Monday, April 27, 2009

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.


CoCo said...

The thing that concerns me most about Woody's "coaching" is that Flip Murray is the only guard Woody will give the opportunity to be a spark. If Flip isn't the spark he doesn't even bother to give someone else a chance to be that. It's frustrating that he hates Acie Law so obviously. Acie is not 100% but he is something like 85 or 90% (at least that's what someone VERY close to him told me) so why not let him play? I hate that Woody is so stubborn he'd rather lose by 30 with the starters in than try to find a hot hand off the bench. Not that I expect much from them, but geesh at some point during that game he had to think to himself, hell they can't be much worse. At least that's what I thought.

jrauch said...

I have a tough time deciding whether we're seeing players quit on a coach, or a coach quit on his players.

We're a Larry Drew wandering aimlessly on the court event away from this becoming some bizarro Hoosiers.

Or Joe Johnson turns into a werewolf and we dominate the series, a la Teen Wolf.

Most of my hopes for the series have now developed into hoping 80's basketball movies become reality.

Bret LaGree said...


It fascinates me that Woodson either has created or accepts a very limited set of personnel options and still can't work through those options in any coherent way.


Either of those scenarios would serve as a tonic for my jealousy of the guys getting to write about these Bulls/Celtics games.

Drew Ditzel said...

the skill of your analysis is often directly related to my depression over this team.

that being said, well done.

jrauch said...

Considering the Bulls folks are getting to watch the coming out party for someone who could be one of the 2-3 best point guards in the last 30 years, while trading haymakers with the defending (but slightly bowed) champs, the edge has to go to them for the series-watchability.

Is it wrong as a season-ticket holder I'm more excited about watching Bulls/Celtics than I am our own stink-fest of a series?