In Atlanta’s Game 1 road loss to the Indiana Pacers, they were unable to contain a surprisingly scorching Pacers offense, led by Paul George scoring 23 points with 18 free throw attempts and 19 points on 70% shooting from the field by George Hill. Indiana finished with a whopping 107 points, so clearly defense was the primary problem for Atlanta here. However, the Hawks were throwing punch-for-punch with the Pacers in the first half, scoring 50 points on 53.7% shooting from the field. Although they were down eight points come halftime, if the Hawks could keep Indiana’s defense from containing them for the final two periods, the Pacers’ offense would eventually cool down and Atlanta should be in position to steal a game, or so we thought. This was not the case, as Atlanta’s own offense took a dive as well, scoring only 40 points on 45.7% shooting in the second half. Indiana, as we all know, took a 107-90 victory in the opening contest of the series. What was the difference in the Atlanta Hawks two halves on the offensive end?
It was the Atlanta Hawks’ aggressiveness when it came to attacking the paint. As you’ll see in the shot distribution shots below, courtesy of of NBA Stats, Atlanta opened up with the majority of their shots right at the cup, but eventually drifted off into the perimeter, settling for more outside attempts.
From nearly a half of their shot attempts coming from just a few feet away to just over a quarter, it’s no surprise Atlanta’s offense sputtered and declined in the final two quarters of Game 1. Although I outlined how pivotal it would be for Atlanta to make threes in this series to be successful in my “Hawks Playoffs Primer” article from about two weeks back, it needs to be done with caution, as Indiana ran out with plenty of easy fast break scores in Game 1, most of which off Hawks jumpers. Atlanta made 7-of-17 attempts from downtown, which makes for a 41.2% clip from long range, a very solid mark. However, throwing up deep shots often can result in long defensive rebounds, which will lead to difficult transition attacks to defend. Note the 12 transition points Indiana scored on 71.4% shooting in game one, and of their 13 fast break opportunities, seven of them came from missed Atlanta shots from outside of the paint, three from inside and three from turnovers. (Per Synergy Sports)
Obviously Atlanta’s ability to match-up when the opposing team is in transition is a factor, as well as their ability to make open threes. Nonetheless, the little problems can affect teams in the playoffs nearly as much as the major ones, so this should be something to keep in mind when watching the Hawks look to bounce back in Game 2.