I am hesitant to take a look at the final possession of Tuesday's loss by the Atlanta Hawks to the Los Angeles Lakers because the reality is that it had no real bearing on the outcome of the game. This was a game that Atlanta never deserved to win given their play in the first half, yet they somehow still had a shot at the end of regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Was that final shot a good one? By design yes. No team defensively is going to allow Kyle Korver to take that shot and the Hawks got a clean look off some nice action. In that situation, most coaches would be pleased to get a good look at the basket. There are no issues with the shot attempt but there are some other narratives that need to be looked at. First, lets take a closer look at the play.
For the final possession, Mike Budenholzer sent out a lineup featuring Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap,. Al Horford and Pero Antic. Korver starts in the far corner away from the ball and Antic will inbound. From the setup, it looks like Korver is going to run off of a staggered screen set at the top of the key.
Korver runs off of picks set by Millsap and Horford. With the defender trailing over the top of the screen, Korver cuts inside and screens Horford's man. Horford then sets a great screen for Teague who comes open at the top of the key.
Here Kobe Bryant is faced with a decision. With Teague coming free he has to either leave Antic and go help or stay at home and hope that Teague's defender can recover in time to bother the shot. Kobe elects to help and jumps right into the face of Teague.
Antic does exactly as he should and steps into the void and into a wide open look at the basket. In basketball the most dangerous player in many out of bounds sets is the guy inbounding the ball because the defense is often in bad position to rotate back to him. The Hawks couldn't have asked for a better look at the basket. Here is a look at the entire sequence in real time.
Again it feels a little disingenuous even talking about this final play like it had something to do with the outcome. Atlanta came out lifeless defensively and lost this game in the first half. That had ample opportunities to overtake the Lakers in the second with a spirited comeback but were unable to gather enough defensive rebounds to get themselves over the hump.
We are 10 games into the season so it may still be a bit early to draw any concrete narratives. However, if you examine those 10 games it hasn't been real pretty for the Hawks. They showed an explosive offense for a stretch of games but have often look like they are thinking their way through options on the offensive end. The second unit hasn't performed well and barring an explosion from Mike Scott, struggles to score. The situation isn't any better defensively as the team has struggled to find any sort of consistency. Its become all too common to see this team defend well for 20 seconds only to have a breakdown that leads to an easy hoop. Its also been way to common to see 20 seconds of good defense and then allow an offensive rebound at the front of the rim.
We have talked at length about the many options at Budenholzer's disposal. From the start of the season, the only real change that has been made was at the back up point guard position. At what point does he go to Elton Brand, Mike Muscala or even John Jenkins for a spark? Budenholzer has trusted Antic many times since coming to Atlanta but with his three-point percentage having dipped to 25 percent, it might be time to look elsewhere. The final play last night appeared to be designed for Teague who himself came into game shooting under 30 percent from three-point range. In the end, someone has to take the shot and kudos to Antic for stepping up and doing so. At some point though, the Hawks have to make sure they have the right personnel on the court that gives them the best chance to win.
In a sense, all basketball coaches are stubborn to a certain degree. They have a vision about how they want and think things should work on the court. The best coaches can see when things aren't working and adjust. For the Hawks, it may be time to make adjustments.