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 losing game six, the Atlanta Hawks now find themselves in a situation where they need a home win to secure a seventh game in this series. If they are going to want to get to game seven, the Hawks are going to have to make a few changes on both ends of the basketball.
Offense: Run More Sets Late In Games
Many times during close games in the fourth quarter, there is one easy way to figure out if the Hawks have a chance to win. Watch their offense. If they are moving the basketball and getting movement off of the ball, they will have a chance. If they are relying on isolation style offense, they make things too easy for the defense and usually end up losing the game.
Maybe the most frustrating aspect of the Hawks and their determination to run isolation sets is that they seem to have a solid half court offense when they want to:
Both of these plays are well thought out, well timed, and well executed and it makes you think why can't the Hawks run these type of sets every possession down the court. Instead, the Hawks often come out of timeouts running plays that are designed to be isolations with four people standing around and giving the defense a chance to throw a double team:
I guess the biggest problem that I have with these isolation type plays is that they make it easy for the defense. No cuts, no passes, four guys standing around allows the defense to load up on the ball handler and play defense. If the Hawks run their good stuff late, I think they still have a chance.
Defense: Don't Meet Rose High When He Comes Off Screens
When looking at the possession breakdown of the Chicago Bulls, it is obvious that the Bulls are attacking the Atlanta Hawks with the pick and roll. In game five, 13 of the 31 possessions that Derrick Rose used were categorized as pick and roll possessions. The Hawks have found a decent way to defend the pick and roll, and that way is have the hedge man let Rose come to him instead of meeting him up top:
When Joakim Noah comes over and sets the screen, Derrick Rose uses it and Jeff Teague trails him over the screen. Al Horford is hedging, making his presence known but not attacking him. He is showing himself, but taking a step back at the same time.
This allows him to stay in front of Rose as he crosses over and attacks the basket, sticking with him and not getting into the lane contested.
Because he was able to stick with him, Horford is able to rise up and block the shot as he tries to take the floater at the rim. Here is the play in real time:
Derrick Rose is so incredibly fast that you can't take a step at him when he is dribbling at you because he will just blow by you, so to take a step back on the hedge as Rose's defender is setting the screen is a very good way to essentially "corral" him and prevent him front getting to the rim uncontested. The problem is that the Hawks' bigs weren't doing this every time down the court:
Here, Horford takes a quick little hop step towards Rose as he hedges, and that is all he needs to get by Horford and get to the rim where he finishes with the floater.
In the playoffs, the Bulls' offense has completely broken down to a lot of Derrick Rose penetration dribble off of screens. They are going to continue running pick and rolls, and the Hawks are going to have to learn how to stop Rose, and they can do so by "corralling" him instead of attacking him coming off of screens.