Sunday, February 08, 2009

Clippers 121 Hawks 97



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
LAC 90.8 1.33 63.4 13.9 20.5 6.6
ATL 90.8 1.07 50 32.9 13.2 12.1

It was a bad night. There's no escaping that but I'm loathe to draw any conclusions about a game that fails the simple test of moving the needle on my pessimism gauge. That's because it was a weird night also. Mike Bibby's absence was felt in and of itself but it also exposed Acie Law IV's unfamiliarity with the first unit and vice versa. Both Joe Johnson and Al Horford were on shorter-than-normal rotations and neither looked at 100%.

Johnson took a while to get going. His first bucket didn't come until 5:02 left in the second quarter. Horford faded early on the back end of the back-to-back. He had four points and four rebounds in his 12+ second half minutes but both buckets came in the fourth quarter and, in both instances, served only to cut the Clippers' lead to 21 while bracketing the moment that alerted all witnesses that the Hawks had given up the ghost: Steve Novak beating the entire home team down the court for a fast break layup following a missed Flip Murray jumper.

The game's key sequence followed the second extremely timely timeout* Mike Dunleavy called during the game. With 9:52 left in the third quarter, the Hawks had scored the first six points of the second half to get within eight. Following the timeout, Los Angeles scored on their next seven possessions. On the eighth, Joe Johnson fouled Baron Davis in the act of shooting. Davis missed both free throws. The Clippers then scored on their next eight possessions with that streak stopping on the mild technicality of Al Thornton attempting a two-thirds court heave at the third quarter's buzzer.

Dunleavy called the first at 8:08 of the second quarter after the Hawks cut the lead to 34-25. Los Angeles scored ten straight points on five straight possessions following the timeout.

To recap: From 9:52 to :07.2 of the third quarter, Los Angeles scored on 15 of 16 possessions and on the sixteenth Baron Davis shot two free throws. The Hawks scored 25 points of their own during that stretch and lost ten points' worth of ground.

The third quarter finished the game off but the Clippers spent the first half putting themselves in a position to take control. They consistently identified and exploited matchups. Zach Randolph went on the block when guarded by Josh Smith and stepped out on the perimeter when guarded by Zaza Pachulia. In between ill-advised three-point attempts, Baron Davis used his strength to punish Acie Law in the post. Not that the other three Clipper starters didn't do a fine job of moving the ball, moving without the ball, and attacking the basket when the opportunity arose they were just a little more general* about it:
  • Al Thornton 16 first half points came on 12 shots, only one of which I noted as a questionable shot. 
  • Eric Gordon didn't see much of the ball but converted three of his six field goal attempts. 
  • Marcus Camby played two exquisite halves but was perfect in the first (4-4 FGA, 3-3 FTA, and 3 assists).
*Or two examples are the maximum I can competently process.

There was little for Coach Woodson to say after the game beyond the obvious*:
"[Mike Bibby] is a big part of what we do. We missed him tonight obviously. I don't know if he would have made that big of a difference...they shot lights out. Our defense was in Charlotte."

"We were flat from beginning to end. It's unacceptable. We didn't compete tonight. It's the first time I've seen that from this team this year (at home). We did not compete at all."
*That's not a criticism. That's a statement of (perceived) fact.

Or, as
The Human Highlight Blog puts it:
...this wasn't a cosmic fluke that "happens" to teams every so often in an 82 games schedule---it's the natural outcome of what happens when you don't play as a team in any way shape or form at any part of the game.
The flip side of that sentiment, courtesy of ClipperBlog:
Ball movement is a beautiful thing. That Spalding moves faster than a human being, faster than even Josh Smith. When it goes into the right player in the right place at the right moment, it can produce miracles. To wit: The Clippers generate 38 assists on 49 field goals tonight.
Josh Smith:
"We just weren't ready to play. We both had back-to-back games but I feel like we should have used that to our advantage. We should have been pushing the ball more than we did."
The Hawks' inability to push the ball consistently had far more to do with the Clippers scoring so consistently (1.33 points per possession, 63.4 eFG%, 6.6 TO%) than any lack of willpower demonstrated by the Hawks once they had the ball.

Marvin Williams:
"Those guys scored any way they wanted to score. We really didn't even make an effort to really stop them."
I'm not close enough to the team to judge the accuracy of either Williams' criticism of the team's effort nor Woodson's that the team did not compete but the quality of the result is not in question. The Clippers made half their three-point attempts, 59% of their two-point attempts, assisted on 38 of their 49 made field goals, rebounded their own missed shots more often than the Hawks rebounded their own missed shots, and turned the ball over on only one out of every 15 possessions. If there had been any more ways to be superior to the Hawks, I'm confident the Clippers would have demonstrated those as well.

Without overlooking the bad performance last night,
Mark Bradley takes a longer-term view of things:
Sund’s team played its 50th game Saturday night, and it was, sad to say, what the new GM calls “a clunker —- you’re going to have three of those a year, and you hope no more.”

Let’s hope. The Hawks were beaten by 24 points at home by a terrible Clippers team. But one game, wretched as it was, cannot eclipse what has become a bright, shiny season. The Hawks still hold the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference and are on pace to go 48-34, which would represent a clear upgrade from the eighth-place finish and the 37-45 record of last season.

And the GM is beginning, ever so warily, to believe. “We’ve had so many injuries, and we’ve handled it,” Sund said. (For the record, he spoke Saturday morning.) “That’s a real endorsement of this team.”

1 comment:

CoCo said...

I didn't feel too bad about this game because all of the Clippers players were on fire and aside from that the Clippers have talent. They really do, health has been their biggest nemesis this season. Acie is making it really hard for me to continue to clamor for playing time for him.