Hawks finding the right opportunities to take 3-point shots

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a misconception that Hawks coach Nate McMillan doesn’t want his players to take a lot of 3-point shots.

McMillan loves 3-pointers – when they are attempted at the right time. Throughout this season, McMillan has said often that he wants his team to make defenses work. He wants his team to use a mix of aggression, as well as patience to find the right look.

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Throughout the season, McMillan has said he wants his team to go to its third, fourth or deeper options when setting up the offense. He reiterated that in January when the Hawks went on a five-game win streak.

Since Jan. 4, the Hawks have shot the ball more consistently than in the early days of the season. Though they still rank toward the bottom of the NBA in attempts per game (29.4), they’re second in the league in 3-point efficiency (39.1) over the past 15 games.

“We’re shooting higher percentage shots,” McMillan said Jan. 19. “You know, ball movement is something we’ve talked about all season long. And you have to have that, especially, I think now, teams are playing better basketball. They’re going to take away your first, your second option, and if you’re getting into your third (or) fourth option, normally, you’re gonna get a pretty good look.

“We’ve shown better patience in the last few games. I think we’re doing a better job of attacking the basket, not settling on the perimeter for the really the first decent shot. We’re working to get better shots, and we’re shooting at a higher percentage.”

Of course, progress isn’t linear, and the Hawks have had some setbacks. However, they’ve shot under 30% on 3-pointers only twice, while making over 35% of their attempts in 10 contests over the past 15 games.

During Wednesday‘s win over the Suns, the Hawks made 19 shots from long range, with 10 players making at least one attempt. Many of them came as the best shot during the particular offensive possession. And the 19 came on only 33 attempts – a more than efficient 58% that possibly illustrates the coach’s “right time” philosophy.

ExploreHawks knock down season-high 19 3s to scorch Suns

Following their win Wednesday, Hawks guard Dejounte Murray said he and the other ballhandlers did a better job of making the right reads.

“Not getting too deep,” Murray said. “Whoever was the ballhandler and attacking the paint, getting down low, they (were) able to kick it out, right on time. And then if they close out on one guy making that, good to great pass, and we shot it with confidence and (were) knocking them down.”

Murray said he told Trae Young, who has made 37% of his 3s since Jan. 4, that the team has to take more 3-point attempts and do so with confidence. Of course, he and Young will look to make the right reads because they know that it will open up the game.

“I think just taking them with confidence. Me and Trae (were) actually talking at the end, like, ‘We got to take more 3s, but we got to shoot them, whether we make or miss them,’ but obviously you shoot them with confidence,” Murray said after Wednesday’s win.

“You shoot how you work out, all the work we put in. It just opens the game up, obviously, if you’re making 3s, and it just opens literally everything up. So, we played a great game. I think we executed the defensive end, taking away a lot of 3s, no dare shots, like I told you. That’s really what it is, and we had a great game.”

On Friday when they face the Jazz, they’ll look to find the right moments again. In November, the Jazz lit up the Hawks for 17 3-pointers. The Hawks made only eight, as they struggled to get their legs under them.

The Hawks are shooting better now, and they’re eager to carry that momentum into Friday’s game.

“The energy is good. I’m a big person on keeping the same energy, whether you win or lose games, but obviously, the wins, they’re better than losses,” Murray said of the energy in the locker room Wednesday. “So, it’s good to see everybody’s energy up, and these type of wins could be really good for a team. So, hopefully we can get to Utah and get a great win.”