Thursday, January 29, 2009

Knicks 112 Hawks 104

Boxscore

Gameflow

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 99.8 1.04 51.2 20 15.6 9
NY 99.8 1.12 54 19.3 30.2 17

Before I evaluate last night's performance on a player-by-player basis, allow me to make clear that, as a team, that was a dreadful defensive performance (defensive rebounding inclusive). Some players were less culpable on an individual level but there was little evidence of communication on defense and, as much as Hawks fans can wonder what-if with regard to free throw shooting, there must be an equal amount of hypothesizing from Knicks fans with regard to 'How many points could we have scored had our other players been able to throw a pass to an open, cutting David Lee that arrived in the general vicinity of his hands?'

Marvin Williams probably played the most passable defense of any Hawk and did a decent job* on the defensive glass. Offensively his performance was unimpeachable: 28 points on 13 shots with half of those points scored in the fourth quarter in a futile attempt to match Nate Robinson point-for-point. Blame for it being futile lies not at the feet of Marvin Williams.

*A decent job by his established standards not those that I imagine for a theoretical and clearly above-average version of Marvin Williams.

Josh Smith gave us the full spectrum last night: 12 rebounds (5 offensive), 4 steals, 2 blocks, 26 points, and some terrible decisions. Smith opened the night by making three of five jump shots in the first 6:13. Rather than count his blessings that his poor shot selection didn't hurt the team, Smith took five more jump shots before the game ended, making just one more. In terms of field goal percentage, that's an above average jump shooting night for Josh Smith. That he took ten jump shots on a night when he was primarily guarded by Al Harrington* is troubling. That he continued to take and miss jump shots on a night he was also missing 8 of 10 free throw attempts stretches one's credulity. Though not as much as his now-constant whining. One of Nate Robinson's fourth quarter threes came as a direct result of nine out of ten players on the court continuing to play basketball while Josh Smith chose to spend the possession in the backcourt telling an official he thought Al Harrington traveled while corralling a defensive rebound. The Hawks couldn't guard the Knicks in the second half when they were five-on-five. That four-on-five possession transformed the situation from incompetence to negligence.

*Smith went 8-12 from the field in the paint or closer and got to the line those 10 times. The Knicks interior defense was there for the taking.

Flip Murray had yet another excellent second quarter, limiting his shot attempts to a wide-open three-pointer, turn-around jumpers over Nate Robinson, and dunks. As the game progressed, Murray became more willing to shoot the pull-up 20-footer that depresses both his field goal percentage and this viewer. Flip won't remember the fourth quarter fondly. Nate Robinson exposed both of Murray's defensive weaknesses--a lack of lateral quickness and a tendency to ball-watch when off-the-ball. That Murray spent the majority of the fourth quarter attempting (and failing) to defend Robinson isn't entirely his fault. Help defense was non-existent and, on a better defensive squad or simply a deeper team, the head coach would have had the option of putting a more appropriate defender on Robinson.

Zaza Pachulia might have put Nate Robinson on his ass once had played more than 3:34 of the fourth quarter. Like many of his teammates, Pachulia's strengths and weaknesses were both on display. He converted his opportunities on offense and, had it not been for Pachulia's 10 defensive rebounds in 27:49, I shudder to think how effective the league's 28th-best offensive rebounding would have been on their offensive glass. On the other hand, Pachulia really struggled to defend the pick-and-roll. He's simply nowhere near as quick as David Lee. Al Horford was missed.

Joe Johnson, I fear is becoming isolated from his teammates in more than just the team's offensive system. In this quote:
"We’re going to keep getting our [expletives] kicked if we play like this. We’re playing [terribly]."
...he makes an inarguable point.

This one, however:
"Offensively, we had no movement, no chemistry. It looked like we never played with each other."
...is a bit odd coming after a game where Pachulia went 4-5 from the field, Williams went 9-13, Flip Murray went 8-14, and Josh Smith, despite taking several bad shots went 12-22 and the team turned the ball over on just 9 percent of their offensive possessions. The only things keeping the Hawks from an above-average offensive night were missed free throws and a whole lot of missed jump shots from Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby.

Joe Johnson is no longer the sum total of the Hawks' offense, a point with which both he and Mike Woodson might need to come to terms. Johnson's play didn't really reflect his comments. He took 15 shots and had 7 assists, I just worry that (and it may just be something spoken at the peak of frustration with the loss) if he's truly conflating his offensive performance with the team's then it will slow the recovery process.


Mike Bibby can't buy a shot right now (8-42 FGA, 4-21 3PTA in the last four games). He missed another deadball free throw last night (4-9 FTA in the last four games) and he's simply too much of a defensive liability for just his passing and ball-handling (7 assists, 2 turnovers) to balance things out. Joe Johnson may not be the only Hawk guard in need of a rest.

Unfortunately Acie Law IV has continued, in his second season, neither to stay healthy nor productive enough to allow to/make Mike Woodson use him more heavily and consistently. Law's second quarter stint last night resulted in a 5 trillion, this coming two nights after the Hawks were outscored by 10 points in the 6:13 of the second quarter he played in Miami.

It was disappointing that Solomon Jones never got a chance to defend the screen-and-roll when David Lee was on the court. Which isn't to say that Jones was anywhere near as productive last night as he'd been in the previous two games just that Woodson didn't have many options as to how to shake things up defensively and he chose not to try what was, to me the most likely option.

At the time of his acquisition, I assumed that Maurice Evans would finally serve as the backup shooting guard needed to keep Joe Johnson's legs fresh for 82 games. I was mistaken in that assumption.

Links...
Maybe he's more critical than I ever imagined b/c we look awful right now.
When players like Mike Bibby (another poor shooting night: 2-13) come crashing back to earth, you have to rely on the little things to pull out close wins. The little things don't count for jack when Bibby is jacking and nailing 10-16 from the floor in November (and don't forget Joe Johnson's 5-15 night), but they sure meant a hell of a lot in this loss...And, I'm sorry, how can Joe Johnson play nearly 40 minutes and only pull in one rebound? Who does he think he is, Michael Redd?

Too soon? Sorry.

5 comments:

CoCo said...

The fact that I'd rather see Flip in the game than any other guard we have of late makes me question some things about myself. But, that's just how bad Mike and Joe have been. They have to learn to take their slumps one at a time. They can win a game if it's Mike and Flip or Joe and Flip, but if it's Flip and neither that's not a good situation for anyone.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Here's what worries me...LEADERSHIP! Look, games like this happen, but I was discouraged when I watched the post-game comments from Josh and Woody.

I want Josh at 58M to stand up and say - that game is on me, I missed 8 free throws - we lost by 8. I'm getting in the gym after this and I'm going to shoot until I get tired. My free throw shooting must get better.

I want Woodson to say - maybe fatigue is an issue. I'm going to have to get my team to play harder and some of that is going to have to come from our young guns Solo and Acie. And I don't want him to mention Al as an excuse again. Everyone deals with injuries. We want him back - yes, but we didn't have excuses without Josh and I'm still unconvinced that Al is better than Josh Smith.

Finally, I want all Hawks to acknowledge what they need to do better, which is rebounding, free throw shooting, and offensive transition basketball. That's where we need improvement as a WHOLE. The Bibby/Johnson terrible shooting will fix itself (or so we'd assume based on the season averages), but the rebounding, free throws, and transition game is something we've been poor at ALL year. The lack of communication that they even understand that that's a focus area is of great concern to me.

Shoot, I'm of the mind right now that I'm HAPPY Bibby and Johnson aren't shooting well b/c it highlights that if you rely on the 3 ball and the Joe on 3-4 player offense - it's a long term (and certainly not playoff) solution for this team's success. I'm SAD that I don't think our coaching staff can recognize this and make adjustments. Expect more post games where the answer to all questions lead back to - "we didn't make shots." Imagine Popovich or Sloan or Jackson saying that...

JMar said...

My boss and I have totally different opinions regarding Marvin Williams. I think Marvin is a solid starter, the best defender on the Hawks (although an argument can be made for Joe), and improving drastically as his career continues. My boss thinks Marvin is a journeyman along the lines of Josh Childress and Boris Diaw, a weak defender, and is easily replaceable. I pointed to last night's numbers, and he countered that as the third or fourth offensive option, anyone decent shooter can knock down open jumpers. Obviously nobody thinks he's lived up to the second pick in the draft, but I'd be interested in getting your opinion.

Bret LaGree said...

JMar--

I think it's harsh to call any of Marvin Williams, Childress, or Diaw journeymen (though Diaw apparently needs ample outside motivation to play to his ability which arguably negates some of his value). Last year, there's no doubt that Childress was better than Williams. That Williams started and played more minutes than Childress is likely a reason co-equal with money (and the money didn't all come to pass) that Childress is playing for Olympicos this season.

This year, Williams has added significant value by adding the three-point shot to his offensive game. I think he's shown some minor improvement in both his post-up and off-the-dribble game but I wouldn't call either an asset to an NBA offense so much as no longer a black hole of ineffectiveness. Were he ever to become an effective defensive rebounder, he would be extremely valuable. As is, he's a solid starter/good complementary player.

It always surprises me that, for all the concern over Joe Johnson not shooting very many free throws, people rarely give Marvin credit for both knocking down jump shots and getting to the line with admirable frequency.

Warren said...

@Atl:

I don't know what sort of adjustment you expect the coaching staff to make. When Bibby isn't hitting his three and Josh has made up his mind that when he gets the ball, he is going to shoot another soul-crushing jumpshot early in the clock, that really doesn't leave much to work with on the offensive end besides Joe isolating. With Al and his underrated around the basket game out, I guess that leaves either Marvin in the triple threat position or Flip in attack the basket mode as the only options for creating shots both for themselves or for others. Zaza is a very good garbage player around the rim, Mo is good spotting up (sometimes), Acie is pretty good at running fast and missing shots, and Solo definately has potential but is not where he needs to be yet to play major minutes. Where else should the coaches go for the points?

I do agree with you on the accountability issue. It did make me feel better last night that it looked like Josh was getting super frustrated and played much harder at the end of the game - I think in past years he would have just continued to mail it in. If he would play angry and smart every game, I think he could be an elite player in this league. However, someone (I'm looking at you, Joe) needs to stand up and own what's happening and promise to make a change...