Despite being the number one seed, the Atlanta Hawks are the only higher seed in the Eastern conference that didn’t win the first three games of the series, losing 91-83 to the Brooklyn Nets in game 3, making it only a 2-1 lead, struggling against the much faster pace of ball movement occurring due to Jarrett Jack having more time with the ball.
The Hawks seemed confused at the start of the game and were down by 15 points at the end of the first quarter. Possibly stunned by the strong start the Nets had, the Hawks shot just 29% from the field in the first quarter while Bojan Bogdanovic hit shots from every range, open or not, scoring 11 points en route to 19 overall, giving the Nets their only reliable long range option.
Meanwhile, with the Hawks looking sluggish and simply executing things poorly, Jeff Teague couldn’t get players the open looks they’re used to. Kyle Korver ended up scoring just two points on 1-of-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Al Horford was limited to just 7 points. When the Hawks shoot 6-of-30 from beyond the arc, it’s impossible for them to win.
Although it’s not that they didn’t come close. An 11-0 run in the third quarter gave them a 62-58 lead, but nothing good lasted for too long in this game for the Hawks. The Nets replied with an 18-0 run to grab the lead for good. Jarrett Jack finished with 8 assists in his 26 minutes, kicking things up a notch when he was running the floor, which seemed to be especially beneficial to Brook Lopez, scoring 22 points.
It’s not that the Nets suddenly zoomed on offense to destroy the Hawks through fast breaks. But in half court offense, the ball moved a lot quicker, and players around the perimeter didn’t stay still as well. It resulted in a lot of open looks close to the rim, something that didn’t happen all that much in the first two games, with Lopez and Thad Young (18 points) making the most of that increased speed.
This is basically what the Nets need to do, and it’s the opposite of playing basketball like they’re part of the geriatric wing at the local hospital. The Hawks won’t look this bad next game probably and it might had more to do with a bad night from Budenholzer’s players than the Nets’ defense, but playing quick, motion offense is the way to keep up with them, although the overall scoring has been pretty low in this series so far.
For the Nets, using less and less of Deron Williams might be the best thing. He has shot just 2-of-15 from the field over the last two games and seems to be handling yet another leg injury. Yes, he’s the slotted starting point guard but right now, it’s usually when he doesn’t play that the good things happen to the Nets, with Jack and Joe Johnson handling the ball.