At an Atlanta Hawks practice Monday at Georgetown University’s Thompson Center, Mike Budenholzer seemed the farthest thing from a coach with his hand hovering over the panic button. Aside from hoped-for improvement in transition defense, Budenholzer said he didn’t plan to change much going into Wednesday’s Game 2 of Atlanta’s first round playoff series with the Washington Wizards.
In addition, Budenholzer rejected the idea that Washington approached crossing a line with their physical play in Game 1. In fact, he said he hopes to see the Hawks match the Wizards’ physicality when they meet again.
“They were the aggressor for more of the 48 minutes than we were and they were probably more physical for more of the 48 minutes than we were,” said Budenholzer. “It’s part of the playoffs. To some degree we need to probably raise our aggressiveness, raise our physicality and improve in a lot of other areas.”
Budenholzer said the starting lineup will remain unchanged for Game 2, although he will consider changes as the series progresses if it becomes necessary. He also was mostly positive about Tim Hardaway Jr.’s contributions despite a rough 2-for-11 shooting night.
“Some of the looks he got were really good,” said Budenholzer. “Sometimes it’s a make/miss league. I think Timmy’s always great when he’s attacking and getting to the basket and getting to the free throw line. Timmy doesn’t really need to change much. He’s played well for us and I think we’re expecting him to have a good game Wednesday.”
Although Hardaway’s shot wasn’t falling, Budenholzer was particularly happy with the way he defended Washington’s Bradley Beal in the first half.
“I thought Timmy’s defense on [Beal] — I think the attention to detail, hopefully not getting screened [and] mixing up what he does on him — I thought Tim’s defense was pretty good.”
Rookie small forward Taurean Prince scored 14 with six rebounds and led the starters in plus-minus. Point guard Dennis Schroder kept Atlanta in the game with 25 points and nine assists while Paul Millsap added 19. The other starter who struggled was center Dwight Howard, who matched Hardaway with seven points. As noted in Basketball Insiders’ Game 2 Preview, there has been criticism of Howard’s defense on the roll man in pick and rolls. However, Budenholzer rejected that criticism and said Howard is playing the pick and roll exactly as he’s been asked to.
“I think keeping him near the basket and not necessarily closing out to long twos is probably better for us,” said Budenholzer. “I think Dwight’s verticality, Dwight’s presence at the rim — you go back and look at the tape in whole, he did a lot of good things.”
While Budenholzer felt his team needs to turn up the intensity to match the Wizards, Millsap seems to have said all he plans to say about Washington’s Markieff Morris for the moment. Asked what he plans to do differently in Game 2, Millsap’s answer was to the point.
“I’m just going to play basketball,” said Millsap.
The Hawks seem more focused on improving the execution of the existing plan rather than reinventing the wheel. Atlanta will keep doing what it does.
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