Nets Look to Dominate and Rotate Against Hawks


After a playoff-spot clinching win against the Orlando Magic, the Nets have arguably the most difficult matchup they have had all season.  The Atlanta Hawks may not be a star-studded group, but they have given the Nets all that they can handle in their four matchups.

After losing by a combined 67 points in their four games and three of those four by double digits, it’s clear that the Hawks should be highly favored in the series.

Defensively, Atlanta has a significant advantage. They rank sixth in opponents’ field goal percentage, second in opponents’ three-point field goals made, and sixth in points-per-shot.  Their lateral quickness, footwork, and defensive rotations are among the best in the NBA and they have a coach who preaches team defense.

Offensively, they move the ball well, can spread the floor with multiple perimeter shooting options and have guards in Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroeder who can penetrate and get to the basket. Although there are no elite rebounders on the team, Atlanta’s hustle and ability to generate second chance points off of put-backs makes  keeps them on par with any team in the Eastern Conference.

What Atlanta doesn’t have is a legitimate offensive option or defensive stalwart in the paint.  They do their best to keep their opponents around the perimeter where the Nets have struggled at times s without stretch forward Mirza Teletovic.

As a result of Atlanta’s weakness in the paint, Brooklyn’s best chance of defeating the Hawks rests in getting the ball down into the post where they have an advantage.  With Brook Lopez 25 pounds heavier and two inches taller than Al Horford, he’ll need to shoot a high percentage against the Hawks’ best defensive big man in order for the Nets to have any chance at winning.  Lopez ranked third in the regular season in player-efficiency rating and he’ll need to be extremely effective around the basket in order to wear down Horford.

Apr 8, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee (1) defend against Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) during second half at Barclays Center. The Atlanta Hawks won 114-111. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Thaddeus Young, who is far more effective in the post with his back to the basket than around the perimeter will be going against Paul Milsap and DeMarre Carroll most of the night. With ten pounds on Carroll, Young should have a slight advantage against Carroll in the post, while his quickness should give him the occasional opportunity to drive past Milsap on the perimeter.

Joe Johnson, however, may be the key to the Nets potential victory over the Hawks on the offensive end.  Whoever is not guarding Young, will be guarding Johnson.  The Nets have had their best success when Johnson attacks the paint.  He has superior strength to Carroll and despite his age, can still take Milsap off the dribble at the top of the key.

Defensively, the Nets’ success will depend vitally on their guards.  With Korver the quintessential marksman anywhere on the court and Schroeder and Teague very efficient in either utilizing the pick-and-roll or taking defenders off the dribble, Markel Brown and Alan Anderson may be utilized more often than usual.  Deron Williams has looked like a matador more often than not this season while Jarrett Jack has been inconsistent.

At 25.7 assists per game as a team, the Hawks are second in the NBA. They look to make the extra pass even when they have a makeable shot and they’re extremely crisp in running plays designed by Coach Mike Budenholzer.  The Nets will have to stay on their toes and not make mistakes on defensive rotations in order to not give up easy baskets.

Aside from offensive and defensive efficiency, Brooklyn will need to rebound the ball.  The Hawks rank 28th in the NBA in that category for a reason and Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez will have to come close to double digit rebounding numbers in order to capitalize on the Nets’ size advantage.

No matter what, Brooklyn has a lot to prove after barely squeaking into the playoffs.  They’ll have history against them after going 0-4 in the regular season.  If the Nets can’t exploit the Hawks lack of size in the paint and fail to effectively rotate on defense, it’s going to be a very short series for Brooklyn and a very long offseason.