Sunday, February 01, 2009

Bucks 110 Hawks 107



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 92.1 1.16 50 25.9 33.3 13
MIL 92.1 1.19 56.8 37.
20.5 16.3

I don't have a good explanation as to
why the Hawks start slow and finish fast. You'd think both the opening and closing quarters would feature much the same players for both teams. Certainly for the Hawks the only typical difference would be heavier fourth quarter participation from Flip Murray if he's playing well in a particular game.

I do have a partial explanation why the Hawks started slow and finished fast last night. Josh Smith spent the first quarter taking and missing jump shots. Four of them in the first 9:08 of the game. He also made a hook shot and missed a layup. The Hawks scored 22 points in the first quarter. Smith took just one more jump shot* the rest of the game. He missed that one, too, finishing the game 0-5 on jump shots and 8-11 on shot attempts at and around the basket where he also drew fouls resulting in four free throws of which he made two. And, yes, that does mark progress of a sort for Smith from the line.

Perhaps someone on the bench reminded him how easy it was to get layups and dunks against the Bucks as recently as last week. Or, that he sat most of the second half last night after choosing to make half of his field goal attempts jump shots.

It's a partial explanation because it's not all about Josh Smith. Flip Murray also started slow and finished fast. He missed his first four shots (including two three-point attempts) before making seven of his final eleven shots (including three of four three-point attempts). Most importantly, likely, is that the Hawks didn't defend well at all as there was never a Buck on the court who Mike Bibby could guard without consequence. Bibby couldn't deal with any of Luke Ridnour, Ramon Sessions, or Charlie Bell, and, unlike the Nets' Bobby Simmons or Jarvis Hayes the night before, Richard Jefferson isn't a wing you can hide Bibby against. Mike Bibby isn't the sole reason that Milwaukee shot over 56% from the floor and assisted on 27 of 38 field goals but he's the crux of the team's defensive limitations.

A frustrated Sekou Smith also tries to get to the heart of the Hawks' limitations:
In a league where you’re defined by your last performance, having a reputation as a team that plays only when pressed is not an admirable quality.

Whether they like it or not, that’s exactly the reputation the Hawks have developed over these past two years (no one gave them much thought at all before that, when they were in the foundation pouring stages of their rebuilding project).

The Hawks are a reactive team, not a proactive one.
Josh Smith provides an affirmative quote (though he fails to indict his own recent willingness to open games by chucking jumpers):
"I just think that we react to teams instead of us forcing the issue and you saw early in the game they got up and pressured the ball and made it hard for us to catch and extended that lead. We had to counterpunch. And it shouldn’t always come to that. It took them putting the pressure on us to step back up and pressure them. And that should be the other way around. And if that’s the way we’re trying to play we need to change it up, because it’s not working."
Joe Johnson's doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the team's mental toughness:
"It’s been a carbon copy the past few games. It’s how we start the games. Fighting back is the hard part. And then you get back in the game and tend to relax a little bit and they go on another run. And we knew they were going to come out and play hard. So it wasn’t like they caught us off guard or anything."
After the game, Mike Woodson gave credit to Andrew Bogut:
"He was huge. He's a big target. Zaza had his hands full."
Marvin Williams either gave credit to all the Bucks or blamed himself and all his teammates:
"They came out and played hard, a lot harder than we did tonight."
The Human Highlight Blog delineates a difference between the Joe Johnson-era Atlanta Hawks and the Bill Russell-era Boston Celtics:
Bill Russell had a famous approach to his attitude regarding playing games. He said that the game was on the schedule, you have to play it, you might as well win. That approach says a lot about how his Boston Celtic teams were not just merely great, but all time great.

Let's just say the Atlanta Hawks have not embraced that philosophy.

In fact, one might say that the team has adopted a different approach and to the untrained (read: HHB) eyes, it looks a little like this:

We are going to play the way that each individual feels like playing. We're going to seek to do the bare minimum and try to win. We're going to give effort in spurts and hope that's enough to beat this team. If more energy or execution is required to win the game, then we won't win the game.
The schedule makers give us all a respite following this miserable five-game week. The Hawks are off until Wednesday.

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