Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bulls 90 Hawks 78



Mike Woodson:
"Our offense tonight was just atrocious. I don't know what we were doing."
I guess it's good to know that Anthony Johnson's Mark Jackson impression wasn't part of the game plan.

On the other hand, the Hawks' inability to get the ball to Joe Johnson consistently is indicative of a larger problem. If Scott Skiles is going to forgo size and strength in favor of effort, it's incumbent upon the other team to take advantage. The other team's coach is creating a mismatch in your favor. This is a good thing.

Granted, Kirk Hinirch and Chris Duhon are both above average defensive guards. When matched up with other point guards, that is. Giving the ball to your bigger, stronger, more talented player that they're taking turns guarding will be more to your advantage the more often you do it. Too often, though, the effort that Hinrich and Duhon put into denying Johnson the ball was sufficient to discourage the Hawks from taking the path of least resistance.

Amplifying the frustration, Johnson didn't struggle on the occasions he received the ball (21 points on 18 shots, 5 assists against a single turnover) despite being Atlanta's only offensive threat until Salim Stoudamire entered the game with the Hawks down 21 and 10:17 left to play.

The team's problems run deep and one can't be sure whether it's down primarily to lack of talent (as a collective), a lack of understanding how best to take advantage of their talent, or a lack of good coaching. The bench leads one to choose the first of those, the offensive execution and defensive rebounding failure last night (save Al Horford) suggest the second, and the following quote from Mike Woodson suggests the third:
"I was pretty pleased with our defense.”
Assuming that statement's been reported accurately and didn't conclude with " the first quarter," one has to wonder what game Woodson watched. The Bulls scored 21 points in the second quarter despite missing a number of open jump shots and generally chucking the ball around due more to their ongoing implosion than the influence of the Hawks defense.

The Bulls then scored 56 points in second half. More damningly, the Hawks allowed 54 points in the first 20:24 of the second half, at which point the Bulls were so far ahead that Skiles called off the dogs.

This is not so different from holding the Timberwolves to 24 points in one half (Good) but allowing them 63 in the other half (Awful). Being "pretty pleased" with this level of performance against the worst (Chicago) and 10th-worst (Minnesota) offenses in the NBA is accepting mediocrity as the standard.

I like Sekou Smith and think he does a good job at a largely thankless task, but, as the lone media presence consistently around the team, his optimism further insulates an organization unwilling and/or unable to deal with their deficiencies. In the game story, Woodson's comment about the defense goes unchallenged. In his notes column, Smith writes something which further demonstrates either that he's got more rah-rah in him than I have in me or documents the existence of a fundamentally flawed team culture:
"Not only has Law missed games against Minnesota and Chicago on this trip, he's also missed valuable practice and bonding time with his teammates.”

(emphasis mine)
My guess is that brotherhood and camaraderie follow good shot selection, defensive rebounding, and defense rather than vice versa. Either way, I seriously doubt that they are of equal value to a basketball team. This may be a minority opinion.

NOTE: Gameflow links have been added to the recaps of the Miami and Minnesota games.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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