Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spurs 102 Hawks 92

Boxscore

Gameflow

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
17.1
27.5
14.2

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?"
LINKS

4 comments:

M said...

after repeatedly getting burned by parker last night, all i kept thinking about was you were going to rip the hawks and woodson to shreds in your recap post. they deserve it though...

Bret LaGree said...

I failed to integrate this organically into the recap but I actually laughed out loud when Woodson took Mo Evans out of the game 4-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter. Yeah, he was the problem.

jrauch said...

Highlight of the night, by far. When Flip was pulled for his second foul, my buddy and I at the game looked at each other in disbelief.

Surely you wouldn't be subbing your hottest offensively player out for Mo Evans (playing well, but when Mario West is on the floor, well, he's always in need of being pulled).

Just a horribly coached game by Woodson on just about every level.

The second half offense was an embarassment as well.
Letting Joe and Flip dribbled for 20 seconds and heaving up a prayer in traffic is not an offensive strategy, its an abdication of your job as coach.

You'd think in the last year as teams run a second player at Joe as he begins to back his player down the Hawks would, you know, look to exploit the 5 on 4 situation. Cut to the basket, let Joe know there's 4 other people on the floor, and one of them is completely uncovered.

Bad loss and it doesn't look like it'll be getting any better next few games.

Bronn said...

Okay Bret, I'll bite on the Mario clause. Better late than never. His success rate against Parker was like 50%.

He DID play 8:43 and finished with zero fouls. But that was mostly guarding guys other than TP because he was playing the 3 defensively last night.

At any rate, it's not a problem when you can't stop Tony Parker. It's a problem when a team is down enough pieces that stopping Parker is your only goal, and you fail to hinder him at all. Parker would have a tough time replicating that dominance in a pick-up game.