Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hawks 106 Heat 91

Boxscore

Gameflow

Highlights

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
47.1
34.3
7.6

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.

Wade:
"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.

13 comments:

THHB said...

Bret,

We did see the return to form from Joe last night.

Yep, the shots weren't falling, but unlike Games One through Four, this time he was able to contribute in spite of only being slightly more accurate shooting--including rebounding and more assists:less turnovers.

As for the aberrant free throw number, let it not distract from the fact that Joe did what he normally does by trying his little runners in the lane---the abnormally large number of free throw attempts was a result of a cosmic confluence of two events:

1. Miami playing even more lax defense than normal by habitually reaching and slapping.

2. The triumvirate of Bavetta/Palmer/Brothers bearing extremely tight whistles.

It was the Joe Johnson we are used to seeing when successful, a solid-steady part of the Hawks offense; patient, sharing, contributor--and not the forcing, turnovery, I'll-dribble-all-over-the-court-and-then-force-a-shot-over-four-arms Johnson we saw too much of in the games prior to Game Five.

CoCo said...

I'm concerned about Al. Even without him I still think we should beat the Heat, but....... In reality he hasn't really had a big game in the series yet so maybe we can go on without him.

Drew Ditzel said...

solo is so bad at the big things we have yet to even realize he is also bad at the little things, and al does a lot of little things for this team.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Two points -
1. thankfully we have perspective in the blogsphere on JJ's game. Good, but not worth saying that 'he's back'.

2. Love your thoughts on everything except Josh's dunk. I really think it's shortsighted to expect a 23 yr old (I think we all think that 5yr vet erases 23 yr old...as a 35 yr old guy who still has lapses in judgment - it does not) who gets an open look at bringing the house down. Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, etc ALL would have taken that moment to put down a spectacular dunk. I've watched them do it. So, the only thing is - he missed it. Period. And yes, the house would have come down. I PROMISE you that - as a guy who has averaged 20 games a year since we've been in Philips Arena - I think I have a little of a pulse on the Atlanta crowd and it would have gone tizzy-esque. We don't care about the Heat's feelings and certainly want to be entertained. A through the legs dunk is entertainment no matter when you do it in the game. But let's just keep perspective here - for everyone who is trying to crucify Josh - if you're being fair, 99% of the time, on a breakaway - Josh does a normal, powerful but very regular dunk. So, I trust that he's aware of the score and his ability to give the fans an entertaining dunk when he does that - nothing more, nothing less. And who cares about riling up the Heat (the team you've beaten easily 3 times)...again, they suck. Period.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

i'm intrigued by what you guys think about CoCo's Solo starting game 6 thought. I actually am surprised at myself for liking it. As much as I like Marvin coming off the bench, I like Zaza coming off the bench too. I love him as a change of pace option for Woody.

What do you guys think?

M said...

Bret,

I feel your thoughts on Josh's overall play impacted your view of the missed dunk. You go for the kill in the playoffs, any of the greats would have gone in for a spectacular dunk. I find no fault besides the fact that he did not pull it off. Also, you sound like a Heat fan with all your bitching about Joe and Mario today.

CoCo said...

Josh has a responsibility/ability none of the other players have. Nothing and I mean Nothing awakens the Highlight Factory like a Highlight from Mr. Smith. I've said it time and time again, Josh is the pulse of this team for better or for worse. When he's out there flying all over the place dunking and blocking shots, they are just better. I thought the dunk attempt was more funny than anything else.

THHB said...

I would rather see more guards play (like Acie) than to see any Flubber West/Solomon Jones minutes---just my penny on the matter.

And Zaza. Plenty of good ol' offensive rebounding Zaza.

THHB said...

As to Smoove's errant dunk attempt:

It was for him and for us.

Screw everyone else.

Bret LaGree said...

THHB--

The difference between Joe's production in Games 4 and 5 is almost entirely in the FTM and FTA columns. I'm hesitant to call last night a full return to form for Joe considering the epic failure of Miami to play any defense for 48 minutes. And if Miami wasn't embarrassed before Josh's dunk attempt, they're kidding themselves. Or they've already given up.

M--

Overall, Josh's play was good last night. His through-the-legs dunk was an attempt at making a statement. He failed and looked foolish in doing so. If you're going to try to bring this house down you've got to live with your failure to do so. At least Smith, unlike Mario West, had accomplished something during the game before choosing to make a spectacle of himself.

ATL-Hawk-Luv--

I admire your commitment to the idea/theory of bringing Marvin and now Zaza off the bench but I respectfully disagree.

jrauch said...

As someone who recoils in horror every time I see Josh Smith cock a jump shot and his generally abominable decision-making on the floor, the attempted dunk was one of the most self-aware things I've seen him do in three years.

He understood the game was out of reach, on a fast break and without anyone who might remotely contest the shot.
Oh, and he knew, as some others have mentioned, the house would have come down with that.

Probably more than anybody else on the team (Horford's antics during the Celtics series aside), Josh is always looking to play to the crowd, and realizes how he can get the crowd to respond.

Does it lead to hot-dogging? Totally.
Is this a tempest in a tea cup? I think so. We wouldn't be calling it bush league if he actually flushed the darn thing.

Anger Saxon said...

Had Josh made the dunk Atlanta fans would have though was that necessary? Are you kidding? Why publish uninformed garbage like that. I was there--the fans went effing crazy at the attempt. I thought he made it I was enjoying myself so much and so did most of the people around me. It was awesome. No hawks fan in attendance had a problem with it. And all the whining from the Heat amounts to one thing: sour grapes. One other thing "D Wade Sucks". How about giving that some press because the home town fans last night must have chanted it half a dozen times.

Bret LaGree said...

There are (fingers crossed) at least a couple more weeks left in the season but I'm afraid the race for "Comment of the Season" is over.