Ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets Play-In game on Wednesday, our staff takes a look at some underrated matchups and x-factors in the win-or-go-home scenario.
What is an underrated factor or matchup for the Hawks-Hornets Play-In game?
Zach Hood: Montrezl Harrell. Harrell has given the Hawks issues over the years, and went for 20 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes vs. the Hawks on March 16. He was +9 in that game, which was a 10-point win for the Hornets. He has a nice pick-and-roll chemistry with LaMelo Ball, and that duo can rack up points and fouls in a hurry. Neutralizing Harrell, and punishing him on the defensive end will be crucial.
Glen Willis: I think the foul situation will be a very important area. Can the Hornets keep the Hawks out of the bonus such that Trae Young doesn’t get 12 or so shots at the free throw line? Because the Hornets generate so much offense in transition, can the Hawks avoid fouling in the half court defense so that they can use a Euro-foul 5-6 times in the game to stop possessions that might otherwise generate 10-12 easy points for Charlotte?
Wes Morton: Both teams have high octane offenses with leaky defenses, so stops will be at a premium in this game. The Hornets have a lot of capable ball handlers and offensive creators even with Gordon Hayward sidelined. LaMelo Ball is the obvious focal point of the offense, but Terry Rozier or even the recently signed Isaiah Thomas could cause problems for the Hawks perimeter defenders. The Hawks will have to dig in defensively on the perimeter, cut off penetration, and crowd the passing lanes in a do-or-die situation.
Graham Chapple: Secondary/tertiary playmaking I think will be huge here for the Hawks. The Hornets throw all sorts of defensive looks at Young to take him out of the game and if that’s the defensive look they go to – to throw an extra mobile body at Young of screens (which they have plenty of) – the play of the likes of Kevin Huerter, Delon Wright to create shots either inside for Clint Capela or Onyeka Okongwu, or finding the perimeter shooters like Danilo Gallinari, I think will be huge.
Josh Lane: One of the most frustrating things come playoff time are those stubborn coaches that will deploy a full bench unit. The Hawks during last years playoff run were not an exception to this annoying trend. I hope that in a win or go home game, Atlanta realizes that it will be necessary to play the main guys more than their season averages. This of course should be a no brainer, but a part of me is worried that there will be a point in the second quarter where all the starters are on the bench.
Malik Brown: Knowing that these two teams are pretty much evenly matched could leave an element of surprise, and it’s not a clear cut favorite. Both finished with the same regular season record, and split their season series 2-2. Though I’d give the Hawks the advantage because of homecourt, we’ve learned through 82 games this season you never know what Hawks team is going to show up. Like Wes said, it’s two great offenses going against each other with not much defense. Anything can happen.
Rashad Milligan: De’Andre Hunter and Miles Bridges. Bridges has a field day against the Hawks like Charlotte has a field day with holding Trae Young under 20 points and 15+ assists. This is an obvious matchup to watch as Hunter’s play has been suspect down the stretch and Bridges is a borderline All-Star, but as the rotations get tighter, here we are.