The Hawks won Game 3 to cut Washington’s series lead to 2-1, but there is more work to be done. Below are 5 keys to evening things up Monday night.
Story by KL Chouinard
1) Win the first seven minutes of the game
Seven minutes represents roughly the amount of time that each team’s five starters play until the first substitution. In the first two games, the Wizards outscored the Hawks by 14-8 and 16-8 margins in the first seven minutes. In Saturday’s Game 3 win, the Hawks jumped out to a 23-8 lead in the same time frame.
The Hawks will need to make a similar opening statement in Game 4, and if they do, the crowd will jump in behind them in support.
2) Keep up the three-point defense
The Hawks have had the best three-point defense of the playoffs, limiting Washington to 27.8 percent shooting from long range.
“They have missed open shots,” Paul Millsap said, “but when you put that type of pressure and that level of intensity on them, shots will be missed. We feel like our wing guys have been going a great job of getting them off the three-point line.”
3) Find a hot hand to be the the third scorer
Millsap has averaged 25.0 points per game in the series. Dennis Schröder has matched it with an identical 25.0 points per game. For the Hawks to score enough points to win, they will need to get a big scoring output from at least one more scorer, someone like Tim Hardaway Jr., Kent Bazemore, or rookie Taurean Prince.
4) Stop John Wall on the fast break
The Hawks’ top priority for this series was to slow Wall in transition. They managed to win Game 3 despite Washington’s 23 fast-break points. It’s the one area where the Hawks can make their stingy defense even stingier.
5) Keep fighting over screens set for Wall and Beal
When the Wizards have used Marcin Gortat to set picks for Wall or Bradley Beal, the Hawks have countered by defending with Dwight Howard sitting back in the paint. The positioning enables Howard to both protect the rim on drives and stop assists to Gortat for layups.
It also helps the Hawks limit the number of times that they need to rely on a help defender to cut off a Wizard on his way to the basket (and less help means leaving open fewer three-point shooters).
The scheme does leave open 1) midrange shots for Wall and Beal, and 2) jump shots for Wizards big men, but on brilliant plays like this one where Hardaway fights around the pick and harasses the ball, the midrange shots can become tough ones too.