Brook Lopez Has Been Nets Big Advantage Vs. Hawks

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Brook Lopez (AP)
Brook Lopez (AP)
Brook Lopez (AP)

When you win 60 games during the regular season and rank among the league’s elite in both offensive and defensive categories, it’s difficult to find a significant flaw.

As I mentioned in a Nets-Hawks series preview, the Atlanta Hawks look like the quintessential team, but they were statistically the third-worst rebounding team and worst at offensive rebounding in the NBA.

Part of this is their effective shooting (46.6%), but their shots aren’t falling, and it hasn’t improved: the team that averaged 102 points per game (114 points on 49.9% shooting against Brooklyn) during the regular season has failed to crack the century mark in three playoff games, averaging a pedestrian 92.7 points per game during this time. Is there a reason that the well-oiled machine cannot get into gear?

Perhaps the Nets’ size has something to do with the paltry shooting in close proximity to the rim. As ESPN Stats & Info noted, the Hawks shot 1-17 from the field against Brook Lopez during Game 3.

Atlanta’s lack of size up front is a vulnerability, as no other playoff team has shot better than Brooklyn’s 78% at the rim and from 48% from 3 to 10 feet away, and the Nets’ size and physicality has caused problems for the Hawks getting to the line and cleaning the glass.

Consider the following shooting statistics from both clubs:

TEAM 2PT-FG% FG% (0-3 ft) FG% (3-10 ft) 3PT-FG%
Brooklyn 52.3 78.0 48.0 29.4
Atlanta 43.5 65.9 25.0 30.8

 

TEAM FTA/GM OFF-REB/GM TOT-REB/GM
Brooklyn 21.7 10.7 49.3
Atlanta 19.3 9.3 43.7

 

In the individual battle between the two starting centers, Lopez is showing how a few extra inches and pounds can create a clear mismatch, and he’s been the more dominant player:

PLAYER PPG RPG FG% BPG FTA
Lopez 19.7 11.3 52.5 1.7 22
Horford 10.3 10.3 35.9 1.7 4

You need physicality in the postseason. In an offense predicated on three-point shooting, the Hawks have the fewest free throw attempts out of all 16 playoff teams thus far, shooting under 20 attempts per game.

Atlanta averaged 26.2 three-point attempts per game during the regular season and connected at a rate of 38 percent. During this postseason, they are attempting 30.3 per game but their success rate has dropped to 30.8 percent. On shots taken inside the arc, they are ranked 13thout of the 16 playoff teams. On field goal attempts taken from 3-10 feet from the basket, they’re ranked dead last.

If Lopez got more than seven shot attempts in Game 1, if the turnovers (33 in Games 1 and 2 combined) could have been reduced, maybe the series would be in Brooklyn’s favor through three games. Who knows. Maybe the pundits who declared that the Hawks would steamroll the Nets in four games will end up eating crow if the current trends continue.

After losing by an average margin of 22 points in their first three regular season meetings, the point differential in this series is four total points in Atlanta’s favor. The Nets have proven that they belong in this postseason, and if they hold serve in Game 4, they’d play with house money in a best-of-three.

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