Schroder hits right keys in Hawks’ win over Blazers
ATLANTA — After the Atlanta Hawks handed the Portland Trail Blazers a 104-89 defeat Saturday night at Philips Arena, point guard Dennis Schroder used one word repeatedly to explain the team’s different dynamic as of late.
“Fun,” Schroder said. “It’s fun right now to play as a team. Everybody is having fun, and that’s what we need.”
Schroder’s game-high 22 points — 18 of those coming in the second half — flipped Atlanta’s fortunes, helping the Hawks shake off a first half deficit en route to a double-digit win in a game that looked strikingly similar to Wednesday’s 113-99 triumph over Washington.
Schroeder caught fire in the third quarter with seven straight points — the last three coming on a 3-pointer from the elbow — to turn a 66-60 deficit into a 67-66 Hawks lead at the 3:47 mark. It was Atlanta’s first lead since 14-12 midway through the first quarter, and an advantage the Hawks would not relinquish en route to its third victory in four games.
He had a similar flurry midway through the fourth quarter where he scored six straight points to stretch Atlanta’s lead to as many as 19.
“Dennis can put one of those spurts on you, especially when he mixes in a three,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He gets a couple layups and a three (in the third quarter) and that put us up for the first time, I think, 67-66. You just felt like the momentum had shifted. He was a big part of that.”
Marco Belinelli, who turned in another stellar performance off the bench with 14 points, was also a big part of Atlanta winning its third straight home game. But it may have been two of Belinelli’s missed a shots — a pair of one-handed dunk attempts — that provided the greatest boost for the Hawks.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Belinelli said about his dunk attempts. “I missed the first dunk, and I missed the second one too. Maybe I’m going to try another time. I was just trying to be aggressive all the time.”
And the Hawks fed off it. On both Belinelli dunk attempts, the Hawks bench erupted with cheers and fist pumps, including Schroder who was catching a rest at the time.
“For him to try and do that at his age, it’s pretty impressive,” Schroder said with laugh. “I think it picks up everybody off the bench and it just gave us energy as well.”
“It’s definitely a big spark off the bench,” he said. “You know, it’s great to watch him go up and try to dunk a couple of times. I think his teammates loved it. Even though he didn’t make them, the team sees that kind of spirit and competitiveness.”
Atlanta’s bench outscored its Portland counterparts 41-23. Included in those 41 points were Taurean Prince’s 12 coming off 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range. But Budenholzer said Prince’s hot shooting night wasn’t the best part of his game.
“That’s what Taurean’s been doing for us,” he said. “Shooting the ball well from three. But again, I think the biggest thing is his 10 rebounds. We’ve talked about improving our rebounding, and I think Taurean leading us in rebounds last night and again tonight, that, to me, is as important as anything.”
Shabazz Napier, who filled in for the injured Damian Lillard, led all first-half scorers with 13 of his team-high 21 points as Portland took a 52-46 lead into halftime. But the Blazers couldn’t sustain its early-game momentum, and couldn’t keep the Hawks’ offense in check in the second half.
“They made their runs,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “They started shooting the ball well, and our offense struggled in the second half.”
And while Atlanta is feeling good about its recent string of victories, Stotts lamented his team’s inability to put together back-to-back wins.
“Just after a good win, you’d like to build off that,” he said. “You’d like to build off a good win we just had against Philly.”
Portland (18-17) got 18 points from CJ McCollum. Napier, who was making only his third start of the season, also added eight rebounds, six assists, two blocked shots and a steal.
Ersan Ilyasova and Tyler Cavanaugh added 13 points apiece for the Hawks.
NOTES: Atlanta F Dewayne Dedmon was ruled out with a left tibia stress reaction. ... G Dennis Schroder decided he could play in pre-game warmups despite a left quad contusion. ... Atlanta F DeAndre’ Bembry, G Josh Magette and F/C Mike Muscala were inactive. ... Atlanta begins a five-game road trip Tuesday in Phoenix. ... Portland G Wade Baldwin, G CJ Wilcox and F Caleb Swanigan were inactive. ... Portland G Damien Lillard was out with a right hamstring injury. ... A technical foul was called on Portland’s Shabazz Napier early in the second quarter after he elbowed Atlanta’s Isaiah Taylor. ... Portland plays at Chicago on Monday.