Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hawks 89 Hornets 79



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
NO 85.5
41.9 15
20.5 12.9
ATL 85.5 1.04 46.8

Over the game's final 42 minutes the Hawks played defense like they did in the season's first three games (including the 87-79 win in New Orleans). They packed in below the three-point stripe, kept Chris Paul (for the most part) out of the lane, let the Hornets lack of off-the-ball movement (Julian Wright excepted) stifle themselves, and (this cannot be overemphasized) controlled the defensive glass.

The last time Atlanta grabbed 79.5% or more of their possible defensive rebounds was on February 27th against Miami. I think that was also the last time I had much positive to report about the Hawks defense. As in that game, the Hawks got the benefit of their opponent missing some decent shots* but, had the Hawks not set up their opponent's role players to become comfortable standing around watching their 1st Team All Pro teammate try and create sufficient offense all by himself it wouldn't have made much difference.

*David West, in particular, were he to take the exact same 21 shot attempts another night would struggle to make only 8 of them.

Not that the Hawks did a great job (with Joe Johnson being a very large and obvious exception) of knocking down their open shots. Both Mike Bibby and Al Horford failed to convert a majority of their good shot attempts and Josh Smith, well, a lot of the open shots* he took were open by New Orleans' design.

*Five jump shots, only one made. Which still leaves him 4-8 FGA, 3-6 FTA, 3 assists, and 4 turnovers on his less bad-to-good offensive plays. Not a great offensive night for Smith. Again. The defense and the 13 rebounds probably made up for it.

Most interestingly, two days after choosing not to go to his bench much at all on the back end of a back-to-back, Mike Woodson leaned on his reserves and was rewarded for the trust he demonstrated. Starting Maurice Evans was out of necessity, using Flip Murray for 29:57 is about par for the course now, but playing Zaza Pachulia for the entire fourth quarter* and giving Acie Law IV stints of 9:49 and 9:56 were both marked changes. Furthermore, Sekou Smith reports this was a conscious, premeditated choice.

*It was an odd choice to leave Al Horford on the bench for the final 9:59 unless Horford was suffering from an undisclosed and unreported injury but it didn't hurt the Hawks.

Mike Woodson:
"Everybody that came off the bench was solid. Flip played a solid game, but to see Acie and Solomon, guys who hadn’t played a lot of minutes lately, to step in and give us some positive minutes was huge tonight."
Josh Smith:
"Acie came in and did the job and Solomon has done it all year when guys have been out. We just have to keep playing hard and playing defense the way we’ve been these past two games. And as long as we keep getting these home wins, nobody can complain."
I guess I was not sufficiently impressed by Solomon Jones' put-back dunk and complete lack of production outside of that moment during the 6:46 he played.

Tyson Chandler:
"They switch across the board and they come at you with 6-7, 6-8 guys or better who are all athletic. And it caused problems for us tonight. Their scrambling caused some mismatches for us and made things difficult."
I'll wait and see how that athletic switching does against Utah's half-court offense before I stop assigning some of the credit for stopping the Hornets to the Hornets themselves, especially the bizarre cult of James Posey.

David West is frustration personified in this quote:
"I think they didn't do anything to us defensively. We couldn't guard them. Our defense just couldn't guard them. We couldn't put together enough stops by any stretch to beat this team. When we're not necessarily getting quality shots or making shots, our defense has to get even tougher. And we didn't do that. They're able to do what they want to do on the offensive end, and we were basically on our heels the whole night defensively. We didn't do enough defensively to give ourselves a shot. We didn't come in with the right mindset. We know Joe Johnson is the guy, and we weren't able to put the clamps on him. I thought we didn't play with the right intensity defensively. Our defense has to be our constant."
Blaming effort and defense for a loss is a constant across all teams and levels of basketball. The Hornets held the Hawks about 4% below their average offensive efficiency. Some of that may have been Marvin Williams' absence, but New Orleans' defense didn't lose this game.

Ryan Schwan at Hornets247:
Atlanta packed the defense in more and more as the game wore on, and the Hornets didn't knock down their long range shots to force them to play a more honest perimeter defense to open driving lanes. It was so bad in the second half that they started almost every defensive posessions with no player within six or seven feet of the three point line. The Hornets almost always attacked by finding a post up mistmatch and trying to exploit that. Unfortunately, Posey and Butler may be bigger than the guys guarding them, but they aren't so good at scoring from the post, and little came of it except a pass back out to the perimeter with only a few seconds left on the clock.
At Peachtree Hoops, Drew pulls off the difficult feat of making a compelling case for how Chris Paul and Zaza Pachulia are similar players.

Marvin Williams' back gets a separate post to follow shortly.

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