HawksHoop Preview: Game 6

Buddy Grizzard —  May 1, 2014 — 2 Comments

Can we all take a moment to sit back and admire the unbelievable job the Atlanta Hawks have done in dismantling the best defense in the NBA? For the regular season, the Pacers allowed 96.7 points per 100 possessions, the best defensive efficiency rating in the league. The Hawks were mid-pack, allowing 104.1 per 100 to rank 14th. In these playoffs, the Pacers are ranked 6th out of 16 playoff teams, allowing 101.9 points per 100 possessions, more than five points more per 100 than the team allowed in the regular season.

Incredibly, the Hawks presently rank 5th in playoff defensive efficiency, allowing 101.5 points per 100, a decrease of almost three points. That is… stupefying? Dumbfounding? I’m struggling for words to convey how stupendous the Hawks have been on both ends of the floor in this series. Can I buy a vowel?

Let’s take a look at some individual performers who have stepped up for the Hawks and contributed to the stellar collective effort. Go get some coffee and come back, this could take a while. First of all, when did Paul Millsap change his name to Godzilla and decide to take a stroll through Indianapolis? He’s averaging 21 points and 8.2 rebounds per game on 45/44/81 shooting from the floor/3-point line/free throw line. Although he is playing three more minutes per game (still four fewer than the overworked Paul George), he has increased his scoring average vs. the regular season by three points. He has maintained his average of two blocks per game but it seems like he’s altering more shots than that. Are there any questions from the floor about Millsap deserving his All-Star nod this season?

Before I talk about the other starters, I’ve got to talk about the job Shelvin Mack is doing at backup point guard. I see people downplaying his contributions on blogs and Twitter and it leaves me scratching my head. Mack is averaging 8.4 points, 3.4 assists and 2.0 rebounds in just 17 minutes per game. And get this… he’s only committing ONE TURNOVER per game. That figures out to almost 18 points and over seven assists per 36 minutes with only two turnovers. The Hawks have also outscored the Pacers by an aggregate 19 points for the series while Mack has been on the floor. Mack’s steadiness and consistency have to be considered key factors in this series.

In the ESPN.com 5-on-5 series preview, I predicted that the sheer volume of outside shooters for the Hawks would pull Indiana’s defense apart. When we start talking about shooting stats, DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver’s names immediately jump off the sheet. Among players who have played at least five playoff games and averaged at least 20 minutes, Carroll is fourth behind only DeAndre Jordan, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas with an effective field goal percentage of 65.7% (effective field goal percentage adds 50% to the shooting percentage for 3-pointers, since they are worth 50% more points). Korver is 6th at 63.3%. All other players in the top eight are interior players who take the vast majority of their shots at the rim.

The Hawks currently have five players with at least 10 attempted 3-pointers that are shooting better than 40% on threes (Carroll 53%, Mike Scott 47%, Millsap 44%, Korver 42%, Mack 41%). The Pacers have only two such players (George 52%, C.J. Watson 53%). Pero Antic is having a miserable series shooting the ball, hitting only 20% of his shots from the field and 17% of his 3-pointers. Despite this, Antic is second among starters with an aggregate plus-minus for the series of plus-16. Since the Hawks’ abundance of outside shooting forces the Pacers’ big men to step out to the perimeter, they can’t camp out in the lane and erase the mistakes of a perimeter defense that has frankly been exposed.

Since the playoffs started, I have spent close to 30 hours reviewing every play of the series on MySynergySports.com and cataloging what I have come to refer to as “Defensive Miscues.” This is a very broad and subjective category that includes obvious defensive mistakes and instances where a player is out of position as a result of defensive scheme. The idea here is not to assign blame to individual players, since the player may leave their man to double team or guard another area of the court as a result of the coach’s instructions. Defensive Miscues (DM hereafter) are simply instances when an advantage is created for an offensive player as a result of a defender being away from the ball, either by mistake or by design.

Longtime AJC.com Hawks blogger and HawksHoop reader Rev. in Tampa came up with an excellent theory to explain why is Korver frequently out of position according to my calculations, and yet makes a positive impact for his team. Rev. posited that Mike Budenholzer has instructed Korver to overplay Lance Stephenson for the jumper, even if it results in more drives to the basket. This is consistent with what I’ve observed, since few of Korver’s DM result from obvious defensive errors, and many of them result from him closing hard on shooters then getting beat off the dribble. Rev. further posited that Budenholzer would rather trust Atlanta’s big men to help in the lane when Stephenson gets penetration than allow him to get hot from 3-point range. Stephenson’s tepid 31% shooting from three for the series lends a lot of credibility to this theory.

Meanwhile, despite Korver having the highest number of DM per 36 minutes among Hawks starters (9.0), he’s also the best starter in aggregate plus-minus for the series (plus-27). So in spite of the high frequency with which Korver is out of position defensively, the Hawks are outscoring the Pacers dramatically when he is on the floor. This could result from a combination of successful defensive scheme (Rev.’s suggestion) and the extent to which Korver stretches Indiana’s defense to the breaking point with his own deadly outside shooting.

Interestingly, despite having the worst DM per 36 for the Hawks (10.0), Scott also has the best aggregate plus-minus for the series (plus-32). Some of this can be attributed to Scott’s mind-blowing offensive outburst in the 2nd quarter of Game 5, but it’s still incredible that he’s helped the Hawks this much despite the frequency with which he commits obvious defensive errors. Mack and Williams have about the same number of DM per 36, but Mack is plus-19 for the series while Williams is minus-11. Since Mack is also shooting 41% from 3-point range for the series compared to 30% for Williams, I believe Mack’s minutes should be increased.

In contrast to the disparity between plus-minus and DM per 36 for Korver and Scott, the Pacers have a pair of bench players whose combination of high DM and poor aggregate plus-minus indicate that they are definitely hurting their team. Scola is involved in 7.4 DM per 36 and is 2nd worst on the team with an aggregate minus-20. Meanwhile, the hands-down worst defender in this series is Evan Turner. In addition to being involved in a staggering 10.9 DM per 36 minutes, Turner is a series-worst aggregate minus-35. If I’m Mike Budenholzer, I tell my team that whenever Turner is on the floor, pass the ball to whoever he is guarding.

A final note on Defensive Miscues is that DeMarre Carroll, the Hawk assigned to guard the best player in this series, is only involved in 4.3 DM per 36 minutes. That’s inconceivable. The fact that Danny Ferry stole Carroll from the Jazz (who obviously had no clue what they had) for a pittance of a salary shows the kind of talent evaluation Atlanta now has. Need further evidence? How about All-Star Paul Millsap for $9.5 million per season? Further, the aggregate plus-16 and low DM per 36 (3.6) for Antic shows that he’s still contributing to the Hawks’ defensive effort despite his shooting woes.

And we haven’t even talked about Jeff Teague yet. After averaging 16.5 points and 6.7 assists during the regular season, Teague has increased his scoring output to 18 points per game in the playoffs. His assists have dropped to six per game while his turnovers have remained around three, but he has upped his 3-point accuracy from 33% during the regular season to 37% in the playoffs. TNT’s broadcast crew went so far as to call him the best player in the series.

Teague has stepped up his game despite being guarded for much of the series by George, a 2013 All-Defensive 2nd team selection. Game 6 will be another opportunity for Teague to shine under the brightest lights. The Pacers’ backs are against the wall. They’re fighting for their season, their reputations as players and Frank Vogel’s job. A series loss would mean an early start to a summer of certain roster change but uncertainty about everything else. The Pacers will play their best game of the season. I believe if the Hawks respond in kind, they will prove to be the better team.

Game 5 Defensive Miscues, individual plays = total

Korver 1, 3, 31, 83, 91, 96, 100, 106, 115, 181 = 10
Carroll 5, 11, 138, 183 = 4
Millsap 17, 140, 185 = 3
Teague 21, 38, 111, 166, 170 = 5
Williams 42, 52, 136, 146 = 4
Mack 50, 56, 77, 87, 89, 163 = 6
Antic 72, 175, 179 = 3
Scott 121, 125, 129, 142, 149, 151, 154 = 7

George 2, 8, 68, 143 = 4
Hill 6, 16, 28, 103, 105, 133, 182 = 7
Hibbert 8, 95, 97 = 3
Mahinmi 30, 32 = 2
Scola 49, 51, 53, 55, 78, 82 = 6
Stephenson 62, 76, 84, 86 = 4
Watson 90, 116, 143, 147, 162 = 5
West 99, 186 = 2
Copeland 153 = 1

Enhanced Play-by-Play

FIRST QUARTER
1. Stephenson layup, backdoor on Korver 0-2
2. Teague makes elbow J over West, lost PG on a screen 2-2
3. Stephenson makes runner in lane, Korver went under screen 2-4
4. Carroll missed iso baseline fade away over West
5. PG dunk, Carroll allowed deep post position 2-6
6. Korver missed left side 3, Hill caught on pick
7. Hibbert layup blocked by Millsap
8. Teague makes right side 3, Hibbert no contest on switch, PG caught on screen 5-6
9. West missed iso elbow J over Millsap contest
10. Antic OOB
11. PG makes top key J, Carroll went under screen 5-8
12. Carroll pass stolen by PG
13. West missed runner in lane over West
14. Carroll makes transition layup over West contest 7-8
15. Hibbert moving screen
16. Korver missed top circle 3, Hill caught on pick
17. West makes top key J, Millsap switched and left him open 7-10
18. Antic threw pass away
19. PG missed baseline fade away, Carroll no contest
20. Antic layup blocked by Hibbert
21. Hill makes baseline J, Teague late contest 7-12
22. Millsap makes 1 ft, fouled on baseline pull up by Hibbert 8-12
23. PG misses top circle 3, Carroll contest
24. PG stole ball from Teague (5th ATL turnover)
25. Mahinmi layup blocked by Millsap
26. Carroll makes transition layup 10-12
27. Stephenson missed runner in lane, Antic contest
28. Teague makes transition layup, blew by Hill 12-12
29. PG missed baseline fade away, Carroll contest
30. Millsap makes layup, Mahinmi switched and lost his man 14-12
31. Stephenson makes corner 3, Korver played too far off 14-15
32. Millsap makes top key J, Mahinmi weak contest 16-15
33. PG makes open left side 3, Carroll helped on ball handler 16-18
34. Millsap threw pass away
35. Stephenson threw pass away
36. Carroll missed transition layup, o reb Millsap
37. Teague missed right side 3, Stephenson contest
38. Hill makes transition layup, Teague trotted back on D 16-20
39. Carroll missed right side J, Stephenson contest
40. Hill missed left side 3, Teague contest, Mahinmi o reb
41. Williams makes 2 fts, fouled on layup by Mahinmi after stealing his pass 18-20
42. Turner missed right side 3, Williams helped in lane
43. Williams airballed baseline runner, picked up his dribble
44. West makes 1 ft, fouled by Millsap on pull up in lane 18-21
45. Williams makes top circle J, Turner contest 20-21
46. West shot clock violation

SECOND QUARTER
47. Mack makes 1 ft, fouled on baseline floater by Scola 21-21
48. Hill layup blocked by Brand
49. Scott makes straight away 3, Scola late contest 24-21
50. Watson airballed left side J, Mack caught on sreen
51. Scott makes straight away 3, Scola late contest 27-21
52. Hill missed baseline 3, Williams lost track of him
53. Scott makes straight away 3, Scola late contest 30-21
54. Turner throws pass away
55. Scott right side 3, Scola late contest 33-21
56. Watson missed elbow pull up, Mack switched and left him open
57. Hill makes putback layup 33-23
58. Scott traveled on layup attempt
59. Scola makes hook in lane over Scott 33-25
60. Mack makes baseline J contested by Hill 35-25
61. Scola missed top key J, Scott contest
62. Korver makes left side 3, Stephenson left him to stop ball 38-25
64. Hibbert missed hook in lane over Brand
65. Hill missed layup contested by Scott
66. Mack missed right side 3 contested by Watson
67. Scott makes putback over Stephenson and Hibbert 40-25
68. West misses 2 fts, fouled on baseline pull up by Scott
69. Korver makes left side 3, crossed over PG 43-25 (25-4 run)
70. PG missed elbow J, Korver contest, Hawks foul on reb
71. PG missed J in lane, pushed off on Korver
72. Mack makes 2 fts, fouled on layup by Hibbert 45-25
73. West makes layup, Antic doubled ball handler 45-27
74. Scott makes right side 3 contested by West 48-27
75. West pass stolen by Mack
76. Mack missed baseline pull up contested by Hill, Scott o reb
77. Williams missed straight away 3, Stephenson switched and left him
78. Hill makes left side 3, Mack late fighting through screens 48-30
79. Mack makes layup, blew by Scola, Pacers switching everything 50-30
80. PG missed left side 3, Korver contest
81. Mack makes 1 FT fouled on transition layup by Hill 51-30
82. West makes step back in lane over Millsap
83. Antic makes 1 ft, fouled on shot fake by Scola 52-32
84. Stephenson missed baseline 3, Korver doubled PG
85. Carroll makes corner 3, Stephenson weak contest 55-32
86. Stephenson airballed right side 3, Korver contest
87. Mack made ft line J, Stephenson barely fought through pick 57-32
88. PG makes right side 3, Antic contest, Mack caught on pick
89. Millsap makes 1 ft, fouled by Mahinmi on roll to basket 58-32
90. Hill makes right side 3, Mack left him to dig down 58-38
91. Mack makes straight away 3, Watson late getting around pick 61-38
92. George dunks, Korver caught on pick 61-40
93. Millsap throws pass away
94. PG travelled on drive
95. Williams lost dribble

THIRD QUARTER
96. Millsap makes 2 fts, fouled by West on roll to basket, Hibbert doubled ball handler 63-40
97. Stepehnson makes layup as Bud screams “back door” to Korver 63-42
98. Korver makes right corner 3, Hibbert weak contest after switch 66-42
99. PG bad pass
100. Antic missed straight away 3, West late contest
101. Stephnson dunks on baselin drive, backdoor on Korver again 66-44
102. Stephenson stole Carroll’s dribble
103. Hill carried
104. Korver makes left corner 3, Hill weak contest 69-44
105. Stephenson makes step back 3 over Korver 69-47
106. Teague missed step back 3, Hill late contest
107. Stephenson makes 2 fts, fouled on transition layup attempt, Korver never picked him up 69-49
108. Korver missed straight away 3 contested by West on switch
109. Stephenson missed wild runner in lane over Korver
110. Korver makes 1 ft for tech on Stephenson after Hibbert off ball foul on Carroll 70-49
111. Teague makes 2 fts, fouled by Hill on pull up in lane 72-49
112. Hill makes 1 ft, fouled on drive to basket, blew by Teague 72-50
113. Millsap dunks, Mahinmi stepped up to cut off drive 74-50
114. West bad pass
115. Carroll makes layup, +1 ft, fouled by Mahinmi in transition 77-50
116. Hill missed straight away 3, Korver doubled in lane
117. Carroll makes right side 3, late close by Watson 80-50
118. PG missed reverse layup contested by Teague
119. Scott stripped in post by Copeland
120. PG makes 2 fts, blocked on drive to basket by Korver 80-52
121. Carroll threw pass away
122. West makes 2 fts, fouled in post by Korver, scott switched unnecessarily 80-54
123. Millsap missed layup, Copeland contest
124. PG threw ball away
125. Scott missed straight away 3, Copeland contest
126. Copeland missed left side 3, Scott late close
127. Korver bad pass
128. Copeland missed left side 3, Korver contest
129. Millsap missed runner in lane over Copeland
130. Copeland missed open right side 3, Scott switched to Hill and Teague couldn’t recover
131. Millsap misses 2 ft, block in lane on West
132. West blocked on layup attempt by Millsap
133. West makes 1 ft, fouled in post on entry pass by Carroll 80-55
134. Williams makes layup, Hill bit on shot fake 82-55
135. PG makes 2 fts, fouled on drive by Teague 82-57
136. Teague makes 3 fts, fouled on pull up in lane by PG, tech on Vogel 85-57
137. Hill makes straight away 3, Williams late through pick 85-60
138. Teague lost dribble
139. Watson makes corner 3, Carroll weak contest 85-63 (13-5 run Pacers)
140. Scott pull up in lane blocked by Copeland
141. Copeland missed layup, Millsap bit on shot fake
142. Teague lost dribble
143. PG dunks, Carroll switched to West, Scott never picked up PG 85-65
144. Teague missed floater in lane, blew by PG
145. West makes pull up in lane over Millsap 85-67
146. Williams makes layup, blew by Watson 87-67
147. Stephenson airballs corner 3, Williams late getting back
148. Williams missed pull up in lane, Watson caught on brush screen

FOURTH QUARTER
149. Copeland missed straight away 3, Scott late contest
150. Williams threw pass away
151. Copeland hits straight away 3, Scott late contest 87-70
152. Lou missed baseline runner at buzzer, Brand o reb
153. Mack makes straight away 3, Copeland late contest 90-70
154. Copeland makes left side 3, Scott late contest 90-73
155. Mack lost ball PG steal
156. Stephenson layup blocked by Brand, OOB to Pacers
157. Watson missed open straight away three after tie up and jump
158. Williams bad entry pass stolen by Watson
159. Watson makes transition layup 90-75 (25-10 run)
160. Mack missed straight away 3 contested by Stephens
161. Copeland off foul charging
162. Teague missed elbow J over West, blew by Watson
163. Stephenson missed dunk, blew by Mack
164. Antic layup blocked by Stephenson
165. Millsap makes 2 fts, fouled on elbow J by West 92-75
166. Watson makes baseline 3, Teague left him to help on PG 92-78
167. Millsap makes 2 fts, fouled on pull up in lane by Copeland 94-78
168. West missed layup over Antic contest
169. West missed putback
170. Watson makes left side 3, Teague left him to go for rebound 94-81
171. Millsap missed runner in lane over West
172. West missed layup over Millsap
173. Stephenson missed 2 fts, fouled on rebound attempt
174. Korver missed straight away 3 over tight contest from West
175. West makes baseline J, weak contest by Antic 94-83
176. Mack misses layup, got by Stephenson who tries not to foul
177. George lost dribble, stolen by Mack
178. Millsap makes turn around half hook over West 96-83
179. West makes layup, got by Antic 96-85
180. Millsap layup blocked by Copeland
181. Watson makes layup, blew by Korver 96-87
182. Korver hits long right side 3, Hill late close 99-87
183. PG makes layup, blew by Carroll 99-89
184. Korver missed straight away heave 3 over Hill
185. West missed pull up in lane over Millsap, had a step
186. Millsap makes right side J over West, got him with shot fake 101-89
187. PG makes straight away 3 over Carroll, straight up D 101-92
188. Millsap missed runner in lane in traffic
189. Millsap missed putback
190. PG missed straight away bomb over Mack, not fouling
191. Mack makes 2 fts, IND fouling to stop clock 103-92
192. Watson makes layup, blew by Millsap not fouling
193. Carroll makes open dunk, IND didn’t foul fast enough and let him leak out 105-94
194. PG makes left side 3, Carroll no contest
195. Mack makes 2 fts, IND stops clock
196. Teage lost dribble, stripped by PG
197. Hill missed straight away 3 over Korver
198. Hill missed open left side 3 at buzzer

Data for Enhanced Play-by-Play is gathered via MySynergySports.com.

Buddy Grizzard

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