The Nets may have lost Game One to the Atlanta Hawks, but they definitely didn't go away without a fight. The Nets were competitive at multiple times during the contest and showed some flashes of stopping the Hawks offensive assault. Sure, there were some issues—losing men back door, going over screens when they should go under, etc—but overall, the Nets did a fine job defending Atlanta, holding them under 100 points and somewhat stifling their ball movement. Atlanta recorded 19 assists on 34 baskets, well under their season average of nearly 26 per game.
What I want to focus on is a glaring stat from this game, Atlanta's three-point shooting. ATL shot 10-of-30 from three in Game One, which is a huge victory for the Nets. The Hawks are as scary as any team (sans Warriors) from beyond the arc. They hoist up three's and get great looks off their ball movement and play design. Brooklyn did a good job defending the three, and really anywhere outside of the paint throughout Game One.
Lionel Hollins has to be happy looking at that shot chart. The Nets didn't give the Hawks easy looks and did a fine defending their pick-and-roll sets, to name a few of their positive points from the opening game of the series.
Deron Williams reads this play very well, a side pick-and-roll for second year man Dennis Schroder. Schroder, who shot 35% on three's in his sophomore year (up from 23% in his rookie year) is not known for his outside shooting, rather his ability to slash to the rim. Williams knows this and stays at home on the Paul Millsap screen, giving the German guard the three-point shot. On the other side of the screen, Thaddeus Young is parallel to Schroder, giving him no driving lane. It's a good look for Schroder, but the Nets had to be happy with such a possession because they stopped the creative sets of the Hawks and forced them into a less than efficient shot.
Young didn't have a great offensive game, but his defense against the versatile Hawks frontcourt was more than solid. He did a great job checking the Hawks guards pursuit to the rim and forced them into off the dribble three's, much less efficient than off the catch. Watch him keep Jeff Teague behind the three-point line.
There wasn't much time remaining on the shot clock so the Hawks had to move fast in this Millsap/Teague pick-and-roll. With Joe Johnson already being switched onto Teague, it wasn't a big deal to have Young be switched onto him. Young steps out to the left side to clog the lane, and Teague was forced into a bad shot with the shot clock winding down.
If the Nets can force the Hawks to play at a slower pace and take many of their shots with the shot clock winding down, they are bound to find success. The Nets just need to keep up with all the motion going on and not be afraid to switch with each other. The Nets off ball defense, where Mason Plumlee did a good job all game long, just needs to be focused and on point. The Hawks will pounce on the Nets if Brooklyn loses a man. Overall, this was an ideal defensive possession.
Now, this is where the Hawks can kill the Nets. This is good defense from Bojan Bogdanovic, but he is caught between a rock and a hard place. Bogdanovic is supposed to slide in and take away the Al Horford option who is rolling to the rim, but his assignment is Kyle Korver, who also set a screen. It really is a great set by coach Mike Budenholzer, and Bogdanovic does a great job reacting to the play, and shows a high hand to Korver, throwing his shot off a little bit. The Nets are going to have to live with this type of play (Korver may not miss a solid look like that again), but still if they can react and recover like Bogdanovic did, they can't be mad.
Now, look at an incredibly similar play and see what went wrong.
Teague is coming off another Horford screen and he has the lane to himself. Bogdanovic steps in to stop that but Korver flares back behind the arc. Bogdanovic is stuck again but makes it back to the sharpshooter before his shot gets off. Look, Bogdanovic was coming in with a full head of steam and Korver put the ball on the ground; it is natural instinct to take a step off of the ball handler and prepare for a drive. Korver is one of the few exceptions, and this should have been in the scouting report. Korver isn't driving to the rim for a pull up 12 footer, he is taking a dribble or two and taking a three. This was a brutal break for the Nets, who were down five with about three minutes left. But, in the playoffs, every mistake is magnified and is costly.
The Nets have to be proud of how they played the Hawks strengths. Atlanta shot 10-of-30 from beyond the arc and the Nets contested a bunch of them very well. The number one seed in the East has an offense that is a thing of beauty, and the sometimes they are going to hit shots like this one. It's just not fair.
Eerily similar to this play...
If the Nets can continue to defend the three this well, coupled with more touches for Brook Lopez, they may be able to steal Game 2 and head back to Brooklyn with an even series. However, will the Hawks shoot 30% from beyond the arc again, even if the Nets defense is up to par.