|Team||Poss||Off Eff||eFG%||FT Rate||OR%||TO%|
Mike Bibby's defense gets criticized frequently in this space but the Hawks (probably) don't win last night* without him making two** good defensive plays in the game's final minute.
*They probably don't win without his 29 points on 19 shots with an eFG% of 63.1, either (eFG% for rest of team: 42.7), but that's a little more expected.
**Three if you extend the time frame back to 2:13 of the fourth and give him credit for conning the referee with a flop that drew Jason Thompson's fifth foul. I'm not entirely convinced there was contact on the play. A second camera angle might have cleared that up but the game was broadcast on SportSouth, and thus brought to us by a single, low-definition camera.
- Up 102-100 (thanks to a nifty clutch bucket from Joe Johnson) with 19 seconds left, Beno Udrih (who, frankly, had his way with Bibby most of the night) threatened to beat Bibby off the dribble and get free in the lane but Bibby stripped the ball which was recovered by Josh Smith who threw ahead to Joe Johnson who was fouled.
- Johnson only made one of his two free throws (This team does nothing to simplify matters for themselves.) so Bobby Jackson had a shot to tie the game with 9 seconds left. Jackson missed. Bibby boxed out Jason Thompson sufficiently well to draw Thompson's sixth foul as the rookie tried to grab the rebound.
Al Horford (13 defensive rebounds) and Marvin Williams (7 defensive rebounds) led the improved effort ont he defensive glass. Sure Sacramento's only 24th in the league in offensive rebounding but the Hawks played without Josh Smith* and Zaza Pachulia for long stretches due to foul trouble that never materialized. Smith sat with two fouls for the final 19:32 of the first half (which ended with the Hawks down 4). He played the entire second half (during which the Hawks outscored the Kings by 9 points) and finished the game with three personal fouls. Pachulia was +10 in 9:47 in the first half. While he sat (and Solomon Jones played and played and fouled Kevin Martin on a made three-pointer and played some more) for the final 9:44 of the first half, the Hawks were outscored by 10 points.
*Who is apparently trying to stop wasting possessions on three-point attempts (just four in his last 17 games) without becoming a better basketball player. He doesn't make those long two-point jumpers appreciably more often than three-pointers, and, on the infrequent occasions they go in they're only worth, you know, two points. Factor in career lows in FT%, blocks (both in volume and rate), and rebound rate (both offensive and total) and Smith's season is, to date, a massive disappointment.
Horford complemented his rebounding effort with a strong offensive game, scoring 18 points on 12 shots, grabbing 5 offensive rebounds, and dishing 4 assists against a single turnover. Williams continued his offensive struggles since Joe Johnson returned to the lineup. In Johnson's absence, Williams, serving as a primary option on offense, scored 52 points in two games, 29 of those points at the free throw line. In the five games since Johnson has returned, Williams has scored just 49 points and attempted only 17 free throws.
Perhaps, if the Hawks were to integrate all of their offensive talent into the offense they wouldn't have to struggle to beat an 11-win team that was without 40% of their starting lineup. Maybe not, though, as there would still be the defensive mediocrity to overcome.
But, hey, the Hawks are 10 games over .500 and have a three-and-a-half game cushion for the fourth seed in the East. Things could be, nay, things have been much worse. I'll try and keep the gnawing concern that there's no good way to get this collection of players (and contracts) from 45 to 55 wins at bay until the off-season.