Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hawks 87 Raptors 84



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
TOR 92.4 0.91 42.9 14.3 26.1 14.1
ATL 92.4 0.94 46.2 17.7 14 15.2

It's not too difficult to explain why the Hawks won: Joe Johnson plus Mike Bibby plus Josh Smith trumps Chris Bosh plus Andrea Bargnani. Anthony Parker made a game effort to serve as both a third scoring option and a fill-in point guard but his good intentions failed to transform his natural state. Beyond those six players little basketball skill and even fewer examples of sound decision-making were on display during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matinee.

The Hawks, already without Al Horford and Marvin Williams, played most of the first half without Zaza Pachulia because of Mike Woodson's predilection for keeping key frontcourt players on the bench until halftime once they pick their second foul then played most of the second half without Pachulia because, when on the court, he demonstrated little likelihood to make a positive contribution to the home team's cause.

His backup, Solomon Jones, offered little more. To be fair, Jones played better in the second half than he did in the first though that only raised his level of play from obviously out of his depth to generically unproductive. Despite Jones' inability to catch a pass cleanly or set a screen without inducing an anticipatory cringe for the incipient offensive foul or potential injury for either himself or the opponent being screened, Mike Woodson chose not to go to Randolph Morris for a length of time or to Othello Hunter at all. On a day where Thomas Gardner received an opportunity to give pause to those of us who thought he might offer more than Mario West* and West himself got three-and-a-half minutes to practice jumping higher than he could safely land, I believe it's safe to assume that Morris's late-game stint in Phoenix had more to do with his bulk than with a re-evaluation of either his or Jones' abilities.

*A low bar to be sure...

Higher up the rotation, Flip Murray delivered a profoundly mixed performance by undermining his good work going toward the basket (3-6 on 2PTFGA, 3-3 FTA, 3 assists* against 2 turnovers) and on the defensive glass (4 defensive rebounds in 34 minutes isn't remarkable but Murray seemed to make an extra effort on the defensive glass when the Hawks played four guards at a time.) with a staggering seven three-point attempts (five of them coming in the first half) of which he made but one.

*His highest single-game assist total in 40 days.

Josh Smith fared better but was far from perfect in terms of shot selection, settling for five spot-up, perimeter jump shots despite making just one. That means that he made 8-13 shots at and around the basket while also earning eight free throw attempts. That he made just half of those free throw attempts threatened to limit the value of his positive offensive plays to a decisive extent yesterday but one hopes that what Smith takes away from his poor day at the line is that the man whose career free throw percentage has now dipped back below 70 should perhaps refrain from choosing to take shots half again as long. It's hard, though, to dwell on Smith's long-standing self-destructive offensive tendencies on a day when he provided so much defensive value.

Chris Bosh was efficient offensively (22 points on 14 FGA) but the Hawks could live with Bosh being efficient if it meant he only got 14 field goal attempts. As one would expect, Bosh had his way with both Pachulia and Jones. Josh Smith gave Bosh problems both before* and after he received the ball in the post to help slow down the Toronto offense sufficiently in second half for the Hawks to make (barley) enough shots to overtake the Raptors.

*Obviously, Toronto's lack of a decent point guard played a role here as well.

The game was won because Mike Bibby was able to create for himself and make open shots and because Joe Johnson was able to make the difficult shots he created for himself while garnering the full attention of the Toronto defense. Monday was not a day to decry Atlanta's reliance on running isolations for Joe Johnson that really only serve to isolate Johnson from his teammates. The alternative to Johnson shooting over double-teams seemed to be nothing better than a Josh Smith jump shot or a Flip Murray three-pointer or Maurice Evans shooting out of obligation and unguardedness rather than any self-belief that he would make a shot.

Johnson's great talent functioned as a safety net on Monday afternoon. The Hawks would not have won had he not converted any two of his several high degree of difficulty field goal attempts. I hope that once the Hawks return to full strength and Johnson is again surrounded by players approaching his level of ability that all five players are engaged in finding the best, easiest shot on key possessions. Yesterday though, the best shot was any shot Joe Johnson could get. He made enough of them to win a game into which Mike Bibby got them a foothold in the third quarter.

Mike Woodson on the return of Al Horford and Marvin Williams:
"We're a little short-handed right now. We have to step up until Horford and Williams come back. ... We're not going to rush them.''
Chris Bosh was understandably frustrated with the decisions his teammates made when he was so often (so well) deprived of the basketball:
"Just take it to the basket, man, we can get a better shot. We're not in the right positions. We're not making the right passes. We shoot ourselves in the foot every game now.''
That would have been Joe Johnson's quote had a make and a miss gone the opposite direction in the fourth quarter.

Here's Arsenalist at Raptors Republic on the subject:
Alright, let’s get the Jamario Moon hate out of the way early. Sure, he was probably dropped on his head when he was young and then run over by an off-road vehicle. Repeatedly. Yup, that’s the only explanation of why he did what he did yesterday, there can be no other. You have to be dumber than dirt to even try the stunt he pulled. Either he’s got a voice in his head controlled by Mike Woodson which tells him what to do or he’s, well, just plain dumb. The Raptors after playing a solid game were in the midst of some utterly idiotic behavior late in the fourth which included Joey Graham looking off Bosh and taking a contested jumper, Bosh dribbling it off his foot and Moon looking like a landmine had got him when he was faked by Joe Johnson. All this commotion resulted in the Raptors getting the ball back being down one with 41 seconds left. Anthony Parker made the fatal mistake of passing it to Moon on the wing who had made his mind up to shoot four possessions ago and launched a contested 26-footer which clanged violently off the rim. To make matters worse, he follows it up with the grin, you know, the grin?
Michael Grange chimes in as well:
When Joey Graham and Jamario Moon are taking your final shots, you're going to have problems. That said, Bosh didn't distinguish himself by dribbling the ball off his leg when he had his turn. Losing streaks do that to you. In those moments you need to be more relaxed than ever; but when you need a win THIS BAD, it's hard not to tighten up.
Is it indicative of anything (other than that I had the sound off while watching the game) that it never occurred to me that Acie Law's 2:03 stint was cut short by injury rather than coaching decision?

Carroll Rogers reporting in the AJC:
Acie Law had to leave Monday’s game in the second quarter with a right quadriceps contusion after taking a knee to his thigh. He received a cortisone shot and was told by the medical staff to expect to miss seven to 10 days.
I'll attempt to balance the phantom criticism above by repeating a sensible, nay, inarguable thought of Mike Woodson's:
"We’re on pace of where we wanted to be after 40 games. But just for the morale of our locker room this was a big win because we hadn’t been playing well at all."
Josh Smith on defending Bosh:
"We wanted to show Chris Bosh different looks. We felt as though he caught the ball a little bit too easy on the block [in the first half]. We were able to double-team him and cause the ball to rotate around."
Jeff Schultz got Mike Woodson to speak on the subject of the team's toughness:
"When we lost Josh Smith early I thought we were as tough as any team in the league mentally, as well as physically. We’ve kind of lost that edge a little bit. But when I look at our schedule and where we are today, we’re right on pace with where we thought we should be. I’m not in a panic stage right now. If we stay on target we have a chance to win 45-plus games. Surely, we’ll make the playoffs if we do that."
Schultz's final take from yesterday's game:
We’ve learned not to assume greatness. But a win certainly means the bottom isn’t falling out.
The bottom isn't falling out. Now if the Hawks can just find enough healthy bodies to field a team tonight in Chicago.

No comments: