Something bad is happening to the Atlanta Hawks, who find themselves with just a 2-1 lead over the Brooklyn Nets heading into game 4, not being nearly as convincing as they were in the regular season.
The main thing that’s off is their offense, shooting just 39% from the field in the series and averaging 92.7 points per game. They’re the second-worst team in the playoffs in terms of offensive efficiency, scoring just 94.1 points per 100 possessions. Only the Milwaukee Bucks with 92.9 are worse than the Hawks in finding the net so far in this postseason.
On the Hawks’ side, everyone seems to be convinced it has something to do with pace of play. The Nets have slowed them down with their attempts to make it a half court kind of game. The Hawks, just like the Spurs at their best, are based on running and creating space, movement and eventually open shots. So far, they’ve not been very successful at that against a Nets team that might not look impressive, but can still defend pretty well.
The Nets will probably go as much as possible with Jarrett Jack, who did an excellent job of filling in for Deron Williams, who is a combination of aging and injured all season long. Williams will play and probably start, but it’s hard to see him getting more than 24 minutes. The Nets are much better when he’s off the floor, which is the most important thing.
One thing the Nets have been doing very well so far is their rebounding. Their rebounding rate is the 4th highest in the postseason so far and although they’re not that impressive on the offensive glass when compared to the rest of the 16-team field, they’re doing a much better job than the Hawks, with only Toronto being a worse team in offensive rebounding.
The Nets play slowly from end to end, but the key to their success in winning last time was moving the ball quickly when in the half court offense set. The same mindset, which means not allowing the Hawks to get in defensive position, must repeat itself. The Hawks need to run, and defending well is always the basis for that. Keeping it slow might mean we’re headed towards a major upset.