After allowing the Knicks to overcome a 13-point deficit Wednesday night, the Hawks return to Atlanta with the series tied at one apiece. There isn’t a player in that locker that doesn’t have a bad taste in their mouth following the Game 2 loss, but if they don’t adjust, they’ll feel even worse Friday night. Here are three adjustments that could swing this series back in favor of the Hawks.
Ok, this one seems obvious, but if the Hawks are going to be as reliant as they are on the three-point shot, they need to hit them at a reasonable rate. More than half of the Hawks shots in Game 2 came from beyond the arc, and they only knocked down 27% of them. To get even more specific, the Hawks shot just 31% on open threes, being defined as having four or more feet of space between the shooter and closest defender.
Guys like Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic make their living as jump shooters. While both of them certainly have other skills beyond shooting, one or both needs to improve upon their last performance. If the Knicks continue to struggle to contain Trae with one defender, they’ll be forced to send help from the wing, giving the Hawks’ supporting cast plenty of open looks.
Stagger the starters
Nate’s rotation decisions have been thoroughly discussed both on this site and on social media, and it’s well deserved. Simply put, it’s questionable at best to have complete bench units playing in the playoffs. While Lou Williams, Kevin Huerter, Danilo Gallinari, Tony Snell, and Onyeka Okongwu are all fine rotation players, it would be helpful to mix in some of the starters in those lineups.
For instance, pairing John Collins with Lou Williams could provide the rim rolling threat Lou needs to run the pick and roll. Collins would also be optimized here, as playing him next to Gallinari’s spacing would allow John to be the true rim runner that he is.
Beyond Collins, inserting Bogdanovic’s playmaking into the second unit could further improve the offense in Young’s absence. Bogdanovic more than proved he was capable of carrying a heavy load offensively, as he shined in the games late in the season that Young missed. When next to Young, Bogi certainly gets his fair share of playmaking opportunities, but he could get many more leading the second unit.
Ultimately, any change up from the platoon substitutions we saw in Games 1 and 2 will be welcomed, as the Hawks have had little success with their bench lineups thus far.
Take back control of the boards
Simply put, the Hawks have been dominated inside in this series so far. A strength of Atlanta all season has become a weakness. Clint Capela specifically must improve his rebounding on the offensive glass, as that’s been a significant factor in the Hawks turnaround this year.
In Game 2, the Hawks lost the rebounding battle 54-41 and allowed the Knicks to grab 13 offensive boards compared to the Hawks six. It’s not all on Capela, however. Due to the Knicks’ personnel, the big man does have to help a good bit on drives from Randle, Barrett, and Rose, forcing him out of position on the glass. This means Hawks’ forwards and guards have to improve their ability to pull in rebounds and end possessions.
Of course, another factor involved here is that Collins played just 15 minutes in the most recent contest. The Hawks will undoubtedly expect more out of him moving forward, as he’ll be spending plenty of time boxing out Taj Gibson for the remainder of the series.
Game 2 was disappointing, but the Hawks should feel fantastic about the series moving forward. They not only have the talent advantage in the series, but they also hold home-court advantage. With a couple of minor changes and some shot-making, the Hawks should advance to the second round.
Tip-off for Game 3 is tonight at 7:00 PM at State Farm Arena.