Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hawks 118 Raptors 110



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 90.5 1.30
57.2 27.7
30.6 7.7
TOR 90.5
1.21 57.5

Approximately 2:20 left in the game, Hawks up 112-104, Josh Smith having made three of five three-point attempts* caught the ball 20 feet from the basket. He measured the shot. He looked at Chris Bosh. Bosh made no move toward Smith. Smith measure the long jumper again. Still Bosh didn't move. Smith began to wind up his jump shot. Bosh began to reach out to sort of defend the jump shot he entirely wanted Smith to take. As Bosh's weight shifted toward him, Smith put the ball the ball on the floor, got past Bosh, and finished at the rim.

114-104 Hawks.

Toronto scored on their next two possessions with a Mike Bibby miss in between. Had Smith settled for the jump shot he probably wouldn't have made it could have been a four point game going into the final minute. As it was, after Toronto cut the lead to six and Flip Murray missed a jump shot, Smith drew a foul from Chris Bosh while battling for the rebound, made both free throws and essentially iced the game.

*Though he missed both of his two-point jump shots.

Smith has made 7 of 12 three-point attempts over the last four games. That's 58.3%. Prior to the game in Philadelphia Smith had made 24.6% of his three-point attempts (69) on the season and 26% of his three-point attempts (453) for his career. It's obvious which is the smallest sample-size and I'm not advocating Josh Smith continue to attempt three three-pointers per game for the foreseeable future. I simply offer the reminder* that improvements don't follow a fixed schedule. They can manifest themselves in April as easily as they can in September. Last night Hawks' fans got the best of both worlds: Smith's unexpected bounty from beyond the arc and a strong, successful drive to the basket on an important possession.

*To myself as much as anyone.

The entire frontcourt deserves plaudits for their collective offensive performance. It's hard to reconcile Atlanta's amazing efficiency on offense last night with the shooting of the Hawks' primary ballhandlers. Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, and Flip Murray needed 47 FGA and 8 FTA to score 50 points. Of course, the 19 assists they earned against 4 turnovers helped fuel the offense but look at what's left over in the boxscore and it's an inescapable fact that Smith, Al Horford, Mo Evans, and Zaza Pachulia combined to make 23-36 FGA (6-9 3PTA), 16-20 FTA, and turned the ball over just three times (all Smith's).

I don't want to make too much of a win against a Toronto team disinterested in playing defense but the Hawks had lost eight of their last nine on the road, couldn't really slow down Jose Calderon*, and didn't get a good shooting performance from any of their three primary offensive weapons.

*Hell, they couldn't really slow Quincy Douby for a nine-minute stretch there.

What I do want to make a big deal of is Al Horford and Joe Johnson getting to play in the second quarter until they picked up their third fouls. Neither committed a foul in the second half making the following accounting a bit easier. The absence of the Horford treatment got an extra 3:12 of court time for its namesake and an extra 3:58 of playing time for Johnson. They weren't hugely productive in those stretches (Horford made his only field goal attempt, Johnson missed both his field goal attempts, rebounded both those misses, and committed a turnover.) but neither Mario West nor Solomon Jones saw the court in the first half and for that I tip my cap to Mike Woodson.

Josh Smith:
"This was just important for us for so many reasons. We had to have this one. Any way we can get everybody involved the way we did tonight and get everybody playing well and having fun like that, we need that every minute and every second of every game we play."
Mike Woodson:
"This was just a huge win. These guys stepped up. You have seven guys score in double-figures, that means they came to play."
One would like to think that in such an important game where they came to play the Hawks wouldn't allow 120 points per 100 possessions to the 22nd-best offense in the NBA, but, hey, they won.

Maurice Evans:
"There were a number of things we needed to prove on both ends of the floor. All the best teams in the league do that, play together on both ends of the floor. That’s what we have to be able to do going into the playoffs. We have to play like this."
Al Horford:
"It was about finishing tonight. We didn’t start well, but we finished it the right way."


Unknown said...

Let me introduce you to OUR ATLANTA HAWKS!!!! Let a few possessions go the other way and all of a sudden - we'd be talking about the calamity of it all. Let Josh miss those 3s and we'd be crucifying him (deservedly). This is why I started Str8Talk. I'm sorry, but yesterday was AWFUL in my eyes.

We've been so dumbed down that we believe that beating a bad Raptors team on the road while giving up 110 pts is some sort of huge victory. I can accept some happiness over winning on the road, but I watch the elite teams in the league and you know what their quotes would be..."uh, we really need to put a team like this away." "WE can't start the way we did against good teams." "Our defense must get better or else we're looking at a first round exit."

I am extremely nervous about any coach that can with a straight face say - that a game vs. the Raptors is huge for a team playing for home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs. Huge!?!? Is this just me?

jrauch said...

It is games like last night that give Josh Smith hope that he'll someday be a sharpshooter from three.

Sadly, it also justifies a lot of bricks between now that hypothetical day.

The only reason Woody left Joe and Al out there during that 2-fouls-in-the-first-half stretch is that he forgot they were on the floor, or they both had two fouls.

I'm convinced of that.

Unknown said...

sorry, but your comment on josh smith's 3 point shooting is probably premature. a small sample size would be at least 30 attempts to make any vaguely statistical interpretations--let alone 12 attempts. until then, i'd leave aside trying to interpret a random fluke.

Bret LaGree said...

Fair enough. One comment's a small sample size so I won't make any vague interpretations about your reading comprehension skills.