Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce coaches up Jeremy Lin against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half in a NBA basketball game at State Farm Arena on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Turnovers: Hawks learning to play in a crowd

The Hawks have a turnover problem.

Lloyd Pierce knows it, understands it and is working to solve it. Sometimes, it leaves the head coach at a loss for answers.

The Hawks commit an NBA-worst 18.9 turnovers per game. That’s 2.9 more than the Suns, second worst at 16.0 per game. 

“With each guy, it’s almost the same,” Pierce said before the Hawks lost to the Bucks Sunday afternoon. “Generally speaking, it’s playing in a crowd. When you play in a crowd, bad things happen. Simple play is the term we use, make the simple play. You see a crowd, get off the basketball. Don’t attack the crowd. You’ve drawn the crowd, now get off the basketball. Let someone else attack where there no longer is a crowd.”

The Hawks went out in that 133-114 loss and committed 24 turnovers that led to a staggering 36 Bucks points.

“With the guards, Trae (Young) and Jeremy (Lin), they are downhill a lot,” Pierce added prior to the game. “It’s trying to figure out how to get downhill versus when you do attack and the crowd converges. Where are the reads? Some of them are just unexplainable. I can’t put it any other way. I don’t think some of them are malicious. Some of them are just part of the game when we try to play fast some times or we just have a mental breakdown here and there.”

Young is fourth in the NBA with an average of 4.0 turnovers per game. The rookie has the ball in his hands a great deal of the time. He is tasked with carrying out Pierce’s plan of getting to the basket. Pierce repeated his mantra: “We like the 3. We love the rim.” He noted the Hawks are tops in the league in shots at the rim. It’s when an attacking player draws the crowd that the right play must be made.

“It’s definitely a reoccurring problem,” rookie shooting guard Kevin Huerter said. “I like to think guys are just trying to make plays but we get a little careless with the ball in some possessions.

“We have a lot of bigs who can jump. A lot of times our guards, including myself, are trying to throw it low where it’s tough for them to go get it. We’ve just got to throw it up and let them go catch it.”

In the Hawks’ 43 games this season, they have committed 20 or more turnovers 16 times.

“We play really fast and I think that’s a reason why we turn the ball over so much,” Young said. “We have to work on going fast but being under control. I think that is something that we as a team can get better at and me, for sure, as well.”

Pierce insists the Hawks are getting better of reacting with the ball in a crowd. It has been studied. It has been addressed. There have been times when the results have been positive.

And then sometimes …

“There is a lot of turnovers that occur that there is no rhyme or reason for and I can’t give you an answer,” Pierce said. “I have no idea what happens sometimes.”

Pierce said he addressed the turnover issue with the team on Monday in a lengthy film session before practice.

Offensive efficiency is an important stat for the Hawks, a formula that includes field goals attempted, offensive rebounds, turnovers and free throws. On Nov. 30, Pierce said the team made offensive rebounding a point of emphasis. Since then, added by the return of John Collins, the Hawks are No. 1 in the league in the category.

Pierce marked Jan. 14 as the day turnovers became a point of emphasis to better the team’s offensive efficiency.

“We are going to pay a lot of attention to that area,” Pierce said.

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