The Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers are two teams on the exact same timeline. They faced each other in last year's Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament and spent the offseason reloading their rosters.
Earlier this morning, we published the preview for tonight's game. Now it is time to list the four keys to victory for Atlanta.
Despite being on the same timeline, Atlanta and Cleveland play two different styles of basketball. Cleveland has the fifth-best offensive rating thanks to their methodical ball movement and efficient shooting.
Whereas Cleveland plays at the second-slowest pace in the league, Atlanta prefers playing with tempo. Atlanta is last in three-pointers made and attempted. Their half-court offense is clunky and unconducive to winning.
Atlanta's defense has improved since last year. However, they still rank in the middle of the pack in defensive rating and struggle on the perimeter. Atlanta's wings will be tested by Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland tonight.
No team in the league attempts more shots between 10-19 feet than Atlanta. Unfortunately, the math does not work in teams' favor on midrange shots. To Atlanta's credit, they do a good job of getting to the rim. As long as their outside shooting is missing in action, Atlanta cannot settle on offense.
Over the last three games, Hawks coach Nate McMillan has relied heavily on his starters. The old-school coach has always kept a nine-man rotation, but he is keeping this year's bench on an extra short leash.
While we love to see Trae Young and Dejounte Murray on the floor, even they need a break. A pleasantly surprising development has been the emergence of rookie AJ Griffin. The 19-year-old has leaped over the Holiday brothers in McMillan's rotation.
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