Atlanta Hawks are not the same team in the NBA Playoffs 2015. They were the best team in the East Conference, and they didn't show us anything from that point of view.
They defeated Brooklyn Nets, and they didn't impress NBA fans around the world.
Only 0,1 seconds separated Washington Wizards from Game 7, even though they played without John Wall and with injured John Wall.
Atlanta Hawks have a problem. And that problem is calling: The NBA Under Playoffs Pressure.
The Hawks: Under Playoffs Pressure
For me, All-Star selections in the NBA Playoffs means nothing. They have 4 All-Star players and who cares about that? I don't care, because, in every sport, we remember only Champions of the Rings. Everything else is only stats or facts about losers and lost games.
The Hawks are playing under the big pressure because they are favorite, and they don't know how to play when they are not underdogs. Simple as can be.
Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Kyle Korver are magnificent players, but they are not superstars. They can't lean on their individual quality, for the reason that they never win by individual quality and they never win when Teague playing 1 on 1, or Horford and Millsap playing the big time on the post.
I'm talking about the team. And they are not playing like a team in this playoffs.
They must share the ball. Pass the ball, penetrate - assist - open space, look at your teammates and believe in them. Budenholzer is using only three players in the offense: Jeff Teague as a creator and Paul Millsap and Al Horford as a post up players. Kyle Korver has ice in his hands, and he is thinking about every shot, instead of using short memory like as pure shooter.
Budenholzer, where is your bench? Where is Atlanta Hawks' sixth man of the year, Dennis Schroder? Give him a freedom in the decision. Why are you not using Mike Scott? You can't play only with three players plus Kyle Korver from downtown.
If you don't have a superstar, the only solution to win is if you are playing as a team. The NBA Playoffs has more intensity than regular games. And every team now using different set in the offense and different set in the defense. But, adjustment changes everything. And if you don't have the adjustment, you are far from the NBA Finals.
The Offense 1: Share the Ball
Paul Millsap and Al Horford are playing against Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. They have better skills, but the Cavs defenders know how to defend post up and how to protect rebounds.
They should move better, they are faster, and they should look to play more from the pick n roll than they used to play before. And Paul Millsap is better 1 on 1 against Tristan Thompson, but not under the rim.
Space the floor, play level 1 isolation with the options around you. Millsap shouldn't play ISO at all cost. Shoot from the distance, and space the floor for Horford to play on the post. And when Horford takes the ball, look at around - feel the space and take a moment, because the Cavs can maybe send double team against Horford. He can pass the ball, or he can use Paul Millsap, who can be on the other side of distance.
Al Horford can't play whole time on the post against Mozgov. Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore must circulate around Horford, expecting backdoor pass more than they had in the last game.
Atlanta Hawks must play wilfully. Every shot is matter, and if they can assist each other, they can attack Cleveland together.
Jeff Teague is a creator, but he is not playing like a creator. I'm not talking about assists; he is not a selfish player, but he must better set the offense and create the space when he has the ball. He knows how to use footwork and he can use that against the Cavs backcourt.
The Offense 2: Where is Kyle Korver?
Ok, everyone knows that Kyle Korver has a problem in the NBA Playoffs. But, in the fundamentals of basketball I know for 2 points and for 3 points, what about you, Budenholzer? What about you, Kyle Korver? Do you know about the shot from the distance, not only from downtown?
Make a dribbling or pump fake and shot closer than you shot before because you are building momentum. And when you attack from every angle, you will feel the energy and you will be more confident than before and BANG - make the shot!
Kyle Korver against the Cavs: 3/5 FG, 2/4 from downtown, only 1 shot from the distance.
Kyle Korver against the Wizards (series): 2.5 - 8.0 FG, 2.0 - 7.0 from downtown, only 1 shot from the distance per game in that series.
You can see that he had 3/6 from the perimeter. And everything else is 3 points play.
The Offense 3: The Bench Attack
Dennis Schroder and Mike Scott should play with freedom, and they can attack the Cavs bench in every game.
Schroder is faster than Dellavedova, and he can use ISO, or he can penetrate and pass the ball.
Mike Scott is SF/PF combo and how can Cavs defend him if Shumpert play in the starting lineup? They don't have defender for him. And Atlanta doesn't know how to use that.
Just to notice, I didn't forget Kent Bazemore.DeMarre Carroll will be a game-time decision for Friday's Game 2 against the Cavs although it appears unlikely he'll be able to play. Also, Kyrie Irving did not go through shootaround, and he is being listed as questionable for Friday's Game 2 against the Hawks.
I must repeat, simple as can be. If Atlanta Hawks play like a team, they can beat LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers. If they believe in three players plus Kyle Korver from the downtown, the Hawks will lose another game and LeBron will have opportunity to get two more wins on the home court and he will advance in the NBA Finals.
Alonzo Warond Predictions: Four All-Star players are not enough for LeBron James because they are playing under pressure, and they are playing like a favorite, for the first time.
Atlanta Hawks doesn't have a leader at this moment. They are playing very similar to San Antonio Spurs, but Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili have more experience and basketball knowledge.