The Atlanta Hawks are off to an 8-4 start, with five players averaging double-figuring scoring and a sixth, Marvin Williams, putting up 9.9 points per game. Aiming for their fourth straight playoff appearance with most of the same core, the Hawks are maturing as a unit, and much of the credit goes to improved ball movement and the diversity of the sets they are running under new coach Larry Drew.
In the past, Atlanta’s offense was a ton of screen-and-roll with Joe Johnson, along with isolations from Johnson and Jamal Crawford with Al Horford and Josh Smith using their athletic ability to make plays in transition and clean up on the offensive boards. But after two big Josh Smith jumpers from the right side during last night’s win at Indiana, it was a two-man pick-and-pop involving Crawford and Horford that caught my eye.
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1. Horford has the ball just outside and above the left elbow and hits Jamal Crawford, who is moving to meet the pass just inside the 3-point line. The weak side features Mike Bibby and Josh Smith setting up a staggered screen for Johnson to read and use, if necessary, depending on where Crawford goes with the ball.
2. Crawford chooses to use the Horford screen and attack the middle with the dribble. Brandon Rush gets caught on the screen, which forces Solomon Jones to step up and help. This creates a lot of room for Horford to work with, as three defenders are staying home with Bibby, Johnson and Smith.
3. Crawford turns the corner and has created a great downhill angle to the lane. With T.J. Ford, James Posey and Jones in his sight line — with Rush chasing — he knows he will have choices when he gets below the free throw line. The Hawks spacing on the right side is not perfect, but because there are three of them, it makes life easy for Horford on the opposite side.
4. Crawford leaves his feet and at the same time has drawn four Indiana defenders into the paint off of a simple ball screen from Horford. Though Horford could be closer to the hoop, he chooses a spot in his comfort zone where the defense will have no chance to challenge him. Notice his feet are set and his hands are out — textbook work as he is presenting himself as the clear No. 1 target for Crawford.
5. Horford receives the perfect pass from Crawford, and there is not one Pacer outside the lane on the left side of the court. Josh Smith immediately drops down the right block to be in position for an offensive rebound and Bibby and Johnson stay on the perimeter so they are sure to be back defensively in case of a long rebound.
6. Horford releases the shot without a problem, as Jones barely makes it out of the lane in an attempt to challenge. Using Horford in this fashion is proving to be beneficial for the Hawks, as he is averaging over 17 points per game in just over 31 minutes per night.