Nets-Hawks Stats Preview
By Brian Martin
With the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks set to tip of the NBA's 147th game outside the United States, we take a closer look at the numbers to better understand these two teams before they head overseas.
[Statistics through Jan. 10, 2014]
New Year, New Nets
Expectations went through the roof when the Brooklyn Nets acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko during the offseason. Matching those veteran players with existing All-Stars Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson had the Nets in the discussion as a potential threat to the defending champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
Then the season started. And the losses came. And kept coming.
The first month of the season saw losing streaks of five and three games and a 5-12 record by the end of November. Things didn't get much better in December. While the Nets had their first winning streak of the season (three games), they had a four-game losing streak and finished the month at 5-9 (10-21 overall).
Then the calendar flipped to 2014. And the wins came. And kept coming.
The Nets have won their first four games of the new year, with victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder (25-6 entering the game) and the Golden State Warriors (24-13 and riding a 10-game win streak entering the game).
The key has come on the defensive end, where the Nets are allowing 9.3 fewer points per 100 possessions over the last four games compared to what they did before the new year.
The other notable stat to the Nets' winning streak is no ties. Not on the scoreboard, but the ones worn around the neck of most NBA head coaches. Nets coach Jason Kidd has gone without a tie since the start of the new year, and the Nets have yet to lose. Coincidence? Superstition?
Joe Johnson, the new Mr. Clutch
Two of the Nets' 14 wins have come courtesy of game-winning shots by Joe Johnson, who has had a knack for clutch shooting since joining the Nets last season.
The first came on Nov. 15 in Phoenix as Johnson grabbed a loose ball rebound, dribbled the length of the court in the closing seconds and hit the game-winning floater over Channing Frye as the buzzer sounded to end overtime and the game.
Johnson struck again on Jan. 2 to get the Nets' current winning streak started. Despite struggling with his shot all night (3-of-10 overall, 1-of-6 from three), the play was drawn up for Iso Joe, who went one-on-one at the top of the key with Serge Ibaka. He faked a drive to the left, crossed over back to his right and hit a high-arching fadeaway jumper over Ibaka's outstretched hand that found the bottom of the net at the clock hit 0.0.
Since the start of last season, Joe Johnson has a league-leading 5 Game-Winning shots in the last 10secs of the 4thQ or OT (via ELIAS)— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) January 3, 2014
Since the start of last season, Joe Johnson in the clutch: Last 30secs, margin +/- 3pts: 11/14 FGAs Last 10secs, +/-3pts: 6/6 FGAs— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) January 3, 2014
The Importance of Kirilenko
A look at Andrei Kirilenko's season averages don't leave much of an impression: 14.7 minutes, 6.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists. But the Nets' record when he plays does: 6 wins, 3 losses.
Kirilenko has been fighting back spasms all season long. He tried to come back early in the season but lasted just four games before going down again and missing the next six weeks. He returned on New Year's Eve and has played in five straight games, including the Nets' current winning streak.
The return of Kirilenko to the lineup is huge for Brooklyn moving forward, especially with other key players going down with injuries.
Unfortunately, injuries have been an all too common storyline around the NBA this season and the Nets and Hawks have both been hit by the injury bug in big ways.
For the Nets, it was Lopez going down with the broken right foot against the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 20. The All-Star center underwent surgery on Jan. 4 that officially ended his 2013-14 season and left the Nets without his 20.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks each night.
In addition to losing Lopez for the year and having to wait for Kirilenko to overcome back spasms, the Nets have also had to deal with the ailing ankles of point guard Deron Williams, who is slated to miss the next two games and potentially the trip to London.
The potential starting five of Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Lopez played only 89 minutes together this season. For comparison, the East-leading Indiana Pacers have had their starting five together for 615 minutes.
But the Nets weren't the only team to lose an All-Star big man. The Hawks will be without Al Horford for the remainder of the regular season after he tore his right pectoral muscle while reaching for the ball during the Hawks' Dec. 26 win over Cleveland.
Horford was having another All-Star caliber season, averaging 18.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 blocks in 29 games this season. The Hawks have gone 3-4 since he was injured. Rookie Pero Antic has moved into the starting lineup, but can't be expected to match the production of Horford, who was one of just six players leading his team in both points and rebounds. The others are Miami's LeBron James, Minnesota's Kevin Love, New York's Carmelo Anthony, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins.
Jeff Teague's strong season
With Horford out of the lineup for Atlanta, that shifts more focus onto the likes of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and Paul Milsap to carry the load and keep the Hawks in playoff position. Atlanta is currently in third place in the Eastern Conference, one of only three teams (Miami and Indiana being the others) with a winning record at 19-17.
Teague is currently averaging career-highs across the board -- scoring (16.9), assists (8.0), rebounds (2.8) and minutes (33.5). But his shooting percentages -- 42.0% from the field, 26.5% from three -- are at their lowest since his rookie season in 2009-10.
"He's having a terrific season and carrying the load now even more that Horford is out," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. " And I know he is the focal point of our game plan every time we play these guys."
If you follow the NBA on Twitter, then you're likely familiar with the hashtag #KyleStreak. It has popped up on the social media site every time the Hawks play, because every time the Hawks play, Kyle Korver hits a 3-pointer.
As in 105 consecutive games and counting. Korver broke the NBA-record streak of 89 consecutive game with the 3-pointer made held by Dana Barros last month and continues to extend the mark every time he steps on the court for the Hawks.
The sharpshooter is having the best shooting season of his 11-year NBA career -- posting a 67.0 True Shooting Percentage, second only to LeBron James (67.1) by the slimmest of margins. True Shooting Percentage calculates shooting percentage adjusting for the value of free throws and three-point field goals. If you look at his traditional shooting stats, he's hitting a career-best 49.5% from the field, 47.3% from three and 90.0% from the free throw line.
His 47.3% from 3-point range is good for third in the league behind San Antonio's Marco Belinelli (50.4%) and Golden State's Andre Iguodala (47.6%). And while those percentages are admirable, Belinelli (61 3FGM) and Iguodala (39 3FGM) have combined to make 100 threes this season. Korver has hit 89 by himself.
Check out all of the green on Korver's shot chart. The only blemish comes in the right corner, where he is hitting 41% (11-of-27), which is comparable with the league average. Korver is well above league average in every other zone.