Hawks not hitting their open shots


VIDEO: GameTime: Korver out for remainder of playoffs

CLEVELAND — Diagnosing just what has gone wrong for the Atlanta Hawks is not easy.

Maybe they peaked too early, going 33-2 between Thanksgiving and Jan. 31. Maybe they lack a go-to guy to get them a shot when they really need one. Maybe they’ve been undone by untimely injuries. And maybe they just aren’t ready for this stage.

Whatever it is, the Hawks need to figure things out quickly. They’ve arrived in Cleveland for Game 3 of the conference finals (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT) in an 0-2 hole, facing a team that is 24-2 at home since mid-January.

They were tied 2-2 with the 38-44 Brooklyn Nets and trailed 2-1 to the John Wall-less Washington Wizards, but this is obviously the most desperate situation the Hawks have been in. And never have they had fewer answers for what’s been going wrong.

The Hawks have had issues on both ends of the floor. But despite LeBron James‘ brilliance and some hot shooting, Atlanta has held the Cavs to almost five points per 100 possessions below a regular season mark that ranked fourth in offensive efficiency. It’s on offense where Atlanta has struggled most, scoring just 95 points per 100 possessions through the first two games.

In the regular season, 79.4 percent of the Hawks’ jump shots were uncontested, a rate which led the league by a pretty wide margin (New Orleans ranked second at 75.9 percent), according to SportVU. And their effective field goal percentage on those uncontested jumpers was 52.9 percent, a mark which ranked third (behind only the Warriors and Clippers).

The Hawks have yet to match those two numbers in any of their three playoff series. And they’ve hit new lows in the conference finals.

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The Cavs deserve some credit. They were a pretty awful defensive team early in the season, and even after showing improvement with the additions of Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert, they got chewed up by the Atlanta offense in their March 6 meeting. Cleveland finished 20th in defensive efficiency for the season.

Since the league started counting turnovers in 1977, no team has reached The Finals after ranking that low. But the Cavs been much improved defensively in the playoffs. In this series, they’ve denied the Hawks’ primary options, and have backed that up with multiple efforts and sharper rotations.

And while the Hawks are still getting a decent amount of open looks, it’s not hard to see that their offense isn’t nearly as sharp as it was in December and January. Open looks aren’t necessarily in-rhythm looks.

The bottom of the above table tells us that their success is less about the number of open looks they get and more about what they do with them. If you’re making a case that this is a make-or-miss league, you can start with the Hawks’ effective field goal percentage on uncontested jumpers in wins (52.1 percent) vs. losses (37.8 percent) in these playoffs.

Now, the Hawks have to play without their best shooter. In the regular season, Kyle Korver had a ridiculous effective field goal percentage of 74.8 percent on uncontested jumpers. And even if he was contested, he was the Hawks’ best option. He shot better on contested 3-pointers (43.4 percent) than any of his teammates shot on uncontested threes.

Korver has seen fewer open looks (per 36 minutes) in the playoffs, and he’s shot worse on them. But his presence on the floor and the attention he gets from the defense is still a huge key to what the Hawks are doing offensively. They’ve scored 102.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in the postseason, and just 95.8 with him on the bench. In this series, Korver is 7-for-15 from outside the paint, while his teammates are 13-for-64 (20.3 percent).

There is no easy answer with Korver out, not that there was one if he was perfectly healthy. What was the Hawks’ strength in the regular season has failed them when it matters most.

7 Comments

  1. Jack23 says:

    it all boils down to whos got it?..its Lebron and the Cavs,..regular season Stats?..no bearing 1st and 2nd round stats and lows?..no bearing as long as the Cavs find a way how to make that shot, then its good for us Cavs fans,..even when times that Hawks making those open shots, it should have a comfortable lead over Cavs to make sure they could win one,..but as the series dictates…they couldnt do these things,..no Leader..no way you could win against any other better team wherein you have star like Lebron to lean on when times needed.

  2. Nick says:

    “Now the Hawks have to play without their best shooter”. They were playing “without him” anyway! There were a bunch of times, especially on breaks where Korver raced back, was open, waved for the ball, and was ignored. Teague has played too much one-on-one ball, and so have most of the other Hawks. Their success was built upon ball movement. They have failed to maintain their poise and play their game.

  3. Marty says:

    What about the coach. Looks nervous to me. No mention of this level of play being too much to handle for him.

  4. Ryan says:

    That last Cavs vs. Hawks regular season game was the Cavs 6th game in 9 days (4 road games). They were exhausted. Meanwhile the Hawks played 2nd game in six days, both at home. Anyone who looked at that game to predict the outcome of this series was silly to do so.

  5. Houston Fan says:

    Gotta love that statement saying Hawks have successfully held the no 4 offense in regular season to 5 points below their season average per 100 possessions. “Experts” Ha Ha Ahahaha…

    • ajax says:

      What about it is funny? Its true. The Cavs offensive rating is 4.6 points lower in this series so far than it was in the regular season. Its lower than it was against the Bulls, and its not like the Cavs had Love or a healthy Irving in that series either – in fact considering they also didn’t have JR for two games, and that the Hawks let the Wizards (not an offensive juggernaut) score 100 or more 3 times in their first 4 games, its clear Atlanta have picked up quite a bit on that end. But good defence doesn’t mean much when you can’t score yourself.

      • Houston Fan says:

        I guess some people just can’t figure it out that no Irving and K.Love means less offense. Way to give that credit to the Hawks defense. LOL