Thursday, April 23, 2009

Heat 108 Hawks 93



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIA 86.4
66 25
23.1 16.2
ATL 86.4
1.08 48.1

A sound defensive strategy doesn't guarantee the result you desire. As in Game 1, the Hawks, in Game 2, made the Heat a jump shooting team, kept Dwyane Wade (Game 2 FT Rate: 25) off the free throw line, and controlled the defensive glass. Unlike Game 1, wherein the Heat converted 45.8% of their two-point attempts and 17.7% of their 23 three-point attempts, the Heat made 54.3% of their two-point attempts and 57.7% of their 26* three-point attempts. I think the Hawks tip their cap to the Heat and dare them to do it again. Miami isn't more likely to shoot 66% from the floor again than they were likely again to shoot under 40% from the floor after Game 1.

*26 of their 46 two-point attempts were jump shots. They scored 73 of their 108 points off of jump shots.

MIAMISeason Avg
Game 1
Game 2

Some nights you just get beat and if you get beat with Dwyane Wade on the bench with five fouls and Udonis Haslem knocking down back-to-back 18' jump shots inside the final five minutes of a five-point game before Wade puts the game out of reach with a banked-in three-pointer (his 10th three-point attempt of the game) as the shot clock expires, I think a degree of equanimity and long-term thinking is useful. Not that Jermaine O'Neal's general improvement, Haslem's work on the defensive glass, and Michael Beasley (one assumes) realizing that Josh Smith cannot guard him if he alternates spot-up jump shots with dribble penetration shouldn't give the Hawks a clue that winning the series will be more difficult than it appeared following Game 1.

Nor should any or all of the ways in which the Hawks were culpable in their own demise be ignored.
  • The free throw shooting failed to meet even the Hawks' low, established standard.
  • Joe Johnson's fourth foul was thoroughly unnecessary, and, though the Hawks didn't lose any ground while he sat for 9:45 of the third and fourth quarters, comeback victories aren't built on a foundation of not falling any farther than 14 points behind for 40% of the second half.
  • Flip Murray came alive in the second half but failed to erase the damage done during his 0-7 FGA performance in the first half.
  • Josh Smith was fortunate that Mario Chalmers was foolish enough to give him a little push (and thus sacrifice Miami's opportunity for a free point) after Smith floored Jamaal Magliore early in the fourth quarter following Magliore's hard foul on Flip Murray. Murray, who is tough, responded to the foul by standing up straight and proud immediately following the contact, then made both free throws. Smith, who is not tough, responded to the foul by knocking someone down while their back was turned.
  • Al Horford put up a nifty 11/11/5 line (marred by three missed free throws) despite much of his production (6 points, 1 assist) coming off of his own offensive rebounds rather than, you know, his teammated letting him touch the ball because he's a good basketball player.
  • Perhaps Marvin Williams didn't sit out the fourth quarter of Game 1 just because of the Hawks' huge lead. After playing (and playing well during) his longest stint of the series, the first 8:32 of the third quarter, Williams didn't return to the game.
All that of my chest, I must also acknowledge that the Hawks, despite the relative lack of fastbreak opportunities in Game 2, were every bit as efficient offensively for the game as a whole as they were through three quarters of Game 1. Disussion of and speculation regarding Game 3 must start from the premise that independent of Miami's wildly divergent offensive performances they have not, outside of the largely garbage time fourth quarter of Game 1, put the Hawks off of their offensive stride.

Once again the Hawks proved me wrong by making my assertion on the NBA Today podcast that I would be very surprised if they came out flat in Game 2 look as bad as most every other prediction I make.

Josh Smith:
"We didn’t star the game with a sense of urgency like we did in the first game."
Joe Johnson:
"It starts with me. I definitely have to pick my play up. But I just thought we came out too complacent. We were nothing like the first game. We won that first game and felt like we won the series already. We didn’t have that fire in our belly. And they jumped on us, and we never recovered."
Al Horford:
"I think we were a little too comfortable out there. I really didn’t see that sense of urgency from our team, starting with me and going down the line."
Erik Spoelstra:
"We missed a lot of open ones the other night. It went tonight and it looks good. If you miss, it looks horrible."
Jermaine O'Neal:
"Now we've got to find a way to bottle what we had tonight."
Alonzo Mourning*:
"I came into town because I didn't like the energy in Game 1."
*I did not expect to be quoting Alonzo Mourning in a game recap during this series. Do the Hawks have an answer for this? Too bad none of these Hawks played with Mutombo.

John Hollinger:
Atlanta's game plan worked to perfection -- Wade had only one basket inside 15 feet, a shockingly low number for perhaps the league's best penetrator, and attempted just six free throws.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, Wade beat them anyway. He nailed six 3-pointers and four other long twos, including a 30-foot banked dagger at the shot clock buzzer with 2:36 left to put Miami up by 10, as the Heat scored a 108-93 win that evened their best-of-seven series at a game apiece.
I'll be forgiven if I first thought that the opening line of Kelly Dwyer's recap was an open letter to me, right?:
Anyone who says they have a handle on this series is a fool -- a fool, I tell you!
Ahem. He goes on:
Mike Woodson won't double and take the ball out of Dwyane Wade's hands, which helps when Wade is dribbling too much and missing shots, but Woodson (as he often does) is making coaching decisions that "sound right," but have no basis in reality. After the game he mentioned not wanting to double-team Wade so as not to "expose us down low."

What? Jermaine O'Neal has next to nothing left, he started the game by half-heartedly giving a bonehead screen that resulted in an offensive foul, and he still wormed his way to 19 points. You're exposed down low, Mike. And your take-it-or-leave-it approach to defense has caused perhaps the biggest per-possession jump in points between playoff games that I can recall.

Miami scored 73.6 points per 100 possessions in Game 1, and 127.1 per 100 in Game 2. From about 30 points below the worst offensive team in the NBA to about 14 above the best offensive team. And a 44 points per-game swing.

That's an astonishing leap, and that's on Atlanta's inability to create something consistent defensively. In their own gym. Against the same team. With just a few days between games. Blame the players all you want, but you can't tell me this Woodson weirdness isn't setting his (admittedly, in some cases, slow and disinterested) players up to fail.
CoCo provides a brief history of hawk independence and its impact on the Hawks:
I knew very early on last night would not end well for Atlanta. Spirit the Hawk is not really an indicator as to how well the game will go, but if my memory serves me correctly when Spirit refuses to take his normal route the Hawks lose. There have been a couple of games where he just decided to not fly down at all. Coincidentally one of those games was the season before last against Miami. The Hawks went on to lose that game.
Drew bemoans missed opportunities:
If the Hawks had actually won, you can't imagine the fun I would have had with the fact that an actual Hawk roamed the building for the first few minutes of the game. The whole bit would have killed. Instead, we lost and I watched Al Horford and Joe Johnson laugh and take serious interest in both the bird's abnormal presence and safety. They might as well have taken shots of jager right before tip off.

This is the playoffs people. You do not see Kobe laughing about kiss cam. This is kill or be killed. And I mean literally if you are Mike Woodson.
I can't pretend that Larry was happy with the team but he saved his best invective for his followup post about the non-players in the arena who disappointed him last night:
Two more observations:

1. Get Spirit off the court. While it seems funny, the game operations people have enough to contend with with the clock management and everything else that they seem to occasionally get wrong and taking the focus off the game b/c a bird is loose is NOT a good look.
2. Fans, GET TO THE #$*( GAME on time. Game 1 - everyone was plugged in from the first minute. Game 2 - not so much. In a game where the players weren't dialed in early, we needed to help them get dialed in and we certainly let them down. The fan's energy wasn't there until the 2nd half and ...uh, that's when half of the arena got there.

This is the PLAYOFFS people. Get to the game and make some noise.


Bronnt said...

Thanks, Bret, fur giving me reasons for optimism. I was waiting for your recap, and was afraid it would drive me to drink (more).

Joe Johnson's fourth foul is actually the one gripe I have against the refs last night-since you mentioned it. He was reaching in for a steal and missed the ball, but didn't connect with Wade either. Wade backed up slightly, then slipped to the floor without any body contact from JJ at all. Wade gets an Oscar for that one-it looked really convincing in real time, but the replay showed true.

What are the odds of DaeQuan Cook having another 20 point game in this seeries?

Drew Ditzel said...

the fourth foul was horrible.

luckily the heat 82 three pointers to keep me from complaining about the refs.

Bret LaGree said...

Regarding Joe's fourth foul, that bullet point probably delayed the publication of the recap by a good 15 minutes this morning. I settled on "unnecessary" as it encompassed both the call and Joe's attempt to strip Wade 25 feet from the basket.

It wasn't the finest moment in refereeing, though as you say, it's understandable why the call was made, but it wouldn't be a real smart play by Joe were he carrying no fouls at the time and an unworthy risk when he had three fouls to his name.

The over/under on 20 point games from Daequan Cook the rest of the series is 0.5. That's probably also the over/under on 12 point games from Daequan Cook the rest of the series.

Jerry Hinnen said...

No mention of how Woodson sat on his timeouts as Miami took the lead to 10 ... 12 ...15 ... 17?

Bret LaGree said...


I didn't see that as a real problem as the Hawks were executing their game plan, Miami was just making a huge percentage of the shots Atlanta wanted them to attempt, and I can't think of a single instance of Mike Woodson calling a timeout and making an important tactical adjustment.

Had the Hawks been on the road and the timeouts used to quell a rabid crowd it would be a different story.

Unknown said...

well, here's my question, Bret? I don't have an issue with your reliance on numbers and the belief that we had a sound defensive strategy. Here's the rub: When do you look to CHANGE your strategy at the point at which you see any of the following:

1. Too much bitching at the refs
2. Too little energy on the defensive end
3. Too much reaching and steal attempts vs. solid, sound defensive (Josh being the biggest culprit)

Yes, I think we both agree that Mike Woodson wouldn't have made a change in a timeout (he foolishly admits as much in the post-game press conference), but maybe a player says something, an asst. coach, or maybe the momentum and rhythm shifts.

I said in the first 5 minutes that this was a VERY different crowd AND team, so if I can sense that - why can't the team OR the coach? I know at the 2nd 3pter - I'm calling time and cussing cats out, then I'm getting the ball out of Wade's hand at the half court line and daring the rest of the team to beat me. I can live with either D-Wade going for 40 or a few bums getting 15-20 pts on open looks, but not both. What's sound about letting BOTH happen?

Unknown said...

Maybe a TO would have made you rethink putting Mario West in the game during an OFFENSIVE series. Maybe a TO would have made you think about putting Marvin back in the game.

Anyway, I'm just ranting here b/c I said I wasn't going to bash Coach Woodson on my blog, so your comment section will suffice as a tax shelter from my blog.

Bret LaGree said...

Pre-emptively acknowledging my own stubborn conservatism, I would not change anything that results in Dwyane Wade, a career 28.5% three-point shooter (though he id set a career high by making 31.7% this year), attempting 10 three-pointers. If he makes a representative percentage of those attempts (and I don't think his attempts last night were appreciably easier than normal) and the Hawks make 2 or 3 more free throws, we're almost back to even last night without even bringing up Daequan Cook or Jermaine O'Neal or Udonis Haslem all making shots on the same night. Or ignoring Al Horford in the half-court offense.

The gambling for steals was a problem beyond Joe Johnson picking up his fourth foul. And it's weird as Miami aren't especially susceptible to turnovers and forcing turnovers wasn't a key part of the Hawks' defensive success this year.

Tangentially, I got a bit irritated with Bob and 'Nique for slobbering over Smith's recovery block on Beasley's layup which wouldn't have been possible had 1) Smith not been damn near two steps late trying to get in the passing lane and 2) Zaza not played some really good positional defense to re-route Beasley around the front of the rim.

One of the reasons I liked the matchup with the Heat is that the sagging defense that works best against them doesn't really take that much effort which also suits the inconsistent nature of the Hawks' energy level. But if they can't even concentrate on a purposely sort-of passive defensive assignment I may have to re-evaluate.

CoCo said...

It seems to me this series is going to come down to who is the most inconsistent last. They will battle each other the length of this series until there's a clear cut winner. Both teams are streaky and there's not one sure thing on either team. (not even Wade)
On the other hand I am strangely more convinced now than I was previously that the Hawks will win this series. I'm not telling you why, but if anyone guesses correctly that would be awesome.

Jason Walker said...

I agree with Larry on this---and I don't believe we are overreacting by saying that there was something definitely missing from the team's effort last night.

Yes, the Heat took jump shots and certainly we can count on them making fewer just by the sheer volume of evidence throughout the year that will support it.

But it was the amount of open looks, players out of position, lack of cohesive covering for each other,etc---and offensively it wasn't even close--

Of course, I could just be bitter that they didn't make me look gorgeous by sweeping.

Bronnt said...

Good point on Josh Smith's recovery block, Bret-and you already mentioned the fact that Josh Smith simply isn't playing (or can't play) good defense against Beasley 18 feet from the basket. Looking back, I remember thinking just how horribly Josh Smith had been beaten on that play, when he came back to get the block-I never though to give credit to Zaza.

Though, at the time I was extremely pleased because the Hawks needed an energy boost. I was hoping it would shift the momentum.