Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nuggets 107 Hawks 100



With 5:27 remaining in the game Josh Smith made a layup to pull the Hawks within eight points. In a vacuum, not the most exciting moment ever described, but Atlanta had spotted Denver a 17-point lead in the first half (for details on that debacle, keep reading) and looked likely to contest the game to the horn.

Smith was almost certainly fouled on the play. Smith almost certainly would have gotten the foul call had he not fumbled the pass, dribbled the ball underneath his feet thus throwing himself off balance, and then struggled to control the ball on the way up. The play looked bad long before there was contact. Had Smith been in full control of his own limbs, the foul would have been easier for the official to see and call. It was a missed call but it's understandable why it was missed.

Smith's reaction to the no-call was demonstrative (and not the first time last night that he took time to complain to an official before running back on defense) and he received a technical foul. Counter-productive behavior to be sure, but forgivable. This Hawks team must rely on effort to paper over the areas in which they lack skill.

Truly damaging (even if one were reasonably to argue that it didn't influence the outcome of the game last night) and unforgivable was Mike Woodson receiving a technical foul while the free throw for Smith's technical was being administrated. Woodson co-signed Smith's rash behavior, a decision which could well go beyond the extra point he chose to give Denver in the fourth quarter.

Woodson's petulance is of a piece to his reaction to the Miami Heat's protest being upheld: that decision is unfair to the Hawks nevermind that the Hawks' scorers unfairly fouled Shaquille O'Neal out of that game. Granted, there is likely a significant amount of stress from being a (probably) lame duck head coach of an NBA team. Woodson just doesn't deal with it very well. That can't help the team. Especially considering he doesn't coach the team very well to begin with.

The Hawks fell so far behind in part because Al Horford sat for 7:38 across the first and second quarters during which time Denver outscored Atlanta 20-6. Horford sat for another 6:59 in the second half after picking up his fourth foul. The Hawks were outscored 22-18 during that stretch. Horford had a great game when Woodson thought to include him: 14 points (6-8 FGA, 2-5 FTA), 11 rebounds (5 offensive), 5 steals, 2 assists, 1 block, and 0 turnovers. He only played 29:07. He did not foul out. He never picked up a fifth foul.

The other rookie, Acie Law IV, was rewarded for his good game against Portland on Monday with two two-minute stretches of playing time. Law didn't play well but how can he be expected to with such a short leash. Jerking him around like that may be worse for his confidence than sticking him next to Mario West and indulging in one's veteran point guard fetish. To be fair, Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue both played decent games by their standards. Ultimately, it makes little sense to try and play three point guards in an injury- and ejection-free regulation NBA game.

Atlanta's offense was dreadful in the first half, especially late in the first quarter. The Hawks opened the game with a Josh Smith dunk, a Smith layup, and an Anthony Johnson transition dunk in their first five shot attempts. They made only 4 of their remaining 21 field goal attempts in the quarter. Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Josh Childress combined to miss 9 of those 21 attempts. That would make it difficult for the Hawks to score in the best of circumstances. When Josh Smith chips in by missing 3 jump shots in the quarter (To recap, in the first quarter, Smith on dunks and layup: 2-2 from the field, fouled twice, 3-3 from the line; Smith shooting jump shots: 0-3.) and Shelden Williams and Solomon Jones combine for three missed jump shots (None of which were emergency end of shot clock shots, they just felt like shooting some jumpers.), it's damn near impossible.

But giving away all those potential points isn't enough get Woodson as worked up as the opportunity to give Allen Iverson two free throws to put Denver up 10 as a protest of the absence of the seven-tenths chance that Josh Smith made a free throw to cut Denver's lead to seven.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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