One of the reasons I rarely write game previews is that when I am invariably wrong about things, I tend to write the game recap in terms of my misguided assumptions about the game I watched rather than simply in terms of the game I watched.
Yesterday, though, I was right. The pace at which the Nuggets played made it easier for Atlanta to get the transition opportunities they need to increase their offensive efficiency. Atlanta was so successful playing at Denver's preferred pace that Denver made a concerted effort to slow the game down in the second half.
|Half||Poss||Den OE||Atl OE|
(NOTE: Possessions are estimated. OE = Offensive Efficiency = Points per 100 posssessions)
Slowing the game down helped Denver significantly but they were too far behind for it to make a difference in the game's outcome.
Denver fell so far behind in no small part due to Anthony Johnson's fine defense on Allen Iverson. Iverson still had a productive game (before getting tossed) but Johnson, for the most part, forced Iverson into scoring with his jumper. For a team that has had terrible problems keeping opposing guards from breaking them down off the dribble, I think this is as significant a lesson to take from this game as yet another example of how much more successful the Hawks are in transition as opposed to their half-court offense.
He didn't shoot much better but Acie Law IV had an encouraging night. Mike Woodson used the Law/Tyronn Lue backcourt for a long stretch in the first half. To his credit, it worked. The Hawks were +6 over 7 minutes and 22 seconds. Woodson tried it again in the second half and it didn't work: -4 over 5 minutes and 2 seconds.
Being at the game really helped highlight how uncomfortable Acie Law is playing off the ball. On the (too many) possessions where Lue was the primary ball-handler in the half-court, Law would follow him around the perimeter asking for the ball. Law doesn't know how to play off the ball. I still fail to see what advantage Lue (who could convert some of the open jump shots Law's dribble penetration would create for him) possesses over Law as a primary ball-handler when they share the court.
Law was +7 in the 9 minutes and 31 seconds he was the sole point guard on the court for the Hawks.
The Hawks get a very different challenge in the second-half of their back-to-back tonight in Milwaukee. If the Hawks feel the effects of last night's game and the trip to Milwaukee it could easily degenerate into a half-court game. The Bucks don't want to run and they don't want to let the Hawks run. The saving grace should that scenario come to pass is that even if they fail to play to their strengths, Atlanta has the ability to grind out a win in Milwaukee. Granted, that has much to do with the Bucks who are just as inefficient offensively as the Hawks but nowhere near as good defensively.