Hawks' best path to victory clear before 3-point frenzy in win over Bulls

The Atlanta Hawks' recipe for success was clear before their three-point barrage helped down the Chicago Bulls, and it needs to continue.
Atlanta Hawks guard Vit Krejci
Atlanta Hawks guard Vit Krejci / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks (35-40) unleashed a barrage of three-pointers on the Chicago Bulls, taking a critical matchup in the Play-In Tournament race.

Led by a career-high 18 points on six threes from Vit Krejci, they shot 47.5% for the game as a team. A loss to the Milwaukee Bucks robbed the Hawks of a chance to overtake the Bulls for ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

But the win over Chicago underscored a potentially critical component to the Hawks’ success.

The Hawks got plenty of open looks against a feisty Bulls group thanks to a healthy dose of ball movement.

The Bulls finished with more passes, but the Hawks beat their season average by nearly 10 passes. It helps to have many of those passes end in made shots while the opponent shoots poorly.  But the Hawks’ 29 assists were just their 40th-most in a game this season.

The Hawks had six players in double figures compared to four for the Bulls thanks to their unselfishness. And this isn’t a new trend for the Hawks either.

They have the 18th-most passes per game since the All-Star break. It’s a modest ranking to be clear. But it is a substantial increase from their 25th-place ranking from before the break and could bode well for their Play-In matchup.

That they have trended this way despite the injuries they’ve sustained is surprising. 

But they have the seventh-best record in the East since returning, including a 7-3 record at home that is the third-best in the conference in that span.

That again bodes well for the Hawks in a potential matchup with the Bulls, though the latter is 6-3 on the road in that same window. And they won their lone visit to State Farm Arena earlier this season.

The Hawks just need to focus on keeping these positive trends going.

Hawks trending in right direction down the stretch

Their offensive rating has jumped slightly from 10th post-break. The most encouraging trend won’t get the fanfare of their pass-heavy offensive swing.

The Hawks have enjoyed a significant jump on the defensive end of the floor as well. They had the 29th-ranked defensive rating before the All-Star break. Since returning, the Hawks have the 16th-ranked defense.

It might seem insignificant that the Hawks are on pace for the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference post-All-Star break.

That spot gets an extra chance in the Play-In Tournament, though.

In theory, it would also mean they are still within striking distance of an outright playoff spot; something that has eluded them without the aid of the Play-In. The Hawks have the tougher remaining slate between the two teams, per Tankathon.

They are undoubtedly the hotter of the two teams right now, which can be a significant swing factor at this point of the season.