Monday, March 31, 2008

Hawks 114 Knicks 109



That was a weird final 1:37. First, Mike Woodson treats a ten point lead like it's secure rather than comfortable and pulls Joe Johnson for Mario West. Then the Knicks show little interest in trying to win the game for a full minute of game time. (Did they former Indiana teammates have a deal in place? That would necessitate clever planning by Mike Woodson and Isiah Thomas so probably not.) Down seven with 36 seconds left New York begins to try to extend the game, Mario West provides more evidence (one layup conceded, two fouls giving New York and-ones, and one-of-two from the free throw line) that he shouldn't be on the floor when the margin of a game is anywhere between 0 and 20, New York pulls within four, Joe Johnson comes back in for nine seconds, and the Hawks hold on to win.

Other than that, it was a fairly dull game (at least when watched following the stressful Kansas-Davidson game). We learned that Marvin Williams, even in the midst of a two month long slump, is an excellent basketball player against the New York Knicks (52 points and 19 rebounds while shooting 65.7% from the floor in the two games against the Knicks this month while, impolitely, doing fuck all against everyone else.) We also learned that Jamal Crawford can make essentially an infinite number of three-pointers before the Hawks would attempt to go over the ball screen. He made seven of ten and (usually Mike Bibby) went under the screen every time.

The concept of infinity might be relevant again tonight as in, "Mike Conley is infinitely quicker than Mike Bibby." I presume the Hawks will have to outscore another poor team to inch closer to clinching their opportunity to lose in the first round of the playoffs. Current odds: 75.8%. Estimated wins needed: 36. Level of excitement: roughly nil.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hawks 106 Bulls 103



For the third time this year, Comcast thwarted my diligent efforts to chronicle the 2007-08 Atlanta Hawks campaign. Back in service and online this morning, I must give the corporate behemoth credit for orginality this time: they disconnected my cable while trying to disconnect my recently departed neighbors' connection. Rather than spending Friday night on hold with customer service, I should have just broken into the unit next door, TV under my arm.

I've got little in the way of other reports on this game showing up in my RSS reader. If anyone saw anything they think I should know about please share it in the comments. It looks like the Hawks (predictably) struggled in the fourth quarter and that Al Horford's playing time was (maddeningly) brief so maybe I've, for all intents and purposes, seen this game before.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Friday, March 28, 2008

No News Is...Typical

One of the things I didn't fully consider before undertaking this enterprise was the lack of local media coverage of the Hawks. After writing tens of game recaps, I don't have much left to say about the team in between games. That the team is frustrating in very consistent ways doesn't help much either. The lack of news reported about the team makes it that much more difficult to cobble together a post following an off-day.

For example, here is the totality of Hawks news in the AJC today:
The results of Thursday's MRI exam on the thumb of Mike Bibby were negative and the Hawks point guard is expected to play Friday against Chicago.

Bibby injured his left thumb in Wednesday's win over Milwaukee. He left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return. X-rays taken after he left the game were negative.

The injured thumb is the same one that cost Bibby 36 games this season after surgery to repair a torn ligament.
So we probably won't get a chance tonight to consider whether a Mike Bibby/Acie Law IV point guard tandem is better or worse defensively than a Law/Salim Stoudamire tandem. Who am I kidding, if Bibby sat out a good chunk of his minutes would likely go to Mario West.

The only other Hawks coverage on is a stultifyingly dull (which I guess is a cut above his usual idiocy)
blog entry from Terrence Moore that has something to do with pointing out that "taking it one game at a time" is a sports cliche. I don't know, I lost interest in Moore's prose after reading this distracting Josh Smith quote:
"We’re most definitely hungry, and we’re not just satisfied with making the playoffs, because we want to be a Golden State in the playoffs."
First of all, where was this hunger Tuesday night in Chicago? Second of all, the Warriors won 42 games (and 16 of their final 21 games) en route to earning the eighth seed, swept their first round opponent during the regular season, and were coached by Don Nelson rather than Mike Woodson.

The Philadelphia 76ers, winners of 19 of their last 24, would be a better comparison to last year's Warriors save for the fact that the Sixers' prolonged hot streak in this year's weak Eastern Conference could get them all the way up to the 5th seed and eliminate their chance to trouble (at least in the first round) either of the East's legitimately good teams.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hawks 115 Bucks 96



I'm not entirely convinced that the Milwaukee Bucks wanted to win last night. Michael Redd scored 19 points in the first quarter (after which the Bucks led 37-32) but attempted only 3 more shots the rest of the game and sat out the entire fourth quarter. Most suspicious of all is that Redd, when guarding Marvin Williams, allowed Williams to score on a post-up.

Andrew Bogut scored 23 points in the first half (after which the Bucks trailed 65-60) on 13 shots and 6 free throws. Bogut attempted just 5 shots and no free throws in the second half before Marvin Williams bloodied (broke?) his nose five minutes into the fourth quarter.

Royal Ivey played the last 13:43 of the game. Presumably on purpose.

It was as unconvincing a 19-point win as one could witness. Al Horford (certainly) and Josh Smith (arguably) played even worse than they did the night before in Chicago. Joe Johnson had an excellent night but it came on the back of making some extraordinarily difficult shots during the contested first half. Fair play to Joe for making them but a consistently productive offense isn't built on push/touch 28-footers and fall-away three-pointers from behind the backboard as the shot clock expires. Especially if Mike Bibby's left thumb is a consistent bother for any length of time.

On the positive side, Acie Law IV played an excellent game, raising hopes that he could carry a heavier load if necessary. On the other hand, Law's excellent first half performance didn't earn him any second half playing time until after both Bibby was in the locker room receiving X-rays on his thumb (negative) and the Hawks had a 16-point lead. No need to encourage or reward the point guard of the future for his good play because you're worried your team will choke away another lead that would possibly be bigger if you hadn't wasted 5 minutes of the first half playing 4-on-5 so everyone could once again see that Mario West* (It only took him 18 seconds to commit a foul.) and Solomon Jones (The man fell down trying to catch a pass.) are not NBA players.

*I wonder whether Mike Woodson found that 45 seconds of the first quarter when Mario West and Royal Ivey shared the court arousing.

This paragraph will stay as the previous began: positive. Marvin Williams remembered how he was a useful offensive player over the first couple of months of the season and limited his offensive contributions to catching and shooting. Not coincidentally he was 7-9 from the field as opposed to last night's cavalcade of poor post-up and off the dribble moves which lead to a 3-14 shooting night. Josh Childress again showed why he must be re-signed this summer, adding 5 assists and 4 steals to his typically excellent shooting night: 7-12 from the field, 1-2 on threes, and 5-6 from the line. Zaza Pachulia chipped in 9 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks to give the Hawks, for one night, the illusion of a real, live eight-man rotation.

Pachulia's more significant than normal minutes came as a result of Woodson once again panicking at the prospect of Al Horford potentially getting into foul trouble but what are you going to do? That, like Woodson's Mario West fetish and accompanying belief that points allowed at the end of the first or second quarter somehow don't count as much is something we all have to live with for a couple more weeks. The next head coach, assuming he's remotely competent, is going to have one hell of a honeymoon period with the fan base.

Should anyone wish to prepare for Friday night's game against the Bulls with a little background as to why I was so incensed that the Hawks were outworked Tuesday night by a team in near total revolt, check out this post at Blog a Bull. For even more perspective on measuring the distance between the Hawks and a competent team, check out how Marc Narducci of The Phildelphia Inquirer wraps up his (poorly formatted) blog post-mortem of the 76ers blowing out the Bulls last night:
"’s hard to find a more cohesive bunch than the Sixers and a more dispirited group than the Bulls."
I've seen one group with less spirit than the Bulls this week.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Worthless Endeavor

Bulls 103 Hawks 94



There's little reason to root for the Hawks to stumble into the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot and get hammered by the Celtics four times other than the spectacle of such a poorly run franchise participating in the playoffs while a 48+ win Western Conference team sits at home might inspire the NBA to adopt a more sensible playoff system.

The Hawks, a team that cares not a whit for their head coach, lost last night to a team that actively dislikes their interim head coach. The Bulls played harder, smarter, better and with no tangible reason to do so other than pride and personal responsibility. I don't think the Hawks players necessarily lack those attributes. I think those attributes have been beaten out of them through their involvement in a dysfunctional organization run by losers.

I still believe this team could have made the playoffs with some dignity intact had it employed a competent head coach. Al Horford didn't have a good night by his standards but there was no question he was one of Atlanta's three or four best players last night. He was not treated as such in regards to playing time.

Marvin Williams, he of the 3-14 shooting and two turnovers (and it looked much worse than even those numbers suggest), played more minutes than Horford and repeatedly had plays called for him perhaps just so we could learn that every player on the Bulls' roster can guard Williams one-on-one. Horford didn't receive the ball (other than after grabbing an offensive rebound) in a position to score until the game's 43rd minute.

Let's run through the Horford's +/- in the second half, keeping in mind that he didn't even play well. The Hawks opened the second half with a two point lead.
  • Horford played the first 5:55 of the third quarter during which time the Hawks were outscored by 8 points.
  • Horford sat for the next 3:25 during which time the Hawks were outscored by 8 more points.
  • Horford played the next 10:25 during which time the Hawks outscored the Bulls by 11 points, pulling within three points.
  • Josh Smith (a despressingly representative -14 while on the court at that point) replaces Horford with 4:15 left in the game and the Hawks are outscored 11-5 during the remainder of the game.
At the time Woodson inexplicably took Horford out of the game so he could pair a player having a terrible game (Smith) with a player having an abysmal game (Williams) in the frontcourt, the Hawks were +3 over the 16:20 of the second half Horford had played and -8 in the 3:25 he hadn't. It isn't surprising things didn't go well for Atlanta in the Horford-less endgame.

Al Horford is a better player than Marvin Williams at all times. Al Horford was a better player than the obscenely sluggish Josh Smith last night. Al Horford was the only one of the three to sit on the bench in the final four minutes of a close game.

Joe Johnson is allowed to play 48 minutes. Mike Bibby can fail to contain the possibly clinically depressed Kirk Hinrich for 42 and-a-half minutes. Horford (who, on a bad night still has as many offensive rebounds as missed shots) and Josh Childress (8-11 FGA, 1-1 3PTA, 5-5 FTA in just over 27 minutes--easily Atlanta's best player last night) don't get as much playing time as Smith and Williams while the latter pair combine to go 9-26 (many of those misses coming on terrible shots) and play poor defense.

Would you be fueled by pride and personal responsibility to get your team into the playoffs if your playing time was distributed in such cavalier fashion?

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Weekend 1 Hoopinion 0

Hawks 98 Magic 90



Due to a hectic schedule, I watched this game on tape broken up over several irregular and brief windows of opportunity. My viewing experience made it impossible to watch with any sort of discerning eye or form a coherent thought (or even what typically passes for coherent thought in this space). Which is a shame because that was a fine win Saturday night.

The best Atlanta players played the most minutes and in combinations that made sense. (Mike Woodson even appeared to make an effort to get Al Horford on the court when Dwight Howard was of the court.) The Hawks built an early lead, squandered it fairly rapidly, but fought back from behind twice in the fourth quarter and eventually finished off a good team.

The win may do little more than engender another bout of false, minor optimism but it was a tangible, positive result and the rare occurrence of such accomplishments must still be marked as the organization slowly gains in stature. By which I mean from pathetic to bad.

The Playoff Odds calculator this morning sees The Drive for 35 as irrelevant. The current target for the East's final playoff spot is up to 37 wins yet the 30-39 Hawks have a sixty-percent chance of getting there. Playing three weeks of basketball slightly above .500 is the goal.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nets 125 Hawks 117



The biggest Hawks game in nine years didn't go so well did it? Bob Rathbun dared tempt the fates early in the second half with talk of two game leads and not losing the tie-breaker to New Jersey. His excitement seemed genuine but his confidence seemed mistaken for a man who has seen this team play before. I started cringing before events took their predictable turn for the worse.

The Hawks lost on the road. The Hawks blew a second half lead. The Hawks couldn't stop dribble-penetration. (Devin Harris played and was predictably devastating.) The Hawks spent long stretches of the second half with hopelessly misguided groups of five players on the floor. The Hawks appeared to have little idea how to go about getting a good shot when they needed to score. None of this is new but once more we delve into the particulars.

The Hawks had a two point lead when Zaza Pachulia entered the game with 6:03 left in the third quarter. The Hawks played the rest of the quarter (save the final 19 seconds when Acie Law IV replaced Mike Bibby) with a lineup of Bibby, Josh Childress, Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Zaza Pachulia. With one shooter (who was also the lone ball-handler) and both Smith and Childress pushed to the perimeter the offense consisted almost exclusively of Pachulia scoring off of offensive rebounds.

Defensively, we all got to witness Josh Smith's unique "weight on his heels" defensive stance as he attempted to guard Vince Carter during this stretch of the game. My first question was, Has Smith never been taught the proper defensive stance? As he continued to lean backwards with his feet underneath Carter's center of gravity 25 feet from the basket I began to question whether Smith had ever seen a basketball game before. The only upshot of this overall monstrosity is that I should never again have to hear someone say "Josh Smith is really more of a 3." Atlanta trailed by four at the end of the third quarter.

After that debacle, Atlanta played the first 4:38 of the fourth quarter with Marvin Williams at power forward. Atlanta literally did not get a rebound during that time. Their deficit at the end of that stretch was 12.

How hard is it to use your guy who's only consistent positive contribution is to make open jump shots at small forward and your guy who should never be allowed to take a jump shot at power forward? I think it would have to be a damn sight easier than reversing their roles. Not that reversing this bizarre transposition of playing time would have won the game for the Hawks. But it was ten-and-a-half straight minutes of madness during which the Hawks were outscored by 14 points.

The second half also served to (once again) put Joe Johnson's (not insignificant) offensive skills in perspective. Johnson and Vince Carter* both scored 17 points in the first half. Johnson on 11 shots, Carter on 10. In the second half, Johnson went 2-7 from the floor and score 7 points. Carter went 9-16 from the floor and scored 22 points.

*How fortunate is it for Vince Carter that the Nets' roster is now almost entirely populated by players who are young and/or not good? It's not just that he only plays hard when he feels like it but that on a night when he chooses to play hard and show all the gifts he doesn't feel like sharing on a regular basis he also screams at his teammates to play hard. Oh, tonight we play hard, Vince? Okay. In other circumstances, with different teammates, his potentially infuriating behavior last night could have inspired a punch to the face.

Yes, sometimes the Hawks' offense should run through Joe Johnson. When he has an advantageous matchup, for example. Otherwise, it should not because he is not good enough to carry the team to victory very often. This is doubly frustrating because of the Hawks have other good offensive players. Johnson need not carry the team's offense. Al Horford scored 20 points on 9-11 shooting and picked up six more assists. (Many of his 12 assists over the last two games have come after Horford grabs an offensive rebound. The way this team is run, he can only show the full flower of his gifts after the designed play has failed.) Josh Smith (When was the last time he got the ball in the high-post and the opportunity to beat an opposing power forward off the dribble?) cannot be allowed to stand on the perimeter. He is a bad player when he's taking spot-up jump shots (1-6 last night). He is a great player when he is at or around the basket (6-8 from the floor, 6-8 from the line).

There would be turnovers were the offense to run through Horford and Smith more often but I think that's a reasonable byproduct of turning the team over to its future rather than telling them, "Hey guys, we're going to do something stupid that probably won't work. After that, go grab an offensive rebound and do something positive with that to create the illusion that this team can sneak into a playoff spot while being about 12 games under .500. Thanks."

There will be no more positive game previews this season.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Preview: Hawks at Nets

New Jersey lost 112-96 at Chicago last night to fall a full game behind the Hawks in the crawl race for 8th playoff spot. Devin Harris sprained his ankle late in the first half and did not return. David Waldstein of The Star-Ledger reports this morning that "unless [Harris] makes a remarkable recovery overnight, he probably won't play tonight against Atlanta."

Avoiding the extremely likely prospect of Devin Harris beating Mike Bibby off the dribble whenever he wished to tonight is a significant boon for Atlanta's playoff chances. In his recap of last night's game, Waldstein makes it clear that he does not believe that Harris's injury affected the outcome of last night's game:
"...there is no excuse for this poor showing other than the Nets just didn't show up when they most needed to.

It wasn't the injury, or the absence of Nenad Krstic due to the flu. The Nets' uneven effort and lack of urgency, especially in the brutal 29-8 second quarter, is what cost them the game."
Waldstein's game recap is full of quotes that encourage those anticipating tonight's game from Atlanta's perspective.

Vince Carter:
"It's just disappointing to come out and play like this. We're better than that. We're playing to continue our season and we can't have these type of showings if we want to play in the playoffs.
Lawrence Frank:
"The second quarter was a combination of poor shots, missed turnovers, poor possessions, and then their transition attack wiped us out."

"The fastbreak points are very misleading because that second quarter they were just running the ball down our throats. That second quarter we allowed our missed shots or bad possessions or poor shot selection to affect our transition defense and our defensive will.
Vince Carter scored 22 points, Richard Jefferson 21, and Marcus Williams 16 but no other Net scored more than 8 points and the two who did scored either all (Maurice Ager) or half (Stromile Swift) of their points in garbage time.

Even a cursory glance at New Jersey's season stats shows that in Harris's absence New Jersey lacks a third scoring option. Should Marcus Williams be forced into that role (and unusually heavy minutes for the second night in a row) he may score but his buckets will come at the cost of many shot attempts and frequent turnovers.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hawks 105 Wizards 96



The Hawks shot better than 60% from the floor. Both player and ball movement was crisp. Bad shots were minimal. The bench played well. Playing time was allocated in a sensible manner. In the fourth quarter, the Hawks forced difficult shots and rebounded the misses.

I can't use any of my go-to moves.

(If one wished to grouse about the team defense through three quarters or Josh Smith sitting for the first 4:46 of the fourth quarter because he had four fouls, one could, and I do admit to chuckling at Mario West's failed dunk attempt late in the third quarter. Grousing can have the day off: Atlanta's playoff odds are back over 50%.)

It was a fine performance and the steady diet of middling to poor opposition on which the Hawks will have the opportunity to feed themselves victories over the remainder of the season will let us know if last night was simply a serendipitous one-off of offensive cohesion or a glimpse of a better future.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Weekend in Review

Hawks 117 Clippers 93



I followed this game online until the power went out Friday night. A great sense of relief washed over me when Horford started the second half. I figured that the only reason he'd sit for 18 consecutive minutes in the first half would be injury. Mike Woodson, you got me again.

Hawks 109 Knicks 98



Cable service had been restored when I left the house yesterday afternoon but went out sometime before 6pm and stayed out through the night so I didn't see any of this game. Sekou Smith's game story will have to suffice.

Assuming I'm reconnected with the electronic world by 7pm this evening, things will get back to normal. I hope everyone else got through the weekend relatively unscathed.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rockets 83 Hawks 75



Joe Johnson made two free throws with five minutes left in the game to pull the Hawks within a point of the Houston Rockets. The next five Hawks possessions transpired as follows:
  • Mike Bibby misses a layup. A good possession that lacked a finish.
  • Joe Johnson misses a jump shot. Al Horford and Josh Smith miss their follow attempts. Good effort on their part, but again lacking a result.
  • Joe Johnson has his shot blocked but recovers the ball. Unfortunately this bit of good effort only leads to a Josh Smith three-point attempt (missed, natch) as the shot clock expires.
  • Mike Bibby turns the ball over.
  • Joe Johnson misses a guarded, fade-away jumper.
At which the point the Hawks were down by 11 with less than 90 seconds remaining their decent effort at grinding out a win at home against a better team wasted by their inability to grind out a single point for the better part of four fourth quarter minutes.

The contrast between Tracy McGrady, legitimate All-Star and franchise player, and Joe Johnson, good player but not at all capable of carrying even a mediocre NBA team, was stark. Johnson cannot score when the other team knows he's getting the ball in end-of-game situations. There is ample evidence of this, my Exhibit A being the 2007-08 season.

One of the most important things the next Hawks head coach must do is put Joe Johnson in a role commensurate with his abilities. This should be a relatively easy decision as the Hawks already have a player on the roster who, unlike Johnson, consistently creates matchup problems for opposing defenses. Or, at least I assume they do. It's tough to tell when Josh Smith has been shut out of the offense for the most part. My doubt being fueled by the suspicion that it's partly his own damn fault.

Even though I absolutely believe it to be true, I still pause before and hedge in saying that Josh Smith didn't have a good game last night. He scored 16 points and grabbed 22 rebounds without giving a consistent effort. Defensively, he's worse than he was at the start of the year, no longer gambling recklessly but merely giving the impression that he's gambling. Opposing teams should run the pick-and-roll at him every time down the court right now. He'll take a half-hearted swipe at the dribble before watching the rest of the play 20 or more feet from the basket. Offensively, he's settling for jump shots and refusing to dunk the ball.

The next head coach will have to increase Smith's responsibilities (It's madness that I even have to write that the team's best player should be responsible most often for whether or not they win or lose.) and hold him accountable for his behavior. I don't advocate yanking him from the game every time he takes a jump shot or chooses a three-foot, sideways finger roll over dunking on someone and/or getting fouled. I advocate insisting that he use his skills on every possession. Only then will we learn if Smith's disrespect is directed primarily at Mike Woodson or at Smith's own talent.

I'm leaning toward skipping Friday night's game against the Clippers. (Which isn't televised locally presumably in deference to the ACC and SEC Tournaments where, collectively, one out of every six teams competing is a decent college basketball team. Granted, Friday night's game in Philips Arena will feature zero out of two good NBA teams, and might go 0 for 2 in teams that are competing as well.) Spending money at the arena seems like a sucker's play at this point. As for going out and watching the game on League Pass, I'm not sure I possess the self-confidence both to ask a stranger to put the game and sit there, in public, and watch the game seriously.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Magic 123 Hawks 112



Points allowed by the Hawks per 100 possessions in games since the All-Star Break:

@Golden St104.1
@San Antonio98.0
New York97.9
Golden St129.8
@New Orleans127.2

The league average is less than 106.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. ( has 106.9 as the league average, but they don't include team turnovers when estimating possessions so the efficiency numbers published there run a bit high.) Milwaukee, the worst defensive team over the course of the season thus far, allows 111.3 points per 100 possessions. The Hawks have allowed more points per 100 possessions than that in 7 of their last 13 games. The Hawks have allowed at least 10% more points per 100 possessions than the 30th-ranked Bucks in 4 of their 13 games since the All-Star Break and 3 of their last 5 games. Right now, this is a horrible defensive team.

In other news, I have made myself this promise: I will not the watch the second half of any more games this season where Solomon Jones plays more minutes than Al Horford in the first half. The Hawks trailed 51-42 when Jones entered the game with 6:22 left in the second quarter. They were likely to lose the game. Jones played the rest of the first half at the end of which the Hawks trailed 74-53 and were certain to lose the game.

I don't believe I have an out-sized notion of the value of my own time but I'm confident it can be better spent than debating whether Mike Woodson is an idiot or an asshole.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hawks 97 Heat 94



The result of the second game had more to do with Miami's inability to win the game than anything else. Barely beating a terrible team that didn't play well and whose coach didn't appear to be trying too hard (Whatever extra value those in attendance last night received from witnessing two results was negated by their ample exposure to the limited talents of Chris Quinn and Alexander Johnson.) doesn't do much to inspire one's confidence.

In the final four minutes, Atlanta held on to a seven-point lead despite going 1-7 from the floor and 5-8 from the free throw line (3-6 from the line in the final 18 seconds). In the grand scheme of things, Advantage: Miami.

Joe Johnson was magnificent. Marvin Williams was awful and for no known reason played more minutes than either Al Horford (Zaza's decent play off the bench again meant a reduction in Horford's minutes. Madness.) or Josh Childress. I doubt it was intentional, that sort of thing just happens over the course of a Hawks game.

I don't know what's different about the last week's worth of games to put me such dour spirits. I haven't been witness to anything new. Perhaps, I've passed my point of tolerance for the same failures. The Drive For 35 drags on.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hawks 114 Heat 111

Boxscore (coming soon)

Gameflow (coming soon)

As often as I've criticized this team for blowing fourth quarter leads, full credit to the Hawks for holding a fourth quarter lead for the better part of three damn months.

One in a row as The Drive For 35 sputters back into something that could approach life should the Hawks double up on this night's victory tally.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Bobcats 108 Hawks 93



If Charlotte had cut Jeff McInnis earlier, they'd be ahead of the Hawks in the Eastern Conference standings right now. They may well finish ahead of the Hawks anyway. I hope Drew's road trip wasn't ruined.

Sekou, in his blog yesterday:
I’m all out of talking points where the Hawks are concerned.

Fresh out.
I couldn't put it better myself.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hornets 116 Hawks 101



I don't think anyone expected the Hawks to win in New Orleans last night. David West's absence made things interesting for two-and-a-half quarters but the first of what I hope to be many productive nights from Julian Wright helped the Hornets put the game away early enough that they could focus on entertaining the crowd during the lengthy fourth quarter delay cause by a busted net.

So I don't have much to say about the Hawks this morning. I don't know why josh Smith played less than 30 minutes. I don't know why Mike Woodson thinks points scored by the other team in last two minutes of the first half don't count as much as points scored during the rest of the game.

All I have are a couple of Hornets-related thoughts that I'd like to get down for my own reference if nothing else.

1) I downgraded Chris Paul prior to the 2005 NBA Draft because of concerns I had about his defense and the difficulty of playing point guard on a bad team. In the future I endeavor to limit the focus of my draft evaluations to the player's demonstrated ability and potential for improvement. Assumptions about what might happen aren't relevant at the time of the draft. If a bad team/franchise screws up a player's development I'll comment on that when it happens.

2) The Bulls essentially traded Tyson Chandler because he and Scott Skiles didn't get along. Less than two years later, Skiles is gone and a good chunk of the money they would have spent on Chandler had they kept him is being paid to Larry Hughes. Now Skiles is/was an above average head coach and it was still turned out to be a bad idea to trade Chandler. I'll keep this in mind when considering the futures of Zaza Pachulia and Salim Stoudamire this summer. Are they incapable of being productive bench players or is their future ex-head coach incapable of using them in a productive manner?

The Hawks play for three results this weekend. For The Drive For 35 to continue apace they have to secure at least two wins though anything less than a sweep may just be delaying the inevitable. Charlotte (now Jeff McInnis free) beat Golden State 118-109 at home last night. The Hawks gave away their last game in Charlotte. If they lose there Friday night it will be time to consider getting on with our lives for the remainder of the regular season.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Warriors 135 Hawks 118



Say you've got two young, talented post players on your team. Say neither one is a good spot-up shooter. Say one of them is, to be blunt, a terrible yet enthusiastic spot-up shooter. Say the team you're playing is putting four or five guards on the court at a time. Say the team you're playing, when they only have four guards on the court is using a poor post defender as the fifth player.

Do you then...

A) Post up one of your young, talented post players at every opportunity since the other team has no one on the court who can effectively guard either of them?


B) Post up a guard who, talented though he may be, can be reasonably well guarded by two or three opposing players individually and, of course, draws extra attention because no one has to pay much attention to the young, talented post players as they stand around on the perimeter?

If you chose A, you're possibly qualified to coach in the NBA. If you chose B, you're probably not. If you chose B and also chose to play your two young, talented post players a combined total of just 6:18 in the second quarter for no apparent reason, and sat your Rookie of the Year candidate (and at worst, third-best player) for over seven straight minutes of the second half because Austin Croshere made a three-pointer, you could only be Mike Woodson and if you possessed a shred of dignity you'd resign before further embarrassing yourself and further crippling a frustrating, dysfunctional franchise.

Monta Ellis played almost 46 minutes. Stephen Jackson played 44 minutes. Baron Davis played almost 41 minutes.

Even ignoring his willingness to put unusual groups of five on the floor, it was clear Don Nelson was trying to win the game because he played his best players a lot.

Joe Johnson played 42 minutes (and was again mis-used in the second half but so far, so good from a playing time perspective). Al Horford played almost 32 minutes. Josh Smith played just 30 minutes. Marvin Williams played 36 minutes. Mario West and Jeremy Richardson combined to play 15 of the least productive minutes you could witness.

That's an odd allocation of playing time if you're trying your hardest to win the game. What was Mike Woodson trying to do?

If I asked him, I doubt he would have an answer. My guess is he just makes decisions without even disturbingly faulty reasoning to back them up. His decisions are purely reactionary and based entirely on fear. He took Al Horford out of the game because Austin Croshere made a three-pointer. Like a bad golfer who sees only rough, sand traps, and water hazards, Woodson saw the Horford/Croshere matchup only as one where Horford would struggle to close out to the three-point line when defending the pick-and-pop rather than one where Al Horford could score or draw a foul close to every time the Hawks had the ball. Not to mention that you'd (were you the Hawks' head coach) probably be fine with Golden State running their offense through Austin Croshere for awhile seeing as how no one on your roster is capable of guarding either Baron Davis or Monta Ellis.

Speaking of which, Chris Paul plays against the Hawks tonight. There's not enough Ryan Bowen in the world for Byron Scott to cling to to negate the offense Paul will create.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Celtics 98 Hawks 88



The Hawks played fairly well in a game they had little chance to win. What this viewer takes away is the difference in ability between Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson plus his most recent reminder of the absolute greatness of Kevin Garnett. He combines the talents of Atlanta's cornerstone players (Josh Smith and Al Horford) and adds a jump shot.

Smith, again, didn't let his inability to make a jump shot 30% of the time prevent him attempting 7 spot-up jump shots and 2 more hybrid jump shots off the dribble/long-distance runners. He was 2-7 on the former, 0-2 on the latter, scoring five points. At and around the basket, Smith shot 6-13 from the field and drew 8 foul shots, 5 of which he made.

If the players took the game seriously and made an honest effort to win the game, the same can't be said of the head coach who inserted Mario West, Solomon Jones, and Jeremy Richardson into the game for the final 11 seconds of the first half. Because you want those guys matched up defensively against Rajon Rondo, Eddie House, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. Solomon Jones ran away from his man (Garnett) and the basket while waving his arms. Garnett cut to the basket and dunked the ball. Mario West traveled on the ensuing inbounds play and gave the Celtics a second possession (albeit one necessitating a tip-in) in the final 11 seconds.

Thus, with the blessing of ownership, Mike Woodson continued his exploration of ways in which he can give away points.

Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
March 2, 2008 vs. @Boston

ResultQuarterTimeShot ClockDistance
MAKE2Q3:48(:16)19' 9"

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hawks 99 Knicks 93



Last night showed why The Drive is for 35 rather than 38 or 40, for the eighth seed rather than the sixth, and why Billy Knight has asked three times this season for permission to fire Mike Woodson.

The Hawks weren't playing especially well for three quarters, but one felt they were in control of the game. They appeared to recognize that they could get easy shots more often than the Knicks could. Every Hawks stop, every converted layup or dunk, inched Atlanta closer to victory. Through three quarters, Atlanta did a good job of getting the ball to any player with a significant advantage against his defender. Granted, that's not hard to do when playing the Knicks but still it's something (sadly) unusual to see the Hawks accomplish.

Then the fourth quarter started.

Jared Jeffries is an overrated defender. Which isn't the same thing as being a poor defender. Which Jeffries demonstrated in the fourth quarter as Atlanta forced the ball to Joe Johnson either posting him up or putting him in isolation against Jeffries. Joe Johnson's strength is not beating players off the dribble. Jeffries could stay in front of Johnson and possesses the length to challenge Johnson's pull-up jumper. Joe Johnson couldn't get any easy shot off against Jeffries yet the Hawks insisted on continuing down the path of greatest resistance.

Atlanta ran two plays for Josh Smith in the fourth quarter. On the first, with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game, Smith caught the ball on the wing, beat David Lee off the dribble, and missed a spinning layup in the lane. The next play Atlanta ran for Smith was the pick-and-roll with Bibby that resulted in an alley-oop dunk with 1:12 left in the game. Smith snuck in a couple of fourth quarter jump shots to break the boredom, but once again Atlanta's best player stood and watched while Joe Johnson was asked to do something extraordinarily difficult.

Atlanta scored 81 points through three quarters with a balanced, relatively up-tempo offensive attack. They scored 18 points in the fourth quarter (inflated by five made free throws in the final 11 seconds) forcing the ball to Joe Johnson in the half-court. If the Knicks were marginally better or if the Hawks were marginally less lucky (Smith made one of those boredom-induced jump shots, a corner three to tie the game at 88.) The Drive for 35 would have stalled before it really began.

The revelation that Billy Knight has repeatedly tried to fire Mike Woodson this season gave me a new reading on Woodson's bizarre handling of Al Horford in the fourth quarter. Horford picked up his fifth foul with 1:58 left and Woodson took him (he of the 20 points and 11 rebounds) out of the game in favor of Marvin Williams (he of the 6 points and 3 rebounds). Horford returned to play just 16 more seconds. Woodson obviously wasn't saving Horford to use in a particular situation to help win the game. The only explanation for taking Horford out is that Woodson didn't want Horford to foul out.

My new suspicion is that Woodson does this in a misguided attempt to avoid criticism. I suspect he'd prefer not to face any questions that would arise if the Hawks fell apart and lost a game after Horford fouled out. First of all, if this is the case, Woodson overestimates the amount of mainstream media scrutiny he's under. To say that no one cares about the Hawks is but a slight exaggeration. Secondly, the indefensible absence of a not yet disqualified Al Horford on the court is obvious to anyone seriously watching the game so the only people liable to criticize Woodson's coaching are going to do so if Horford's unnecessary absence appears to cost the Hawks a game.

As a head coach, Mike Woodson combines stubborness with an inability to think through the consequences of his decisions. Steve Belkin, Michael Gearon, Sr., Michael Gearon, Jr., Bruce Levenson, whichever of you are keeping Mike Woodson in charge of this team are guilty of committing the exact the same mistakes.

Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 29, 2008 vs. New York

ResultQuarterTimeShot ClockDistance

Ballhype: hype it up!