Atlanta played one good defensive half. Not that Seattle’s 31 first half points were purely down to Atlanta’s defense. The Sonics missed a number of open jump shots. But jump shots are never quite as open after you get (or watch a teammate get) a couple of them blocked. Josh Smith blocked two jump shots early in the game. There’s little I enjoy more than a blocked jump shot. My irrational exuberance for them balanced my rational frustration with the four jump shots Smith attempted in the opening quarter.
With Seattle unable to put pressure on the Hawks’ offense, Atlanta cruised to 21-point first half lead. Marvin Williams had little trouble getting open and knocking down those open looks. A relatively lively Zaza Pachulia helped the cause as well. He didn’t provide anywhere near the production typical of his first two seasons with the Hawks but even grabbing his share of defensive rebounds puts him well ahead of what Shelden Williams, Solomon Jones, and Lorenzen Wright have managed recently.
In the second half it appeared as if someone on the Seattle bench remembered that Atlanta can’t stop opposing point guards off the dribble. Both Earl Watson and Luke Ridnour created easy shots for themselves (13 points on 6-10 FGA and 1-2 FTA) and their teammates (4 assists and 1 turnover). That's not a massive performance but it did go most of the way toward equaling the entire Seattle team's first half output.
The Hawks were never really (despite Steve Smith’s worries) in danger of blowing the 19-point lead with which they opened the fourth quarter. Still, the offense was again half-court bound and horrible. At the point Seattle committed their first intentional foul, down 9 with 49.4 seconds left, Atlanta had scored but 15 points in the fourth quarter.
It was the same thing we’ve seen so many times before. The team was inexplicably reluctant to attack off of Seattle’s missed shots. The offense compounds this tactical error (Is this a conscious decision not to push the ball up the court in the fourth quarter?) by walking the ball up the court, taking their sweet time to initiate a half-court offense which seems to this viewer to feature ball and player movement which is even less frequent and synchronized than normal.
If this team is going to win consistently they will have to build insurmountable leads through the first three quarters to prevent them from beating themselves in the final quarter.
In deference to the victory, brevity, and pity, I choose to not discuss Mike Woodson’s inability to decide which five players he wanted on the court for a defensive possession up 9 with 90 seconds left in the game and his petulance upon being compelled to follow the league’s rules regarding substitutions.
Below, I add a new feature to the game recap, one that I hope will disguise my inability (most times) to write a stirring concluding paragraph. Thus presenting, the Josh Smith Jump Shot Log.
Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
January 25, 2008 @ Seattle