|Team||Poss||Off Eff||eFG%||FT Rate||OR%||TO%|
|IND||101 ||1.08 ||60.3||28.8 ||18.2||24.7 |
|ATL||101||1.19||56.9 ||24.1 ||19.0 ||10.9|
Through a little more than three quarters, Jim O'Brien got a lot out of Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson. Then he asked them for more and learned they'd given all they had. Through a little more than three quarters, Mike Woodson got a lot from Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Joe Johnson. He asked for more and he got it (plus a couple big baskets from Mike Bibby to get from 100-101 to 105-101). There's no better decision an NBA coach can make than to put his best players on the floor.
In O'Brien's defense, neither TJ Ford nor Brandon Rush made a strong case for fourth quarter playing time but no matter how frustrating the distance between their talent and their production, they're better players than Watson and Jones. To expect more from the reserves (especially Watson, who visibly tired early in the fourth) who had, unexpectedly given so much, was equal parts greed and foolishness and neither a sound short-term nor long-term strategy.
Indiana provided further aid to the Hawks by spending their offensive possessions not letting Danny Granger touch the ball during the 10-point Hawks run that turned a one-point deficit into a 110-101 lead for the home team. On four consecutive scoreless possessions, Indiana posted up Roy Hibbert, Dahntay Jones, Hibbert again (this possession ended with a rushed, missed three by Granger), and Troy Murphy. In 9:44 of fourth quarter playing time, Granger scored four points on just three field goal and three free throw attempts. The Hawks (with Joe Johnson rather than Marvin Williams providing the initial effort) defended Granger better in the fourth quarter but Indiana also made them defend him less.
The first three quarters offered little solace for any Hawks fans that spent the summer worrying about perimeter defense and rebounding. Mike Bibby began the game guarding Brandon Rush with Joe Johnson marking the quicker Ford. Rush beating Bibby off the dribble for a lay-in began a procession that included Dahntay Jones beating Jamal Crawford off the dribble twice, beating Mo Evans off the dribble, successfully posting up Mike Bibby, Luther Head beating Crawford off the dribble, and Earl Watson making an uncontested layup and an uncontested three on consecutive possessions (with the help of Troy Murphy screens) against Jeff Teague and Joe Smith.
On the other end of the floor, the Hawks' offense offered little cause worry at any point during the night. Josh Smith took an ill-advised, unnecessary 21-footer with 5:58 left in the first quarter then did not take another jump shot the rest of the game, choosing instead to create offense for himself (He made 7 of his 9 remaining field goal attempts.) and others. He was credited with 8 assists against a single turnover, almost all a result of attacking the basket.
Al Horford took advantage of his mobility against the plodding duo of Hibbert and Solomon Jones to find ample open space. His teammates found him frequently in these dangerous scoring positions. The offensive load didn't prevent Horford also pulling down 13 of Atlanta's 27 defensive rebounds in 33:31 of the team's 240 minutes. Mo Evans chipped in 12 points on 5 shots in 15:08 before Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby took over in the fourth quarter. The starting backcourt combined for 17 points on 17 shots with 8 assists and 5 turnovers through three quarters. They combined for 18 points on 11 shots with 3 assists against a single turnover in the fourth, scoring or assisting on 20 of Atlanta's 25 fourth quarter points.
Little went according to plan on opening night. There were obvious examples of improvements possibly made and obvious areas where improvement is possibly needed. I'm hesitant to think I learned too much tonight if only because the Hawks are unlikely to play another 100+ possession game this season (barring multiple overtimes). It was a good win, born out of talent and improvisation. If this proves to be a successful season, I think those characteristics, more than anything else, will be what one remembers about opening night.
Quotes, notes, and links in the morning.