It has become evident that the Atlanta Hawks have been the best team in the Eastern Conference this season and arguably the best team in the NBA. They continued to strengthen their stranglehold in the Eastern Conference, defeating the Sacramento Kings 130-105, in dominating fashion for their 50th win of the season.
Atlanta and Golden State became the first two teams to reach 50 wins this season.
After a surprising loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, and I’m using surprising as an understatement, the Atlanta Hawks bounced back setting a franchise record for most three-pointers in a single game with 20 made from long-range.
Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder, and Shelvin Mack all helped contribute to this long-range onslaught.
Atlanta moved the ball crisply–something we’ve quickly grown accustomed to–dishing out an NBA season-high 42 assists, making mince meat of the Kings. Their domination throughout the game resembled a game of NBA 2K rather than an actual NBA game.
Still don’t believe me? Atlanta recorded their 100th point of the game with just 3:50 left in the 3rd quarter.
Korver dealt the most damage from long-range hitting going 6-8 from deep, breaking out of a slump that has plagued him the previous four games played.
Korver, a healthy scratch against Philadelphia, was given the night off in hopes of breaking out of the shooting slump (17-54 3-PT after All-Star Break), and boy, did it help.
“Bud after the game the other night said, ‘I don’t want you to come here. Just take two days and go hang with your family and get away from basketball. Just get your head right.’ I didn’t touch a ball. I got a massage one day, got a lift in, saw a chiropractor, took care of my body. I didn’t touch a basketball,” Korver said after the game (per AJC.com)
In Korver’s previous four games played, he shot an abysmal 29.1% from deep, something we’re not accustomed to as he’s hovering near the 50% mark from three. Korver also failed to reach his average of three three-point makes per game in each of those four games.
Although, Atlanta won each of those four games with Korver’s struggles, the performance he put up against Sacramento showed us how dominant Atlanta can be when he’s firing on all cylinders. So is it safe to say this slump is already behind him?
In today’s NBA game, there has been an increased emphasis on three-point shooting. Possessing an elite three-point shooter has become a near-necessity for some teams but none may be as deadly as Kyle Korver.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Korver’s game, he wreaks most of his havoc coming off of ball screens, knocking down shots in catch-and-shoot opportunities. Korver leads the league in total catch-and-shoot points (50 points more than the closest player), catch-and-shoot field goals made and catch-and-shoot 3-PT field goals made.
Not to mention he’s also tops in most three-point shooting categories.
As mentioned before, the Atlanta Hawks recorded their 50th win, but going along with those 50 wins are only 13 losses. They hold a dominating 11-game lead over the 2nd place Cleveland Cavaliers and have already clinched a playoff spot.
Of those 13 losses, Atlanta has only lost four times when Korver shoots 50% from three. In the other nine losses, Korver has shot 40% or lower from three or failed to attempt a three-pointer.
Korver has been magnificent all season long and his numbers show it, playing at or above his career averages across the board. Although he has fallen off pace for the historic 50-50-90 season that us media darlings covet, he may be the most important Hawk going forward.
The regular season is quickly turning into an afterthought for these Hawks but they know the postseason is a different monster. The game slows down, half-court sets dominate the game and defense is as important as ever.
We know about Korver’s half-court offensive prowess, but his defense is an underrated aspect. It isn’t the sexiest part of his game, but Korver can hold his own. Holding a respectable defensive win share of 2.2, Korver is normally guarding the smallest offensive threat, indirectly causing them fits when Atlanta is on offense.
Chasing Korver off all those screens has to get tiring sooner or later.
Blink for a second, lose a step, and next thing you know, you’re chasing Korver off a bevy of screens. The second that step is lost; the possession is lost. Now you’re dealing with the possibility of a Korver three, or the Hawks moving the ball around like a game of hot potato.
Even when Korver is off, you still have to respect his game.
Atlanta has 19 games remaining in their schedule and has a high chance of setting a franchise record for wins in a season. The current record is 57 wins, set back in the 1993-94 season. Out of their next 19 opponents, 11 of their opponents hold are below the .500 mark.
Korver is just one cog to this well-oiled machine, which would take more than just one column to explain why everything works so well, but Al Horford can sum things up in just three words (per NBA.com):
“That’s Hawks basketball.”