Friday, November 20, 2009

Hawks 105 Rockets 103



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
HOU 88.2
46.2 19.6
45.5 14.7
ATL 88.2 1.191 51.1

It's something of a cruel irony that the Rockets lost on a put-back bucket. Typically I abhor the phrase "hustle points" as it dismisses the hard work that goes into scoring so-called "easy" points but Houston's hard work (and, yes, hustle) on the offensive glass led to 29 of their 103 points and was crucial to their being competitive in the game. Carl Landry, at both a size and athleticism disadvantage against the Hawks' frontline, best exemplified this effort. Landry took 14 shots. He made six of those. Six others were blocked and he grabbed five offensive rebounds. Chuck Hayes grabbed five offensive rebounds of his own and scored all six of his points on put-backs. Had Houston been able to take more frequent advantage of the Hawks' inability to find anyone capable of staying in front of Aaron Brooks* and Kyle Lowry.

*Save for Al Horford who played the defensive possession of the game and may have played the defensive possession of the year when, with the Hawks up four and under a minute left, he picked up Brooks on a switch and moved his feet well enough to keep Brooks in front of him, ultimately forcing Houston to settle for a Trevor Ariza three-point attempt. Ariza missed and Horford got the rebound.

The Hawks weren't exactly slouches themselves on the offensive glass. Marvin Williams (almost*) demonstrated the full complement of his offensive game in scoring 29 points on 19 shots: spot-up threes, off-the dribble twos, tip-ins, and follow dunks, the latter two coming as a result of his five offensive rebounds. Jamal Crawford overcame a slow start (he missed four of his first six field goal attempts) to score 21 points on 13 shots. Joe Johnson scored 19 on 18 shots plus nine assists. Al Horford scored 17 on nine shots (including two early, encouraging scores in the low post when defended by Hayes) before fouling out. Josh Smith sat for the final 3:39 of the second quarter with two fouls, the final 4:03 of the third with four fouls, and almost nine minutes of the fourth with five fouls to play just 23:38 (without, it should be noted, fouling out) but still he put up a respectable nine point (no jump shots for the first time this season), eight rebound, three assist, four block stat line. Plus the aforementioned game-winner.

*He didn't get to the foul line.

left.For the first time this season, the Hawks faced a team that worked appreciably harder and attacked glass more consistently. With 7:07 left in the game, Houston had a six point lead. At that point, the Hawks raised their effort level and took advantage of their superior talent to score the next 13 points. The run eventually swelled to 20-4 as Atlanta lead by ten (102-92) with 2:07 Two minutes and two seconds of game-time later it was tied at 103.

On the Hawks' final possession Mike Bibby got free for a decent look from about 18 feet over Brooks with Hayes (who had been guarding Smith) helping. As the shot went up, Shane Battier put a body on Marvin Williams on the right block. Lowry and Ariza were on the left side of the court with Johnson and Crawford. Josh Smith watched the shot go up, saw an unfettered path to the basket, took it, grabbed the ball after it caromed off the rim, and gently stuffed it home.

While the Houston bench screamed for an offensive goaltending call, the Rockets on the court didn't quit, even down two and less than a second left. To the Hawks' credit, they had the poise to postpone their celebration until the final seven-tenths ticked away. Josh Smith kept Shane Battier from throwing an in-bounds pass to half-court for a desperation heave. Thwarted, Battier had to try to get the ball the length of the court. Both Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson were playing center field or sweeper depending on your cross-sport analogy of choice. Johnson reached above Bibby to intercept the pass and put the eleventh win of the young season in the book.

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