The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the better offensive teams in the NBA this season but we have seen that production fall off considerably in the wake of Al Horford's injury. Why are the Hawks struggling? There are a lot of right answers to that question but the biggest of which is simple. No Al Horford.
When Atlanta lost Horford, they lost a player that was averaging 18.6 points per game while shooting just under 57 percent from the field. No team could lose a player of that caliber without taking a hit. Perhaps most importantly, Horford was the focal point of opposing defenses and Atlanta's offense often fed off of his passing and the spacing that he helped provide.
Without Horford, the Hawks have had little to no space to operate and have seen their production in the paint drop way off in recent games. After a couple of huge games right after Horford was injured, Paul Millsap is now seeing opposing teams collapse on him in the paint and Atlanta is struggling to make them pay for it.
Teams were already paying more attention to Kyle Korver before Horford went down and things have only gotten worse for him without Al. Korver is 6-21 from the field in the last three games which isn't a good percentage but, maybe more importantly, isn't anywhere close to enough attempts for a good shooter.
It's a similar story for Jeff Teague who is shooting less than 40 percent in his last four games and is 1-13 from three-point range in that span. The bigger issue for Teague is he has committed 17 turnovers over those last four games and those extra chances for an opposing team are killer with the Hawks struggling to put points on the board.
Mike Budenholzer said following a come-from-behind win over the Charlotte Bobcats that it would take some time for the Hawks to figure out how to play without Al Horford. Judging by the last five games it appears that they still don't have many answers.
Along with a rise in turnovers, we have seen a lot of indecision on the part of the Hawks -- a tendency to overpass or over dribble which has led to a lot of short clock opportunities of late. We have also seen teams switching against the Hawks a lot more but instead of taking advantage of those switches, Atlanta is being forced into bad shots often up against the shot clock. It hasn't helped that Horford's injury came right before a series of matchups against better competition which is a trend that isn't ending anytime soon for the Hawks.
To be successful this team has to get back to the attacking nature they showed before Horford went down. The Hawks controlled the pace in the second quarter of Monday's loss and the results were a 31-19 advantage over the Nets. The pace slowed in the second half and Atlanta's woes offensively quickly returned.
This Hawks team simply isn't big enough or strong enough on the boards to grind out victories against quality opponents. They are not getting bailed out by the officials at the rim and need to stop looking for it. Firing up more threes in the half court might work but it's almost like applying a band-aid to the situation. It will help some nights but is hardly a solution to the problem.
For this Hawks team to be successful they have to play with pace, they have to get back to trusting the system and they have to trust each other. We haven't seen much of that since Horford went down. It's no coincidence that we haven't seen many wins either.
- Lou Williams' struggles continued Monday night to the tune of five points on 1-6 shooting. After a couple of big offensive performances, Lou is just 6-29 from the field in his last four.
- Pero Antic made his third straight start at center on Monday and finished with eight points and three rebounds in 18 minutes.
- Mike Scott continues to play well off the bench, finishing with nine points on 4-7 shooting in 13 minutes. If the offensive struggles continue the Hawks may be forced to give Scott more time on the floor.
- Cartier Martin made a cameo four minute appearance in the first half. Friday is the big day for Martin as that is the date when his contract becomes guaranteed for the remainder of the season.