The Hawks capped off the second quarter by forcing a turnover and getting a transition layup at the buzzer, tying the game at 50-50. Neither team had the edge going into the third, as Paul George said in his half-time interview: “It’s 0-0 now.”
Despite this, just 12 minutes later at the end of the 3rd quarter, the Hawks held a 14 point lead. I went back and looked at all the key instances that led to large deficit — and ultimately caused not only the loss of the game, but the loss of home-court advantage.
To open the third quarter, Atlanta cleared out for Paul Millsap as he isolated on David West. Millsap takes him to the rim and makes the shot, plus the foul. The lack of help defense is mainly due to Hibbert guarding Pero Antic one pass away – he can’t sag down and protect the rim like usual due to Antic’s range.
The blame here goes to West, but (as we often see with George Hill funneling Jeff Teague to nobody) you can almost tell that part of the reason he defends softly is because he is so accustomed to having help at the rim.
On the following possession, the Pacers go to Lance Stephenson on the low block against Kyle Korver – a decent post defender, allowing a field goal percentage of only 29.2% in the post this season, per synergy sports – with almost no movement prior to the post entry. Lance takes a tough fadeaway which misses.
You could argue that Lance forces this, but what was he supposed to do? The weakside spacing is awful and none of his teammates pop up to provide an outlet for the full five seconds he looks their way.
A couple of possessions later, Lance is guarding Demarre Carroll one pass away from the ball handler, Jeff Teague.
Despite the fact that he is not defending him, he doesn’t take his eyes of Teague from the moment he receives the ball until the moment he passes it, inexplicably, to Carroll. Due to being screened by Millsap (and not realizing until he tries to run back) he can’t recover, and Carroll nails the shot.
About a minute after this, Lance and Hibbert run a pick-and-roll in semi transition. The Hawks trap Lance pretty aggressively out of this, but Roy saw this coming and rolled early. Lance passes to him as he’s rolling to the basket, but Roy doesn’t see that Millsap has rotated over to cover the basket.
Hibbert turns right into him, and gets called for the offensive foul.
With Hibbert guarding Millsap, the Hawks isolate him at the elbow. Hibbert doesn’t have the lateral speed to keep up with him and is forced to foul when he’s beaten to the rim.
The Pacers go to another post-up – this time for David West – without any prior movement, apart from Turner running through to the opposite corner. Millsap plays it well, and West lowers his shoulder and gets called for the offensive foul.
This was West’s 4th foul, and he’s forced to come out of the game.
Teague and Millsap run a pick-and-roll, with Scola guarding Millsap. He comes far out of the paint to stay with Millsap, meaning it’s Hibbert’s job – as the weakside defender – to protect the rim. But Hibbert is concerned with Pero Anic in the corner (and perhaps has been told not to leave him no matter what). So when Teague beats Hill off the dribble, there is no rotation and Teague gets an easy lay-up.
Simply put: Hill can’t get beaten this badly off the dribble — especially when he knows help may not come.
The offense is struggling, so the Pacers go to a Hill/Turner pick-and-roll, for some strange reason. When Hill passes to Turner in the corner, he isolates, drives into the teeth of the defense, and misses.
On its next possession, Indiana breaks out into a strange, 4 out 1 in motion set. Three “screens” are set, all of which barely make contact with the defender and therefore do absolutely nothing (a common problem for Indiana). Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert can’t get any deep post position on Pero Antic (nor do his teammate seem eager to give him the ball).
In the ~17 seconds they run this, the ball barely gets below the foul-line, and they don’t even get a shot off before the shot clock expires.
The Hawks run yet another Teague/Millsap pick-and-roll, but this time with some misdirection by Korver – as Teague comes off the screen, Korver sets a flare screen for Antic on Hibbert. Hill can’t fight over the screen and eventually just goes under, but not nearly far enough and just throws a token arm out as Teague blows by him. Scola plays it even worse, seemingly unaware that the rim is a place that Teague might try to dribble toward.
On the other side of the court, Roy is so occupied trying to get through the screen to cover Antic behind the arc that he doesn’t realize he needs to rotate over and help on Teague’s drive.
As a result, Teague gets yet another layup.
Check out Hibbert’s body language after the score.
Because West is out of the game with his four fouls, Scola is forced to guard Paul Millsap. Millsap takes him to the low block, and scores on him easily, with the foul. (Though the foul part was pretty suspect.)
Indiana finally runs some real offense, running PG off three screens. Hibbert has to screen Carroll, but he’s late coming over to do so and is called for the offensive foul.
After C.J. Watson gives the Pacers a little light – ending Atlanta’s 14-0 run on a 3-point bank shot in transition – Indiana continues its defensive issues. On another pick-and-roll with Millsap as the screener,Hill does a great job quickly getting under the screen to cut off Teague.
Unfortunately, Mahimi is incredibly late to close out on Millsap, who has all the time in the world to hit the 3.
Due to this huge run, the Hawks went into the fourth quarter with a 14-point cushion. The way Indiana was playing, that margin effectively ended the game.
Offensively, Vogel needs to have Indiana running far more creative offensive sets in Game 2. He needs to get players moving from side to side and setting screens — actual picks, not the phantom ones we see above. As it is now, the lack of ball and player movement allows the Atlanta defense to get set, and stay that way for the whole possession.
-This tweet from Seth Partnow is telling:
By having movement away from the ball, it occupies the help defense and gives space to driving players, as opposed to having multiple defenders collapse and get in the way of slashers – one of the reasons the Vogel Weave is so effective.
As for the defensive end, this just doesn’t look like the same team that earned the number-one defensive rating in the league. Not only is the intensity not there, but the concentration wanes constantly, too.
The Hawks were never going to be a pushover, so hopefully this loss serves as a reality check. If the team doesn’t come prepared for the next game, they will be in huge trouble.
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