Game 6 was a statement game from the Atlanta Hawks.
Atlanta finished their regular-season with a record of 60-22, looking like one of the most dominant teams coming out of the East, but that team did not show up for the start of their first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets. While the Hawks had beaten the Nets convincingly throughout the regular-season by an average margin of 17.3 points, they struggled to contain Brooklyn through the first four games of the series, allowing two games to slip away. Kyle Korver admitted after the game that he felt they didn’t play very well through the first three games, but he said the losses in Brooklyn really woke them up; and they were certainly awake during Friday’s 111-87 beatdown of the Nets.
Everything was working for Atlanta during this one. As a team they shot 50.6 percent from the field, and an impressive 40.6 percent from deep. In fact, they came out of the gates firing, finishing the first quarter of action on 72.2 percent from the field. Things mellowed out a bit during the second quarter, but then Atlanta again came roaring out of the gates to start the second half, going on an impressive 23-3 run, and closing out the quarter on 66.7 percent shooting. Brooklyn’s numbers, however, would fall on the opposite spectrum of impressive. As a team they shot just 36.5 percent from the field, and they were missing everything from wide open 3-pointers to layups.
MVJD – Most Valuable Junkyard Dog
DeMarre Carroll had been killing the Nets over the past three games heading into Game 6, and his momentum continued on Friday night. Lionell Hollins called DeMarre the MVP of the series after the game, and I’d tend to agree with that assessment. Carroll finished Friday’s victory with 20 points on a near-perfect 7-of-8 shooting performance from the field (and a perfect 3-of-3 from the stripe), adding five rebounds, three 3-pointers, one assist and one turnover in a mere 24 minutes of action. Foul trouble and a big lead kept DeMarre’s minutes down, but he still found a way to be extremely effective. DeMarre’s junkyard dog nickname is so fitting. He does all the dirty work, he can lockdown the opposing teams best player, and while he doesn’t have plays drawn up for him, he can still find a way to get you 20 points. DeMarre was phenomenal through the Hawks first-round series on both ends of the floor, holding his man to just 38.7 percent shooting from the field, while averaging 17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 three-pointers, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals and just 1.2 turnovers per game on a sterling 54.0 percent from the field. That kind of all-around production with limited turnovers and high percentages is what had him turning in mid-round value on the fantasy season, and he sure is out there playing like a guy looking to get paid this offseason. Watching him go toe-to-toe with Paul Pierce in Atlanta’s second-round series against Washington should make for some great theatre.
Kyl3 Korv3r bombs away
Now for Kyle Korver. Korver, like most of the Hawks’ starters (excluding Jeff Teague) could not miss on Friday night. He started hot, going off for 11 points in the first quarter (which were the most points he’s had in any quarter in his postseason career) and he finished the game with 20 points (6-of-10 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), six 3-pointers, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals, one block and just one turnover through 32 minutes of action. All ten of Korver’s shots came from beyond the arc, which is the norm as 84.1 percent of Korver’s shot attempts through Atlanta’s first-round series came from 3-point range. He’s currently the postseason leader in 3-pointers made (23) and attempted (58), and when he’s draining those trey-bombs, the Hawks becomes a very difficult team to beat. Through the their first-round playoff series, Korver put in averages of 15.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 block and an elite 3.8 three-pointers per game.
Horford and Millsap go to work
Al Horford and Paul Millsap continued their domination of Brooklyn’s weak interior defense, combining for 43 points (Millsap with 25, Horford with 18) on 59 percent shooting, while hauling in 16 rebounds (Millsap with 9, and Horford with 7). Millsap added two 3-pointers, six assists, two steals and two turnovers to his stat line, and the shoulder injury he had coming into the postseason looks like it will be a non-issue moving forward. He finished his first-round series with averages of 15.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 three-pointers, 1.2 blocks and an elite 2.2 steals per game, while Horford finished with averages of 14.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.2 blocks per game. Horford and Millsap have a much tougher matchup awaiting them in their second-round series against the Wizards, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep up their stellar play in round two.
Jeff Teague scores his number
One of the more intriguing stat lines of the night came from Jeff Teague, who finished the game scoreless, missing all five of his field goal attempts, but still managed to dictate Atlanta’s offense by handing out 13 assists to go with just one turnover. Teague was lauded after the game by both head coach Mike Budenholzer and teammate Kyle Korver for his ability to control the game without scoring, and it was Korver that summed up Teague’s performance best saying: ““I think it started with Jeff. I think his pressure on the ball was amazing. He got some steals and we got to get out and run. I don’t think Jeff scored a point tonight but his presence and his fingerprints were all over the game. I think this was one of the best games I’ve ever seen Jeff play.” Despite not scoring, Teague finished with a plus/minus rating of plus-27, his best rating of the series.
When a team plays as well as Atlanta did during Game 6, the stats from the opposing team are typically ugly, and that theory held true on Friday.
Brook Lopez was really the only guy in a Brooklyn uniform who was able to be effective, and he was one of the main reasons the Nets were able to stay in this series for six games. He finished Friday’s game with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting (5-of-5 from the stripe), to go with seven rebounds and a block over 35 minutes of action. Lopez actually started pretty strong, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the first quarter, but it was a steady decline after that, as he was limited to just one make per quarter after the opening 12 minutes.
On the bright side of things, Lopez finally had a relatively healthy season with the Nets this year, making it through 72 games to go along with averages of 17.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 81.4 percent from the charity stripe. Lopez is indeed an elite fantasy asset when he’s healthy, as he has the ability to score in the 20s very efficiently while swatting away shots at a semi-elite level, and hopefully he’s finally put his injury woes behind him. The surgery he had on his troublesome right foot during the offseason is the same one that “saved Zydrunas Ilgauskas' career,” so so far, so good on that front. His stock is fairly high now after having injuries derail two of his past three seasons, so it would make sense for him to opt out this summer with the chance of landing a max-level contract. The rumors floating around right now are that he’ll likely secure a max-offer from the Nets, but there’s a lot of time between now and free agency for those stories/rumors to change. If Brook does decide to opt out, and he isn’t retained by Brooklyn, Mason Plumlee would automatically be slotted into a much larger role with the team, and he’d suddenly become a relevant guy in standard leagues again. This is a lot of speculation, but let me just break down my thoughts on Brook real quick. For me, I’m not completely convinced he’s no longer an injury risk. Yes he made it through this season relatively unscathed, yes the surgery he had has worked magic for other players, yes he was a model of health through his first three years in the league; but I’m not going to just openly embrace those things and ignore the fact that he’s a 7-footer that had two seasons in recent memory derailed by injuries to his right foot. I’m going to be waiting another season before drafting him, as I can’t stand taking risks on injury-prone guys during the early-rounds. I really don’t care what the upside is if my fourth-rounder has a good chance of missing close to the entire season.
Lionell Hollins again played Joe Johnson heavy minutes, and the Armadillo Cowboy (don’t you love those random nicknames on basketball-reference.com?) finished with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, six assists, two 3-pointers and two steals over 36 minutes of action. Johnson will be on the books for roughly $25 million next season, and his numbers continue to trend in a direction that makes that fat contract look worse and worse. Joe seemed to get worn down more and more as the season went on, and his play bottomed out in the month of April when he posted averages of just 10.8 points, 4.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.1 three-pointers per game on 41.6 percent shooting from the field. Once a fantasy goldmine, Johnson is now clinging to low-end value in standard fantasy leagues, and he’s not a guy I will be targeting in any drafts next season.
The $43 Million Heist
Deron Williams wasn’t very impressive in his 27 minutes of action, offering just 13 points (5-of-10 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs), five rebounds, four assists, one 3-pointer and an unfortunate four turnovers. Careless turnovers were a major issue for Brooklyn during their Game 6 loss, and Williams’ four accounted for the most on the team. Injuries have hobbled him over the years, and Deron’s numbers have been on a steady decline over the past four seasons. In fact, during the 2014-15 season Williams posted his worst averages since his rookie year with 13.0 points, 6.6 assists, 1.3 three-pointers and 2.3 turnovers per game on a career-low 38.7 percent shooting from the field. One of Deron’s main issues is that a majority of his shots (54.3 percent of his shots to be exact) come with a defender within 0-4 feet of him. He’s just not getting separation from his defenders anymore, and that has resulted in a lot of missed shots. He’s also not stopping his man on the defensive end, allowing opponents to shoot 52.8 percent from the field. He’ll make roughly $43.3 million over the next two seasons, and he is another guy I will not be drafting in any scenario.
Thaddeus and the Reserves
Thaddeus Young ended his season on a low-note, scoring just seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, with six rebounds, three turnovers and a block. Young’s numbers were down across-the-board this season, and his poor free throw shooting, limited rebounding and lack of a 3-point shot really hurt his value. He’ll be a late-round selection with upside next season.
Jarrett Jack was the only other Net to hit double figures in the scoring department, although he did it inefficiently scoring 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, while adding seven rebounds, five assists, two 3-pointers and three turnovers through 27 minutes of action. Fellow reserve Alan Anderson who came into this one scorching fell off a cliff, finishing the game with just six points on 2-of-10 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block through 22 minutes.
Bojan Bogdanovic spent most of the game missing wide-open shots, but he still managed to play 33 minutes. Through those 33 minutes of action, Bogdanovic took nine shots and connected on just two of them, went to the free throw line five times and missed twice, and added just one 3-pointer, five rebounds, one assist and three turnovers to pair with his eight points. Bogdanovic had an up-and-down season with Brooklyn, fluctuating in-and-out of the starting lineup. He did, however, put together a nice stretch through the month of April in which he posted averages of 14.4 points and 2.2 three-pointers per game on 52.6 percent shooting from the field. The Rotoworld staff will be meticulously monitoring his development over the offseason, but he’ll need to improve in the defensive and play-making categories before he can be viewed as anything more than a 3-point specialist in deeper leagues. He did show flashes during his rookie season, but now it will be about doing those things consistently. Bogdanovic’s shot-chart from Friday night is a good representation of what Brooklyn looked like throughout the game.
Mason Plumlee was a non-factor through the Nets first-round series, much like he was a non-factor through the second-half of the season. Plumlee’s value next year will be largely tied to what happens to Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, but if those two remain in Brooklyn, the future is looking pretty grim for Plumlee.