When Mario West was announced as the ill Marvin Williams' replacement in the starting lineup, I first wrote "He can't be serious." I crossed that out in favor of, "Is he daring someone to fire him?"
Shows what I know. Mario West went out and played a useful 7:42 to open the game, scoring seven points with two offensive rebounds and two turnovers. For whatever reason, Sacramento didn't take advantage of West guarding Artest in the first quarter, getting a single made free throw on a single Artest post up against West. West couldn't stay with Kevin Martin when West got matched up with Martin on a switch but even that resulted in nothing more damaging than a made field goal by Martin and a Brad Miller missed jumper.
West played much more as expected in the second and third quarter--undersized, out of control, and ineffective offensively while giving a serious but futile attempt to guard Ron Artest in the post. To his credit, Woodson didn't push his luck and rode Josh Childress for the final 20 minutes of the game.
Somehow, Marvin Williams' absence didn't translate into more minutes for Childress (he was right at his season average of 30 minutes played), though he took full advantage of his extended second half playing time to make the case that, right now, Bibby/Johnson/Childress/Smith/Horford constitutes Atlanta's best five-man unit.
Al Horford played almost ten extra minutes (41:07 as opposed to his season average of 31:30) despite appearances that his night would be over after picking up his fifth foul. He sat from 4:35 to 0:59 in the fourth quarter. Atlanta was +3 during that stretch but got killed on the defensive glass, allowing Sacramento to get 4 of 7 possible offensive rebounds. On the night, Sacramento got 6 of their 16 offensive rebounds in the 6:53 Al Horford wasn't in the game. Atlanta's defensive rebounding percentage with Horford in the game: 72.2%; with Horford out of the game: 53.8%.
Horford and Childress played essential supporting roles, but Mike Bibby made the key difference between winning and losing on a night when Sacramento had to be outscored. If Bibby doesn't score 24 points on 13 shots (plus 9 free throw attempts) and augment that with 12 assists against a single turnover then this morning we'd all be moaning about Bibby's defense (25 points, 8 assists, and 1 turnover for Beno Udrih), Joe Johnson's ball-handling/decision-making in the final minute, and Josh Smith wasting half of his 14 field goal attempts on jump shots. Making matters worse, six of Smith's seven jump shots were launched with at least eleven seconds left on the shot clock and only one jump shot was taken inside of fifteen feet. Four of Smith's jump shots were from at least 20 feet. Smith's three-point attempts are down, but I'd rather he take that step back and take the extra point the one out of every four times he makes a jump shot outside of 15 feet.
Bibby's performance may be most encouraging because it inspired the following from the head coach:
"He's something we haven't had since I've been here. He's played enough basketball in this league and made enough big plays offensively as far as getting shots. And he's won. He's been successful doing it. So I don't want to screw him up. And I want him to feel free to the point that if he doesn't like things that I'm doing, hey, he's got that right to let me know, and we'll change them."I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that.
The following is a different story...
Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 27, 2008 vs. Sacramento