Hawks Defense in Game 2 is the Formula for Game 3


The Atlanta Hawks returned fire against the always tough Washington Wizards on Tuesday night because of their defense. The Wizards played without their best player in John Wall. Here are some takeaways that can benefit them in game 3.

Game 2 Takeaways

  • Atlanta outrebounded Washington on both ends, the final tally on the glass was 44-40
  • Atlanta outscored Washington in the painted area, 38-30
  • Stifling team defense was on full display and executed with near perfection
  • Paul Pierce needs to be picked up and defended at the three point line

Defense Wins Championships

Basketball purists can marvel and enjoy the effort the Hawks made on the defensive end in game two. It was beautiful to all that watched and appreciated the team’s handiwork. Atlanta significantly increased the number of steals and shots they blocked in game two, compared to in game one. Take a look at all five starters defensive ratings. It certainly helps put things into perspective when assessing individual defensive performance. Really, it means they worked together:

  1. Kyle Korver: 94 DRtg
  2. DeMarre Carroll: 101 DRtg
  3. Paul Millsap: 91 DRtg
  4. Al Horford: 91 DRtg
  5. Jeff Teague: 99 DRtg

The above numbers signify exceptional good defensive toughness from the Hawks starting five. Moving forward, these are the kinds of efforts Atlanta is going to need if they want to make a run at an NBA championship. Al Horford and Paul Millsap are often credited for their work in the front court but Pero Antic is giving Atlanta a ton of help in this series. He will be leaned on in this series more than people think.

It can be unrealistic to expect these kinds of defensive performances every night out but it’s the effort that is most important. For a team that has two undersized big men, the Hawks continue to control the paint. Both Marcin Gortat and Nene were held to limited opportunities on both sides of the floor. The Hawks also created 16 turnovers. In turn, they capitalized by scoring 16 points off of the Wizards mistakes.

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Game three should see the Hawks with the defensive intensity turned all the way up. Atlanta has done a tremendous job defending the block. However, they haven’t had the same success defending the three point line. The Wizards went 15-of-22 in game two from downtown. Good three point shooting teams are going to make triples, it’s a given. The key is to limit those opportunities by utilizing help defense, rotating over, or being cognizant of the lines on the floor.

Paul Pierce was responsible for five of the 15 total three pointers Washington converted on. Atlanta needs to remember who they are dealing with and how deadly Pierce can be. The Truth will make a living off of trailing late, and, or, camping out at the three point line. If Atlanta ignores him, Pierce will make them pay. Even in the half court set, Pierce was given clean looks all night long. Atlanta should look to force Washington into shooting contested two’s instead of handing them baskets from downtown.

Offensive Success & Future Adjustments

Jeff Teague and Al Horford ran some great plays when featuring the “two man show”. Teague was able to find Horford down low off the pick and roll and when cutting back door. These types of plays can be effective with other forwards as it comes down to the point guard being able to initiate and execute the right pass. Once the ball is at the rim, it’s easy money. Whether Teague is running the give and go, lob into the paint, or threading the needle, it’s been pretty to watch.

The Hawks committed just 10 total turnovers in game two. They had been averaging around 14 a game in the playoffs. Less turnovers means less points off turnovers for the opposing team. Protecting the ball is a must do for Budenholzer’s players. This is a much better result for Atlanta who have struggled at times in this department.

Atlanta’s bench also showed up in game two, scoring 27 total points. The Hawks didn’t get a lot of relief from the second unit in game one. Game Three should see Antic, Kent Bazemore, and Dennis Schroder continue to provide help off the bench. The Wizards do have some players that can back up their starters so it’s important the Hawks second unit keeps pace.

Teague and company had 11 team assists on their first 12 made field goals. Each and every time the Hawks move the ball in succession, they rarely lose. Atlanta totaled 30 team assists in game two and outscored Washington 26-15 in the fourth quarter. DeMarre Carroll continues to dominate as the guy for Atlanta. He could be in for a big raise next season. This series is going to boil down to which Atlanta team shows up. Washington isn’t going to go down easy.

Next: Without John Wall Don't Take Wizards Lightly