The strange thing with listening to the Hawks talk about their problems with stagnating offense is they all seem to agree on the problem:
“Ball movement, like there was in the first three quarters [in Game 2],” J.J. said. “In that fourth quarter, we did a lot of ‘iso’ instead of moving the ball and getting good shots.”
“It all starts with our guards,” Al said. “We have to create movement, we have to have guys moving around. When our guards are doing that, it opens up for us and opens up for them, as well. [The Magic] can’t just sit there and pinpoint.”
“We’ve just got to have more movement and guys have got to make shots,” Woody said. “It’ ain’t scientific or no big secret.”
The Hawks say these things and then they go out and fall back into iso at critical times of the game. When things go bad and the pressure is on, it gets even worse. It’s not always about just missing shots they normally make, it’s about getting better shots, particularly in the playoffs. And the Hawks (and every team) is much better at that when players and the ball are moving.
The Hawks missed some open shots in the first three quarters of Game 2, but didn’t they also get better looks until they faded late?
“Yes but we made shots, though, too,” Woody said. “Joe made a 3, Jamal made a 3. We had some good looks in Game 1 and we didn’t make shots. You can’t have starters and guy coming off bench go 11 for 54 not going to beat nobody in the league.”
According to Hoopdata, in Game 1 the Hawks were 6 of 26 on long jump shots, the bane of basketball number-crunchers, 15 of 25 from closer than 10 feet and 2 of 13 on 3-point shots. In Game 2 they were 7-for-22 on long jumpers, 9 of 20 closer than 10 feet and 6 of 11 on 3-pointers.
If the Hawks stay away from iso, maybe some of those long jump shots become open, spot-up 3-pointers or shots closer to the basket. None of that would solve their considerable problems with defending the Magic, of course. But because of their abilities, talent and temperament the Hawks’ best hope to at least make this a competitive series might be moving the ball and scoring enough points to overcome their defensive deficiencies.
They seem to know iso isn’t the way to do that even if they don’t always show it.