The Hawks were competitive losers on the road for the second game in a row suffering again from the players' immaturity and the head coach's inability to keep his best players on the floor and matched up against players they can guard.
Despite those problems the Hawks were within 3 in the final minute and played good half-court defense for 19 seconds on the game's climactic possession. Josh Childress and Josh Smith forced Richard Jefferson to give the ball up to Antoine Wright, stationed behind the three-point stripe on the left wing, with 5 seconds left on the shot clock. Wright (a 29.7% career three-point shooter) faked a three-point attempt, Josh Smith (so talented he can post a 5x4 and still leave you ruing his untapped potential) flew past Wright and into the Hawks's bench, Wright drove to the basket, Acie Law IV lamely swiped at Wright's dribble but stayed with Kidd on the baseline, Childress stayed with Jefferson at the top of the key, Vince Carter screened Joe Johnson, Jason Collins held Al Horford, and Wright made an uncontested layup to put New Jersey up 5 with 15.8 seconds left.
The Hawks were fighting back after a disastrous third quarter stretch where the Nets outscored them 22-6. Not coincidentally, the Nets run began once Lawrence Frank replaced an obviously physically limited Nenad Krstic with Antoine Wright. New Jersey's Kidd/Carter/Jefferson/Wright/Collins lineup really exposed Marvin Williams's difficulty guarding players who can put the ball on the floor (Why he spent the two-plus quarters guarding Jefferson when two of Collins, Krstic, and Nachbar were on the floor is something only Mike Woodson knows.) and Al Horford's inability to anticipate where his help defense needs to come from.
This is never going to be a good defensive team so it's imperative that Woodson limit each player's exposure. Josh Smith is going to leave his man and run toward the ball anyway. Why not put him on someone who will have the ball in his hands a fair amount of the time? It would challenge him and maintain some semblance of a team defensive concept.
That there weren't that many Nets that Marvin Williams could successfully guard makes it all the more frustrating that Woodson, for the second time in three games, effectively let a player be disqualified from the game after picking up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter. Williams had another effective night offensively, both scoring efficiently and improving the team's spacing in the half-court. Woodson had to anticipate that the Nets would go small again down the stretch and thus limit Williams's effectiveness. So why not leave him on the floor while Nachbar and Jamaal Magliore are out there and try and get a couple more buckets before he either fouls out or Frank puts his most effective five back on the floor?
Equally frustrating is Woodson's continued distrust of Acie Law IV. Law left a tie game in the third quarter. Tyronn Lue played the next 16:44, going 0-6 from the floor with 3 assists and 2 turnovers while Hawks fell behind by as many as 14 points. Lue looked fine matched up against Darrell Armstrong (-4 in 13:43, though that includes a +2 stretch at the end of the third quarter when he was lucky enough to be on the court at the same time that Woodson broke out the Lue/Law/Mario West combination). Again, Lue is a fine backup point guard but he is overmatched against good NBA point guards. There is no reason to play him against Chauncey Billups or Jason Kidd for extended periods of the fourth quarter. Yes, Acie Law is going to make mistakes. He's also the only guy on the roster with the chance of becoming an average or better point guard.
Why do I have the feeling that Zaza Pachulia's return to the active roster will affect Al Horford more than Shelden Williams?