The Atlanta Hawks partly fell victim to a general lack of size in their 126-116 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, losing the rebounding and second-chance points battles. They were just minus-4 and minus-5 in those margins, respectively. But they were minus-8 in fastbreak points, pointing to an issue that Clint Capela says has been a theme of his tenure.
And it’s something they need to be cognizant of against the Indiana Pacers on November 21.
“Indiana is a team that runs even after makes,” Capela said via atlhawksfans on November 19. “So this is something that we have to get better, do more consistently: transition defense. It’s been a problem since I got here. But it’s something that we just have to find consistently.
The Pacers rank third in transition points per game and frequency, per NBA.com. Atlanta ranks second and first, respectively.
Both teams are allowing the fifth-most transition points per game, though, perhaps equalizing that battle some. But the Hawks have ranked no higher than 18th in transition PPG in the three-plus seasons Capela – who was acquired from the Houston Rockets via trade in 2020 – has been with the team.
He knows they have to tighten it up to make real progress.
“If you’re trying to take that step, we have to be able to do it the next game, and the next game,” Capela said. “We have to find a way to tell ourselves that this is what we got to do and focus on that and then maybe do it more consistently.”
That was not to dismiss the Pacers, who come in at 7-5 and have lost two of their last three contests but have won five of their last seven.
“It is good if you can do it against the Pacers,” Capela said. “The Pacers is a team they’re going to try to run us at the gym either we score or not.”
Clint Capela to Hawks teammates: ‘Have my back’ on the defensive glass
Capela also called for a greater group effort on the defensive glass. In the loss to the Sixers, that is where their deficit came from. And they rank 26th in defensive rebounding on the season. But Capela’s defensive rebounding numbers have taken a dip over the last three seasons since he ranked third in the category in 2020-21.
He ranked 12th the following season, 15th in 2022-23, and ranks 31st so far this season. His responsibilities are different now than they were even last season with head coach Quin Snyder, whose Utah Jazz teams tended to be stronger defensively than offensively in transition.
It is also quite noticeable when he isn’t on the floor for the undersized Hawks.
With Capela in the first year of a two-year, $46 million contract extension, and Onyeka Okongwu extended this season, the questions become how long the Hawks can live with similar results and what steps should they take to remedy the issue.