Like a good neighbor, the friendly rims at State Farm Arena will be there for the Hawks.
Coming off a dreadful shooting second half in a loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in Game 2 of their playoff series, the Hawks are hoping that a return home Friday — combined with a more aggressive offensive philosophy — will solve what otherwise could become a series-defining issue.
“All you’ve heard about for the last week is how great and how loud MSG is, how crazy their fans are, how it’s great to have New York basketball back,” Hawks guard Kevin Huerter said. “Blah, blah, blah. We are ready to get back in front of our fans and hear them and flip the script a little bit.”
The clearest path to a reversal is to make more shots.
The Hawks shoot 47.5 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from 3-point range at home, compared to 46 percent and 36.2 percent on the road. As their 13-point second-half lead evaporated in Game 2 on Wednesday, the Hawks shot 27.5 percent from the floor and 15.8 percent (3-for-19) from 3-point range.
Kevin Huerter said he expects the Hawks fans to be a factor in Game 3 against the Knicks. NBAE via Getty Images
“Some of those 3s in the second half, I thought we settled,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “But we got good looks in the first half and we shot a higher percentage. The second half, when we got some good looks, we didn’t knock down those shots. I expect those guys to knock down the shots.”
The Hawks won their final 10 regular-season home games to clinch their first playoff berth since 2017, and their arena will be at full capacity (21,000) for the first time since COVID-19 limitations went into place.
What kind of difference can that make? Consider how Knicks fans got louder with every defensive stop created by the Hawks’ misfiring at the Garden.
“It doesn’t guarantee you anything,” McMillan said. “You have to play the game. You have to take the energy and feed off it like New York did. Their building was loud. We controlled the first half of the game [Wednesday]. The second half, they came out and were the team that played with more urgency. Their crowd got behind them, and they were able to get back into the game.”
Trae Young did his part with back-to-back 30-point games in the two contests at the Garden, but Bogdan Bogdanovic, Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari and Huerter all shoot at least 3 percent better from the floor at home than they do on the road. And that supporting cast missed plenty of open looks when Young was on the bench and the Knicks were rallying in Game 2.
“I think we’re a really, really good shooting team when we make the defense work and we get multiple touches and kickout 3s,” Huerter said. “Our possessions in the second half were a little too quick. I think we settled a lot. That was something we saw on film. We can get better shots. We’re going to take a lot of 3s — and we’re OK with taking a lot of 3s — but they have to be the right 3s.”