Yesterday we were in for a treat, as Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward broke down the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. The Warriors won game one, and we'll see if the top seed team in the East can do the same. Tonight we have the Atlanta Hawks hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers. And once again, we have a nice breakdown of it by Gordon Hayward. Check it all out here, and here is an excerpt:
The thing that makes this series so interesting to me is that each team's weakness is the other team's strength.
Atlanta is a really solid all-around team. Each player on that squad is so skilled at doing what they do as a team with spacing, movement, and passing. They're all talented and unselfish players. Even the big men are talented, mobile, good-passing bigs. That helps out a lot. With that, they do a really good job of playing team basketball to get good shots every possession.
The Hawks offense has a lot of moving parts, and that makes it tougher on any defense. They use ball movement to get open looks. When you have NBA players out there getting open looks and taking good shots, you're going to make baskets most of the time. They also space the court extremely well, and all of their guys seem to know where the other players on the court are going to be without even having to look for them. That comes from experience playing with each other.
Chemistry is extremely important, and these are guys that have played together for a while. The ability to know and trust that a teammate is going to be in a certain place without thinking about it is invaluable. Not just offensively, but defensively as well. Atlanta is a really solid team defensively. They don't really gamble at all, and they execute their game plan really well. That's one of the reasons they are where they are.
There are going to be times throughout the course of a game when everything doesn't go according to plan. Things break down. It happens. But if you're out there with players that you've been there with before, you don't have to see what they're going to do. You know what they're going to do and how they're going to react. You know where they're going to be. That makes the process easier for everybody. It makes you faster as a team, both offensively and defensively.
But what makes the Hawks strong is also what could be their downfall. They're such a strong team, but their success is the sum of its parts, and the talent on their team isn't the same caliber as the talent on some of the other teams. I think that's why they struggled with the Nets and Wizards a bit before they got back on track.
Most teams in the league, especially teams that make the playoffs, have those one or two extraordinary talents to make some plays the Hawks can't necessarily make. To win games in the playoffs, you need to have somebody you can go to down the stretch and close the game. Maybe in their own team circle, they've identified that guy. But from the outside looking in, they don't have a guy who they know, "This is the guy that we're going to lean on towards the end of the games."
Cleveland obviously has that guy in LeBron James, and it's important to have a closer like that.
For the Cavs, everything begins and ends with LeBron. They leaned on him a bunch in the series against the Bulls with Kevin Love out and Kyrie Irving ailing. He has hit some huge shots, and they're going to have to continue to lean on him if they expect to win this series. He's the best player in the world, and they brought him back for this reason.
That's where the Hawks have a chance to expose the Cavs as well. Atlanta will be able to move the ball on offense and get good shots every single possession. Cleveland doesn't really have that, so the Hawks can key in on LeBron, and lurk around him on defense to make the Cavaliers really work to get him the ball. That's the best way to limit his dominance: Deny him the ball, deny him his looks and make somebody else beat you. When he does have the ball, force him into contested jump shots and fade-away jumpers. Don't give him easy layups or free throws. If they can do that, I think you're looking at a winnable series for the Hawks.
That's just the opening paragraphs, but his details and personal insight as a player really make a difference. Check it all out if you wanna see what he thinks about these two teams. I'm really enjoying them myself, and find that his pick of an x-factor he picks for this series is one that many Utah Jazz fans will agree with. Thanks again to Gordon Hayward for taking his time to write these, and thanks to his web staff for providing us fans with a lot of great content!