Are the Atlanta Hawks Still a Serious NBA Title Threat?
The Atlanta Hawks are no strangers to this.
That is to be locked up in a 2-2 series featuring a 1 seed coming off of a dominating regular season run.
It's where they were last year, though on the opposite end of things. Rather than stealing two wins in the first four games against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers like they did last year, they've been the victim of two 8 seed wins, courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets.
Does this first round fight with Brooklyn really jeopardize the Hawks' standing as the top team in the Eastern Conference?
Survive and Advance
There's no reason to point fingers, and that's not where this is headed. But it's fair to ask whether the Nets are playing better than they did in the regular season or if the Hawks are merely struggling.
That answer is yes.
The Nets, through four games, own a Net Rating (Offensive Rating minus Defensive Rating) of 0.3 (naturally, the Hawks' is -0.3.
In the regular season, the Hawks owned a Net Rating of 5.8, which ranked fourth among all playoff teams. The Nets' Net Rating of -3.0 was the only sub-zero Net Rating in the playoffs.
The 6.1-point drop in Net Rating for the Hawks is actually only the seventh-biggest decline in the playoffs (Toronto's Net Rating dropped from 3.3 in the regular season to -14.4 in the postseason against the Wizards).
The main issue with the Hawks has been that their Offensive Rating has dipped from 108.9 in the regular season to just 102.3 against the Nets, whose regular season mark of 107.4 ranked 15th among all playoff teams and 23rd in the NBA.
Simply put, the Nets' 23rd-ranked defense has slowed the league's sixth-best offense and are holding them to just an offensive Rating of 102.3, 12th in the playoffs.
Can Atlanta overcome it?
In order for the Hawks to play for the title, of course, they have to get past the Nets, something few people thought would be an issue. In fact, our algorithms suggested they had a 80.45 percent chance to top the Nets.
How far have those odds dropped?
Not that drastically, all things considered. The Hawks have just shy of a 75 percent chance to finish off the Nets, according to our algorithms, despite now being in a best-of-three series from here on out.
So, the Nets might not be the knockout blow for Atlanta, but how have these struggles -- and the rest of the series in the East and West -- impacted their chances to win the NBA Championship?
From Contender to Pretender?
Entering the postseason, the Hawks, understandably, had the best title odds in the East, according to our math. Their odds sat at 11.70 percent. (That says everything you need to know about the Western Conference -- and the Golden State Warriors, who entered the postseason with a 37.7 percent chance to claim the crown.)
Do the Hawks still have the best shot at winning the Finals among teams in the East?
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Yes, but it's pretty close now, as the Hawks' odds sit at just 9.4 percent. They own the second-best odds to win it all in the league still, so panicking about the first round might not be warranted.
However, the Golden State buzzsaw owns a 48.5 percent chance to win it all.
As for the East, the Cavaliers are looking at a postseason sans Kevin Love, which may not have a drastic effect on the playoff race. The Bulls are locking horns with the Bucks -- does that happen in nature? -- but still have the third-best title odds in the Conference. Washington is getting some serious help from Bradley Beal and some contributions from Otto Porter yet remain an underdog to win the East.
All things considered, the East still belongs to the Hawks.