Last week, the Stat Geek Five flipped the script and looked ahead to keys to beat the Cavs and it worked out really well! The Hawks met each of the four criteria we laid out and scored a big win over Cleveland. This week we return to our usual system and review how great a 2-2 week can be.
1. The Hawks are in "rest mode."
I'll plead guilty: I put this in here first and foremost to remind Hawks fans not to panic about the two losses this week or any future ones until the playoffs. The Spurs have been notable for their commitment to resting starters and if the Hawks want to be Spurs East, they have to do the same. That truly started this week. In a big game against Cleveland, all five regular starters tallied 30 at least minutes each. In the three games since, those five players have hit the 30 minute mark a cumulative four times (Horford/Teague against Philly, Horford/Korver against Sacramento, no one against Denver). Coach Bud believes in the Spurs mentality, and it's starting to show. With the magic number down to seven (to win the East and claim home court until the Finals), expect less minutes for the Big Five. It has already reaped rewards, because...
2. Kyle Korver may have found his mojo.
According to this article by the AJC, Coach Bud (who is very sympathetic when one of his players is struggling) told Kyle to go home, get some rest and be with his family, and to not even travel to Philadelphia to play against the Sixers. In the two games since (which is an admittedly small sample), Korver has racked up 38 points on 76 percent shooting from the field, 73 percent shooting from three, and only three turnovers in over 56 minutes. If Korver has regained the shooting form that led him to his first All-star appearance, you can guarantee other teams will be wracking their brains on how to slow down the offensive attack. A big example was seen in the Sacramento game, where...
3. Atlanta's scorching offense has put them in a class of their own.
The win against the Kings marked the third time this season the Hawks shot 60 percent or higher from the field as a team (Trivia question: who were the other two victims of the Hawks 60 percent attacks? Answer below). The rest of the league combined has only done that four times and no team aside from the Hawks has done it more than once. This wasn't the only statistic that stood out, because...
4. The Hawks set a new high for assists this season.
Earlier this season, the Clippers dished out a whopping 41 assists in one game, and on Monday the Hawks topped it with 42, the highest total for any team this season. Only Charlotte did it last year, and to find a team with at least 42 before that, you have to go back to 2008. Atlanta last did it in 1993! It was a thing of beauty - the ball whipping around led to 60 percent from the field (with everyone who played making at least 44 percent ), 55 percent from three, and only 13 turnovers. One of the best things about the game was that no one played over 32 minutes, which means...
5. Atlanta's bench unit is stepping up.
Atlanta's bench (Dennis Schröder/Mike Scott/Kent Bazemore/Pero Antic/Elton Brand/Shelvin Mack/John Jenkins/Mike Muscala) is playing some pretty good basketball of late. In the last four games, the group averages just under seven points per player (who gets minutes) per game, has shot almost 45 percent from the field and slightly over 37 percent from three, is 31-for-36 from the free throw line(!), and is only averaging one turnover per player per game.
Don't get me wrong: the NBA playoffs are won and lost primarily with your starting five, and that's where most of your minutes go, but the bench can be the thing that gets you over the top or weathers some injury issues. This unit is answering the call. Only Mike Scott and Dennis Schröder had a cumulative negative +/- for these four games (both because the drubbing at the hands of the Nuggets) and the group had a combined +52. This kind of play could be the key that gets the Hawks over the hump. I really want this bench group to have a name. Someone get on that.
Korver watch: .497 FG% ▲ / .501 3FG% ▲ / .901 FT% ▼
If you hear or come up with your own cool stat about the Hawks, tweet to @peachtreehoops or directly at me at @themarkphelps or leave a comment. I used basketball-reference's search engine for some of these stats.
(trivia answer: the Hawks lit up Cleveland for 64.5% and Toronto for 60.9%)