two games, Philadelphia, who had an 18-point lead against the Hawks in Game 4, has not gotten much from their top three players in the fourth quarter. Joel Embiid(1-10), Tobias Harris(0-5), and Ben Simmons(0-0) shot a combined 1/15 from the field in the fourth quarters of the last two games.

With their backs against the wall, Philadelphia will now have to win in a hostile environment to keep its season alive. State Farm Arena will be rocking on Friday night, but according to their head coach Doc Rivers, the 76ers will win Game 6 and bring the series back to Philly for Game 7 on Sunday night.

“We’ll get back up,” Rivers said postgame. “We’ll be back here for Game 7. I believe that.”

Philadelphia is still the better team in this series. Usually, the better team wins in a best-of-seven-series in the NBA, so expect the 76ers to bring this series back to Philadelphia and win it in 7. If they don’t, it will be a long offseason in Philadelphia

Notes:

Simmons has struggled from the free-throw line in the playoffs and this series. The Hawks used the “Hack-a-Ben” strategy in Game 5, and it worked. Simmons shot 4-14 from the line on Wednesday night and became the first guard in NBA history to miss ten free throws in a playoff game, and the ten missed free throws are the most by any player in a game this season.

In the playoffs this season, Simmons is shooting 33% from the foul line.

-Seth Curry had a career-playoff-high 36 points on Wednesday night. Curry shot 13/19 from the field, including 7/12 from three-point range.

Hawks ride Young, three-point shooting to grab Game 1 in Philly

The Atlanta Hawks got off to a great start on Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Atlanta shot 72 percent from the field in the first quarter, including 6/12 from three-point range, and would lead 42-27 after one quarter and led 74-54 at halftime.

The Hawks would withstand a furious Philly rally in the fourth quarter to win 128-124 at Wells Fargo Center.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

The 76ers had a hard time slowing down Trae Young. The All-Star point guard hurt the 76ers with his shot and passing ability. Young scored 25 of his 35 points in the first half and had 10 assists. According to StatMuse, Young became the first Hawks player with 35 points and 10 assists in game since 1965.

Philadelphia had no answers for Young and his teammates. Atlanta averages 12 three-pointers made per game. But the Hawks made a franchise-record 20 three-pointers on Sunday and had Philly scrambling throughout the game. Bogdan Bogdanovic had 21 points, including five threes, Young had four threes, and John Collins also added 21 points and made three threes

Danny Green mostly guarded Young in the first half and could not contain him. The 76ers went with Ben Simmons on Young in the second half, but he picked up two quick fouls, and ultimately he was moved off of Young. However, in Game 2, Simmons wants to guard Young.

“I mean, I want to,” Simmons said about guarding Young. “If the refs aren’t going to call so many fouls and I can be physical and be 6-10, then I’ll be 6-10. But we’ll see.”

Philadelphia did get MVP finalist Joel Embiid back in this game after coming back from a torn meniscus, and he played very well. Embiid scored 39 points and grabbed nine rebounds,  and as he goes forward, Embiid hopes to be able to manage the injury.

“All I have to do is keep managing it, do my best, try to get as much treatment as I can,” Embiid said. “Try to manage it to make sure it doesn’t swell up too much.”

If the Hawks shoot as they did in Game 1, they could sweep the first two games in Philly but expect a better defensive effort out of the 76ers, who has the second-rated defense in basketball. 

The Hawks got what they wanted at this point, which is split, but now they have to get greedy and try to capture Game 2.

Trae Young named Eastern Conference Player of the Week

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young was named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played May 10-16, it was announced today. The third-year guard averaged 24.3 points on .471 shooting and 8.5 assists in 29.0 minutes per game in leading the Hawks to an undefeated 4-0 week. Among Eastern Conference players, he was 6th in points per game and tied for 4th in assists per game. The Hawks have now won 11 straight at State Farm Arena, the longest active home win streak in the NBA. This is the third time in Young’s career that he has won Player of the Week honors (for games played March 18-24, 2019 and Oct. 22-27, 2019).

Young started the week with a 36-point, six-rebound, nine-assist effort in a 125-124 win over the Wizards. In a rematch against Washington two days later, he tallied 33 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in 37 minutes. He scored 18 points and dished out seven assists in 26 minutes in a 116-93 victory over Orlando on May 13 and closed the week by nearly recording a double-double with 10 points and nine assists in 16 minutes against Houston last night.

A 2020 NBA All-star, Young averaged 25.3 points (14th in the NBA), 3.9 rebounds and 9.4 assists (2nd in NBA) in 33.7 minutes per game in his third NBA season, starting all 63 games he played in. He was the only player in the NBA this season to average at least 25 points and nine assists.

At 41-31 (.569), the Hawks finished 5th in the Eastern Conference, earning their first trip to the NBA Playoffs since the 2016-17 season. The Hawks will tip-off the 2021 NBA Playoffs this weekend at New York against the Knicks.

Hawks’ Trae Young diagnosed with lateral left ankle sprain

Trae Young, who left last night’s loss to the Knicks due to a sprained left ankle, was diagnosed with a lateral left ankle sprain, the team announced on Thursday.

Young had an MRI on Thursday, which confirmed the injury after an X-ray taken at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night came back negative.

According to the team, Young will be listed as out for tomorrow’s game vs. Miami and Sunday vs. Milwaukee, and his status will be updated as appropriate.

Young, the Hawks leading scorer, is averaging 25.3 points, 9.6 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game. 

At 32-27, Atlanta is the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

USA Basketball names 15 players, including Zion Williamson, Trae Young, Zach LaVine to finalists list for the Olympics

Adding 15 players to 42 previously selected USA Basketball Men’s National Team finalists, 57 athletes today were announced by USA Basketball as finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. The player selections were approved by the USA Basketball Board of Directors. The official 12-member U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team roster will be announced later this year.

Added to the 2021 USA National Team roster, from which the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team will be selected, were  Jarrett Allen (Cleveland Cavaliers); Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets); Jerami Grant (Detroit Pistons); Blake Griffin (Brooklyn Nets); Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks); DeAndre Jordan (Brooklyn Nets); Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls); Julius Randle (New York Knicks); Duncan Robinson (Miami Heat); Mitchell Robinson  (New York Knicks); Fred VanVleet (Toronto Raptors); John Wall (Houston Rockets); Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans); Christian Wood (Houston Rockets); and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks).

Forty-two of the athletes who were named as finalists on Feb. 10, 2020, also were confirmed for the 2021 list, including: Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards); Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns); Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat); Mike Conley (Utah Jazz);  Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers); DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs); Andre Drummond (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets); Paul George (LA Clippers); Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors); James Harden (Brooklyn Nets); Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Lakers); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers); Gordon Hayward  (Charlotte Hornets); Dwight Howard (Philadelphia 76ers); Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans); Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets); LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers); Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); JaVale McGee  (Cleveland Cavaliers); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Victor Oladipo (Houston Rockets); Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns); Mason Plumlee (Detroit Pistons); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); Russell Westbrook (Washington Wizards); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible. These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that,” said Jerry Colangelo, who has served as the managing director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team since 2005.

“Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The USA National Team coaching staff is led by long-time San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, and serving as USA assistant coaches are Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, former Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and Villanova University head coach  Jay Wright.

All told, there are 29 players who have played for the USA in an Olympics and/or a FIBA World Cup, and together they have won 31 Olympic or FIBA Basketball World Cup gold medals and four bronze medals.

The list of finalists includes nine members of the gold medalist 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, seven gold medalists from the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team and three gold medalists from the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.

Three-time Olympic medalist James (2008 and 2012 gold, 2004 bronze) could be become just the second U.S. male basketball player to make four U.S. Olympic teams (tying with Carmelo Anthony), while Durant (2012 and 2016 gold medalist) and Paul (2008 and 2012 gold medalist) are seeking to become three-time Olympians.

Nine players from the gold medal winning 2016 U.S. Olympic team that went 8-0 in Rio de Janeiro remain in contention, including Barnes, Butler, DeRozan, Durant, George, Green, Irving, Jordan and Lowry.

Davis, Durant, Harden, James, Love, Paul and Westbrook were members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team that compiled an unblemished record of 8-0 and captured gold in London; while Howard, James and Paul were gold medalists with the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.

Eleven members of the USA’s 2019 World Cup Team are among the 2021 finalists, including Barnes, Brown, Joe Harris, Lopez, Middleton, Mitchell, Plumlee, Tatum, Turner, Walker and White.

Seven were members of the 2014 USA World Cup Team that finished 9-0 and captured gold in Spain, including Curry, Davis, DeRozan, Drummond, Harden, World Cup MVP Irving and Plumlee. Five finalists were members of the 2010 USA World Cup squad that went 9-0 and captured gold in Istanbul, Turkey, including Curry, World Cup MVP Durant, Gordon, Love and Westbrook; while Howard, James and Paul earned a bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA World Cup in Japan.

The finalists represent 24 different NBA teams, with the Brooklyn Nets (Durant, Griffin, Harden, Joe Harris, Irving and Jordan), leading the way with six players;  while the Cleveland Cavaliers (Allen, Drummond, Love and McGee), Houston Rockets (Gordon, Oladipo, Wall and Wood) and Los Angeles Lakers (Davis, Harrell, James and Kuzma) all feature four players; and the Boston Celtics (Brown, Tatum and Walker), San Antonio Spurs (Aldridge, DeRozan and White), Miami Heat (Adebayo, Butler and Duncan Robinson) and the Milwaukee Bucks (Holiday, Lopez and Middleton) each feature three players. The Detroit Pistons (Grant and Plumlee), Golden State Warriors (Curry and Green), Indiana Pacers (Brogdon and Turner), LA Clippers (George and Leonard), New Orleans Pelicans (Ingram and Williamson), New York Knicks (Randell and Mitchell Robinson), Philadelphia 76ers (Tobias Harris and Howard), Phoenix Suns (Booker and Paul), Toronto Raptors (Lowry and VanVleet), Utah Jazz (Conley and Mitchell) and Washington Wizards (Beal and Westbrook) each have two players among the 57 finalists; and represented by one player are the Atlanta Hawks (Young), Charlotte Hornets (Haywood), Chicago Bulls (LaVine), Portland Trail Blazers (Lillard) and Sacramento Kings (Barnes).

Fifty-five finalists possess USA Basketball international or USA National Team experience.  James leads the way with 68 games of international experience, and he is followed by Paul (50), Durant (44), Curry (40), Howard (38), Irving (33), Plumlee (31), Love (28), Westbrook (28), Tatum (26), Barnes (25), Davis (25), Harden (25), Drummond (25), Jordan (23), Green (22), Lopez (19), Turner (19), Brown (18), Walker (18), Beal (16), DeRozan (16), White (15), Gordon (14), Harrell (14), Butler (13), George (13), Joe Harris (13), Lowry (13), Middleton (13), Mitchell (13), Hayward (12), Allen (6), Conley (6), Holiday (6), Randle (6), Brogdon (5), Grant (5), Young (5), Kuzma (3), Lillard (3), Wall (3), Adebayo (1), Griffin (1), Ingram (1), Leonard (1) and Oladipo (1). Additionally, Aldridge, Booker, Tobias Harris, LaVine, McGee, Mitchell Robinson, VanVleet and Williamson have participated in previous USA National Team training camps. Only Duncan Robinson and Wood have no prior USA Basketball experience.

The USA National Team’s complete training schedule for 2021 will be announced at a later date.