Each day, we are going to preview the night's NBA Playoffs action by looking at the adjustments that can be made by the losing team and showing what they can do to win.
After surprising some people with their Game 1 win, the Atlanta Hawks had a chance to win Game 2 and head back to Atlanta with a 2-0 series lead. However, the Hawks were unable to secure the win and with the series tied at 1-1, Atlanta has a few adjustments to make if they want to take control of the series.
Offense: Get The Ball Moving
During the regular season, the Hawks were No. 24 in the NBA in terms of points per possession, but that didn't stop them from running isolation sets 13.3 percent of the time. During the playoffs, that number has jumped to 21.7 percent of the time. I have said it a number of times, and I still believe it, but I think the Hawks have one of the best offenses when the ball is moving from side to side and the Hawks are running their offense. When the Hawks isolate, that is a different story, especially when it isn't the correct players on the correct spot on the court.
Here, the Hawks are only down four points with about 1:30 left in the game. Instead of getting the ball up the court and swinging it around with player movement, everyone is just standing still. Eventually the ball works its way to Al Horford who tries to go one-on-one from the perimeter. He attempts a step back jumper from about 15 feet, and misses. This is what I am talking about when I say get it to the correct player on the correct spot on the court. If the ball goes to Horford on the post, that's a good possession. If he is taking step back jumpers, that is not a good possession.
The Hawks are doing a very good job on the defensive end (for the most part), but they are struggling to score. They need to stop wasting possessions setting up the wrong people at the wrong spots.
So far this series, the Hawks have been doing a terrific job of defending Dwight Howard and their perimeter players in the post. They were allowing Howard to do his thing and score as many points in the post as he wanted, just as long as the rest of the team didn't hurt them with their three-point shooting. Essentially, the Hawks were able to take away one of the Magic's best ways to get three-point looks. However, they have been unable to get stops when the Magic use the pick-and-roll to set up shots on the perimeter. What happens too often is the Hawks' perimeter defenders get caught sinking in and helping on Howard's roll or the dribble penetration coming off of the screen and giving up the outside pass:
On this play, Hedo Turkoglu comes off of the Howard screen and tries to attack the rim. A third defender from the outside (Josh Smith) gets caught helping on this dribble penetration and Turkoglu kicks the ball to Jason Richardson on the outside. Richardson makes the catch and with Smith closing out on him, knocks the game-clinching three down.
So how should the Hawks be defending the pick-and-roll? Well, much like they are defending Howard in the post. There is no need to commit extra men to defend the pick-and-roll, and if the Magic score, it will be in the paint rather than an outside shot behind the three-point line.
As I mentioned earlier, the Hawks are doing a great job on the defensive end this series, and if they can figure out how to stop sinking in on the pick-and-roll, they will have stopped another one of the Magic's go-to plays.