Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hawks 127 Raptors 120 (OT)



Through three quarters we didn't see anything unusual. However easy it was (at times) for the Hawks to score it was, over the course of the game, consistently easier to score against them. Down 91-74 with 1:10 left in the third quarter, something changed. The Hawks did not transform into a collection of shut down defenders but they played far stronger and sensible defense than we're accustomed to seeing. The fourth quarter and overtime were far from perfect but it was legitimately impressive.

Josh Smith deserves special credit for his man-to-man defense on Chris Bosh in the fourth quarter and overtime. With the exception of a couple of foolish attempts at swatting the entry pass as (or after) it reached Bosh's hands, Smith demonstrated that, should he feel like it, he just might be more than a help defender. Bosh was 2-9 from the field (plus 7-7 from the line, he's good after all) in the fourth quarter and overtime. Of course, Smith almost negated all of that good fourth quarter defensive work by failing to switch onto TJ Ford on the almost game-winner on Toronto's last possession of regulation.

(Speaking of which, Sekou agrees with me that the clock started before Ford touched the ball. Who knows if that would have made a difference. Ford had the ball in his hands for about half a second. See also: TrueHoop, the Daily Dime, and the man who called for vengeance on Al Horford, Doug Smith, correctly pointing out the timing error was courtesy of one of the three officials and not, for once, the scorer's table. Still, a protest is likely.)

Credit where it's due, TJ Ford's contribution to Atlanta's victory can't be overlooked. His "defense" on Bibby's game-tying three-pointer with :00.5 left in regulation consisted of nothing more than looking directly at Bibby rather than raising his arms or even crowding Bibby.

In overtime, Ford took 8 of Toronto's 12 shots and registered not a single assist. Because of the low esteem in which I hold Mike Woodson, I'm skeptical if the positive consequences of the decision to use Josh Childress rather than Bibby on Ford were thought through completely. Childress couldn't stay in front of Ford either, but Bibby's not as likely as Childress to help off of his man when Ford beats the first defender. The Hawks could survive Ford shooting two-pointers (and no free throws) longer than they could survive the rest of the team shooting open threes.

Speaking of three-pointers...

Josh Smith:
"I'm not a 3-point shooter, but if it comes to me, I'll take it."
Consistent success for the Hawks doesn't lie in counting on Josh Smith to make jump shots (though I consider those sideline three-pointers a lesser evil than the twenty-foot two-point attempts from the top of the key). That the Hawks got into overtime was due to a far too rare demonstration in the fourth quarter of Smith's varied talents (2-4 FGA, 5-6 FTA, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block). The weekend games against the 76ers will give us a better idea if last night was a one-off example of heady, clutch play or just a night where everything worked for 16 minutes.

The magic number for a playoff spot is 4. Anyone with dreams of moving out of the eighth playoff spot should take a deep breath and remember that a sweep of the 76ers this weekend will still leave Atlanta a game behind Philadelphia in the race for seventh in the East. The Hawks are almost as far behind teams 5 through 7 as the are ahead of the Pacers and Nets. The possibility of a first-round playoff victory was given away earlier in the season.


Ballhype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

Where did that defense come from and where has it been the last, oh, 3 months? The basketball gods almost have to punish the Hawks for their horrible defense on the last play of regulation by taking away the win after a protest, don't they? Even if the result doesn't stand up it was still a very impressive rally. If they can continue the defense and win at least one vs Philly, I'd almost start to feel this team deserves the playoff spot it will win due to the rest of the conference sucking even more than Atlanta.

Childress has been making some nice 3s lately. I'm starting to think he's even a better long range shooter than Marvin. Is there any rationale for continuing to start Williams? I hope we resign the Joshes and trade Marvin for a center this offseason.

Bret LaGree said...

I think the rationale for bringing Childress off the bench (That it's good to have an excellent offensive rebounder on the floor with a poor offensive second unit.) disappeared once the Hawks decided to forgo a second unit.