After losing Al Horford to a season-ending injury, Atlanta Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer turned that incident into an inspiring brand of basketball.
Without their All-star center, the Hawks will have no choice but to go small. The predicament isn’t new to Mike after being an assistant coach to Greg Popovich in San Antonio for over 17 years, and four NBA championships. If life gives you lemons, Mike simply made special lemonades.
Their team barely got into the NBA playoffs, winning only 38 games and had some close battles against New York, before sealing off the eight playoff spot. However, they are now leading the number one seeded, Indiana (3-2) in the first round.
In a game of chess match, Mike strategy is to disrupt Indiana’s pattern defensively and hope that it would take away their momentum. Indiana has become a powerhouse in the East and has become the NBA’s most defensive team giving an average of only 95.5 points against opposing team. But Atlanta figured it out to beat them.
What Mike did, was to extend Indiana’s defense by putting on small and long range shooting big men. Pero Antic, Mike Scott, Paul Millsap and Elton Brand can shoot way above the perimeter, just enough for Roy Hibbert to extend his defense. The Atlanta bigs are also tough defenders in the post.
Aggressive defensive plays, good ball movement, roster who can shoot jumpers and a perfect system – a good equation for an upset.
Frank Vogel is in a situation of either benching his all-star center (Roy Hibbert) or continue to play him, hoping he could get out of that slump he is into. It’s a bit different from what the Pacers are used to. Their strength comes from being big and physical and now the Hawks are spreading them out with perimeter shooters.
This is not luck or coincidence, Mike Budenholzer has done his homework. He worked as a Spurs video coordinator for two years before being an assistant coach, which means, Mike is spending more time in the visual room trying to look for loopholes and studying every plays Indiana has.
Exactly last year on the first round, Atlanta was eliminated by Indiana in the first round. Now, redemption is just a win away.
Ironically, the Pacers uniform is colored yellow like a lemon.
What did I tell you about lemons and Mike?