Game Thread: Better defense, more steals

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Josh McRoberts, Paul Millsap

Paul Millsap (4) battles for a loose ball with the Heat’s Josh McRoberts earlier this season. (Associated Press)

 

One of the keys to the Hawks current eight-game win streak has been their improved defensive play. It’s not perfect – coach Mike Budenholzer will tell you that. But it has been better, certainly better than when the Hawks dropped back-to-back games at the Cavaliers and at home to the Lakers Nov. 15 and 18. Since those two losses, the Hawks have won 10 of 11 games, including the current streak.

The Hawks have picked up their defensive intensity and that leads to steals. They are fifth in the NBA in steals, averaging 9.0 per game.

“Our activity defensively has been really good,” Budenholzer said Friday morning before the Hawks hosted the Magic. “I think it needs to stay that way. If we are going to be good defensively, we’ve got to be covering for each other. We’ve got to be active. (We’ve got to be) early to our shifts, early to our rotations. I’m not a big steal guy. I’m not going to give them back either. If we are doing the things we need to do and our activity in the right way is producing turnovers and producing steals. I think we have some guys that are naturals and it comes to them. I don’t want to hold them back. Hopefully we continue to do the solid fundamental things defensively and if that includes steals then we’ll take them.”

During the Hawks current win streak, they are averaging 9.75 steals per game. In three of the eight games have been double-digit steal efforts.

Paul Millsap (as we wrote a couple of weeks ago) continues to lead the league in steals – in both average (2.3) and total (48).

“With the activity come the steals and some gambling at times,” Millsap said. “It’s disrupting the other team’s offense. When you’ve got active hands and you can deter a pass from getting where it’s supposed to be, that helps out a lot.”


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