Friday, October 30, 2009

Hawks 100 Wizards 89


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
47.5 17.7
18.2 16.3
ATL 91 1.099 44.2

Before tonight's game, Mike Woodson, when asked about the possible difficulty of learning very much about his team in the atypically fast-paced and high-possession* game Wednesday night, answered:
"It was a fast pace but Indiana forces you to play that way. I'm not too strong on always racing up and down the floor but they forced our hand to do it. I thought when we had to defend coming down the stretch that's when we really stepped up. We held them to 15 points in the fourth quarter and that's huge. That's when you've got to get it done and I thought our guys stepped up and met the challenge."
*The 101 possessions in the first game were more than in any Hawks game last season.

The Hawks didn't wait four quarters to step up defensively tonight. They didn't even wait four minutes. Gilbert Arenas had 5 points and an assist in the first 3:35 to guide Washington to a quick 12-4 lead. Mike Woodson called timeout and from that point forward the Hawks allowed 12 points on Washington's 17 subsequent first quarter possessions, scored 25 points on their 17 remaining first quarter possessions and built a five-point lead they would never relinquish.

Jamal Crawford and Maurice Evans keyed a strong effort off the bench, first by shoring up the defense, in relief of Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby respectively, in the second half of the first quarter. Evans scored eight points on three shots and played solid defense for all of the 16 minutes and 34 seconds he spent on the court. Crawford had a nice start to the game on the offensive end as well, making four of his first five field goal attempts, getting to the free throw line, earning a couple of assists, and not turning the ball over.

Crawford kept shooting but didn't keep making his shots. Just as it appeared Crawford might shoot Washington back into the game* Mike Woodson did what Jim O'Brien failed to do Wednesday night. Woodson accepted what he'd gotten form his bench and turned the game over to his starters. With 8:42 left and Washington within seven, Mike Bibby re-entered the game, ball movement re-entered the Hawks' half-court offense, and Washington never drew closer. That's how it should be. Jamal Crawford was acquired to shoot the ball. It's his primary skill as a basketball player. It's Woodson's responsibility to let or not let him shoot as best serves the team.

*Crawford made one of his last six field goal attempts.

In that fourth quarter, Marvin Williams scored 9 of his 10 points. Josh Smith scored 9 of his 20 points. Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby combined for the other 7 points and 3 assists. The bench's collective fourth quarter line: 5:03 played, 0-1 FGA, 1 turnover. Woodson could lean so heavily on the starters because they were rested. Johnson played a second over 30 minutes. Josh Smith (who suffered from some minor foul trouble in the second and third quarters) played 29:08. Bibby played 32:21. Marvin Williams played 31:43. Only Al Horford (12 more rebounds, 3 offensive) played heavy minutes.

Eight of the ten Hawks who played last night recorded a positive +/-. Joe Johnson's was 0. Jeff Teague was the straggler at -2. This happened because Woodson kept the matchups favorable. He rested the starters when he could afford to do so and thus he could turn to them when they were needed. Crawford, Evans, and Pachulia are good reserves. Joe Smith and Jeff Teague are going to be overqualified as ninth and tenth men most nights. There's no need to complicate matters as O'Brien did Wednesday night, or Flip Saunders, without Caron Butler* in the second half, did in allowing Nick Young to double his 0-fer (from 0-4 to 0-8) in the first four minutes of the second half before putting the superior Randy Foye in the game for the duration.

*He suffered a bruised knee courtesy of contesting a loose ball with Zaza Pachulia.

It's only two games, and two home games at that, but the Hawks have shown some promising signs: in getting to the free throw line fairly frequently, by controlling the defensive glass, and, perhaps most importantly, Josh Smith has taken 21 field goals through two games and 16 of those attempts have been at the rim. Of the remaining five, one was a result of a failed attempt to penetrate rather than a desire to shoot a jump and another, the only of the five field goal attempts away from the basket he's made, was a 16-footer taken at the end of the shot clock with 34.4 seconds left in a game the Hawks led 98-89.

The upcoming trip to West Coast will likely reveal more about this team but the first two games have provided little reason for concern.

1 comment:

thirdfalcon said...

I hope ESPN is paying you because I see no reason why you couldn't write about basketball for a living