Postscript: A Retrospective on the First Season of a New Hawks Era

Buddy Grizzard —  May 12, 2014 — 5 Comments

Two stats that tell the tale of the Hawks’ surprising but short-lived postseason run are defensive and offensive efficiency. In holding the Pacers to 101.6 points per 100 possessions, the Hawks rank 3rd among 16 playoff teams in defensive efficiency. After ranking 14th out of 30 teams during the regular season, this is an unbelievable accomplishment for a team that wasn’t supposed to be competitive against the East’s top seed.

It was on the other end of the floor, however, that the Hawks fell short. After ranking 15th in offensive efficiency during the regular season, the Hawks rank dead last in playoff offensive efficiency, managing only 98.2 points per 100 possessions. Through the first five games of the series, the Pacers were worse defensively than the Hawks. Atlanta’s offensive woes were party a function of being unable to knock down open shots, and party a function of the fact that, since Game 6, the Pacers have resumed their role as the best defensive team in the league.

The biggest killer for the Hawks was the fact that Pero Antic shot 17% from the field for the series and 12% from 3-point range. If Antic, whom I noted had the best plus-minus of any Hawk against the Pacers during the regular season, shot even 25% from three in this series, I believe the Hawks would still be playing. Antic helped the Hawks win Game 1 by scoring eight points, including 2-for-5 shooting from 3-point range. The Pacers would mostly leave Antic wide open as he shot 1-for-20 from distance over the final six games. The Pacers’ ability to play off Antic allowed the team to keep a big man in the lane, thus reducing the effectiveness of Jeff Teague off the dribble.

One player whose contributions against the Pacers were consistent from the regular season to the postseason was Shelvin Mack. His playoff numbers were phenomenal as he averaged eight points, 3.6 assists and less than a turnover in a mere 17 minutes per game. Per 36, that averages out to 17.4 points, 7.6 assists and only 1.8 turnovers. Prior to Game 6, I compared Mack’s stats to those of Lou Williams and stated that Mack needed to play more. Budenholzer played Mack only 10 minutes in Game 6. I can’t help thinking that the Hawks would still be playing if Mack had been given a larger role. For the series, Mack finished with the best aggregate plus-minus among Hawks reserves (plus-14).

Despite the disappointment, there are many positive signs for the Hawks. By making the playoffs, the Hawks will pick 15th instead of 12th, with the Suns and Timberwolves moving ahead by virtue of missing the playoffs. I believe it was worth forfeiting those three draft slots to watch Jeff Teague come alive at the end of the regular season and will the Hawks into the playoffs, apparently not wanting to miss the postseason for the first time in his career. In AJC.com Hawks beat writer Chris Vivlamore’s exit interview with Teague, he had this to say about his first season playing under Budenholzer:

“I feel like he took my game to another level, just putting the confidence in me, believing me and not being hesitant with me. He gets in my face. He gets on me. He tells me what I need to do. He sits me down when he needs to. He just really knows what he’s doing.”

Keep in mind that Teague was having an All-Star-caliber season before Al Horford’s injury while the Hawks maintained the 3rd-best record in the East. Teague was incredible in the playoffs, averaging 19.3 points, five assists, 3.7 rebounds and three turnovers. That’s in spite of the spacing issues created by Antic. Imagine what he can do next season with a healthy Horford to space the floor and some additional roster upgrades.

In December, I argued that the Hawks should trade Paul Millsap for Omer Asik, based on the importance of rim protection. Millsap made a complete fool of me by averaging 19.4 points and 10.9 rebounds in the playoffs against the NBA’s best defense. With that kind of production and Millsap’s bargain contract, he’s untouchable.

Nonetheless, there’s no question that center is a position the Hawks need to upgrade. The Hawks played much worse with Elton Brand (team-worst minus-32 for the series) on the floor than with Antic (team-best plus-29) against the Pacers. The Hawks must now hope that Lucas Nogueira can develop into a rotation player since Danny Ferry missed on Gorgui Dieng. The latter, a rim-protecting forward/center, was 6th in Rookie of the Year voting this season. I had him 12th on my depth chart, immediately after Nogueira and well ahead of Dennis Schröder.

Another position that will have to be addressed is shooting guard. With Korver, Williams and John Jenkins under contract for next season, the Hawks need a defensive specialist to supplement this position. Lance Stephenson isn’t a great defender, but he would give the Hawks the athleticism that is presently lacking. Another option, if Ferry can convince him to leave the Thunder for a larger role with the Hawks, would be Thabo Sefolosha.

Finally, here’s my last word on the officiating in the Hawks-Pacers series. It was terrible. It was a flat-out embarrassment to the league. It doesn’t matter if the overwhelming number of calls that went Indiana’s way were a result of incompetence or conspiracy. Atlanta’s fans, which continue to show up in the playoffs despite the Hawks’ sustained mediocrity, deserve better. In the Enhanced Play-by-Play below and in each of the Game 2-7 previews, I have documented every instance where I thought a bad call was made against either team. I welcome peer review on this. If you’d like to study the film and give me one instance of a call that should have gone against either team that I failed to note, please let me know in the comments below.

This issue came to a head in Game 6. Throughout the series, as I’ve documented, the Pacers were consistently allowed to push off. When Scott got tangled up with George Hill, it was after Hill had shoved him out of bounds with both hands. Once out of the play, Scott trapped Hill’s arm and pulled him out of bounds with him. Hill then pursued Scott and put a finger in his face, which Scott knocked away.

In both the case of the initial foul and the escalation afterward, it’s crystal clear from Synergy review that Hill was the initiator. Despite an extensive video review and after the refs put Scott on the line to shoot free throws, Joey Crawford changed his mind and called the common foul on Scott, awarding free throws to Hill. This was the most awkward moment I’ve ever seen on an NBA court. The league needs to clean this up.

Hawks stats

Player | MP | +/- | DM/36

Millsap 267 -15 4.9

Teague 242 -25 7.7

Korver 250 +15 8.5

Carroll 245 -24 4.7

Antic 170 +29 3.4

Brand 81 -32 4.9

Mack 123 +14 8.5

Williams 133 -21 7.3

Scott 146 +3 7.2

Defensive Miscues, Game 7 individual plays = totals

Hawks
Teague 3, 36, 63, 85, 167, 181, 188, 190 = 8
Korver 9, 17, 77, 123, 150, 152, 169, 176, 184 = 9
Carroll 19, 71, 139 = 3
Mack 40, 47, 53, 89, 129, 161, 171, 183, 190 = 9
Millsap 49, 165, 178 = 3
Scott 137 = 1

Pacers
Hibbert 4, 66, 68, 91, 109, 113, 124, 177 = 8
Stephenson 5, 106, 128, 170, 172 = 5
West 7, 72, 162 = 3
Hill 14, 20, 23, 54, 64, 99, 110, 143, 186 = 9
George 18, 27, 50, 84, 86, 115 = 6
Copeland 33, 52 = 2
Watson 38, 48, 56, 136, 160 = 5
Mahinmi 58, 140 = 2

Defensive Miscues (series totals):

Hawks (Game 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 = Total)

Korver 7, 9, 11, 7, 10, 6, 9 = 59

Teague 5, 12, 5, 8, 5, 9, 8 = 52

Millsap 10, 4, 7, 3, 3, 6, 3 = 36

Carroll 6, 4, 1, 6, 4, 8, 3 = 32

Scott 2, 5, 7, 6, 7, 1, 1 = 29

Williams 8, 1, 4, 4, 4, 6, 0 = 27

Mack 6, 2, 2, 3, 6, 1, 9 = 29

Antic 2, 2, 3, 2, 3, 4, 0 = 16

Brand 2, 2, 3, 1, 0, 3, 0 = 11

Pacers (Game 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 = Total)

Hill 14, 5, 7, 5, 7, 11, 9 = 58

George 6, 5, 11, 8, 4, 10, 6 = 50

Watson 5, 4, 9, 2, 5, 12, 5 = 42

Stephenson 7, 6, 6, 3, 4, 4, 5 = 35

Hibbert 5, 9, 1, 3, 3, 2, 8 = 31

West 1, 6, 3, 3, 2, 6, 3 = 24

Turner 6, 2, 3, 8, 0, 0, 0 = 19

Mahinmi 4, 3, 4, 3, 2, 3, 2 = 21

Scola 1, 6, 1, 4, 6, 0, 0 = 18

Copeland 0, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 2 = 5

Enhanced Play-by-Play

FIRST QUARTER
1. Carroll missed straight away 3, Stephenson contested
2. Teague makes layup, stole it from Hibbert 2-0
3. Hill missed right side 3, Teague late contest
4. Millsap missed right side 3, Hibbert no contest
5. Carroll makes layup, got a step on Stephenson 4-0
6. Stephenson airballs wild baseline turnaround, Korver indifferent
7. Antic missed straight away 3, West no contest
8. Millsap missed layup in transition, stole it from West
9. Stephenson missed right side 3, Korver late close, Stephenson o reb
10. George blocked on layup by Carroll, OOB off Hawks
11. Korver missed left corner 3 in transition after Millsap stole inbounds
12. West missed baseline hook, Pero contest
13. Hibbert makes putback 4-2
14. Korver made layup, went backdoor on Hill 6-2
15. West offensive foul
16. Millsap missed top key heave at buzzer
17. Stephenson makes straight away 3, Korver caught on screen 6-5
18. Korver makes left side 3, George late contest 9-5
19. George makes dunk, Carroll ball watching 9-7
20. Korver makes corner 3, Hill late contest 12-7
21. Hibbert makes hook in lane over Millsap 12-9
22. George makes 2 fts, fouled on transition layup by Teague 12-11
23. Korver missed straight away 3, Hill late contest
24. Hibbert missed hook in lane over Millsap contest
25. Teague makes 2 fts, fouled by Hibbert on layup in transition 14-11
26. Hibbert makes pull up in lane over Carroll who switched 14-13
27. Teague makes pull up ft line J, George late coming through screen 16-13
28. George makes 2 fts, phantom foul on no contact by Millsap 16-15
29. Carroll missed corner 3 contested by Stephenson
30. Hibbert makes drop step hook on baseline over Millsap 16-17
31. Teague makes layup contested by George 18-17
32. West missed ft line pull up contested by Antic
33. Scott makes left side 3, Copeland late contest 21-17
34. George missed left side 3, pushed off on Carroll
35. Scott made hook in lane over Copeland contest 23-17
36. George missed corner 3, Carroll helped in lane on Watson who beat Teague
37. Stephenson makes putback 23-19
38. Mack missed layup, got a step on Watson
39. Williams missed a wild runner in lane over Copeland
40. Watson makes baseline J, Mack bit on shot fake 23-21
41. Williams missed corner 3 in transition, Watson knocked down in back court by pick
42. Williams missed layup in transition after stealing George pass
43. West makes 2 fts, fouled by Carroll on def rebound 23-23
44. Scott missed right side 3, West contest
45. Watson makes 1 ft, fouled on def rebound by Mack 23-24
46. Mack missed right side 3, Watson contest

SECOND QUARTER
47. Hill missed layup, got a step on Mack
48. Mack makes layup, Watson went for steal 25-26
49. Coepland makes right side 3, Millsap late close 25-27
50. Mack makes straight away 3, George late close 28-27
51. Copeland missed turn around in lane over tight D from Millsap
52. Millsap missed straight away 3, Copeland late close
53. Watson makes runner in lane, Mack caught on pick 28-29
54. Korver makes straight away 3 +1 ft, Hill caught on screen 32-29
55. Watson missed pull up in lane over Millsap
56. Antic missed straight away 3, Watson late close on switch
57. PG makes fall away baseline J over tight Korver D 32-31
58. Antic missed baseline J, Mahinmi late close
59. West missed elbow J, Millsap contest
60. Korver missed elbow J, Stephenson contest
61. Watson off foul charging into Millsap
62. Millsap missed baseline drop step pull up over Hibbert
63. Stephenson makes drop step layup in lane, got around Teague easily 32-33
64. Teage makes pull up long 2, Hill tried to go under screen in wrong direction 34-33
65. Watson threw pass away
66. Millsap missed straight away 3, Hibbert heled in lane on Teague
67. Hibbert couldn’t handle entry pass
68. Brand missed ft line J, Hibbert weak contest
69. Hibbert missed drop step baseline hook over Brand
70. Millsap missed pull up in lane, Hibbert contest
71. George made layup, got a step on Carroll 34-35
72. Scott missed fall away baseline J, West late close
73. Hibbert makes 1 ft, fouled on hook in lane by Brand 34-36
74. Korver threw pass away
75. George makes elbow turn around, Carroll contest 34-38
76. Teague missed right side 3, George late contest
77. Stepheson made drop step layup, Korver tried to draw charge 34-40
78. Teague lost ball oob
79. George makes tough fall away baseline J over Millsap 34-42
80. Korver bad pass
81. Hill makes transition dunk 34-44
82. Scott missed baseline pull up, Hibbert contest
83. Hibbert off foul away from ball on Millsap
84. Teague missed ft line pull up, George caught on screen
85. George makes elbow pull up, Teague went for steal 34-46
86. Teague missed runner in lane, George caught on screen
87. Millsap blocked on putback by Hibbert
88. Millsap makes 2 fts, fouled on putback attempt 36-46
89. Stephenson makes 1 ft, fouled by Antic on ft line pull up after he crossed over Mack 36-47
90. Teague blocked on dunk attempt by Mahinmi

THIRD QUARTER
91. Millsap makes long two, Hibbert weak contest 38-47
92. Hibbert missed baseline J, Antic contest
93. Teague makes 2 fts, fouled on layup attempt by Hibbert 40-47
94. Stephenson makes pull up elbow jumper, Korver contest 40-49
95. Korver missed straight away 3, Stephenson fought through screen to contest
96. West threw pass away
97. Millsap blocked by Hibbert on layup attempt
98. Hill makes layup in transition off beautiful pass from Stephenson 40-51
99. Teague missed layup, Hill caught on screen
100. Hill missed corner 3 in transition, contested by Millsap
101. Hill makes 2 fts, fouled on putback attempt 40-53
102. Antic stripped by West
103. George makes 1 ft, fouled on layup attempt in transition 40-54
104. Millsap blocked by West on layup attempt
105. Hill makes baseline J +1 ft, fouled by Teague 40-57 (28-8 run)
106. Korver missed left side 3, Stephenson caught on pick
107. Millsap fouled on off reb attempt by Hibbert
108. Millsap makes 1 ft, fouled on dunk attempt by West, got own off reb 41-57
109. Carroll missed right side 3, Hibbert no contest, Hill OOB
110. Korver missed right side 3, Hill no contest
111. Millsap makes putback 43-57
112. Stephenson threw pass away
113. Carroll missed baseline 3, Hibbert no contest on switch
114. Hibbert turnover, couldn’t handle entry pass
115. Mack missed straight away 3, George late contest
116. Antic missed straight away 3, West contest
117. West missed pull up in lane, Antic contest
118. Carroll missed layup, Hibbert foul not called
119. Korver missed FT, tech on West
120. West missed elbow fall away, Scott contest
121. Stephenson makes 1 ft, fouled on drive by Carroll 43-58
122. Millsap makes layup, contested by Hibbert 45-58
123. Stephenson makes dunk, Korver caught on pick 45-60
124. Millsap missed straight away 3, Hibbert no contest
125. Hibbert makes runner in lane, probably fouled by Millsap no call 45-62
126. Mack makes right side 3, West contested on switch 48-62
127. George threw pass away
128. Mack makes floater in lane, got a step on Stephenson 50-62
129. Hill makes 2 fts, fouled on floater in lane, Mack caught on screen 50-64
130. Scott missed corner 3, West contest
131. Hill missed straight away 3, Carroll contest
132. Scott makes right side 3, West contest 53-64
133. George makes baseline pull up, Carroll contest 53-66
134. Scott makes 2 fts, fouled on pull up in lane by Mahinmi 55-66
135. West threw pass away
136. Mack makes straight away 3, Watson late contest 58-66
137. West makes ft line step back, Scott weak contest 58-68
138. Millsap makes layup, Mahinmi contest 60-68
139. George makes baseline 3, Carroll late contest 60-71
140. Scott makes straight away 3, Mahinmi no contest 63-71
141. Stephenson lost dribble OOB
142. Carroll blocked by West on 3 at buzzer

FOURTH QUARTER
143. Mack missed straight away 3, Hill caught on pick
144. George makes ft line pull up, Korver contest
145. Korver missed straight away 3, Stephenson contest
146. Stephenson missed turn around in lane, Mack contest, Stephenson o reb
147. Hill missed straight away 3, Scott contest
148. Korver makes ft, tech on Stephenson contesting rebound 64-73
149. Millsap turnover, charging
150. George makes ft line pull up, Korver caught on pick 64-75
151. Scott missed left side 3, West contested
152. George makes runner in lane, blew by Korver 64-77
153. Teague threw pass away
154. Watson made layup in transition 64-79
155. Teague lost ball, Korver tied up, lost tip
156. George missed right side 3, Korver contest
157. Millsap bad pass, Korver lost it OOB
158. George missed elbow fall away J, Carroll contest
159. Mahinmi makes ft, fouled on rebound 64-80
160. Mack missed right side 3, Watson went for steal
161. Hill missed straight away 3, Mack got beat by Watson forcing switches
162. Scott missed straight away 3, West indifferent and fouled Millsap on rebound
163. Mack missed right side 3, Mahinmi contest, Millsap o reb
164. Scott makes baseline scoop over West 66-90
165. Watson missed right side 3, Millsap late contest
166. Millsap makes layup, missed ft, fouled by Watson on deep post 68-80
167. Hill makes 2 fts, blew by Teague for layup attempt 68-82
168. Teague missed runner in lane, George indifferent/not fouling
169. Stephenson makes layup, backdoor on Korver 68-84
170. Teague missed floater in lane, got by Stephenson
171. George makes 2 fts, Mack caught on pick 68-86
172. Korver makes left side 3, Stephenson late contest 71-86
173. Hibbert missed reverse layup
174. Hibbert made putback 71-88
175. Korver makes right side 3, West contest 74-88
176. Stephenson missed corner 3, Korver late contest
177. Millsap missed right side 3, Hibbert no contest
178. George missed elbow J, Millsap late contest
179. Millsap layup blocked by George
180. Teague makes 2 fts, fouled on rebound 76-88
181. George missed left side long 2, Teague caught on pick
182. Mack missed pull up in lane, George tried to draw charge
183. George missed left side 3, Mack late contest, Stephenson o reb
184. George missed right side 3, Korver late contest
185. Scott left side 3 blocked by West, Korver got loose ball
186. Teague missed straight away 3, George indifferent
187. Millsap made layup, Hill tipped the def rebound to him 78-88
188. Hill makes 2 fts, fouled by Teague going for steal 78-90
189. Scott missed corner 3, West contest
190. Stephenson makes transition dunk, Mack and Teague didn’t get back 78-92
191. Teague layup blocked by Hibbert
192. George missed long 3 at buzzer, Millsap contest
193. Scott missed corner 3, George contest
194. Hill missed straight away 3, Teague indifferent
195. Teague makes layup, Hill contest 80-92
196. Hill lets clock run out

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

Buddy Grizzard

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5 responses to Postscript: A Retrospective on the First Season of a New Hawks Era

  1. Lots of food for thought there. I have some, also.

    If Mike Scott doesn’t have the greatest offensive stretch in Atlanta Hawks history during that 6 minute stretch of Game 5, I believe the Hawks lose that game and the series in 6.

    I also believe that if Ferry had more adequately addressed the Center position last year (R Lopez, Gorgui Dieng, Kostas Koufos, Andray Blatche, Ivan Johnson) we may have been able to get by with a solid interior performance instead of parking our Center at the 3-pt line for much of the series…

  2. You leave me with nothing to argue about…

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