I suspect neither team will be satisfied with their performance last night. Dirk Nowitzki missed a handful of open three-pointers, preventing the short-handed Mavericks (without Josh Howard and, for the last 27:35 of the game, Devin Harris) from ever taking control of the game.
It's a good win for an Atlanta team that figures to be an underdog in each of their next four games (@Detroit, @New Jersey, Phoenix, @Boston). It's especially good considering that:
- Josh Childress played a horrible game.
- Royal Ivey's departure did not prevent Mike Woodson from starting the worst available point guard.
- Josh Smith attempted four three-pointers (making none) and played abysmal defense in the second half.
- Mike Woodson either forgot that Al Horford is now playing in the NBA and it thus takes six personal fouls to disqualify him or does not yet recognize that Horford is a significantly better basketball player than Shelden Williams.
1. I called Childress the "epitome of efficiency" earlier this week and then he opens the campaign by shooting 1-6 from the floor with two turnovers in just 18:47. He did grab six offensive boards and showed that a Childress/Smith/Horford frontcourt can be quite effective on the glass.
2. Anthony Johnson played just 7:55, going 0-1 from the field with a turnover and three personal fouls but wasn't nearly as effective as his line would indicate. His missed shot came after an obvious, ineffective, and uncalled traveling violation, and, of the three Hawks point guards who utterly failed to slow Harris, Jason Terry, and Jose Juan Berea (They combined to go 17-27 from the floor and 10-14 from the line. 45 points in 56:09.) only Johnson failed to make back some of the lost ground on the offensive end. Tyronn Lue and Acie Law IV combined for 22 points (from 14 FGA and 4 FTA), 7 assists, and 2 turnovers in just over 40 minutes. Just let them split all the minutes at point guard.
3. The first ill-advised Josh Smith three-point attempt occurred four minutes and twelve seconds into the season. It stood out in an otherwise outstanding first quarter from Smith: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 turnovers. Over the last three quarters, he scored 9 more points (needing 9 FGA and 7 FTA to do so), grabbed five more rebounds, added no assists, no blocks, 1 steal, and turned the ball over four more times. He also spent the second half being exploited by Dallas's pick-and-roll and clearly not playing within the team's defensive concept. He flat-out ignored Acie Law IV and Marvin Williams in two separate incidents and put forth minimal effort throughout.
4. Horford was great last night. He may be the team's best player before the year's over. He's certainly the best big man already. For whatever reason, though, he spent the last eight-and-a-half minutes of the game on the bench. I don't have a problem with Woodson taking Horford out with 8:35 left in the game once he picked up his fifth foul unless he never puts him back in the game. Shelden Williams is a functional backup. Horford is a game-changer.
This roster may be good enough to expose Woodson's limitations as a coach. Sunday night's game at Detroit will be a tougher test than the home opener against a short-handed Dallas team. The players will have to play better than they did last night to get to 2-0. It probably won't matter how much better they play, though, if the best players aren't put the court.