PBT Extra: Hawks look to prove first half of season not a fluke


The Atlanta Hawks were the story of the first half of the season. With Al Horford healthy (he missed most of last season), Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague growing into their roles, and in a second season in Mike Budenholzer’s system, the Hawks are on top of the Eastern Conference.

Can they carry that on into the playoffs?

That’s what Hawks players talk about, and what Jenna Corrado and I discuss, in this latest PBT Extra, complete with a lot of footage from All-Star Weekend. And yes, I think the Hawks can keep it going.

Also, if the Hawks add a player management will be careful to make sure it’s a guy who will fit in one of the best locker rooms in the league.

Hawks take over All-Star Weekend, quietly


NEW YORK—“The Hawks takeover.”

That’s how Jeff Teague characterized All-Star Weekend, which was all about the city of New York but featured the Atlanta Hawks more prominently than any other team—even if nobody noticed.

The Hawks became the first team since the 2010-11 Boston Celtics to have four players featured in the event. Teague, Al Horford and Paul Millsap were selected as reserves by the coaches, and Kyle Korver was named as Dwyane Wade’s injury replacement.

That wasn’t all, though. Second-year point guard Dennis Schröder participated in the Skills Challenge and the Rising Stars Challenge. Teague also participated in the Skills Challenge, while Millsap participated in the Shooting Stars competition and Korver in the three-point contest. Not to mention the Eastern Conference team was coached by Mike Budenholzer and his staff.

The Hawks were everywhere.

But, much like this season, as omnipresent as they were, they didn’t draw attention to one player. The league’s unorthodox move of naming their entire starting five Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January was reflected in their All-Star minutes, as all four of the Hawks often played together on the floor with another player.

“It was fun,” Teague said. “We didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so we just tried to get the ball to Jimmy [Butler] or Kyrie [Irving] when they were out there with us.”

Korver scored 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc. Teague added 14 points while Millsap had 8 and Horford had 5. Korver’s success came off a few plays that were drawn up much like the ones that get him looks in the Hawks’ system. But those nods to their normal style of play didn’t get in the way of the free-flowing nature of the game.

“I wanted to run a few plays,” Millsap said. “But then I had to realize it’s the All-Star Game.”

“We had signaled to run a couple of plays,” added Korver. “But we didn’t really run any plays. It’s just great for the Hawks and the city of Atlanta.”


Too much Russell Westbrook lifts West to 163-158 All-Star Game win


NEW YORK — If the East had beaten the ridiculously deep Western Conference this season, somehow it would have felt wrong.

Russell Westbrook was not going to let that happen. The Thunder guard put up 41 points — just one shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star record, one more than Jordan’s 40 — with five of those coming in a late push to help the West hold off the East 163-159.

“It’s definitely and honor to be grouped with those two guys, especially in an All-Star Game,” Westbrook said of Chamberlain and Jordan.

While the atmosphere in New York was electric (and frigid) all weekend, the game on the court Sunday night resembled a lot of other All-Star Games — a defense-free pick-up game for three-and-a-half quarters, followed by a few minutes of real-ish basketball.

The game saw a lot of records almost fall.

The West’s 163 ties the record for most points in an All-Star Game by a team, tying the number the East put up last year to win the event.

LeBron James put up 30 points in a losing effort, leaving him just two points shy of passing Kobe Bryant for the most All-Star Game points ever.

“LeBron really impressed me with his seriousness tonight, how he approached the game, how he was just mentally and physically getting ready for the game,” Atlanta’s Kyle Korver said. “I know he had a packed weekend, but just the way he approached the game I was really impressed by him.”

Korver almost made history himself. The Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter made seven three-pointers (on 12 attempts), one shy of the All-Star Game record of eight.

“Sometimes the wide open ones are the hardest ones,” Korver said of playing in this kind of defense-free exhibition. “I left a couple of them from the corner short, I wish I had them back.”

The first half started off as the West show. James Harden put up a quick 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting to push the West to 28-18 lead. Then Westbrook came in and started gunning threes, knocking down a few quick ones and suddenly he was on his way to the best first half in NBA All-Star Game history with 27 points.

All that had the West up by 20 at one point, but no lead is safe when no defense is being played. The East made a run in the final five minutes of the first half, in part behind LeBron who came out hot (4-of-5 shooting to open game) and had 22 first half points. The East closed the gap, and it was 83-82 West at the half.

The East took a 115-114 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter after coach Mike Budenholzer went with a lineup of four Hawks — Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Al Horford — plus LeBron. It was tied 122-122 entering the fourth.

The fourth quarter saw Chris Paul put up 10 points and DeMarcus Cousins put up nine. That proved to be too much for the East to overcome, despite eight points in the fourth from Kyrie Irving.

James Harden finished with 29 points for the West while LaMarcus Aldridge — named a starter on Saturday to replace Anthony Davis — finished with 18. John Wall had 19 points and seven assists for the East.

Stephen Curry drives through East “defense,” kisses it off glass (VIDEO)


I don’t care that the Eastern Conference guys were playing All-Star Game caliber defense, that was an impressive play by Stephen Curry.

He went behind the back on the dribble, cut through the East defense, then goes up-and-under Al Horford and kisses it high off the glass for the bucket.

That’s as good a shot as you’ll see all game.

Stephen Curry hits 13 in a row on way to Three-Point Contest win


NEW YORK — You knew he was going to win this event one of these years.

Stephen Curry, the best pure shooter in the game, drained 13-straight three-pointers on his way to winning the All-Star Saturday night Three-Point Contest. He beat the deepest field in the history of the event to do it.

“I’m very happy right now, I’ve obviously been in it four times, so I wanted to win it and get it done,” Curry said.

Why would someone come back four times to win it?

“I might be crazy.”

Crazy good.

There were two rounds to the event and for Curry to advance out of the first, he had to get hot at the end and hit four of the five money balls to score 23 points. That tied him with Kyrie Irving, one behind Klay Thompson’s 24.

That eliminated some good guys. Portland’s Wes Mathews hit eight of his last nine to put up 22 points. J.J. Redick got hot but had stepped on the line, costing him a few points, and he still finished with 17. Both Kyle Korver and Marco Bellineli had 18 points, and James Harden put up 15 as he was off his game. They were all out.

In the second round, Irving looked a little tired, a little off, put up a 17.

Then Curry lit it up — that guy just thrives on the big stage, and he hit 13 in a row, got the building screaming and put up that amazing 27. It was in the bag then, right?

“Klay Thompson was behind me, no way…” Curry said. “He’s capable of putting up 37 points in a quarter; he can knock down a few threes.”

But Thompson looked human, too, and didn’t come anywhere near Curry.

This was more than just another win for Curry. On his shoes he wrote the name Deah Shaddy Barakat to honor one of the victims of shooter in North Carolina recently.

“Obviously, having North Carolina roots, and once I got to know who Deah was as a person, and the stories everybody was telling me, it only seemed right to honor him and his family,” Curry said after the contest. “And hopefully they know that people are thinking about them, that they are not alone, and hopefully it can give them some kind of peace and comfort knowing that he was a special guy.”