Thursday, April 30, 2009

Josh Smith Shooting Breakdown Through Game 5

Layups/Dunks: 19-23 (82.6%)
Intermediate*: 5-18 (27.8%)
Two-point jumpers: 5-20 (25%)
3PTFGA: 2-11 (18.2%, eFG%: 27.3%)

As in the regular season, Smith is such a poor jump shooter (full stop) that it's actually the two-point jumpers (96-312, 30.7%) that are more damaging to the Hawks' offense than the more attention-grabbing, though less-frequent, three-point attempts (26-87, 29.9%) since on the roughly 3 out of 10 times (during the regular season) or 1 out of 4 times (through five games of this playoff series) a Josh Smith jump shot goes in it's nice to get that extra point.

Of course, that assumes the nicest possible outcome--Josh Smith not attempting jump shots at all--remains practically irrelevant.

*Hook shots, turnaround jumpers int he post, non-layup runners...essentially shots neither taken at the rim nor as a spot-up jumper.

Hawks 106 Heat 91




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIA 79 1.15
50.8 49.2
19.4 8.9
ATL 79
1.34 52.1

Don't let the glacial pace fool you, defense was strictly optional for most of the game. True, the Hawks held Miami a hair under a point per possession in the first half but the lead Atlanta built that was just large enough to sustain Dwyane Wade's scoring burst* to open the second half had far more to do with the Hawks scoring more than a point-and-a-half per possession during the first half. For the game, Atlanta's offensive efficiency easily surpassed that of Miami in either of the games the Heat won in this series.

*Wade, already frustrated by/uncomfortable from getting leveled by Josh Smith and clumsily wrapped up by Solomon Jones, appeared to pay special attention to Mario West's ridiculous rain dance at the end of the first half. Congratulations Mario, you successfully jumped around like a poorly behaved 10-year-old while Wade dribbled in place in order to take the final shot of the half. You truly are a king among men. Oh, and Mario? You stayed in front of Wade exactly zero (0) times during your extended third quarter stint. No one likes an arrogant walk-on.

So how did the Hawks score so easily? They didn't turn the ball over. Miami compounded their poor defensive effort by fouling a lot, and both Joe Johnson and Flip Murray started scoring all of sudden. Murray entered the game making less than 30% of both his two- and three-point attempts through four playoff games. He made eight of ten two-point attempts (just one of five three-point attempts) in Game 5, scoring 23 points on 15 shots.

After Johnson's 1-6 start from the field to open Game 5, his eFG% was down to 37.5% for the series. From that point forward, Johnson made five of nine shots (one three-pointer included) and went to the line 15 times. He'd attempted 17 free throws through four games of this series. Johnson didn't go to the line 15 times in a game all season. Or last season. Or the season before that. Or ever in his NBA career. So maybe we should hold off on declaring Joe Johnson back until he makes at least half of his shots in a game rather than scoring his points in a thoroughly atypical and likely unrepeatable fashion.

The health of Al Horford's ankle (Marvin Williams' wrist runs a distant second. No disrespect to Marvin but there's a much bigger difference between an ineffective and/or limited Al Horford and Solomon Jones than there is between an injured Marvin Williams and a healthy Mo Evans.) is the main concern as the Hawks look ahead to Friday's chance to move into the second round:
[Horford] had his ankle placed in an iced compression boot at halftime and did not return. “It did swell up a little bit, but we got on it so fast I think that helped,” Horford said after the game. “I think [Thursday] will be the real test, where we can see how it is. But if I can get some treatment on it the next couple of days, we’ll see by Friday.”

If Horford can’t play, that means the Hawks would have to finish the series without two starters. Starting small forward Marvin Williams hasn’t played since spraining his wrist late in Game 2 and is likely out for the remainder for the remainder for the series.
Miami's concerns are substantial as well after the team-wide defensive meltdown of Game 5 exacerbating existing worries about defensive rebounding and Dwyane Wade's physical well-being.

"I was tight. Then I had my head, so it was tough. But I tried to play through it."
Erik Spoelstra:
"They kicked our butts in pretty much every way possible that you could in a basketball game and there at the end it turned into a highlight show, pickup game, highlight reel, really trying to embarrass us."
And, yet, Josh Smith succeeded only in embarrassing himself.

To me, Spoelstra's use of "embarrass" is intended to motivate his players more than anything else. No one outside of the traveling media from Miami seems to have publicly expressed any specific criticisms about the Hawks' conduct. Save for me, above, of course. It should be kept in mind that the Miami press corps seems constitutionally incapable of considering rebounding to be a factor in who wins or loses a basketball game, or, if things continue apace, a playoff series.

The Hawks blogosphere has no such blind spot. Don't believe me? Check out the lede at Peachtree Hoops:
Rebounds. In a game that had fake injuries, flagrant fouls, chippy behavior, missed contest dunks, and hot Flip, it is weird talking about something that hinges on boxing out and trying hard. This was a soap opera game that was decided by the guy that holds the boom mike.

Yet, Atlanta had more effort and better focus. The Hawks out rebounded the Heat by eight and six of those were offensive rebounds.
At TrueHoop, Kevin Arnovitz gives Josh Smith the Al Thornton treatment by categorizing and detailing every possession Smith used last night. SPOILER ALERT: Josh scores more efficiently at the basket than when he's launching jump shots:
On Wednesday night, Smith's full range is on display -- the astonishing speed/power combination, the unpredictability, and the callowness. He finishes with 20 points on 20 possessions, 6-16 from the field, 7-9 from the line, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and two steals. The results are true to form. The shot selection isn't perfect, but we've seen worse.
6 "Giddys" and 6 things to be careful about before Game, yes, 6 at HawkStr8Talk.

In lieu of competitive basketball in this series, Kelly Dwyer discusses issues of decorum:

Josh Smith's attempt at a late-game dunk was bush league. He went for a modified Isaiah Rider-turn with the Hawks up 20, and botched it. I don't need to act haughty or holier than whomever and beat the pulpit. You'll get that from other areas, and (if you'll continue to read) from me.

It was stupid, it made no sense; and the worst part? What if that had gone in? Would that have sent the Hawks' fans into a tizzy? Or would they, as I would expect, kind of cheer and murmur at the thought of "was that really necessary? Wasn't that kind of a prick move?"

But to hear Heat coach Erik Spoelstra complain about it, talking about how the Hawks tried to "embarrass" the Heat? Come on. First of all, come up with a game plan and a rotation to beat the Atlanta Hawks, a team that is coached by a man named Mike Woodson.

Secondly, remember this game? When you called a timeout with 30 seconds left, and your team up 13 points? I wasn't angry because I'm a Bulls fan -- if you're the Bulls, and you don't like it, then find a way to be closer than 13 points with 30 seconds left -- but I was angry as a fan of smart decisions, and good decorum. Josh Smith had none of that on Wednesday, and Erik Spoelstra whiffed on it back in December.

If I were him, I'd let the players do the complaining about the Smith play, take advantage of the seething anger behind closed doors, but pass on stirring things up to the press. But that's me. I think stats tell the whole story, or something.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Game Thread #5: Miami (2-2) @ Atlanta (2-2)

TIP-OFF: 8pm

: TNT, Fox Sports South HD

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


ATLANTA INJURY REPORT: Marvin Williams is out.

: Luther Head and Jamario Moon are out.


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Peninsula Is Mightier

LEFTOVER NOTES FROM THE GAME 4 RECAP: If there is a time to play Solomon Jones in this series, that time comes only after two of Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Zaza Pachulia have fouled out. When Marvin Williams is healthy, there is no time to play Solomon Jones in this series.

I don't imagine it made much of a difference in the result, but how weird was it that the Miami crowd, so into the final 3:26 of the first half, missed the start of the second half. There were a ton of empty seats visible and the arena was dead quiet for the first few minutes of the third quarter. It went from playoff to pre-season atmosphere in less than 20 minutes.

ERIK SPOELSTRA MIGHT COULD BE A GOOD BLOGGER: Speaking of Michael Beasley, Spoelstra said, "
He's taken 27 jump-shot attempts and only nine layup attempts."

ON THE SUBJECT OF SHOT SELECTION...AN OBLIGATORY JOSH SMITH UPDATE: Through four games Smith is 15-17 on dunks/layups, 4-13 on intermediate shots*, 5-17 on two-point jump shots, and 1-9 on three-point attempts.

Despite the shot selection and upraised arms, he's clearly been Atlanta's best player through four games.

*hook shots, turnaround jumpers...essentially shots neither taken at the rim nor as a spot-up jumper

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jamario Moon Out For Remainder of Series, Postseason

From the AP:
Heat forward Jamario Moon will miss the remainder of the postseason because of a sports hernia that will require surgery, meaning he may have played his last game in a Miami uniform.

Moon suffered what was diagnosed as a lower abdominal strain in Game 3 of Miami's first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks. An MRI revealed further problems, and Moon will have season-ending surgery Thursday.

The team said he will need two weeks to rest after the surgery, and will be re-evaluated at that time.

Moon is due to become a free agent this summer. The Heat acquired him and Jermaine O'Neal in February, in a deal that sent Shawn Marion to the Toronto Raptors.

Every minute Yakhouba Diawara plays in this series benefits the Atlanta Hawks.

Hawks 81 Heat 71




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 79.2 1.02
46.2 30.3
29.7 18.9
MIA 79.2
0.89 41

If I didn't have a long-established tradition of titling the game recaps with the final score I might dub this post "An Organized Constriction" in honor of the three (3!) units that played the entire second half for the Hawks, methodically strangling Miami's offense while also making enough shots to a relatively comfortable road playoff victory, the franchise's first, you may have heard, in 12 years.

Through four games, the Hawks have won the fastest and slowest paced games. They've also won the two least efficient offensive games which have both been characterized by poor field goal shooting and lots of turnovers. As much talk as there's been since Game 1 about Miami keeping the Hawks out of transition, both teams are so comfortable taking their time to set up their primary offensive option that if that option is taken away there's little time to find a quality second option within a possession barring an offensive rebound. Factor in the deference to Dwyane Wade and, to a lesser extent, Joe Johnson demonstrated by their teammates and the sharp contrast between good and bad* offense we've seen through four games becomes more understandable at least in a macro- sense.

*Or in Miami's case brilliant and terrible.

In a micro-sense, it's indicative of my lack of understanding* that I can't adequately describe how Atlanta's defense/Miami's offense differs between Games 1 and 4 vs. Games 2 and 3 to the degree represented by the results. Is it simply a matter of making shots compared to not making them? Maybe. The Hawks made a more concerted effort to close out on shooters last night, not always to their benefit, while also controlling the defensive glass** for most of the game. Is it just the difficulty of playing a man/zone hybrid to counter Dwyane Wade that makes striking the balance between aggression and maintaining position difficult? Could be. The Hawks' best defensive stretch of the game came in the first half with Josh Smith (strictly aggression) and Zaza Pachulia (strictly maintaining position) paired in the frontcourt for a little over 12 straight minutes of game action.

*If you're feeling generous I'd be willing to blame a lack of time available for real film study.

**Udonis Haslem grabbed Miami's first offensive rebound of the game 54 seconds into the third quarter.

I'm also tempted to credit Miami's increased FT Rate as a net positive for the Hawks' defense as points added much more slowly one at a time than three at a time. That the accumulation of fouls led to 3:26* of Solomon Jones** during the near-fateful end of the second quarter undermines this hypothesis. That Jones and Mario West shared the court for the better part of a 19-2 Miami run while Zaza Pachulia (who would play 17:23 of the second half and finish the game with four fouls) and Josh Smith (who would play the entire second half and finish the game with three fouls) sat on the bench with just two fouls to their names suggests that the accumulation of fouls served as an opportunity to create a problem*** for the Hawks rather than being a problem in and of themselves.

*2:15 of that time saw Jones paired with West alongside three actual NBA players.

**An entire post could be written about the degree to which Jones was out of position on every single defensive possession during his playing time.

***Lest one worry about the domino effect of Pachulia or Smith picking up a third foul, keep in mind that the Hawks left Mo Evans and Al Horford on the bench for the final 17:23 of the game with four fouls. The Hawks were never short-handed just blissfully content to leave the best players on the floor.

The silver lining of not having a player of Dwyane Wade's caliber is that there's far less ground to make up should he have an off night. Whereas the Hawks weathered Marvin Williams' absence and Al Horford's poor night through the combined efforts of Mo Evans, Flip Murray, and Zaza Pachulia, Miami, despite James Jones' ridiculously efficient 19-point, 5 FGA outburst and Jermaine O'Neal's third consecutive solid offensive game, couldn't overcome Wade's struggles. In part this is because of how much offense he creates for Mario Chalmers and, especially, Daequan Cook. The other part was Michael Beasley's worthless performance.

Joe Johnson:
"Somebody had to step up to get us over the hump, and Zaza did that."
The Human Highlight Blog:
Pachulia pulled down an incredible (18) rebounds, had (12) points on his usual half dozen or so offensive rebounds, and was basically the type of presence that we called out Al Horford to be before the game.

Horford sat for most of the game due to foul trouble and general lack of production when in the game. He might have been too geeked up for the game because he had as many fouls as points (4) and was once again rushing his shots inside, shooting the ball before the apex of his jump as he tends to do when overly excited. He has to step forward for the team to have long term success--this does not mean he should step up into the opposing team and draw quick fouls, however.
Peachtree Hoops:
I yelled "Shrimp Boat" more times in the last four hours than I have yelled in my entire life.
Maurice Evans:
"The way we ended [the first] half was inexcusable. Coach [Mike Woodson] came in here and told us there was no excuse for us to be in this position. That we had to get off our [backsides] and make up for the position we put ourselves in. That there was a game to win. I spoke up. Josh Smith spoke up. The rest of the guys responded with good defense, key stops and some offense when we needed it most. Thank goodness."
If Woodson had coached the last three-and-a-half minutes as deftly as he deflected blame (at least according to Evans' account) for those three-and-a-half minutes onto his players, the Hawks might have won by 20.

Braves and Birds:
Someone should put the fourth quarter into a time capsule so future generations will know the Platonic ideal of a Josh Smith performance. One minute, he's hoisting up a 22-footer with 18 seconds left on the shot clock when the Heat had narrowed the deficit to nine points. The next minute, he's flying after an offensive rebound and then hitting a cutting Flip Murray as Smith is falling out of bounds. The former play is easily correctable and obviously dumb, yet Smith keeps making it. The latter play involved athleticism, hustle, and terrific basketball smarts to know exactly where his teammate was. They were made by the same player.
Sekou Smith lists the bumps and bruises the Hawks have accumulated to this point.

Kelly Dwyer:
Dwyane Wade may have been gimpy, but he made a point from the beginning to try and flop his way into all sorts of whistles, whether it gave him free throws, or whether it merely earned the Hawks a loose ball foul. The gambit failed, but that didn't stop Wade. While he glared at the refs, his young teammates weren't really doing much with the possessions they were using up. Apologies for being crass, but it was just dumb basketball on Miami's side.

Not Wade, mind you. He tried something, knowing that his body was hurting, and it didn't work. It's the teammates. They're just not there. I'm not going kill them too much, because these are a lot of second round picks we're talking about. But that doesn't excuse some odd, unfortunate, decisions on either end of the court.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Game Thread #4: Atlanta (1-2) @ Miami (2-1)

TIP-OFF: 8pm

: TNT, Fox Sports South HD

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


ATLANTA INJURY REPORT: Marvin Williams is a game-time decision. (6:53pm--That decision has been made. No Marvin tonight.)

: Luther Head is out due to a broken hand. Jamario Moon is out due to a strained right groin and abdomen.


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Peninsula Is Mightier

We beat them pretty bad in Game 1, and they beat us pretty bad in Game 3. So we’re even."

IN-SERIES TRENDWATCH: Trending down: Possessions, ATL eFG%, 2PTFG%, OR%, and TO%, MIA TO%

Trending up: MIA points per possession, OR%

GEMS FROM MIKE MOREAU'S SCOUTING REPORT: He could have written much of this at any point during the season, added "Game 4" where appropriate, and taken the rest of the day off:
Getting Joe Johnson going will be a priority for the Hawks in Game 4, and they must run their sets for him with more speed and better precision. The Hawks seem to run their offense in slow motion, as they simply stand around often and move the ball very little.

When Johnson catches the ball, the Heat defenders are just waiting on him. He is playing one versus five, surrounded by Heat defenders when playing his drives into the paint. He routinely ran into multiple defenders in Game 3 and had his shot blocked all night as he overpenetrated into the teeth of the Miami defense.

The Hawks can't continue to just jog down the floor and run sets. They must push the ball and have Bibby produce off the dribble. Expect the Hawks to play a faster pace in Game 4 so they can make some easier baskets. Al Horford might then use his speed to beat Jermaine O'Neal down the floor.

In Game 4, the Hawks must make harder cuts, tougher screens and quicker, more efficient ball movement to get the Heat defense in motion. None of their sets and quick hitters are effective at half speed and with the ball staying in one player's hands. The ball has to change sides of the floor more often and faster.
I'm laughing so as not to cry. Also, I would have at least hyphenated "overpenetration."

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

Two Takes On Mike Woodson, Orator

The quote in question:
"When you have O’Neal, who has been a six or seven-time All-Star, and [Udonis] Haslem who has played championship basketball, they have veteran guys who have been through the battles. My guys haven’t been battle tested. This is something new for our team. When I came into the series I thought we could make it to the next round. I want them to think that too. This series is a long way from being over if we take care of business tomorrow."
First up, Ira Winderman:
The script entering this opening-round NBA playoff series against the Miami Heat had been about the Atlanta Hawks taking the next step, after last season's epic seven-game opening-round skirmish against the eventual-champion Boston Celtics.

Atlanta was, after all, the battle-tested opponent, returning virtually intact from one of the boldest statements of the 2008 playoffs.

The Heat? It was cast as a bit player, too young, raw, inexperienced.

Apparently, Hawks coach Mike Woodson has decided to call rewrite, Sunday extolling the grit of Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade and Jermaine O'Neal, among other Heat veterans...As for the suddenly woe-is-we Hawks, apparently the benefits of last season's epic struggle against the Celtics were overstated for Al Horford, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson.
Sekou Smith was unmoved by the quote, especially in comparison to something else Mike Woodson said:
If this was some master media stroke to ease the pressure on his team, consider that mission accomplished. But it didn’t look that way to me. I honestly didn’t hear it that way. Woodson’s comments on how his team would bounce back against the Heat seemed far more interesting to anyway.

"Our team has been committed all year long, so I’m not ready to put them out to pasture so fast," he said. "They have been committed. We’ve had some tough times and some tough games, stretches where we didn’t play well. And we bounced back. We haven’t played well the past few games. We have to find what we’re made of. Until we’re eliminated I’m going to keep fighting and I’m going to push them to keep fighting.

"Again, when we won the first game, I’m sure they were down after that. They had to be thinking we had to win three more to get to the next round. I’m thinking the same thing. I have to get these guys thinking the right way. The last two games, we’ve been kind of punched out a little bit. We have to rebound."
I lean toward Sekou's interpretation* while acknowledging Ira Winderman makes the fair point that Woodson's "battle-tested" quote doesn't make much sense on its own and even less in the context of several hundred "what we learned from taking the Celtics to seven games" quotes this season. Mr. Winderman's relative lack of exposure to the wit and wisdom of Mike Woodson likely compels him to undertake the fool's errand of parsing a given Woodson quote.

*And not just because he includes those more encouraging quotes from the head coach.

Marvin Williams Update

Mike Woodson speaks and Sekou Smith reports:
"He didn’t do much today. He did not shoot. And we don’t know what his status going to be. We’ll just have to wait and see. As of [Sunday morning] most of the swelling had gone down. But again, I don’t know if he’ll be able to go. Only Marvin knows. And he’ll let me know after shootaround if he can go. I’ll watch him and kind of gauge it that way."

A Disorganized Capitulation

Following up on what ended up, through the combined efforts of Saturday night and Sunday morning, being a throw-away line in the game recap...

The Atlanta Hawks cut a 21-point halftime deficit to 11 with 19 seconds left in the third quarter of Game 3 Saturday night. James Jones made a three-pointer on Miami's subsequent possession to push their lead back to 14 at quarter's end. It was extremely unlikely that Atlanta would come back and win the game. It was not, I felt, unreasonable to expect a team that carved an 18-point third quarter lead down to five points within the final five minutes of Game 2 to fight to the end. That didn't happen and it didn't happen in rather frustrating circumstances.

First, some background on minutes played leading up to the final quarter: Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, and Al Horford all played the entire third quarter; Zaza Pachulia played the last three minutes of the third quarter, relieving Josh Smith after Smith picked up his fourth foul; Flip Murray played the final two-and-a-half minutes of the third quarter in relief of Maurice Evans.

The Hawks opened the final quarter with the same five that finished the third: Bibby, Murray, Johnson, Horford, Pachulia. That was just the first of seven units Mike Woodson would use before indisputable garbage time begins at the 3:37 mark and the Hawks down 27.

This unit lasted 44 seconds into the quarter. With the Hawks now down 17 and Al Horford at the free throw line, Maurice Evans replaced Bibby.

This unit played a one minute and 12 second stretch most notable for Miami getting five offensive rebounds on a single possession culminating in a Mario Chalmers tip-in. Following a Joe Johnson turnover/foul exacta, Josh Smith (who, one guesses, needed to sit out the first couple minutes of the fourth quarter in deference to a complicated foul trouble avoidance algorithm) replaced Pachulia.

1:42. Outscored 5-2. Pachulia comes back in for Horford, who doesn't return for the rest of the game.

Another minute-and-12-second stint highlighted by a Mo Evans block, two Josh Smith offensive rebounds, and two made free throws from Smith. Then, with the Hawks down 22 and 7:10 remaining in the game, Bibby returns and Evans heads to the bench.

After 29 seconds, one Udonis Haslem made jump shot, and a Zaza Pachulia trip to the free throw line that would return the game to its 22-point margin, Evans comes in for Joe Johnson whose night is through.

Miami outscores the Hawks 5-0 during the 1:33 this unit is on the court. With 5:08 left in the game and the Hawks down 27, Acie Law IV replaces Mike Bibby signalling Mike Woodson's concession. Starters Smith and Evans and top reserves Murray and Pachulia stay in the game for some reason.

After a further minute-and-a-half, Smith and Evans are replaced by Mario West and Solomon Jones. Yakubu Diawara, Chris Quinn, and Joel Anthony enter the game for Miami, joining Daequan Cook and Michael Beasley on the court for the duration. Murray and Pachulia will play another 1:46 before Thomas Gardner and Othello Hunter get a run out.

It's my contention that this series of substitutions indicates both an inability to think ahead strategically (The Hawks never made an all-out push to get back in the game* nor did they fully concede defeat until well after the game was out of reach.) and a tendency to make decisions in a purely reactive manner. Without Marvin Williams, Woodson chose to play just seven guys. He had limited options but that didn't stop him from impulsively and/or compulsively shuttling players in and out of the game to no real purpose. It seemed as if the head coach were trying to create the impression of a control freak but succeeding only in revealing how little control he was capable of taking in the moment.

*Despite all the combinations listed above, Woodson never hit on putting his five best available players: Bibby, Johnson, Evans, Smith, and Horford on the court together during the fourth quarter.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Heat 107 Hawks 78



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 83.7 0.93
39.9 19
23.2 11.9
MIA 83.7
1.28 54.3

Where to begin?

The first eight minutes? The last five minutes of the first half? The disorganized capitulation of the fourth quarter? Should one take the long view and first mention that it doesn't much matter if Miami reverts to a more typical field goal shooting performance if the Hawks don't bother to rebound the shots Miami misses or that Marvin Williams was Atlanta's most efficient and productive (per minute or per possession) offensive player through two games and was missed on that end of the court? That Mario Chalmers, a non-factor through two games was +32 vs. Mike Bibby in just 23:49?

Mike Woodson:
"They’ve been the most aggressive team so far in the series, excluding the first game. We’ve got to find some momentum and get back in this series. I just thought the Heat did everything they were supposed to do, and we just didn’t answer the bell."
I wouldn't argue against either the poor defensive rebounding or the terrible half-court offense (due both to its design and execution) as the primary cause of Saturday night's blowout. I'm still no comfortable finding fault with Dwyane Wade shooting 18 three-pointers over the last two games just because he made twice as many of those shots as would have been expected based on the cumulative evidence from every single NBA game he's previously played.

Josh Smith:
"If we don’t find a way to slow him and the Heat down, we’re going to keep getting our heads busted like this. We’re up against it now. And we’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror and realize that we can’t get out of this mess without doing it together."
There must be a reason, though, that the Hawks are down 2-1 in a series where they've kept Wade off the line. I contend that reason is whatever got into Jermaine O'Neal between Games 1 and 2. It was a little sad to watch O'Neal labor during the first game wherein he looked a shadow of his former self. The last two games he's looked like his former self: a productive second offensive option, a formidable defensive presence, and the best rebounder on the floor.

Josh Smith:
"Even though he’s getting a little older, he’s still Jermaine O’Neal. You can’t disrespect him on the block because he’s still got a lot of moves down there. He and Wade got them started early, and it hurt us. It gave everyone else on the court the momentum they needed to get going."
Returning to the Hawks, I will never understand why the perceived solution for this group of players struggling in the halfcourt offense is to rely even more on Joe Johnson. Were my game notes better collated (or just better taken) I'd make an effort to quantify how many more wing isolations have begun below the free throw line for Joe Johnson in the last two games compared to Game 1 where he almost always attacked off the dribble from the top of the key.

Larry Drew:
"They attacked and we didn't respond. I guess the tapes will show us, but I really don't have an explanation for it right now. D-Wade is good enough to beat double-teams, but I'm surprised we haven't been able to contain a few others, specifically O'Neal. I thought we'd do better. We need to do better if we're going to reclaim home-court advantage in this series. We definitely need to have a better first half."
Johnson has drawn more attention in the last two games, limiting his scoring chances but more damagingly, Johnson has abjectly failed to use the defensive attention to create shots for his teammates. He's been credited with just three assists in 73:40 while turning the ball over nine times while missing 20 of 30 field goal attempts.

Joe Johnson:
"We were just so stagnant in our offense that we forced a lot of things. I have to make something happen. They have adjusted since Game 1. It seems as if they are just playing more free out there."
It was not just the fastbreak buckets that fueled the offense in the Hawks' lone win of the series but also a balanced and diverse halfcourt attack that ran screen-and-roll with myriad combinations of players and found opportunities to get the ball to Josh Smith and Al Horford in the post. I don't think Al Horford is a good enough post player to carry a team to a playoff series victory but, in Marvin Williams' absence, he's easily the most efficient offensive player on the team and, right now, he might be the team's best passer as well.

The search for positives to take from Game 3 can be concluded quickly: Al Horford's offense (At least his last nine field goal attempts, but not his defense; no one's defense was up to snuff), witnessing Acie Law upright and mobile, trusting that the team cannot play so comprehensively poorly in two consecutive games even if said games are both on the road.

That last one feels a little iffy this morning. Still, a win tomorrow sends the Hawks home back in possession of home court advantage for the series.

On the latter point, The Human Highlight Blog:
All the Hawks need is to take a single game in Miami to gain the home court back---and no amount of beating (and it was another acid rain shower of made jays) should de-focus the Hawks from that fact.
So, why are we losing in this manner to a team that is better than the other? Well, we see two things happening - Coach Spoelstra has shown himself to be a better coach than Coach Woodson. His adjustments have allowed his team to counteract the Hawks' strengths. A coach's worth is in his ability to cultivate a strategy that positions his team for victory in the short and long term, in being able to motivate the charges to do their best, and to make adjustments on a game-by-game basis. That's the point of having a coach. Unfortunately, we aren't getting a great return on investment in those categories.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Game Thread #3: Atlanta (1-1) @ Miami (1-1) (Updated 5:34pm)

TIP-OFF: 6:30pm

: TNT, SportSouth HD

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


ATLANTA INJURY REPORT: Marvin Williams is out. Acie Law IV will dress.

: Luther Head is out due to a broken hand. Jamario Moon sat out Friday's practice in deference to his groin but is expected to play tonight.

: Miami -4, 186 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Peninsula Is Mightier

THERE'S THE RUB: Mike Woodson: "
We’ve had a lot of opportunities to win on the road. There were a number of games where we were right there. I think we had three or four games where we lost on buzzer beaters or last second shots. But our road play hasn’t been that bad. We just haven’t rewarded ourselves with wins."

HERE'S THE WORRY: Al Horford: "
For us, it has to do with runs on the road. When teams get momentum going, we tend to get a little down.

Maurice Evans: "Throughout the season, I just don’t think we handle runs and adversity very well. And that’s what you get on the road. Teams make runs. Fans get into it. And it’s not as easy to recover from if you don’t stay mentally tough and you’re not playing together. And that’s going to be our real test in Miami."

HOW SLOWLY DOES MIAMI WANT TO PLAY?: They've contrived to cast the team who averaged 89.6 possessions per game (24th in the league) as the up-tempo squad they have to slow down.

FACT CHECK: There were two or three fewer possessions per team in Game 2 compared to Game 1. We're talking about a difference of less than three percent. The Hawks' offense was just as efficient for the entirety of Game 2 as it was for the first three quarters of Game 1. The only difference that mattered between Games 1 and 2 was Miami's field goal shooting. The discussion of pace when both teams want to play slowly smacks of aggrandizing coaching rather than giving players credit for making plays.

IRA WINDERMAN DOESN'T READ HAWKS BLOGS: For as much as Atlanta is praised for its defensive switches with its lengthy defenders, switching on a pick-and-roll and then switching again and again and again takes its toll.

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

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Brief Digression Regarding a Personal Philosophy of Basketball

At Peachtree Hoops, Drew asks "Can you enjoy another team's superstar in the playoffs?":
See I think Dwayne Wade is awesome. I have always enjoyed watching him play. During the Olympics, dude was a revelation. I had no ill will toward him going into this series. Just fear. And yet, two games in, and I have begun to loathe him.


That fourth foul on Joe Johnson last night was a dumb risk by Joe, but the flop by Dwayne Wade was just loserish. You got made fun of for that kind of stuff when I was eight. A few minutes later Dwayne was called for an offensive foul and played hurt for the next possession. The crowd cheered as he lay on the ground. I don't think maliciously as much as they just knew he was not injured. You did not even make fun of the kid that faked injuries back in my eight your old world. You just talked about him behind his back.

And it is not just Dwayne Wade. Watch Paul Pierce or Chris Paul. And you know what I blame? The hand checking rules. They have given birth to flops 35 feet from the basket. They have created whiners and people that are skillful at drawing fouls (and notice how I didn't say contact). Everything is a complaint because literally everything can be a foul, and if you are a superstar, you are just used to getting fouls called when you are fouled. And the whole thing just builds on itself to where you are faking injuries for a possession and falling down 80 feet from the basket. If you are the fan of the other team, it all just piles on top of the awesome so that you forget about respecting the skill and start asking, "What's to like about this guy again?"
I'm a great proponent of allowing offensive players unfettered access to their destination. I abhor hand-checking on or off the ball. At the same time there is nothing that gets me more excited than seeing a defender move his feet and keep an offensive player in front of him. Anyone who has played competitive basketball knows that that is the most difficult thing to do on the court even before beginning the attempt to extrapolate the increased difficulty of what one watches considering the difference between the skill level and quality of athlete one faced at a scholastic level and that which populates an NBA playoff game.

I also think that part of the reason that Drew hates Dwyane Wade and Paul Pierce* and their style of play is that the ability to draw fouls is essentially what elevates them above Joe Johnson. Every free throw they take** (at least after the fourth or fifth) is a reminder of what keep Joe Johnson from being an obvious All-Star caliber player. Perhaps, my recollections are hazy but I don't believe that I was the only Hawks blogger to marvel at and celebrate the valuable accomplishment of Marvin Williams (in Joe Johnson's absence) going to the line 20 times in Charlotte.

*Is it possible this author is still not entirely over the rampant hand-checking and outright jersey-grabbing that was allowed to diminish the impact of Paul Pierce's crossover when he was at Kansas? It is very possible.

**And, again, Wade hasn't shot many free throws this series because the Hawks have defended him well without fouling.

Now, does Drew have a good point about flopping? Absolutely. He has an excellent point. The greatest frustration for a basketball fan today is the referees' collective preference to call fouls (or the degree of a foul) based not on contact but on how a player falls. This practice encourages both deception and the willingness to increase one's risk of injury for a relatively minor in-game advantage. Neither benefits the game.

I don't think we should just accept this state of officiating as the cost of doing better business on the possessions that don't involve a foul call but I can live with it (as long as efforts are made to identify and correct this bias) if it means a style of basketball that rewards skill, both by insisting on a balance in ability* between offensive and defensive players and encouraging coaches to put more skilled basketball players on the floor at once. The game's never going to be perfect. It wasn't perfect 30 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, nor is it perfect now but I do believe it's better than it was 10 years ago despite the NBA continuing to abdicate, to detrimental effect, the opportunity to create a better basketball development system in America.

*Right now you can't attempt to defend skill and quickness simply with strength. At least on the perimeter. I think using strength to defend a player attempting to establish position in the post is a fair and valid complement to moving your feet.

David Aldridge's most recent article for is about how the hand checking rules have changed the game:
Scoring average has increased from an average 95.6 points per game in the 1997-98 season to this year's 100 per game. Overall field goal percentage has increased from 45.0 percent in '97-'98 to 45.9 percent this season. Three-point percentage has gone up, from .346 11 years ago to .367 this season. And fouls have gone down, from a league average of 1,837 fouls in 1997 to 1,726 this season. The statistical-based Basketball Prospectus wrote at the beginning of this season that the game's pace -- defined as possessions per game -- had increased from its nadir during the lockout season of 1999 (around 88 possessions per game) to around 91 per game in the 2007-08 season.
Aldridge quotes Larry Brown (who admittedly had a massive influence on my understanding of the game at an early age):
"You can't even touch a guy now. The college game is much more physical than our game."
I'll close with Gregg Popovich, whose quote neatly brings us back to the series at hand:
"If anybody, it would be Larry. [He] worked a lot about, as simple as it sounds, keeping people in front of you. He'd rather give up a jump shot than a layup. Over time, percentage wise, that fuels you. Larry was really big on that."
Aldridge's entire piece is worth your attention.

Quote of the Day

Mike Woodson:
"You have to expect Wade to make some shots. And he made some [3-pointers] with guys hanging on him. I refuse to double that far out on the floor and expose us down low."
I don't entirely understand the third sentence as an explanation for why it's not worth keeping Dwyane Wade from shooting jump shots so the Heat can play 4-on-3 in the halfcourt but Mike Woodson and I are in complete agreement on this issue.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Heat 108 Hawks 93



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIA 86.4
66 25
23.1 16.2
ATL 86.4
1.08 48.1

A sound defensive strategy doesn't guarantee the result you desire. As in Game 1, the Hawks, in Game 2, made the Heat a jump shooting team, kept Dwyane Wade (Game 2 FT Rate: 25) off the free throw line, and controlled the defensive glass. Unlike Game 1, wherein the Heat converted 45.8% of their two-point attempts and 17.7% of their 23 three-point attempts, the Heat made 54.3% of their two-point attempts and 57.7% of their 26* three-point attempts. I think the Hawks tip their cap to the Heat and dare them to do it again. Miami isn't more likely to shoot 66% from the floor again than they were likely again to shoot under 40% from the floor after Game 1.

*26 of their 46 two-point attempts were jump shots. They scored 73 of their 108 points off of jump shots.

MIAMISeason Avg
Game 1
Game 2

Some nights you just get beat and if you get beat with Dwyane Wade on the bench with five fouls and Udonis Haslem knocking down back-to-back 18' jump shots inside the final five minutes of a five-point game before Wade puts the game out of reach with a banked-in three-pointer (his 10th three-point attempt of the game) as the shot clock expires, I think a degree of equanimity and long-term thinking is useful. Not that Jermaine O'Neal's general improvement, Haslem's work on the defensive glass, and Michael Beasley (one assumes) realizing that Josh Smith cannot guard him if he alternates spot-up jump shots with dribble penetration shouldn't give the Hawks a clue that winning the series will be more difficult than it appeared following Game 1.

Nor should any or all of the ways in which the Hawks were culpable in their own demise be ignored.
  • The free throw shooting failed to meet even the Hawks' low, established standard.
  • Joe Johnson's fourth foul was thoroughly unnecessary, and, though the Hawks didn't lose any ground while he sat for 9:45 of the third and fourth quarters, comeback victories aren't built on a foundation of not falling any farther than 14 points behind for 40% of the second half.
  • Flip Murray came alive in the second half but failed to erase the damage done during his 0-7 FGA performance in the first half.
  • Josh Smith was fortunate that Mario Chalmers was foolish enough to give him a little push (and thus sacrifice Miami's opportunity for a free point) after Smith floored Jamaal Magliore early in the fourth quarter following Magliore's hard foul on Flip Murray. Murray, who is tough, responded to the foul by standing up straight and proud immediately following the contact, then made both free throws. Smith, who is not tough, responded to the foul by knocking someone down while their back was turned.
  • Al Horford put up a nifty 11/11/5 line (marred by three missed free throws) despite much of his production (6 points, 1 assist) coming off of his own offensive rebounds rather than, you know, his teammated letting him touch the ball because he's a good basketball player.
  • Perhaps Marvin Williams didn't sit out the fourth quarter of Game 1 just because of the Hawks' huge lead. After playing (and playing well during) his longest stint of the series, the first 8:32 of the third quarter, Williams didn't return to the game.
All that of my chest, I must also acknowledge that the Hawks, despite the relative lack of fastbreak opportunities in Game 2, were every bit as efficient offensively for the game as a whole as they were through three quarters of Game 1. Disussion of and speculation regarding Game 3 must start from the premise that independent of Miami's wildly divergent offensive performances they have not, outside of the largely garbage time fourth quarter of Game 1, put the Hawks off of their offensive stride.

Once again the Hawks proved me wrong by making my assertion on the NBA Today podcast that I would be very surprised if they came out flat in Game 2 look as bad as most every other prediction I make.

Josh Smith:
"We didn’t star the game with a sense of urgency like we did in the first game."
Joe Johnson:
"It starts with me. I definitely have to pick my play up. But I just thought we came out too complacent. We were nothing like the first game. We won that first game and felt like we won the series already. We didn’t have that fire in our belly. And they jumped on us, and we never recovered."
Al Horford:
"I think we were a little too comfortable out there. I really didn’t see that sense of urgency from our team, starting with me and going down the line."
Erik Spoelstra:
"We missed a lot of open ones the other night. It went tonight and it looks good. If you miss, it looks horrible."
Jermaine O'Neal:
"Now we've got to find a way to bottle what we had tonight."
Alonzo Mourning*:
"I came into town because I didn't like the energy in Game 1."
*I did not expect to be quoting Alonzo Mourning in a game recap during this series. Do the Hawks have an answer for this? Too bad none of these Hawks played with Mutombo.

John Hollinger:
Atlanta's game plan worked to perfection -- Wade had only one basket inside 15 feet, a shockingly low number for perhaps the league's best penetrator, and attempted just six free throws.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, Wade beat them anyway. He nailed six 3-pointers and four other long twos, including a 30-foot banked dagger at the shot clock buzzer with 2:36 left to put Miami up by 10, as the Heat scored a 108-93 win that evened their best-of-seven series at a game apiece.
I'll be forgiven if I first thought that the opening line of Kelly Dwyer's recap was an open letter to me, right?:
Anyone who says they have a handle on this series is a fool -- a fool, I tell you!
Ahem. He goes on:
Mike Woodson won't double and take the ball out of Dwyane Wade's hands, which helps when Wade is dribbling too much and missing shots, but Woodson (as he often does) is making coaching decisions that "sound right," but have no basis in reality. After the game he mentioned not wanting to double-team Wade so as not to "expose us down low."

What? Jermaine O'Neal has next to nothing left, he started the game by half-heartedly giving a bonehead screen that resulted in an offensive foul, and he still wormed his way to 19 points. You're exposed down low, Mike. And your take-it-or-leave-it approach to defense has caused perhaps the biggest per-possession jump in points between playoff games that I can recall.

Miami scored 73.6 points per 100 possessions in Game 1, and 127.1 per 100 in Game 2. From about 30 points below the worst offensive team in the NBA to about 14 above the best offensive team. And a 44 points per-game swing.

That's an astonishing leap, and that's on Atlanta's inability to create something consistent defensively. In their own gym. Against the same team. With just a few days between games. Blame the players all you want, but you can't tell me this Woodson weirdness isn't setting his (admittedly, in some cases, slow and disinterested) players up to fail.
CoCo provides a brief history of hawk independence and its impact on the Hawks:
I knew very early on last night would not end well for Atlanta. Spirit the Hawk is not really an indicator as to how well the game will go, but if my memory serves me correctly when Spirit refuses to take his normal route the Hawks lose. There have been a couple of games where he just decided to not fly down at all. Coincidentally one of those games was the season before last against Miami. The Hawks went on to lose that game.
Drew bemoans missed opportunities:
If the Hawks had actually won, you can't imagine the fun I would have had with the fact that an actual Hawk roamed the building for the first few minutes of the game. The whole bit would have killed. Instead, we lost and I watched Al Horford and Joe Johnson laugh and take serious interest in both the bird's abnormal presence and safety. They might as well have taken shots of jager right before tip off.

This is the playoffs people. You do not see Kobe laughing about kiss cam. This is kill or be killed. And I mean literally if you are Mike Woodson.
I can't pretend that Larry was happy with the team but he saved his best invective for his followup post about the non-players in the arena who disappointed him last night:
Two more observations:

1. Get Spirit off the court. While it seems funny, the game operations people have enough to contend with with the clock management and everything else that they seem to occasionally get wrong and taking the focus off the game b/c a bird is loose is NOT a good look.
2. Fans, GET TO THE #$*( GAME on time. Game 1 - everyone was plugged in from the first minute. Game 2 - not so much. In a game where the players weren't dialed in early, we needed to help them get dialed in and we certainly let them down. The fan's energy wasn't there until the 2nd half and ...uh, that's when half of the arena got there.

This is the PLAYOFFS people. Get to the game and make some noise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Game Thread #2: Miami (0-1) @ Atlanta (1-0)

TIP-OFF: 8pm

: TNT, Fox Sports South HD

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass


: Acie Law IV is game-time decision.

: Luther Head is out due to a broken hand.

: Atlanta -5, 184 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Peninsula Is Mightier

I'm not being modest* in offering little new insight today but I don't think Game 1 contains much in the way of undiscovered import. I'll let my previous commentary, both written and spoken, suffice. John Hollinger has published three keys for Miami in Game 2 and I'm guessing that anyone reading this knows what those keys are before clicking on that link. That's not a swipe at Hollinger. The superiority of the Hawks' game plan and execution was obvious at first glance. Maybe not enough attention has been granted Atlanta's two-way rebounding dominance but really, if Miami doesn't take better shots and make them more often, there's not enough rebounding in the world to make up a 26-point gap even if the Hawks continue to turn the ball over frequently.

*I'm perhaps being a touch lazy.

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

Celebrating Mutombo

Henry Abbott rounds up some great links, video*, and stories about the singular, terrific, 18-year vet. Literally everything there is worth watching, reading, or clicking.

*Lang still hasn't found the footage of Mutombo on Conan. The internet has never disappointed more.

I'm On The NBA Today Podcast

I spoke with Jason Smith about the Hawks/Heat series for today's podcast at (also available via iTunes or download it). The official description:
Jason talks with Henry Abbott about how ripe the East looks for the Cavaliers and Bret LaGree says the Hawks' defense wasn't a fluke in Game 1 against Miami.
I attempted to offer some useful commentary and insight in addition to providing an example of why it's so important I re-write before publishing a post.

Quote of the Day

Marvin Williams:
"The dynamic was totally different a few years ago. At the end of the day, when you’re winning, everything is taken care of. Guys don’t care much about who is doing what because you’re winning at a high level. And isn’t that what’s most important?"
This a fundamental thing that I failed to grasp prior to the season.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wherein Dwyane Wade Conflates Limitations With Strategy

While also providing another quote ("I'm criticized if I take all the shots. I'm criticized if I don't.") that sounds a we bit pissy:
"He's [Chalmers] the point guard so he's going to have to get his self going. He has the ball, he runs the team. This is going to be a big series for him to grow up. Right now it's no secret their game plan is not to guard [Chalmers]. He's going to have to take that heart and find a way to counter that."
It may be the game plan but it's likely not (as the two side, 1/2 side screen/roll plays that resulted in Wade dunks in Game 1 might attest or Chalmers lone made three-pointer that came off a screen/roll with Beasley that Mike Bibby and/or Josh Smith defended horribly) a choice.

Hawks Look Back To Maintain Focus Going Forward...Or Something

As much as I'd like to take the opportunity to make a joke about my motivational prowess (and the even stronger mojo of Prof. Hollinger) I'm more disheartened by the unquestioned ubiquity of this sentiment:
Stung by the predictions of the pundits who didn’t even pick them to make it back to the playoffs this year, the Hawks are still using those perceived slights as their rallying cry.

Thus, Hawks coach Mike Woodson doesn’t have to manufacture anything to motivate his team.

“I like that, I do,” Woodson said. “When we started this thing, I made sure to let them know it’s about these 15 guys in that locker room and these coaches. And I don’t care what all the naysayers say or about any of the negativity out there. I don’t care about that. It’s about us as a group figuring out what we’re supposed to do.

“And we’ve done that so far. We’re just trying to handle our own business. … These guys are trying to play for something, and that’s what playoff basketball is all about.”
I don't think it's reasonable to expect the Hawks to discuss their gameplan for Wednesday's game in the press but can't we discuss "handling business" in terms of creating and executing a defensive strategy or the wonderful, atypical rebounding performance in Game 1 rather than in generalities?

Yes, I was wrong about this team. In and of itself that's not an especially interesting* fact. I don't expect the players or coaches to proffer the self-analytical particulars of why but it would be nice if there were someone there trying to draw out an enlightening bit of information about how a basketball game is won when the opportunity arises rather than allowing the coaches and players to fall back on the simultaneously self-pitying and self-aggrandizing (and, at this point, cliched) complaints about disrespect. I believe we can rise above that level of discourse.

*or unusual

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mike Woodson: Joint 8th Coach of the Year

Woodson finished well behind Erik Spoelstra but got an equal number of votes (7) as 9-time NBA Champion Phil Jackson. Despite just three lines on the ballot, 15 different head coaches got at least one vote.

Mike Brown won the award.

Full voting results here.

Hawks 90 Heat 64



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIA 88
39.4 11.3
12.2 21.6
ATL 90
1.00 48.7

(NOTE: Those are not estimated possessions. Miami's short two possessions as I don't count either Daequan Cook's heave at the end of the first quarter or the Heat dribbling out the final 6.4 seconds as offensive possessions for them.)

Following two meaningless games to end the regular season and three poor defensive efforts prior to that, last night's defensive performance provided a welcome relief to Hawks fans who'd spent the past week entertaining reasonable worries about this series. Being said, it's one game. The series isn't over especially not for a team with a 31/16 home/road victory split during the regular season. However, those same reasonable Hawks fans must feel more confident this morning than they did yesterday.

Miami is not going to be that bad in that many offensive areas game in, game out for the duration of this series. But how are they going to get enough better* to close the gap? Dwyane Wade will almost certainly have better games but the Hawks forced him to take 6 of his 21 field goal attempts from beyond the three-point line and limited him to four free throw attempts (FT Rate: 9.5) and forced him into committing eight turnovers. Furthermore, the Hawks can likely continue to give Wade the degree of attention he drew last night as it's difficult to imagine a scenario wherein both Josh Smith and Al Horford will have a primary defensive responsibility more worthy of their attention than Wade. The inability of Jermaine O'Neal** and Udonis Haslem to make help defense a risk/reward proposition for Smith and Horford suffocated the greatest part of Miami's offense. That O'Neal and Haslem were also such non-factors on the offensive glass*** has to be doubly frustrating for the Heat. That neither O'Neal nor Haslem can keep up with Smith and Horford on the transition from offense to defense engenders sympathy for Erik Spoelstra. It's not like there's an obvious fix to the cascading problems described in this paragraph.

*Keeping in mind that the final stats are deflated by the 21-point fourth quarter. The efficiency margin was slightly narrower through three quarters (ATL: 1.07, MIA: 0.83) though less encouraging for Miami as it showed both a near-average offensive competence by the Hawks and excellent defense.

**Whose first stint lasted just 5:01 and didn't reappear until he could match up against Zaza Pachulia rather than Horford.

***Two of Miami's five offensive rebounds were courtesy of Mario Chalmers for crying out loud. Given the Hawks 82-game defensive rebounding rate, and average opponent would have been expected to grab 12 offensive rebounds given that many opportunities.

I don't think Miami will shoot that badly again* but because at least one of Smith or Horford can guard the rim with impunity on almost every possession** the open perimeter jump shots Miami took were shots Atlanta wanted them to take. There is no doubt in my mind that the Hawks will be content to let Miami take 32.3% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc regardless of how many turnovers the Hawks force or how well they refrain from fouling.

*Beasley, in particular, could occupy Josh Smith better in future games assuming he got most of the quick 18-20' jump shots out of his system during his wretched first half performance. On the other hand, CoCo thinks Josh "could make this an absolutely humiliating series for young Michael Beasley." I'd be fine with that, myself.

**They also made life miserable for Mario Chalmers when he beat Mike Bibby off the dribble.

If the prospect of Atlanta providing a similarly effective defensive performance in future games wasn't dispiriting enough for the Heat to consider, I'll now delineate the ways in which the Hawks can hope to be more productive offensively: make more threes, turn the ball over less often, and get more minutes from Marvin Williams.

Atlanta ran relatively few isolations* which made both spreading the floor and moving the ball easier. As a team, the Hawks took just 17.9% of their field goal attempts from beyond the three-point line. That includes two terrible Josh Smith misses. The Atlanta players who should be taking three-point shots made 4 of 12 attempts. Should Miami figure out a way to limit Atlanta's transition opportunities it may only serve to increase the importance of the best part of the Hawks' half-court offense.

*And ran very few wing isolations that began below the elbow.

As for Marvin Williams, in his five-minute stint to open the game he was more productive (3-3 FGA, 1-1 3PTA, 1 rebound) than the entirety of last season's first-round series. The nature of the game allowed Mike Woodson to limit Williams' minutes* even without either Maurice Evans or Flip Murray providing outstanding production in Marvin's stead. Other than turning the ball over on 20% of their possessions**, the game really couldn't have gone better had the Hawks been allowed to plan it in its entirety.

*He played the first 6:52 of the second quarter and the first 5:15 of the third.

**And even there, the Hawks made up for the cost of many of those turnovers by dominating the offensive glass.

Mike Woodson:
"I didn’t know it would turn out this way. But I just thought our guys were just so focused coming into tonight’s game. Sometimes you can be so focused that you end up being too anxious and things don’t turn out the way you drew it up. Tonight I just thought our focus was there from beginning to the end. Our defensive schemes were right on the money in terms of how we wanted to defend. And I thought we did a fairly good job, especially in the first half, of sharing the basketball and making shots."
Al Horford:
"This is just one game, we realize that. There’s still a lot of basketball to play. But that’s the reason we wanted to start here, in front of our fans. And we wanted to make sure we did it right."
Marvin Williams:
"Josh Smith is a problem, man. That’s the best way I can put it. He’s a problem for a lot of people in this league, and when he comes to play like he did tonight, there isn’t a whole lot anybody can really do to stop him."
Josh Smith beat Mario West to the arena yesterday.

Dwyane Wade:
"Josh Smith got a lot of lobs and fast-break dunks that helped with the energy in the building. When that happens, the game can get away from you pretty fast. When you miss as many shots as we did tonight, the game can get away from you pretty quickly."
"I'm criticized if I take all the shots. I'm criticized if I don't. We had some careless turnovers. I had a lot of them."
Erik Spoelstra:
"It seemed like we were slow in the mind. They came out with a great intensity and we just have to match that."
Daye Hyde,
This night made everyone look worse than they are, and that included Michael Beasley. Listen. I'm as big a fan of his as anybody. But when Wade and others say 20-year-old rookie needs to grow up before this team can, Sunday provided a picture.

In warmups before the season's biggest game, the rest of the Heat players worked on game-situation shots. Not Beasley. He stood in the corner and lofted circus shots that ballooned toward the ceiling before falling toward the basket.

Now, it's true, if the Heat wins he's a picture of looseness. But the point is a couple teammates said something to him and he went back to shooting game shots.
The Human Highlight Blog takes a well-earned opportunity to remind readers of its series pick:
We predicted sweep because we feel strongly that ---when the Hawks play together on both sides of the floor, the Heat can’t beat them. The Heat cannot execute as a team as good as the Hawks—therefore the favorable matchup.

We have long contended that the Birds are better when they trust each other on both ends of the court. The Hawks value is when they are playing together, not as a bunch of individuals, but together as a team. One could make the argument that this has been the case with any successful team.

In Game 1, the Hawks did that over and over again, and while there were times when the offense stalled because the ball did, there were more than enough times when they moved the ball and got a good shot and basket.
Kelly Dwyer:
Atlanta underachieves defensively more so than just about any team in the NBA. It's not really close. Chicago might come the closest, but with an undersized shooting guard and a rookie at the point, you can at least toss a few excuses out there.

And while Atlanta isn't lousy with seven-footers patrolling the lane, and they do have to give Mike Bibby about 35 minutes a night, the team still mails it in on the defensive end all the time. We know this, because we've seen them play hot, hot defense. At the start of this season. At the start of last season. At about the 50-game mark of 2008-09. And Sunday night.

They can do it. I'd start by asking them to stop switching on everything, but as with most things, it comes down to effort.

Atlanta just destroyed the Heat, who had no answers for the Hawk defense. And, because he's an NBA head coach, Erik Spoelstra could only criticize the Miami defense after the game. Ridiculous.
I believe I've read every Miami-centric report, column, and blog post about last night's game. Number of mentions of the Heat's horrific offensive rebounding: 0.

DolPhanDave of Peninsula Is Mightier wants more Jamario Moon in Game 2:
Moon spent way too much time on the bench tonight. He played a little more then 2 minutes in the 1st half, then was left on the bench for a couple hours before finally coming back in with 4:43 left in the game and the Heat down 23. He’d then hit his two shot attempts, one from beyond. I think Moon is the best candidate to play against the athletic Hawks because he is fast and has those long limbs which get in passing lanes and can slow guys up that all-important split-second.