Tag: Thabo Sefolosha

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Two

Hawks’ excellent season shouldn’t be discredited because of playoff exit


It’s easy to get caught up in narratives, especially on Twitter. Nothing can be good without something else being bad. As the Cavs blew out the Hawks to reach the NBA Finals, I saw this play out all over my timeline. The Hawks are the worst 60-win team of all time. Their phenomenal regular-season success wasn’t for real because they fell apart in the playoffs. You just can’t win in the playoffs without a superstar.

That, or, a very good team that absolutely could have made the Finals ran into some bad injury luck and one of the most dominant performances of LeBron James’ career.

At the beginning of the season, I picked the Hawks to win 48 games in PBT’s season previews. That seemed high at the time. It turns out I lowballed them by 12. Just about everything broke right for Atlanta after a summer that couldn’t have gone much worse. The racism controversy and lingering uncertainty about ownership could have hung over the team all year like the Donald Sterling scandal did over the Clippers during last year’s playoffs, but it didn’t. Mike Budenholzer achieved total buy-in to a system built on ball movement and passing up good shots to get great shots.

The downside to a system like that, though, is that all of the pieces have to be in place, and once injuries start to take their toll and players’ roles shift, the entire thing can unravel. The Hawks weren’t the same after Thabo Sefolosha’s run-in with the NYPD sidelined him for the year, and all throughout the playoffs they battled injuries to Al Horford’s finger, Paul Millsap’s shoulder and DeMarre Carroll’s knee before losing Kyle Korver to a season-ending ankle injury. Every team has dealt with injuries in the playoffs, and some handle it better than others. In that way, it’s easier to weather that storm when you have LeBron James. But that the Hawks lost to him should not be an indictment of their season or of Danny Ferry’s approach to team building.

In no way is the Hawks’ philosophy dependent on not having a star — they went hard after Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in the summer of 2013 and even sniffed around Carmelo Anthony last summer. When they didn’t get one of those players, they were forced to regroup, and they deserve credit for maximizing their reality as well as they possibly could have, targeting the right role players and putting them in the right spots. If the Bulls don’t fall apart in the second round, maybe Atlanta faces a more favorable matchup in the Conference Finals, and then suddenly we might be talking about the Hawks going to the Finals.

The Hawks have a lot of questions to answer this summer, chief among them the worth of Millsap and Carroll. One of those questions isn’t whether they can win without a star, as if they can make one materialize out of thin air. They have the infrastructure in place now, and if everyone can get healthy, there’s no reason to believe they can’t be serious contenders again next year.

Until then, they and their fans should be proud of what they accomplished.

Cavaliers complete sweep of Hawks, advance to NBA Finals

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The Hawks gave the Cavaliers everything they had in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but still came up short in an overtime loss thanks to an incredibly brilliant performance from LeBron James.

Once Game 4 began, with Cleveland looking to close out the series at home, it was clear that Atlanta simply had nothing left.

The Cavaliers steamrolled the Hawks 118-88 to win the Eastern Conference crown, and advance to the NBA Finals.

While Cleveland will be experiencing its first trip to the championship round since 2007, this is beginning to be a regular occurrence for LeBron — he’s the first player (along with teammate James Jones) to make five straight Finals appearances since several members of the 1966 Boston Celtics.

James dragged his team to victory in Game 3, but didn’t need to do nearly as much of the heavy lifting in this one. He finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, but didn’t play the entire fourth quarter due to the lead never dropping below 22 points.

Kyrie Irving returned to the lineup after a two-game absence, and looked sharp in scoring nine first-quarter points and 16 overall in just under 22 minutes of action. Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov continued their punishment of the Hawks’ front line, and J.R. Smith rained down jumpers to finish with 18 points off the bench.

Atlanta’s 60-win season is something to be celebrated, and injuries are largely to blame for the disappointing way that the Hawks saw things come to a close. Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Korver were out entirely before the series was through, and DeMarre Carroll, while still on the floor, was never the same after the Game 1 knee injury he suffered.

The question for the Cavaliers now becomes whether or not the team is skilled enough to rise to the challenge of battling the best team in the West, which is likely to be the Golden State Warriors, who have been dominant on both ends of the floor all season long.

But as we’ve seen throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs for going on the last five seasons, having LeBron James in the starting lineup is more than enough to give whatever team he happens to be playing for a legitimate fighting chance.

Report: Hawks’ Paul Millsap may require offseason shoulder surgery

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Three
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The Hawks tore through the first part of the regular season, but things slowed after the All-Star break, and have now come grinding to a halt in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Thabo Sefolosha was lost before the postseason began with a broken leg, and Kyle Korver was lost in the series against the Cavaliers with an ankle injury that will require surgery. DeMarre Carroll has been playing, but has been a shell of himself after suffering a knee injury in Game 1.

And yes, there’s more.

From Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

The most serious of those is Millsap’s sprained right shoulder, which caused him to miss five games in early April and has never fully healed. There are whispers that it might require surgery after the season.

Every team has injuries at this time of year, and the Hawks will get no sympathy from their current opponent. The Cavs lost All-Star forward Kevin Love in the first round, while Kyrie Irving has hardly played in this series because of knee troubles. But LeBron is the ultimate equalizer, able to turn even a battered roster into a contender. That’s what superstars do.

This tidbit comes in a longer piece about the way the Hawks are constructed, and whether their equal-opportunity style is one that is capable of winning a championship.

I’m not yet convinced.

Atlanta’s hot start, one in in which the team won 40 of its first 48 regular season games, was partly due to having the element of surprise in being so good so soon, and Korver putting up all-time great shooting numbers that had defenses with little time to prepare second-guessing their coverages.

As the season wore on, however, and the Hawks became a known quantity, teams were able to adjust. The Nets even picked up two playoff wins against Atlanta, and that seemed wholly unlikely before the first round began.

Atlanta fans will blame the high volume of injuries for the team falling short in the postseason, and making it to the Conference Finals, even in the watered-down East, remains an accomplishment worth noting. If the team comes back intact next season and can shake the injury bug, it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s once again capable of getting this far.

Hawks Kyle Korver out for remainder of playoffs with high ankle sprain

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Two

The Hawks are down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals having dropped their first two games at home. DeMarre Carroll, the Hawks’ best perimeter defender, is hobbled by a sore knee and his backup Thabo Sefolosha is already out for the playoffs after his encounter with the NYPD.

Now this: All-Star sharpshooter Kyle Korver is out for the rest of the playoffs, the team announced Saturday.

Friday night Matthew Dellavedova rolled into Korver’s leg in the chase for a loose ball. Korver left the game not to return, but X-Rays postgame were negative. The Hawks press release takes it from there:

A follow-up MRI and examination this morning at the Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic confirmed a severe high right ankle sprain. Korver will see a foot and ankle specialist to determine the best course of treatment. He is out for the remainder of the postseason. 

Korver averaged 12.1 points a game shooting a ridiculous 49.2 percent from three. It was more than just his six three-point attempts a game that was key, his off-the-ball and weakside work created the space in the Atlanta offense that led the team to 60 wins.

It hasn’t been the same in the playoffs, Korver is shooting more threes (7.9 a game) but hitting 35.5 percent. The Hawks ball movement through the playoffs — and frankly the last month of the regular season — has not been the same. Playoff defenses take away the first and often second options, and it’s up to teams to move the ball and find other looks (think Spurs in the playoffs last year) or to have players who can just rise above that. LeBron James has done that for the Cavaliers. The Hawks have had neither.

That combined with this injury seems to suggest a short series and the Hawks golfing soon.


PBT Extra: No DeMarre Carroll leaves Hawks in tough spot


The potential — dare we say likely — loss of DeMarre Carroll for at least a little while is a real blow to the Hawks.

That’s a Hawks team already without Thabo Sefolosha (thanks again NYPD) and now without it’s other quality wing defender. Against a team with LeBron James and J.R. Smith.

More than just that, it’s an offensive blow to the Hawks — he is tied as their leading scorer during the playoffs, and he gets a lot of points in transition, which they need in this series.