Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March 31st Open Thread: Atlanta (43-31) @ Philadelphia (37-35)

TIP-OFF: 7pm

TELEVISION: Fox Sports South

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


ATLANTA INJURY REPORT: Marvin Williams is out. Acie Law IV is a game-time decision.

PHILADELPHIA INJURY REPORT: Elton Brand and Jason Smith are out. Samuel Dalembert is a game-time decision.



PREVIOUSLY THE PHILADELPHIA 76ers...lost their last two games, 100-95 at home against Charlotte and 101-97 in Detroit. The 76ers currently sit in the sixth spot, one game behind Miami, in the Eastern Conference standings. The Hawks split the two games in Atlanta against the 76ers winning 95-88 on November 1st and losing 109-94 on January 11th.

I suspect the 76ers are a slightly more troubling first-round playoff matchup than the Heat for the Hawks. The dilemma is thus: should Philadelphia win tonight I will a) be more convinced that the 76ers are a tough matchup for the Hawks and b) the 76ers will be a half-game closer to becoming the Hawks' first round opponent; or, should Atlanta win I will a) be (perhaps) less convinced that the 76ers are a tough matchup and b) the 76ers will be less likely to be the Hawks' first round opponent.

You've heard of a no-win situation, haven't you? Really? No, you've never heard of one? Vietnam...this.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Caught Up

  • It feels a bit churlish to complain about Mike Woodson trying something different but starting Zaza Pachulia rather than Mo Evans doesn't make much sense* and it didn't work well. The Hawks were -11 in the 10:18 Zaza played with the starters to open up the two halves.
  • Should the Hawks explore re-signing Mike Bibby** I recommend bringing a copy of this game tape to the negotiations. Bibby got beat every which way one can defensively: off the dribble, off the ball, or simply playing poor positional defense after a switch.
  • Were it not for Bill Walker and Mikki Moore's incompetence, the Hawks' team defensive performance would have looked much worse. Stephon Marbury scored 20% of his points on the season in this game.
  • The shock of Glen Davis's performance, as expressed by Bob Rathbun and Dominique Wilkins, serves as a useful reminder of the unique nature of the Hawks' bench. Sure, Davis was not efficient, but, other than Acie Law IV, you couldn't give anyone outside the Hawks top eight 24 offensive possessions to use and expect them to score 19 points and provide two assists. See also Solomon Jones' 5+ trillion performance.
  • Kevin Garnett is Boston's best defender, but the team's defensive gameplan doesn't suffer in his absence.
*Was he putting a less capable defender (Josh Smith rather than Evans) on Paul Pierce so as to match up better with Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins?

**An idea to which I'm not necessarily opposed.

  • I'm not going to hit the archives to answer a semi-rhetorical question a day late but when was the last time the Hawks played a really good defensive first quarter?
  • Completely rhetorical question: How do you attend a game wearing purple and/or gold, root loudly for the Lakers at the start of the game, but root loudly for the Hawks at the end of the game?
  • Things tightened up not after Horford left in the second quarter immediately after picking up his second foul but after Woodson refused to put Horford* back in the game after Pachulia picked up his third foul. Solomon Jones played the final 2:15 of the half instead, putting up his second trillion of the weekend as the Hawks were outscored 8-2. Not that Mario West's decision to shoot a jump shot during that stretch helped much on the offensive end either.
  • Marvin Williams' interview with James Verrett did nothing to inspire confidence that he'll play again this season.
  • Yes, the Lakers missed some shots they normally make but any team's best defensive performance of an 82-game season is going to come on a night when that team plays good defense and their opponent misses some makeable shots.
  • Mike Bibby made his share of shots. He also did an admirable job guarding Derek Fisher. That may not sound like much but it's an obvious difference and may highlight the most important distinction between Atlanta's good and bad defensive nights: How much the opposition punishes Mike Bibby the defender.
*He played the entire second half (Hawks were +9) and finished with four personal fouls. Hell, Pachulia played less than seven minutes of the second half and finished with three fouls.

Weekend Roundup

NOTE: Due to extensive flight delays yesterday, and the grossly misplaced priorities that have conspired to create a world where I'm expected to show up for work on Monday morning I haven't seen either game yet. Any independent thoughts I am yet to have about either game will have to wait until tomorrow. Consider the regular blogging schedule to have resumed effective immediately. There's a longer piece in the works for later in the week. As always, thanks for reading.

Celtics 99 Hawks 93



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
BOS 86.6 1.14
53.2 26.9
33.3 16.2
ATL 86.6
1.07 46.6

Josh Smith:
"We got outplayed in the first three quarters of the game, really embarrassed to tell you the truth. We played Hawks basketball for the final eight minutes or so, but we were already down 17 points by then. Being down to a championship team, it’s kind of difficult to win the game."
Mike Woodson:
"We didn’t play until the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter. And you can’t beat a team like Boston when you don’t start playing until then. I thought they were the more aggressive team."
Maurice Evans:
"We had two glaring opportunities and we didn’t take advantage. Now we have to go up against a team, that once again is one of the best in the NBA. These games are turning into must-wins if we want to secure that fourth spot in the playoff race. And everybody behind us is not going to keep bailing us out by losing and making it easy for us to maintain our position."
Peachtree Hoops:
Three things did not show up for the Hawks last night.

1. The defense.
2. The offense.
3. The fans.

If the point of that game was to crush any hype and hope I had going in, it was wildly successful.

Outside of one horrible non-call on a travel by Paul Pierce, I didn't even get any knew material to dislike him. The game was just a disappointing let down.
Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub:
The credit goes first to the team defense, and to the coaching staff for constructing a Hawks-specific scheme that worked well. Every time Joe Johnson touched the ball, the C’s double-teamed him or brought a second defender halfway over to help, trusting the guys behind the helper to rotate correctly. This is smart because the Celtics have no one who can guard Joe Johnson consistently. It also worked because the Celtics usually rotated away from the right players, by which I mean Josh Smith when Josh Smith was standing around the perimeter (which is where we like Josh Smith to be).
Hawks 86 Lakers 76



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
LAL 88.7 0.86
37.5 28.8
31.9 16.9
ATL 88.7
0.97 45.2

The 0.86 points per possession allowed by the Hawks yesterday is the second-best defensive performance of the season bested only by the 0.85 points per possession they allowed Miami on December 12th.

Mike Woodson:
"This was probably the best defensive game we’ve played all season."
Mike Bibby:
"We played together and our shots were going in. You couldn’t have asked for a better game."
Maurice Evans:
"I think everybody just got tired of not showing up and getting embarrassed at home by some of the top teams in the league. Even as bad as we played those last couple of games, we still had chances to win. So we knew if we came out and gave a better effort it was inevitable that we’d have one of those games when we came out and played like we know we’re capable of playing."
More Maurice Evans:
"Mario brings so much energy and effort. You just can’t help but respect it and root for it when he’s out there. That effort he gave us was huge tonight."
Mark Bradley:
This isn’t a great team, but we’ve known that all along. What we now know is that it’s again a dangerous team. Indeed, these Hawks are more dangerous than they were a year ago, when all they did was force the champs-to-be to a Game 7.

You wouldn’t bet on the Hawks to win the NBA title, but you wouldn’t want to face them, either. All the elements that fueled last spring’s run are still in place, with this bonus: They now know what the postseason entails, whereas last season’s team was flying blind.
Hawks Str8Talk:
Sometimes, it serves a purpose to simply revel in the positives. Other times, it serves a purpose to give it to you straight - today, we do both. First, congrats to the Hawks on handing the Lakers their apple bottoms in almost wire to wire fashion. Second, let's congratulate the bench for showing the fire that is necessary for the Hawks to be successful. Third, let's not take this victory too far (but far enough to get all the Hawks fans (and bandwagon jumpers) to buy their playoff tickets IMMEDIATELY) b/c in part due to the Hawks and in part just due to being sloppy - the Lakers did not play anywhere close to their best basketball. The positive there is that we didn't struggle to defeat a team that wasn't playing its best.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March 29th Open Thread: Lakers @ Atlanta

TIP-OFF: 3:30pm


RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass



...beat the Hawks more comprehensively than the 96-83 final score might indicate on February 17th.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap*) thoughts.

*Hoopinion's back in full swing tomorrow.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Basketball Prospectus: Pelton: Evaluating APBRMetrics

Following up on yesterday's post:
Ultimately, the discussion seems to center largely on the two questions that were the focal point of my columns five years ago:

* Can we boil a basketball player's value down to a single number?
* What better describes a player's value: his individual statistics or plus-minus data describing his impact on the team?

If you would have told me five years ago that neither question would yet be answered to anyone's satisfaction, I would have been disappointed and somewhat surprised. What happened?

Friday, March 27, 2009

March 27th Open Thread: Boston (54-19) @ Atlanta (42-30)

TIP-OFF: 7:30pm


RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


: Marvin Williams is out. Acie Law IV is a game-time decision.

BOSTON INJURY REPORT: Tony Allen, Leon Powe, and Brian Scalabrine are out. Rajon Rondo sprained his ankle in Orlando Wednesday night but (as of this writing) plans to play.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Celtics Hub, CelticsBlog

PREVIOUSLY THE BOSTON CELTICS...lost 84-82 in Orlando on Wednesday night, ending a four-game Boston winning streak.

The Hawks lost the first meeting with the Celtics 103-102 on November 12th in Boston and the return game in Atlanta 88-85 on December 17th.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game thoughts.

Due to travel, there will be no game recap posted tomorrow.

Three-Team Race for the Fourth Seed?

At Liberty Ballers jsams throws down the gauntlet.

This is what happens when you neglect your studies.

John Hollinger Augments PER

He's added VA (Value Added) and EWA (Estimated Wins Added). I'm a little wary of the mis-interpretation of the latter's handle as PER* doesn't measure defense beyond one's steal and block rates but this should provide some help to those who never quite grasped that the "E" in PER stands for efficiency.

Sortable leader boards and what-not available here.

*As the man himself writes further down the piece:
So is Bruce Bowen the worst player in the league?

No. He has the worst VA because it becomes negative for players with a PER under the replacement level at their position. Of such players, Bowen has played far more minutes than the rest thanks to his on-ball defensive ability (which PER doesn't measure). Those minutes make his rating even more negative than the rest, dragging him to the bottom of the pile. For genuine awfulness, however, one could argue that Adam Morrison (-47.1) and Stephon Marbury (-1.1) have done as much to hurt their teams as anyone else in the league.
Further reading: Kevin Pelton compares EWA to his WARP.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spurs 102 Hawks 92



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
SA 84.3 1.21
58 21.3
18.8 10.7
ATL 84.3
1.09 52

Despite Tim Duncan wearing a suit at tip-off the game didn't begin auspiciously for the Hawks. On San Antonio's first possession they ran a double screen-and-roll for Roger Mason, Jr. (guarded by Mike Bibby). Drew Gooden (guarded by Al Horford) set the first screen. Matt Bonner (guarded by Josh Smith) set the second screen. Bibby made a half-hearted effort to get through the first screen. Horford kept Mason in front of him but when he switched with Smith on the second screen Smith was a step or two out of position and (typically) off balance. Mason took one dribble at a stumbling Smith then stepped back and drained a wide-open 20-foot jumper. On Atlanta's subsequent possession Joe Johnson missed a layup and landed awkwardly on his right ankle.

Johnson would turn out to be fine. Atlanta's defense would not.

It's no great shame to be unable to guard Tony Parker. To be unable to guard him or guard Roger Mason, Jr. (18 points on 10 shots) or keep Parker from setting up Bonner, Gooden, and Kurt Thomas (9-17 FGA, 7-8 FTA cumulatively) for easy buckets is indicative of a thoroughly poor defensive performance. Even Michael Finley took his occasional turn at knocking down an open jumper when putatively guarded by Mike Bibby.

That's the crux of the problem: Mike Bibby has to play extraordinarily well offensively to make up for the cascading mis-matches he creates for the opposition on the defensive end. 13 points on 13 shots, 4 assists and no turnovers isn't enough against a team that has two guards who can create off the dribble. Woodson tried to hide Bibby on Finley when that was an option, but even the 36-year-old Finley could get to the elbow off the dribble and shoot over Bibby or lose Bibby in the corner and spot up for an open 3.

That Woodson responded to this anticipated strategic dilemma by keeping Bibby in the game for 40:41, often going with a three guard lineup and keeping Maurice Evans (3-3 FGA, 2-2 3PTA, 3 rebounds in 22:43) on the bench was probably the worst of all the flawed options available to the head coach especially considering that the offense's reliance (even with Bibby on the court for 22:17 of the second half) on Joe Johnson and Flip Murray creating their own offense* in the final two quarters didn't necessitate having a true point guard on the court. I genuinely believe that this was a bigger issue last night than the typical strategic choice of switching on every screen-and-roll as Al Horford did a better job than anyone else** at keeping Tony Parker out of the lane. Sure, Parker made a number of 18-foot jumpers with Horford standing off and guarding against Parker's penetration but, all things considered, those were the shots the Hawks had to be most satisfied with Parker taking.

*19 of Atlanta's 42 second half possessions culminated in field goal attempt or turnover by either Johnson or Murray.

**First person to mention Mario West's strip of Parker at mid-court must also mention Parker blowing past West for a layup on the next possession and make a guess as to how long Mario West could have guarded before Parker before fouling out.

Even though Johnson and Murray struggled defensively, their offensive games* were the only reason the Hawks stayed in the game as both Josh Smith** and Al Horford struggled at the offensive end. Smith's struggles were mostly self-inflicted though Matt Bonner deserves credit for playing solid position defense and daring Smith to get around him successfully. Horford mostly missed shots he normally makes. As the Hawks eight-game home win streak had a fair amount to do with opponents missing a ton of open three-pointers it would probably be a touch unreasonable to play what-if regarding Horford's seven missed field goal attempts.

*Flip played so well in the first half he had to come out with 6:53 left in the second quarter because he picked up his second foul. Congrats, Flip, you're too valuable to risk! Murray played the final 19:28 of the game and committed one foul.

**Note to Josh: Drawing a charge is not just a matter of getting in position. You must also look like you're in position. Thus, stepping into the lane ahead of the penetrating guard but taking your (sadly) usual weight-on-your-heels defensive stance, leaning back, and taking the charge with your knees isn't going to look good in live action and you're extremely unlikely to get the call no matter how clearly the replay shows you actually were in front of the penetrating guard.

It was an ugly night for the Hawks but there's a silver lining for the Hawks: They clinched a playoff spot because Milwaukee, New Jersey, and Charlotte all lost. Miami lost, too, so there's no ground lost in the race for the fourth-seed.

Mike Monroe of The San Antonio News-Express reports the following exchange:
Tony Parker already had torched the Atlanta Hawks for 24 points in the first three quarters of the Spurs' 102-92 victory at Philips Arena here Wednesday night, making 12 of 15 shots, and Hawks coach Mike Woodson had seen enough.

Between periods, Woodson beseeched his players to cut off Parker's lanes to the basket.

His plea: “Make him shoot jumpers.”

“But, Coach,” Hawks center Al Horford told Woodson, “he's making all of those, too.”
Sekou Smith reports on the scene in the Hawks locker room:
Heads hung for all of 15 minutes in the locker room after Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs finished trashing the Hawks’ eight-game home winning streak.

Fifteen minutes is all the time it took for word to spread that despite the Hawks’ 102-92 loss to the Spurs, they clinched a second consecutive playoff berth.
Al Horford:
"Now at least we know we’re in, which is nice. So we can just look ahead and keep trying to get better."
Mike Woodson:
"We tried doubling him some, but he kept beating the double-teams. He had a great game tonight, and you can’t take anything away from Parker and the Spurs. We didn’t gap him enough in terms of forcing him to shoot jump shots and let him go to the hole, and that’s when he’s at his best. We’ve just got to get better individually on the ball. And we had some slippage in that area."
Maurice Evans:
"We were still in the game at 74-74 and just made mistakes. We didn’t get stops. And at some point you’ve got to make an adjustment. To let a guy get 42 points on a back-to-back, you’ve got to look at yourself. It wasn’t just an effort thing. You let a guy get 42 points, almost all on layups, what can you say?"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March 25th Open Thread: San Antonio (46-24) @ Atlanta (42-29)

TIP-OFF: 7pm

TELEVISION: Fox Sports South HD

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


: Marvin Williams is out. Acie Law IV is a game-time decision.

SAN ANTONIO INJURY REPORT: Manu Ginobili is out.


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: 48 Minutes of Hell

PREVIOUSLY THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS...outlasted the Golden State Warriors 107-106 in San Antonio last night behind 30 and 10 from Tony Parker, 20 and 10 from Tim Duncan, and 10 and 2 and 2 from the not-to-be-overlooked Matt Bonner.

The Spurs beat the Hawks 95-89 in San Antonio on December 10th.

PERSPECTIVES ON SOCIAL NETWORKING WITH GREGG POPOVICH: "I'm still on the fax. I do faxes. Faxes and letters. Sometimes my daughter will check my phone, and there will be an e-mail, and it will be from last Christmas or something. You could Twitter me to death, and I wouldn't know it."

SEND YOUR BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS TO @obricio7: Let's talk about books! Best book u've ever read? And why? The one that blew your head http://twitpic.com/2fj54

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Gameday Links: March 25th Edition

Euroleague Quarterfinals Update

Updating yesterday's post, Olympiacos beat Real Madrid 88-79*. Josh Childress (in what I believe was his third game back from surgery) scored 8 points (on 4 shots) and grabbed 4 rebounds (all defensive) in 18:48.

Both David Andersen (2 points on 1-4 FGA, 0-1 3PTA in 12:49) and Barcelona (84-75 losers at home to Tau Ceramica) fared worse.

Highlights here.

All four quarterfinal series resume tomorrow.

*Euroleague boxscores reflect both the fouls you commit and the fouls you draw. I'd rather that than blocks against in the NBA boxscore.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Better Know Your Murray

Great article (HT: @StottsEra) about Flip* by Mike Jensen in The Philadelphia Inquirer:
All over the neighborhood, the word was out. Flip was back. Ronald "Flip" Murray had been academically ineligible for his senior season at Strawberry Mansion High. His exile ended just before the Public League playoffs.

"I saw some people I knew - they were like, 'Yeah, I got off work today, Flip is coming back.' They were comparing it to when Jordan came back to the United Center, after he had retired," said Littel Vaughn, who puts out Checkball magazine, about Philly hoops.

If memories haven't faded, Murray's first game back was a home game, against Olney High. At that time, Flip used to pack Strawberry Mansion's gym for intramural games. To get in for this one, for Flip's return, you had to know somebody at the door.

"He got three straight dunks," said Kevin "Buzz" Forney, the other star on that Strawberry Mansion team, who went on to play at Duquesne. "One of our fans stopped the whole game and came out and gave him a hug."
*Who is, as of today, out shooting Joe Johnson both on 2PT (50.2% vs. 47.2%) and 3PT (36.9% vs. 35.1%) attempts. Mind-boggling.

Hawks Players (Sort of) in the Playoffs

Euroleague quarterfinals start this afternoon. Josh Childress will be on display as Olympiacos host Real Madrid (watch the game live from 3:45pm on ESPN360) and David Andersen is the home team's second-leading scorer as Barcelona host Tau Ceramica.

Are these the assets that make the Hawks better?

Hawks 109 Timberwolves 97



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MINN 86.8 1.12
51.3 36
27.9 13.8
ATL 86.8
1.26 58

If the Timberwolves we're trying to win that game, I'll eat my hat. The Hawks' starters didn't show up for the second half*, the bench beyond Flip Murray and Pachulia just isn't capable of contributing in any meaningful way**, and the Hawks were never in any real danger of losing because, as I mentioned, the Timberwolves weren't trying to win.

*During which Minnesota scored 61 points.

**In 28:46 they cumulatively missed four field goal attempts, made two free throws, grabbed two offensive rebounds, blocked a shot, and committed five fouls.

Flip Murray (right) deserves praise for his shooting night and for the even more unexpected 5 assists he dished out. Al Horford was his usual steady and productive self in each of his four brief stints. Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby were great in the first half but thoroughly phoned it in in the second. Josh Smith continued to suggest that rebounding (just one last night) and taking bad shots (just one last night) are somehow intrinsically linked in his mind. Zaza Pachulia out-rebounded Kevin Love.

There were good things on display from the Hawks last night but the second half provides a further reminder, as if Saturday wasn't enough, how the Hawks differ from a genuinely good NBA team: They don't defend consistently, they don't put teams away, and, with Marvin Williams and Acie Law IV out they literally have seven active players capable of contributing in an NBA game. Sure, Solomon Jones or even Mario West might steal you a few minutes if they share the floor with four real, live NBA players but last night, the end of the Timberwolves' (the Timberwolves) bench showed themselves far more capable of making plays, creating offense, whatever you want to call it, than the Hawks' bench.

But, you know, congratulations on clinching a winning season and moving one game closer to securing home-court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs. In the short-term, there's little for Hawks fans to worry about. For anyone curious as to how this collection of assets, under the control of this franchise, progresses beyond being the fourth-seed in the East to compete for a Conference of NBA Championship has to wonder if that's possible before even beginning the difficult task of imagining how that could happen.

Flip Murray:
"My teammates were finding me and we had some good mismatches. I had some chances early where I got to go down in the paint and get it started in the post with a little guy guarding me. And then in the second half we switched out a lot on the pick and roll and I had a big man on me and I was able to [isolate] a lot and shoot over the top."
Josh Smith:
"Flip’s in playoff form right now. He was on fire out there and we had to ride that. And everybody else needs to follow his lead, because there’s no reason not to step it up now as we get closer."
Joe Johnson:
"Play time is over. Flip is a vet. He knows that. I think you could tell by the way he was playing tonight and how focused he was. There’s no more messing around for us."
Mike Woodson on Acie Law's back injury:
"It’s a tough one. We could really use Acie right now, especially with the teams we’re going to see this week. He just woke up one morning and his back had locked up on him. I hate it for Acie because he really had a chance to help us right now and he’s out."
The timing of Law's return is uncertain.

Monday, March 23, 2009

March 23rd Open Thread: Minnesota (20-50) @ Atlanta (41-29)

TIP-OFF: 7pm

TELEVISION: Fox Sports South HD

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


: Marvin Williams is out. Acie Law is a game-time decision.

MINNESOTA INJURY REPORT: Al Jefferson and Corey Brewer are out.



PREVIOUSLY THE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES...lost 97-90 at home against Oklahoma City yesterday. It was Minnesota's fourth consecutive loss. They have lost 23 or their last 27 games overall and their last six on the road.

The Hawks beat the Timberwolves 94-86 in Minnesota on February 4th.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Al Horford's Beacon of Light

Mr. Horford:
"You have to wrap your head around the fact that this [was] just one game and that just like our seven straight wins didn’t help us against Cleveland, one loss doesn’t mean the end of the world either. We played great basketball up to this point and we’ll do it again. We just have focus on Minnesota and get back home and get back to doing the thing that made us successful [during that homestand]."
Josh Smith's beacon of what it's like inside Josh Smith's head:
"We got knocked off track a little bit by a great team. In the past, we were the kind of team that would let one little setback get us in a funk. We’re not that team anymore. We’ve moved on from there. Plus, we’re like Cleveland in terms of how we play on our home floor. We don’t think anybody can beat us [there] when we’re on our game."
Who among us can't smile a bit at the thought that the lesson learned on Saturday afternoon was about how similar the Hawks and Cavs are?

Hawks' Efficiency Home vs. Road

The contents of this graph will come as a surprise to no one, I suspect but 1) It's in 3-D and 2) It took me absurdly long time to add even passable yet thoroughly homemade-looking labels. So I'll share.

And I'll summarize: The Hawks are 10.1 points/100 possessions better at home than they are on the road. At the Hawks' average pace (89.8 possessions per game) that converts to 9.1 points per game.

As always, click the image to make it bigger.

I have not expanded my study to figure out how much better the average NBA team is at home. Perhaps another day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Acie Law IV Injury Update

Mike Woodson spoke to reporters before the game yesterday. On the subject of Acie Law's back he had this to say (reported I presume, by Sekou Smith but AJC.com does not include a byline with the story):
"I don’t know how bad it is. I didn’t even know he had hurt it until the beginning of the game. But when I put him out there he didn’t look like he was feeling to good to me. I didn’t want to take any chances with him, so I got him out of there."
The culture of open communication and trust between players and coach is palpable.

Cavaliers 102 Hawks 96



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 92.1 1.04
48.7 27.3
27.1 16.3
CLE 92.1
1.11 52.6

A burst of garbage time scoring from Flip Murray shouldn't hide the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks handily on an afternoon when LeBron James was, by his standards, a relative non-factor. For the fourth time this season, Mo Williams* found no resistance from Atlanta's perimeter defenders (primarily Mike Bibby) and looked every bit the sidekick necessary to make Cleveland more likely NBA Champions.

*Williams on the season against the Hawks: 23 PPG in 36.5 MPG on 61.9 eFG% and 10-10 from the free throw line. Plus 15 assists against 5 turnovers.

Williams scored 24 points on 14 shots, was credited with seven assists and just one turnover. His impact goes beyond his own numbers as the machinations through which the Hawks went in an attempt to quarantine Mike Bibby from Williams created a brief Daniel Gibson scoring flurry in the second quarter; a quarter in which Cleveland consolidated their 14-point first quarter lead because, unlike during the recent homestand, the Hawks' reserves failed to out play their counterparts.

The third quarter though, wherein the Hawks starters played the first 11:33 as a unit, clinched the game for Cleveland. Just as in the March 1st game in Atlanta, Cleveland began the second half seemingly content to shoot jump shots, only occasionally beating the Hawks off the dribble, and just generally displaying a perhaps not quite conscious lack of respect for Atlanta's ability to trouble them. So the Hawks had a chance to get back in the game. Did they take this chance? Did they work hard to get back in the game? They* did not. They spent their energy accomplishing the (not-so-difficult) task of drawing multiple technical fouls from Joey Crawford's crew.

*Maybe Al Horford and Maurice Evans did.

Mike Bibby started things off two minutes and four seconds into the third quarter, earning his T by arguing an innocuous loose ball foul for which he was called. Bibby's technical gave the Cavaliers a free point when Atlanta had shaved three points of the 18-point halftime deficit. Josh Smith got in the act with 7:33 left in the quarter, arguing rather comically that he must have been fouled and never could have turned the ball over while dribbling on his own accord. Again a 15-point lead became a 16-point lead. Leader of men Mike Woodson* capped the effort, drawing his second technical of the game with 6:30 left in the third. Mo Williams converted that free throw, the Cleveland lead was 20, and I watched the rest of the game out of obligation. Woodson, on the other hand, skipped out on the post-game interview.

*The Woodson/Smith article gets its own post early this week.

Maurice Evans:
"The first thing we have to do is learn how to stop complaining about the officiating and understand that when you’re on the road, you’re going to be at a disadvantage. If we can ever conquer that mentality I think that’s when we’ll become one of the truly elite teams in the league."
Al Horford:
"We shouldn't even be talking to the refs. We have to go out there and play. The Cavs are the best team in the league, so we need to go out and play. Until guys understand that, we're going to be going through this."
While the head coach pouted and hid, the two Hawks players who acquitted themselves with the possessions left over from others' turnovers and missed shots spoke of personal responsibility.

It took the Hawks over a quarter before they ran their first play into the post to start the offense, and even though going there was successful, they minimized it's use.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

March 21st Open Thread: Atlanta (41-28) @ Cleveland (55-13)

TIP-OFF: 1pm


RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


: Marvin Williams and Acie Law are out.

CLEVELAND INJURY REPORT: Wally Szczerbiak, Ben Wallace, and Eric Snow are out.



PREVIOUSLY THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS...have won seven straight games and 11 out of 12. They are 31-1 at home with the lone loss coming February 8th against the Lakers.

The Cavaliers beat the Hawks 110-96 in Cleveland on November 22nd. The teams split the two games in Atlanta. The Hawks won 97-92 on December 13th. The Cavaliers won 88-87 on March 1st in a game refereed by Haywoode Workman, Tony Brothers, and Eric Lewis.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Friday, March 20, 2009

John Hollinger on the Hawks' Bench

Link (HT:@peachtreehoops)
The Hawks have been absolutely killing opponents in second quarters, when Murray and Zaza Pachulia normally play nearly the entire frame, and it has been the main reason the Hawks won all seven games on their just-completed homestand.

Consider this stat: In their past eight games, the Hawks have won the first, third and fourth quarters by a combined total of just seven points.

The second quarter? They've won that by 67. That margin, over eight total quarters of basketball, is the rough equivalent of winning consecutive games by 33 points.
Under-the-radar post-season matchup consideration: Does the Hawks' opponent have a big guard that can bother Flip Murray?

Hawks 95 Mavericks 87



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
DALL 91.7 0.95
43.8 14.6
34.8 14.2
ATL 91.7
1.04 49.4

The second quarter exemplified the Hawks at their best: alternating three-pointers with layups/dunks, keeping their opponent out of the paint, forcing the occasional turnover, and doing an effective job on the defensive glass. Most impressive is that the bulk of the Hawks' 18-0 run came while playing 4-on-5. Mike Woodson saw something so distasteful in Acie Law IV's one minute and four second of play in the second quarter that he felt the need to yank Law from the game (never to return) in favor of letting Mario West not keep Jason Terry in front of him for the next 3:41 while also continuing to be a comical non-factor offensively.

The second half was something of a different story. The Hawks struggled to score (37.3 eFG%, 62.5 FT%) and they took their recently re-implemented defensive strategy of forcing opponents into shooting jump shots to a dangerous extreme. In the second half, Dallas had the ball down eight or fewer points on 25 possessions. On those possessions they were 6-23 from the field, 7-10 from the line, and turned the ball over four times. They scored 21 points on those 25 possessions, failing miserably to take advantage of their own solid defensive performance in the second half.

Now, it wasn't strictly a case of Dallas* missing open shots. Atlanta did some good things defensively, none more important than frustrating Dirk Nowitzki with physical defense. Certainly, on a different night with a different officiating crew Nowitzki would have attempted more than four free throws. Last night, though, the Hawks figured out that they could bang with Nowitzki before and after he received the ball in the high post, and, to their credit, they took full advantage even gaining the benefit of three points on technical fouls drawn as a direct result of defense on Nowitzki that he and Rick Carlisle found unduly restrictive.

*It might have strictly been a case of Jason Terry missing open shots.

"I thought Dirk was being held and pushed and got fouled repeatedly. I kept asking for a foul to be called, but it wasn't. I turned to the official and just got thrown out."
Final mention must got to Flip Murray who flourished against a team unable to put a big guard on him. Murray got going by backing down Jose Juan Berea a couple of times early in the second quarter before diversifying his game with a corner three, a couple of transition buckets, and three trips to the free throw line.

Mike Woodson:
"The main quarter that counts is the fourth quarter, and we've been pretty good this year in the fourth quarter. That's where the game was won tonight, I thought."
Scoring by quarter:



Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 19th Open Thread: Dallas (41-27) @ Atlanta (40-28)

TIP-OFF: 7pm

TELEVISION: Fox Sports South HD

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


: Marvin Williams is out.

DALLAS INJURY REPORT: Josh Howard, Devean George, and Jerry Stackhouse are out.


The Two Man Game, Mavs Moneyball

PREVIOUSLY THE DALLAS MAVERICKS...beat Detroit 103-101 on Tuesday night to push their odds of making the playoffs up to 83.5%. They beat the Hawks 100-98 in Dallas on December 6th.

The Hawks beat the Kings 105-100 in Sacramento on February 18th.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hawks 119 Kings 97



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
SAC 93.6 1.04
43.7 41.8
28.3 13.9
ATL 93.6
1.27 60.5

The Kings didn't/couldn't* play any defense last night. The Hawks didn't play any defense for three quarters. (Sacramento scored 1.22 points per possession over the first three quarters.) It took just six minutes of good basketball from the Hawks on both ends of the floor to open the fourth quarter to blow the game open.

*reader's choice

In the face of no resistance all eight Hawks who played meaningful minutes had productive offensive nights. Defensive credit to Acie Law IV, Flip Murray, Josh Smith, and Al Horford* for putting the game away early in the fourth. Sympathy to Kevin Martin for playing so well on such a bad team and further sympathy to Sacramento fans who must spend their days waiting for the draft and trying to convince themselves that Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson have a bright future.

*Half-credit each to Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby who split time early in the fourth quarter.

Josh Smith:
"It’s fun when everybody can score and contribute to a win."
Al Horford:
"We weren’t on our game defensively, but we’re going to have nights like that. We did what we had to do to win."
Horford on Spencer Hawes' hard foul:
"I know I’m going to feel it in the morning."
Mike Woodson:
"We picked it up in the third and fourth quarter. The way we started the game, I didn’t think we would ever get to that point. We had no defensive presence in the first half. You can’t start the game the way we did, thinking we are going to outscore teams, without having some sort of defensive presence."
Smith, again:
"We didn't want to lose to a team like Sacramento. No offense to them, but (after) beating New Orleans and Utah, teams who are on top of the Western Conference, we didn't want to let ourselves down by losing this game. We're just trying to separate ourselves from the pack. Miami's right on our heels still."
Kevin Martin:
"We stopped playing together tonight, and this is happens when you play selfish basketball. I think we all learned a little lesson tonight. They were aggressive from the start. Al Horford is a load in the paint, and Josh Smith is one of the most athletic guys in the league, so that made it tough for us."
We've been shining the bronze bust of Al Horford out here for quite a few games now, but we must add that we've seen a dramatic improvement on his finishing inside after contact. It's just another brick in the wall in what should be a nightly memo to Mike Woodson that the game should, in some part, go through Horford in the pivot. When you have a big man that can pass (oh by the way, Horford had 6 assists) and has great hands (my hand twin!), you have to leverage that high percentage option. Well you don't have to, but you could be considered foolish or stubborn to not do so.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 17th Open Thread: Sacramento (14-52) @ Atlanta (39-28)

TIP-OFF: 7pm

TELEVISION: Fox Sports South HD

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


: Marvin Williams is out.

SACRAMENTO INJURY REPORT: Bobby Jackson is out. Cedric Simmons is listed as day-to-day.


Sactown Royalty

PREVIOUSLY THE SACRAMENTO KINGS...The Kings lost 106-104 in Washington Sunday night to run their road record to 4-29. Two of those four road wins came in November.

The Hawks beat the Kings 105-100 in Sacramento on February 18th.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

TrueHoop NCAA Tournament Backet Group

Henry Abbott's set up a group at the big web site. Go here if you wish to join. I have.

For those of you who wish to augment tonight's Hawks/Kings encounter by preparing for the 2011 NBA Draft, Morehead State's Kenneth Faried is worth watching in tonight's NCAA Tournament Play-In game.

DraftExpress ranks Faried the 23rd-best Sophomore in the land. Faried's an undersized (6-8, 215) center in a low-major conference but his defensive ability (4.1 blocks and 3.9 steals per 100 possessions this season) and rebounding (16.8/32.9 OR%/DR%*) suggest he has a decent chance to make a successful transition to the NBA as, at the least, a 3/4 hybrid off the bench.

*That's 6th- and 2nd-best in country (per kenpom.com), respectively, and down slightly from his freshman year rankings of 1st and 4th.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hawks 98 Trailblazers 80



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
PORT 83.6 0.96
47.8 29
28.6 7.2
ATL 83.6
1.17 54.3

It's difficult to maintain perspective on this team that's 12-and-a-half games, 8-and-a-half points per game better at home than they are on the road especially because two long blocks of home games sandwiched a 28-game stretch where the Hawks played 19 road games. So, though the Hawks aren't as good as they've looked the last five games* nor were they as poor as they looked much of the previous two months.

*I do think that Marvin Williams will be missed at some point before the season ends.

They're a 39-28 team* with a two-and-a-half game lead for the fourth seed in the East. They're above average both offensively and, now, defensively. They've assured themselves of finishing the season with the franchise's best record in a decade. This has already been a successful season.

*38-29 Pythagorean record

Yesterday, Joe Johnson continued to make shots* at a high rate, but at the risk of being an obscurist, I'd argue that his seven defensive rebounds should not be completely overshadowed by his 35 points on 27 shots. Had it come down to it, I'm not entirely convinced that Brandon Roy (29 points on 19 shots) couldn't have matched Johnson shot for shot. Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Zaza Pachulia had their hands full keeping the league's best offensive rebounding team off the glass. They weren't entirely successful, combining for just eight defensive rebounds but the Hawks held Portland below their season average on the offensive glass in large part due to Johnson and Mike Bibby (4 defensive rebounds) securing the ball while the big men worked first to box out**.

Perhaps Joe's aura blinds opponents while going after those misses.

*Were I a Portland fan, I'm pretty sure this entire recap would be about Nate McMillan's decision to keep Nicolas Batum on Johnson for the first 10 minutes of the second half despite Travis Outlaw's (who is also a better offensive player than Batum) effective defense on Johnson in the second quarter.

**Drew seconds this.

Like Indiana on Friday night, Portland let Josh Smith catch-and-(hesitate-and-)shoot to his heart's content (2-4 on jump shots) and refrained from double-teaming when he received the ball with his back to the basket. Also, like Indiana, Portland wasn't given cause to re-think this tactical choice. To Smith's credit, he eventually did some damage in transition and on the offensive glass, but, had it been a day where Joe Johnson was not unstoppable, with Al Horford limited (in terms of opportunities rather than efficiency) by Joel Przybilla's size and defensive ability, and the bench failing to contribute much Smith's struggles stood out before the game was decided.

Speaking of the bench, though it's common knowledge that Mike Woodson will latch onto any excuse to keep Joe Johnson on the court, I don't think he had much of a choice yesterday with the combination of Portland's depth and his own bench's ineffectiveness. Of course, giving Mario West* almost six minutes in the first half lowers the ceiling for bench productiveness.

*Note to 'Nique: The reason no one blocks out Mario West is that he has so little offensive ability that the other team doesn't even pretend to guard him in the halfcourt.

Blazer's Edge on Joe Johnson's domination of Nicolas Batum:
[Johnson] did everything but stop mid-air to sign autographs, and I believe Nicolas Batum would have taken one if he had done that.