Series Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Brooklyn Nets
*Photo via EPA
The top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks(60-22) will take on the eighth seeded Brooklyn Nets(38-44) in this first round matchup.
The Hawks have been one of the biggest surprises this NBA season. They finished with the second best record in the league, hitting 60 wins on the season. The Hawks did this with their team oriented style of play
The Nets on the other hand, squeezed into the playoffs on the final night of the NBA season.
These two teams couldn’t be more different. The Hawks like to spread the floor and use ball/player movement to find open shots. And this style has worked for the Hawks, they are second in the league in assist per game with 25.7. They also light it up from downtown, having a roster full of three-point shooters. This shows, the Hawks are ranked second in the league in three-point shooting percentage at 38 percent.
The Nets are quite different , they look to pound the paint and have a tendency to rely on iso-ball. The Nets are way behind the Hawks when it comes to ball movement and three-point shooting. The Nets rank 26th in the league in three-point percentage and only rank 20th in assist per game, these are both telling stats.
As you would expect, the Hawks have had the Nets number this season, sweeping the season series. The Nets will need to make some major adjustments if they want to compete in this series.
98-75 Hawks over Nets
113-102 Hawks over Nets
131-99 Hawks over Nets
114-111 Hawks over Nets
-The Hawks ability to stretch the floor and move the ball will be a huge advantage for the Hawks. The Nets have some players, who laterally aren’t that quick and can struggle to recover and close out on defense. Something that if you fail to do against the Hawks, it will result in a quick deficit, because they are so effective finding the open man and hitting the three-ball. Especially with the shooting abilities of their bigs, it will take Brook Lopez away from the rim, allowing the Hawks to attack inside. As long as the Hawks hit their shots, the Nets will be chasing down Hawk players all series.
-The Balance of the Hawks is another advantage the Hawks have over the Nets.The Hawks had four guys(Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford) go to the All-Star game and can attack in multiple ways. Anytime you have to help on defense against the Hawks, you are allowing another talented player an opportunity. This balance is a big reason they are so effective and this continues to their bench. Where they have some nice talent, like Dennis Schroeder and Mike Scott.
-The Hawks don’t have a huge frontcourt and could have some issues dealing with Brook Lopez inside. Lopez has been huge over the final stretch of the season and the type of player that can impact a game. The Nets also have Mason Plumlee, who can be effective at times.
-Another possible issue for their Hawks is their lack of a go-to scorer, someone who can get you that bucket late in the shot clock. Something that can be important when the game slows down in the playoffs. If their shots aren’t falling, where will the Hawks look for a bucket?
Jeff Teague is the x-factor for the Hawks. He can break down the Nets defense and set up on his teammates for easy buckets. Teague is also the type of point guard, who has given the Nets issues in the past.
-Brook Lopez is the Nets biggest advantage, he has been playing his best basketball over the last two months of the season. He is the main reason the Nets are in the playoffs, over the last two months he has averaged around 20 points per game and around nine rebounds a game. Like I have mentioned, the Hawks don’t have someone with the size to match Lopez. The Nets need to make sure they set their big man up.
-The Nets persistentence to score in the paint could be something that is very helpful come playoff time. This style is great when the game slows down in the playoffs and open jump shots are hard to come by. The Nets average 45 points a game in the paint, finishing fifth in the league, easily their most impressive stat.
-The Nets have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league, one reason they didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the final night of the season. One night they can compete and take anyone to the fourth quarter, and other nights they can hardly keep it close until halftime. If they want to make this series interesting they need to bring it every night.
-The Nets at times can be the opposite of the Hawks, the ball starts to stick, the offense gets stagnant, and they settle bad shots. These stretches can carry on for a full quarter and next thing you know the Nets are down 20. If this happens, like it has recently against the Hawks, the game will be over in no time.
Deron Williams is the x-factor for the Nets, like he is most of the time. WIlliams has shown flashes of his old self, but can’t put it together for a long stretch. The Nets will need “good” Deron to have any chance at competing in this series.
Game 1: BKN vs. ATL, Sun. at 5:30pm on TNT
Game2: BKN vs. ATL , Wed. at 7:00pm on NBATV
Game3: ATL vs. BKN, Sat. at 7:00pm on TNT
The rest of the series is yet to be scheduled.
The Hawks have the second best record in the league for a reason and the Nets are the Nets. I think this series will be a little more entertaining than expected, but look for the Hawks to come away with the series in no more than six games. The Hawks three point shooting and floor spacing will be the death of the Nets.