A lion’s share of coaching at the NBA level involves finding a system that maximizes your players and developing the trust to implement and foster it. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has gone above and beyond, and the results speak for itself. You’ll see each rotation player’s influence lurking in the above videos, whether it’s Teague’s passing to and from Horford, Korver’s attention-grabbing, or just the general movement from one player to another. Defensive adjustments to this team’s attack largely come down to choosing the more convenient of two evils.
“Their style of play is one of moving the ball and they count on a lot of different people,” Hollins said. “Obviously we think that starts with the ball-handler and the pick-and-roll but it really doesn’t. It starts with they’re pushing the ball up the court and moving the ball from side to side and trying to put you in a disadvantage in certain sets so you have to over-help, and then they throw it and then they draw and kick.”
The feel-good story asserts the Hawks don’t have a superstar. They might not have a 30-point scorer — no, really; no Hawks player scored more than 30 points in a single game this season — but Horford is an all-around superstar in his own right, and the rest of the team falls in line. Korver spaces and screens. Teague sets up pick-and-roll/slip sets and drives to the basket. Carroll defends and spaces the floor. The machine hums.
Team chemistry is a fickle seesaw, and the Hawks maintain an ideal balance. They’re built both on individual talent and with an understanding of each player’s role in a greater cause. The Nets, at times, appear to be half that: a team built on individual talents that have yet to figure out the lock combination to sustained success.
But the Nets also have little to play for at this point. They’re massive underdogs in this series, thus no pressure to live up to their favored status. They had home-court advantage against the Bulls and veteran guile against the Raptors. This time around, they can just go out and play and hope to rattle the NBA world, rather than risk facing it after an unexpected loss. For the first time in three Brooklyn seasons, the team is free from the burden of expectation.
There’s a reason for all that: the Hawks are damn good, and the Nets are not. You’re hard-pressed to find a legitimate advantage the Nets can exploit for the entirety of a seven-game series. Winning two games against this Hawks team would be an accomplishment, three would be a shock, and four would turn the NBA world upside down. Hey, anything is possible, right?
(But that’s probably not going to happen.)
Final Prediction: Hawks in five.