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Offensive issues in loss to Knicks should be easy for Atlanta Hawks to correct

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Nothing that can’t be fixed.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In the team’s opening night loss to the Knicks on Wednesday, one of the primary reasons the Atlanta Hawks dug such a deep hole was the presence of 24 turnovers. Those giveaways led to 29 points on subsequent New York possessions but, upon further review, it would seem that many of the mistakes that lead to those turnovers should be easy to correct, even before Friday’s night’s contest in Memphis.

We are going to take a look at those issues but, before we do, I want to encourage you to not simply focus on the turnovers. Also notice that if the plays were executed correctly, it would have lead to better looks from the field for their shooters and eliminated a lot of the easy transition points the Knicks accumulated.

Turnovers caused issues for them on both ends of the court. You will also notice that the player credited with a turnover is often not the player that made the mistake in the execution of the play.

We are not going to look at all 24 of the turnovers, but what we look at will be pretty representative of what was happening throughout most of the contest.

On this play, Kent Bazemore and Alex Len use a dribble hand off (DHO) to create stress on each of their defenders. They are able to get both Enes Kanter and Frank Ntilikina to commit to the ball handler, but Len is too late getting to the rim.

As soon as Kanter is fully committed to denying Bazemore at the rim, Len needs to immediately be at the edge of the restricted area. This would allow for a simple dump off pass and easy dunk. Instead a longer, more awkward passing lane is created. The result is a turnover and an easy run-out bucket for the Knicks.

Here, Taurean Prince uses a screen from Len to create space to attack with dribble penetration. Kanter once again commits to denying a path to the rim. But the issue on this play is that all of the traffic ends up being between Prince and the weak side three point break where Jeremy Lin is positioned.

Lin should have recognized this and dove toward the corner, which would have set up a clean passing lane for Prince along the baseline and likely an open three point attempt.

Prince probably should have just maintained the basketball but, overall, the basic execution of the play is simply a failure. From there, the result is a clean look from the three point line for the Knicks.

The error on this play does belong to the passer. Prince is attacking with the dribble after Ntilikina closes out on him at the three point line. Once again, Kanter helps at the rim.

Plumlee cuts with decent timing. But Prince does not let the play unfold. As Kevin Knox jumps into the path of the Hawks’ center Alex Poythress is, correctly, flashing to the corner to set up the passing lane on the baseline. But Prince tries to force the ball to Plumlee instead of waiting until Poythress is in the corner.

The Knicks get the steal and turn it into another relatively easy score.

On this possession, Prince is working with Plumlee in the pick and roll. The Knicks are able to defend the action without having to use two defenders to deny the penetration.

Plumlee gets to the rim and recognizes and opportunity to pin Kanter under the basket for the hopefully easy score. Kanter decides to defend the near side passing lane. So all that needs to happen is for Prince to deliver the ball to Plumlee’s right hand. It should be an easy bucket from there.

Instead, the pass is to Plumlee’s left hand, which allows Kanter to get a finger on it. Eventually, Tim Hardaway Jr. secures the ball and initiates yet another transition opportunity for two easy points.

In this instance, Prince again uses a screen from Len to get the space to attack. As Noah Vonleh jumps into the path of the ball handler, Len begins his dive to the rim, but Poythress is, for some reason, cutting along the baseline.

Instead, he should be settled in the corner which would create stress for Mario Hezonja by forcing him to decide to either help by “tagging the roller,” or sticking with Poythress on the perimeter.

The result is the basketball version of a football play in which two receivers end up in the same area. Hezonja gets the easy deflection which leads to another easy score for New York.

The Hawks successfully end this defensive possession with a rebound by Vince Carter who tries to outlet the ball to Tyler Dorsey. A very basic rule of thumb is that any guard releasing up the floor after a defensive rebound should never turn his back on the play until the rebounder initiates the outlet pass.

That does not happen here. There is nothing wrong with Dorsey trying to get a jump on the potential transition opportunity but he needs to spin in the opposite direction to maintain line of sight to the basketball.

Prince is playing at the power forward on this possession midway through the fourth quarter when this sequence takes place. Bazemore cuts off of his threat as a screener and gets downhill toward the rim.

As Prince sets up as a potential shooter at the top of the key, Omari Spellman correctly engages with Trae Young in dummy pin down action with the objective of occupying their two defenders so that neither are able to help on Prince should the ball find its way to him for an open three point attempt.

But, as Ron Baker is not able to stay in front of the ball handler, Kanter abandons Spellman to help at the rim. The Hawks’ rookie should immediately recognize this and follow his defender. This likely would have created an easy dump off to him for a shot at the rim. Spellman is understandably still adjusting to the speed of the NBA game.

In summary, while the loss to the Knicks on Wednesday night had many ugly moments, only some of which we examined here, the silver lining is that a good number of the mistakes should be quite easy to correct in short order.

If that happens in the near future, it should position the Hawks for more success on both ends of the court.