Jeff Teague Must be the Jeff Teague of Old
Jeff Teague was a masterful tactician during the regular season. He was constantly attacking the paint and making plays for him and his teammates. He made timely decisions without making many mistakes. When it was crunch time, Jeff Teague was the guy selected to get it done, and he did a terrific job of it. This is why many critics and fans have begged to see the same guy in the playoffs. Teague is shooting under 40 percent in the playoffs and has looked tentative when on the court. In Game 5 against the Wizards, Teague reportedly told Coach Budenholzer to stick with Dennis Schröder down the stretch of the game. While Schröder is one of my favorite players on the Hawks and has loads of potential, now is not his time. Teague is the better guard and this is his team to take to the finals. He has loads of help around him, but the time is going to come when the Hawks are going to need him to make big plays in big moments. Teague needs to deliver in these moments if the Hawks want to make a trip to the NBA Finals.
Al Horford and Paul Millsap Must Dominate the Paint
If there is one place were the Hawks have a clear advantage it is down low. With Kevin Love missing the rest of the playoffs due to a dislocated shoulder, the Cavs do not have much of a scoring threat from their big men. However, Thompson and Mozgov can play defense and rebound. If Horford and Millsap can effectively make their mid-range and perimeter shots, Thompson and Mozgov are going to be having nightmares. Thompson and Mozgov cannot guard these guys on the perimeter, but Horford and Millsap need to hold their own on the boards. If the Hawks can avoid being outrebounded by a large margin and take advantage of their big men’s scoring abilities, they should have a great chance of moving on to the NBA Finals.
Demarre Carroll Must Slow Down Lebron James
In my article “How Can the Hawks Stop Lebron James”, I mentioned the double team tactics employed by Coach Budenholzer in the Hawks last regular season matchup with the Cavs. While I believe the Hawks will use this strategy throughout the series against Lebron, most of time Lebron will have to be guarded by one man. The Hawks will send out Demarre Carroll to do the near impossible. However, Carroll has had success versus James this season. In the last matchup between these two teams, James was 1 for 7 from the field with 4 turnovers when Carroll was guarding him. Carroll loves the responsibility of guarding the opposing team’s best player, and he will get the chance to go against the best in the world. If he can slow Lebron down, the Hawks have a great chance of winning the series.
Kyle Korver Needs to Find His Shot
Korver’s 2014-2015 season has been a magical one. The Hawks Shooting Guard was spectacular all season, finishing just a few percentage points shy of a 50-50-90 season. He was rewarded with his first All-Star appearance and was a huge part of the Hawks’ 60 win season. However, in the playoffs Korver has seemingly lost his sharpshooting abilities. He is shooting 39% from the field and just 35% from behind the arc. While the numbers are not dreadful, they are far from what we have come to expect from Korver. I think a lot of Korver’s struggles came because of the great defense by Bradley Beal. It will be interesting to see who the Cavs put on Korver, but either way, it is imperative that Korver get back on track if the Hawks want to reach the NBA Finals.
The Hawks Bench Needs to Outplay the Cavs Bench
With Kevin Love forced out of the series due to injury, the Cavs have to place Thompson in the starting lineup. Thompson was a huge force off the bench for the Cavs, and the domino effect of the Love injury really hurts the Cavs bench. Meanwhile, during their series with Washington, the Hawks seemed to have some found some guys that could play some key minutes. Muscala started to receive some of Antic’s minutes and provided a nice spark off the bench. Schröder continued to impress and show his limitless potential. These guys along with Bazemore and Antic have to step up and make an impact. An X-factor off the bench in this series could be Mike Scott. I hope Scott receives some minutes in this series, as he was terrific in his games versus Cleveland, averaging 11.5 points on 55% shooting. All of these guys have to contribute for the Hawks to make a trip to the 2015 NBA Finals.