Wednesday, April 01, 2009

76ers 98 Hawks 85



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 82.3 1.03
49.2 32.3
39.3 23.1
PHI 82.3
1.19 48.1

Four reasons why we all became Heat fans last night...

1) The 76ers know how to defend Joe Johnson and it's an ingenious strategy. They let him isolate himself on the wing, slowly dribble to maneuver himself slightly closer to the basket, and only then come with a hard double-team as the shot clock is winding down. This strategy held Johnson to 11 points on 9 shots (plus 4 FTA) and 7 assists against 3 turnovers. The assist-to-turnover ratio is a bit misleading as it credits Johnson with assists on two of Josh Smith's fluky three-point makes and doesn't debit Johnson either of the shot clock violations that resulted from him holding the ball forever without creating a shot for himself or a teammate.

2) The 76ers know Mike Bibby can't defend anyone and can exploit this fact. Willie Green repeatedly lost Mike Bibby on curls and cashed in on the resulting wide-open 18-foot jump shots. This worked so well that I only noted one instance where Green posted up Bibby (that resulted in Green drawing a foul). Lou Williams, the couple of times he was checked by Bibby, was past him by his third step. Furthermore, the 76ers found whoever Bibby was guarding after the Hawks switched screens and got that man the ball. Marreese Speights: good offensive player. Marreese Speights, guarded by Mike Bibby in the post: unstoppable force of nature.

3) The 76ers take advantage of more than Mike Bibby when the Hawks switch on screens. Whether it was a premeditated effort or not, Philadelphia took advantage, as few teams have, of Al Horford on the screen-and-roll, their guards repeatedly beating Al off the dribble, getting him in legitimate foul trouble and making him a relative non-factor in the game, thus weakening Atlanta's interior defense and further weakening their defensive rebounding.

4) Philadelphia kills teams on the offensive glass. They're second in the league in offensive rebounding on the season. They were better than that last night. Perhaps because the Hawks are fifth-worst in the league in defensive rebounding on the season.

Briefly touching on issues specific to last night's game, I've wasted a lot of effort trying to calculate how lucky (Josh Smith making 3-3 of three-pointers, the team making all 21 of its free throw attempts) or unlucky (Mike Bibby and Mo Evans combining to miss 11 of 12 three-point attempts) the Hawks were to score 85 points only to come to the conclusion that depending on how one goes about calculating said "luck" it's a difference of less than two points either way so we'll speak no further of that.

Instead, I'll harp on Mike Woodson completely losing the plot in the fourth quarter. The Joe Johnson/Josh Smith/Flip Murray/Mo Evans/Zaza Pachulia unit took advantage of (what looked like to me) the tiring legs of the 76ers (less Thaddeus Young) at the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter to pull within a point. By the 6:40 mark of the fourth quarter, Horford had replaced Pachulia and the Hawks were within 3 with Lou Williams headed to the line to shoot two free throws. Woodson replaced Evans with Bibby (2-8 FGA, 1-6 3PTA, 0 assists to that point in addition to being a constant and obvious defensive liability). Williams made both free throws to extend Philadelphia's lead to 86-81 once Bibby resumed participating in live action.

I needn't a chart nor a graph to figure out that the 76ers outscored the Hawks 12-4 over the final 6:40* of the game. Making matters worse, after getting his shot blocked by Theo Ratliff of the first Atlanta possession following Williams' free throws, Josh Smith was not an important part of a single offensive possession the remainder of the game. Say whatever you will about the likelihood of Smith replicating last night's shooting performance, the fact remains that, last night, he was the one Atlanta player that Philadelphia had difficulty guarding and/or allowed to get open looks.

*Or rather, the next 5:25 as both teams' reserves went scoreless for the final 1:15.

So veteran point guard Bibby returns to the game, the Hawks' defense* suffers and the offense stagnates while ignoring their best player on the night, one who scored 11 points during the 8:51 Bibby rested and the Hawks cut Philadelphia's lead from 12 to 5. As things deteriorated with Bibby back on the court, Woodson began subbing strangely and without obvious purpose.
  • Horford played one minute and fifty-three seconds after committing his fifth foul.
  • Pachulia replaced Horford with 4:47 left and played the next minute and six seconds.
  • Evans replaced Pachulia at 3:41 and played 45 seconds.
  • Horford replaced Evans at 2:56 and played a minute and forty-one seconds before Woodson emptied the bench.
The only substitution Philadelphia made during this time was to replace Royal Ivey with Andre Iguodala at the 4:35 mark so it wasn't a case of Woodson trying to play matchups. None of the three attempted a shot. The Hawks didn't run anything that necessitated one of these players in particular being on the court. None of the three entered the game to guard any opposing player in particular. I must be missing the intricate benefits of this series of tactical moves.

*Roughly, I've got the Hawks as allowing 1.298 points per possession with Bibby on the court and allowing 0.978 with him off the court last night.

Mike Woodson, master motivator:
"It’s very disappointing. We just seemed satisfied after that Lakers game, and we seem satisfied. And we still have a lot of games left to play here."
Maurice Evans:
"We came out flat tonight, typical road performance for us as of late."
Once again we see another bench post player come in and get more attention offensively than Al.

This time, it was his backup at Florida, Marreese Speights, who got to look like a polished post player, while Al was one again handed a mop and told to clean up after the guards.

It's a waste of talent, and don't be surprised if some hack blog isn't the first to feel this---if we can tell, you can bet the players do, too.


Drew Ditzel said...

i very much enjoy how you intertwine player deficiencies and coaching inadequacies all under the cover of stats.

it makes my frustrations feel so validated.

but seriously, mike woodson sucks.

jrauch said...

Would it kill Woodson and staff to draw up just one or two plays for Horford on the low block?

Al's going to be effective from 12-15 feet in time (the pick and roll possibilities make me giddy with someone like Joe) but he's got a post game that can work if you just give him the ball.

Especially when the jumpers aren't falling.

giggins said...

Here in Chicago we have sports talking heads that salivate at Bibby's game. They obviously don't WATCH the Hawks much (or read this excellent blog exhaustively chronicling his defensive shortcomings). If they really want a guard who can light it up while playing porous D, they should look no farther than their very own Ben Gordon. At least he gets you 20 a night.

CoCo said...

"If they really want a guard who can light it up while playing porous D, they should look no farther than their very own Ben Gordon. At least he gets you 20 a night."