Hawks players have said more than once that a playoff series is like a “chess match.”
Your move, L.D.
The Hawks have had success defending Orlando’s pick-and-rolls by frequently using a funky scheme, as detailed by Brett Koremenos at hoopspeak.com. (H/T Hoopinion) The alignment didn’t work so well in Game 5, though.
It’s a strategy that has been effective in large part because Hinrich, J.J., Smoove and (sometimes) Jamal all can cover enough ground to make the switch and run out to corner shooters. Those guys also are tall enough that they can bother the shooter even if they don’t make it all the way out. It also helps that the corner defenders who pinch in to help against the ball handler are big guys.
Watching the Magic’s Game 5 pick-and-rolls on Synergy Sports Technology, I noticed that Redick and Jameer changed up. Instead of going all the way to the rim and either looking for the corner 3 (which the Hawks have covered well) or try to get to the basket (where help awaits), Redick and Jameer put on the brakes and shot step-back Js.
Twin and Zaza weren’t mobile enough to challenge those shots while also protecting against Dwight’s roll to the basket. The corner help man couldn’t get over to contest. And the ball handler’s man was trailing the play (and also had to be in position to switch and run to the corner on a kick-out).
It was a subtle change. The Magic got their offense rolling because their guards made better decisions.
“That was clear,” Stan Van Gundy said. “I did not think we forced plays and I didn’t think we got going too fast. We had very few turnovers and, for the most part, we were making simple, solid basketball plays.
“When you get into this mentality with your back to the wall, we didn’t want ‘hero plays’ where a guy is like, ‘I will just take on two guys and score over them.’ That doesn’t end up working. You want to play your game, make simple plays, take open shots and live with the result.”
So how do the Hawks counter that chess move from the Magic?
“You adjust,” L.D. said today, smiling.
Van Gundy noted there are a finite number of (realistic) ways to defend the most common play in basketball.
“There is only so many ways you can guard a pick-and-roll,” Van Gundy said. “We all will make adjustments and try to do what’s best. But it’s not like I have a way to play the pick-and-roll that Larry and his players have never seen and we are going to shock them with it tonight. And it’s not like Larry has got a way to play the pick-and-roll that is going to shock our guys, where Jameer is going to say, ‘Oh, my God I’ve never seen this before.’
“You have got to make plays.”
- Smoove wasn’t happy about Mike Bianchi’s “Atlanta Birdbrains” column in the Orlando Sentinel. Bianchi was in the locker room today and Josh gave him some typically-candid and colorful feedback.
- “I’m not sure how you’ve got reporters calling people idiots and dummies,” Josh said in an interview. “I don’t understand how people can challenge somebody’s intelligence when you are talking about a basketball game. Some people take it too far.”
- L.D. on his team’s focus: “I think everybody is ready. I’ve seen this group in this situation before. In the playoffs this is the type of position you want to be in. We have an opportunity to close on our home floor. It’s not easy to close out anybody but I’d rather do it in these circumstances.”
- Jamal: “It’s us against the world. It’s funny how before the series everybody was all about Orlando. Then we went up 3-1 and it went back to us, and now it’s back the other way. They are fighting a hungry team.”
- The Magic sent more doubles at Jamal in Game 5. “I watched a lot of tape and I will adjust,” he said. “I’m excited. I see how I can take advantage of different things and get myself going and get my teammates involved and come out with a victory.”
- L.D. though the Hawks played too fast in Game 5. He’s OK with them pushing the pace at home: “We definitely want to get the crowd involved with the pace. We want to get up-and-down and use our athleticism. But we’ve got to be smart about it and not get caught up in a jump-shooting fest with that team.”
- Al on his sagging shooting (19 of 49) since Game 1: “They’ve done a great job defending. This is a game that I’m coming in with the same approach. I’m just going to make sure I get myself going.”
- J-Rich is expected to play after cutting his foot in some glass on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s OK,” Van Gundy said. “We didn’t have him go through the walk-through [today] because we didn’t want to risk him opening up the stitches.”
- Van Gundy on the Magic’s shooting in Game 5: “I was only half-joking when I said a lot of this game comes down to making shots or missing shots.”
- Magic CEO Bob Vander Weider told the Orlando Sentinel that he and team owner Rich DeVos are happy with Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith.
- “I can laughingly say that votes of confidence are the kiss of death,” Van Gundy said today. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. But knowing Bob and taking him at face value after working in the organization, you are always happy when your bosses are happy with you. But that’s not where my head is at. I just want to win the series.”
- The Magic won’t necessarily go back to a Dwight-centric offense after they had success scoring other ways. “We found an offensive attack that was working,” Van Gundy said. “It’s not about who scores. We had our best offensive game of the year.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat