The Hawks‘ decision to load up on players who excel at dribbling, passing and shooting has helped them turn into an instant contender, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2017, Atlanta had too much offense for the Knicks to handle in their first-round matchup, then surprised the Sixers in Game 1 of the conference semifinals.
The Hawks began their turnaround by drafting Trae Young in 2018. They have steadily built the offense around him, with deadly shooters like Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic among their offseason additions. Atlanta set a franchise record by making 20 three-pointers in Sunday’s win at Philadelphia.
“That’s something we do. We have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball,” Kevin Huerter said. “When we get the ball moving side-to-side and not take the first shot on possessions, we’re a team that is capable of hitting 20 a game. I hope we don’t need to hit 20 moving forward in the series, but anytime you shoot like that, you give yourself a really good chance to win.”
There’s more from Atlanta:
- One of the impressive things about Sunday’s victory is that it came without De’Andre Hunter, the team’s best perimeter defender, Kirschner adds. Hunter was ruled out after experiencing pain in his right knee, which was operated on in February to fix a partially torn meniscus. Hunter has felt on-and-off soreness in the knee since the surgery. He was able to do some shooting Monday and is considered a game-time decision for Game 2, Kirschner tweets.
- After three seasons in Sacramento, Bogdanovic is thrilled to finally be in the NBA playoff spotlight, notes Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer. Bogdanovic earned a reputation as a big-game player in Europe before coming to the United States. “Here, he had to perform under pressure all the time,” said Maurizio Gherardini, general manager of Bogdanovic’s former Fenerbahce team. “But he likes that sort of pressure. … He was not afraid of that kind of responsibility on his shoulders.”
- Young said in a recent radio interview that he expects Nate McMillan to be installed as the team’s permanent head coach, but isn’t surprised an announcement hasn’t been made yet, relays Tim Daniels of Bleacher Report. Counting the playoffs, McMillan is 32-12 since becoming interim coach. “It’s just the timing. We’re in the playoffs, it’s the end of the season,” Young said. “I don’t think it’s something they want to take away from the team right now. I mean, obviously, he’s done a great job with helping us turn this around, so I’d be surprised if he’s not with us next year.”