How did the Hawks REALLY get it done this year?
Atlanta finds themselves in the Conference Finals as the number one seed in the East and sporting the second best record in the league. They did it without a “Superstar” and are taking on THE superstar of the league in King James and his Cavaliers. This storybook season of team basketball and selfless players has made for some teary-eyed traditionalists, white-haired journalists and fringe players. But saying the Hawks are the best in the East doesn’t necessarily make it true. Their success has been as much about luck as anything else.
The Eastern Conference was pretty much a dumpster fire this season. The Atlantic featured two teams tanking – initially because their rosters stank, then they designed garbage rosters to stink on purpose. The Central was the brightest spot with two winning records and one team finishing at .500. The Southeast, Atlanta’s division, was abysmal at best. The Magic and Hornets were playing for lottery spots from opening night. Miami’s logo should have been a question mark going into this season with all the turnover in their roster. That left the Wizards to compete with the Hawks and their roster looks pretty similar to Atlanta’s with the exception of John Wall. So I’m gonna call “boo-boo” on the 60 wins Coach Bud’s guys put up this year. It’s tough to win games, period, but when the competition is as lacking as the Eastern Conference was this season expectations should be somewhat tempered.
For all you stat riders, here’s some interesting numbers regarding YOUR Atlanta Hawks:
- ATL was 2nd in assists per game – but gave up almost as many to their opponents
- ATL out rebounded overall and gave up more than league average of offensive rebounds
- ATL was in the bottom third in the league in free throws attempted
- ATL gave up almost as many 3 pt shots as they made
The biggest advantage for the Hawks came in the training room. Until Thabo Sefalosha got an NYPD beatdown, the Hawks had only had minor bumps and bruises this season. They didn’t even have an injury worthy of the league report! Miami lost Chris Bosh to a life-threatening blood clot and Charlotte had 5 guys on the injured list from late March on. Injuries happen in sports and you can only take what’s given, but Atlanta’s luck has put them in an awesome position with regard to health.
As we’ve seen through the playoffs, the Hawks have talented players who have been successful in the right situations and lucky in others.
- The Nets exposed the Hawks dependence on the 3 and Kyle Korver’s inability to get his own shot.
- The Wizards challenged the Hawks inside and only when John Wall got hurt did Teague and Shroeder have an impact.
- The Cavs exploited weakness in the post and a lack of toughness in the forwards in Game 1.
The keys to making this series competitive:
- Find a way to get Korver open or sit him. He’s a defensive liability and can’t score off the dribble.
- Develop a rotation with Teague, Shroeder and Carroll (if he’s healthy) since none of them are lighting it up.
- Brand and Antic need to eat some lane. Allow them to body Thompson and Mozgov while Horford and Milsap play a scoring role.
- Get away from the traditional – use your unpredictability to your advantage. Chaos Theory