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.


rbubp said...

As if we didn't already know that Spoelstra was a competent coach. Don't forget that Wade may be learning something about shooting, because that's Spoelstra's calling card. Anyone who can take one star and a team of rookies and cast-offs to this kind of turnaround has to have something in his notebooks--Phil Jackson couldn't do it.

Bret LaGree said...

Wade did set a career high in 3PTFG% this season. Still that was only 31.7%. Improved or not, it's a terrible time for him to have a hot streak unless, of course, he reverts to normal over the next couple of games and the Hawks don't lay another comprehensive offensive goose egg.

Re: coaching, I'm going to follow up on that "disorganized capitulation" thought when I have more time tomorrow.

Unknown said...

I continue to maintain that it doesn't matter what the Heat do - it isn't just that they are hot from 3 pt range. That plus lack of effort is why we're getting blown out, but we'd still be losing if we were giving effort b/c we're built to win games in a completely different fashion than what has consistently proven to be a winning strategy in the playoffs.

How we win games has worked against inferior or similarly talent-laden teams. Unfortunately, too many people are ok with that being the case since we have surpassed regular season expectations. Me - not so much - nothing short of a competitive 6 or 7 game series with the Cavs is going to convince me that we shouldn't fire Woodson and nothing short of a visit to the Finals will convince me that we don't need assistant coaches who are offensive and defensive gurus. If Mike Brown can hire folks this season to improve their offense and defense, so can Woodson.

jrauch said...

The lack of ball movement, especially from Joe Johnson when the double comes on that iso play below the free throw line, is completely inexcusable.

I've YMCA teams that have better spacing and ball movement in a half court offense.

If they don't come out and punch the Heat in the mouth to start Game 4, this series is over.

Hope Woody realizes his job is (hopefully) on the line with this.

rbubp said...

So, Bret, you've seen Synecdoche New York...I'm a big Kaufman fan but haven't gotten to see that yet.

I love your recommendations, btw. Basketball and haute-pop-couture. par excellence.

Bret LaGree said...

Catching up...

I think a 6 or 7 game series against the Cavs is unrealistic, not that I wouldn't enjoy being proved wrong in that manner one more time. Mike Brown earned his Coach of the Year trophy this year and LeBron is Lenron and Joe Johnson is Joe Johnson.

I'm calm until Game 4 goes south. If it doesn't go south, fair warning, I'll offer more of the same. You don't abandon the percentages halfway through a series if you're maintaining.

Finally, re: Synecdoche, New York you'll either want to see it more than once or you'll be willing to turn it off an hour in. I make no judgment call either way, though my sympathy is toward the former despite my ambivalence as to whether the film is successful or not. I think I could watch it watch it indefinitely without boredom or resolution.