Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jazz 108 Hawks 89



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 92.7 0.96
54.3 18.6 21.6 21.6
UTAH 92.7 1.16 53.4 15.9

In a micro-tactical sense Mike Woodson coached fairly well last night. Things weren't transpiring according to plan so he deviated from the plan. He stayed with the Murray/Johnson/Evans/Smith/Horford lineup for the better part of the second quarter. That group played the only stretch of passable defense any combination of Hawks managed last night and pulled the game back from 29-48 to 52-61. A questionable goaltend call* against Josh Smith and a Ronnie Brewer halfcourt heave at the second quarter buzzer undermined their good work but they kept the game from being over at halftime.

*And, really, I'm reluctant to acknowledge it as a questionable call given Smith's overreaction to every foul called against him, against a teammate, or not called against an opposing defender. One would think that a player struggling in so many areas might have sufficient internal issues to prevent him from focusing on his perceived persecution by the referees. One would be mistaken in Smith's case.

Woodson gave Bibby (-20 in 12:12 during the first half) another chance to start the second half. Two minutes, 55 seconds, and three (Mike Bibby defended) CJ Miles buckets later. Bibby was done* for the night. At that point the Utah lead was 22, they'd scored 76 points in just under 27 minutes and the game was essentially decided** because, in a macro-tactical sense, Mike Woodson seriously diminished the Hawks' chances of winning in Utah when he decided that, defensively, this team would spend the season switching on every screen. It's a functional strategy against teams with a limited number of offensive options and/or little off-the-ball movement. Against Utah it essentially rendered the Atlanta defenders stationary, calling out switches but never moving their feet as the Jazz players ran their offense without interference.

*Having read the AP recap this morning and learned that Woodson sat Bibby because Bibby was sick, I've decided both to leave the above as written last night and delete the aside here about the positive sign that the Hawks might accurately value Bibby's strengths and weaknesses as a player at this point in his career and not commit cap suicide by re-signing him to a ridiculous contract this summer. Seriously, Bibby was sick? Sure didn't effect his defense. Zing!

**Even the resulting 6-0 Hawks run made little impact as it took over 2-and-a-half minutes, included a couple of missed free throws, and neither energized the visitors nor worried the hosts.

It's an odd, passive choice for a team that has an admitted problem with playing hard. Certainly, in general, some ground must be ceded in deference to Bibby's defensive limitations in order to reap the benefit of his offensive talents. I don't believe this to be any sort of platonic ideal of a defensive basketball team but they haven't been challenged to become a better defensive team. In the terrible home loss to the Clippers, Acie Law IV got chewed out by Woodson and Marvin Williams for screwing up a defensive possession by having the temerity to try and fight through a ball screen. A blown assignment? Yes. An example of a young player trying to earn more playing time by giving extra effort? Yes, also, but his effort was viewed primarily as disruptive rather than positive. A small moment, to be sure, but one that has obviously stayed with me for more than two weeks.

Utah's end-of-game offensive numbers should be damning enough but do not forget or overlook that they are dampened by a 15-point, 5-25 FGA, 0-3 3PTA fourth quarter. Jazz players not named Matt Harpring* went 1-19 from the floor and scored 4 points in the final quarter. Through three quarters, the Jazz scored 1.34 points per possession, shot 66.7 eFG%, and grabbed 42.1% of possible offensive rebounds.

*I suppose I should write something about Smith's flagrant foul. I don't think he made much of a play for the ball. I certainly don't think he made as impassioned a play for the ball as he made a play for Harpring. Harpring fell badly (but not intentionally so) but thankfully was not seriously hurt. I'm not proud of this, but, in the moment, I wanted Harpring to get to Smith so I could see how Smith would react to being confronted. Five years into his NBA career and we still don't know, do we? What would happen if someone said (and acted upon the following premise) to Smith, "You can't shoot. Work on your post-up game and you'll get some touches. Until then, focus on defending and rebounding if you want to play." It's hard to avoid (but impossible to do anything about) the fact that the root cause of Smith's current funk is that no one within the organization figured out four years ago that Smith was destined to be a power forward and should be tutored as such. So much wasted time and now he plays as if he has no idea who he is or what he can do to help the team win.

Last word to the head coach:
"The results of this game were an embarrassment."


MC Welk said...

Amen to your asterisks.

JMar said...

I hate your asterisks. Hate them. Normally I like when my opinions are validated. The entire Hawks fanbase, including the announcers, see the exact same things. Yet nobody within the organization itself apparently notices. And that is why I hate your asterisks, because the more I hear these things from different places, the more frustrated I am that they fall on deaf ears.

Unknown said...

I will simply say that - I loose you from your preseason prediction, so you can sufficiently criticize Mike Woodson and anyone else responsible for our 2009 performance.

If John Hollinger could quickly (and he did it in 6 games) call the Hawks a team to reckon with, then you can revise your prediction and then say - hey, maybe it's the coach. Work with me, Bret :)