Monday, January 14, 2008

Wizards 102 Hawks 98 (OT)



The Hawks woke up Friday morning at 16-16. By midnight they were 15-17. The win was (at least temporarily) taken away due to organizational incompetence. The added loss was due to...organizational incompetence. Put simply, the Hawks cannot consistently create good shots in the half-court due to a combination of poor roster construction and sub-optimal utilization of the useful players at Mike Woodson’s disposal. Until the Hawks figure out a way either to create more transition opportunities or re-vamp their half-court attack, their very real competence defensively and on the offensive and defensive glass won’t raise the team above mediocrity.

Atlanta’s coaching staff could learn a lot from Washington’s. The Gilbert Arenas-less Wizards don’t have anyone you’d want to be your team’s primary ball-handler and only Antawn Jamison as a threat in the low post but Eddie Jordan has constructed a better offensive team out of a bunch of athletic wings and big guards than has Mike Woodson. Atlanta has three viable options to run the offense through in the post but Woodson chooses to use only Joe Johnson in that role with any regularity.

I take no pleasure in writing the following yet again but it continues to make no sense that the Hawks force the ball to Johnson in the post rather than using Josh Smith and Al Horford there, good passers both; awful and average jump shooters respectively. Johnson has a disconcerting habit of missing open jump shots his teammates create for him but over time I’d rather take my chances with him catching and shooting than watch opposing defenders run away from Josh Smith as he launches another 20-foot jump shot toward a nervous backboard.

Last night was also a great opportunity for Woodson to paper over the roster deficiencies at point guard and play Atlanta’s five best players (Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford) together for long stretches. He chose not to do so.

There’s no one reason a team loses by 4 points in a 53-minutes contest. There are a number of small things the Hawks consistently choose to do which make winning each game more difficult. The roster is unlikely to be improved significantly during the season. I think it’s even more unlikely that the Hawks replace Woodson during the season with a coach capable of deploying the players at his disposal more optimally. That’s a significant mistake. It appears it will take no more than a handful of wins more than the team currently appears capable of achieving to secure (at least) the 6th seed in the East thus avoiding Boston and Detroit and getting playoff experience in a potentially competitive series.

The Hawks should catch (and must take advantage of) a break on Sunday when the Bulls should start their best point guard out of position and their best scorer on the bench. The west coast road trips still lie ahead. Atlanta can’t lose anymore home games against their fellow Eastern Conference mediocrities.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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