Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hawks 114 Knicks 101

Boxscore

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 95.2
1.197
58.0 24.7
23.1 15.8
NY 95.2 1.061 50.0
18.8
21.4
16.8

The Knicks' defensive performance in the second half put the Hawks' defensive performance in the first half in perspective. There's an obvious, visible difference between an average defensive team playing a poor half against a poor offensive team and a poor defensive team playing a poor half against a good offensive team.

Overall, the Hawks weren't good defensively and, considering the opposition*, that's still a reasonable area of concern for Hawk partisans. How the offense worked in the second half, though, even accounting for the minimal resistance from the Knicks, should be taken to heart by players, coaches, and fans. Joe Johnson is a fine one-on-one player, worthy of dominating the ball in an advantageous** matchup. Al Horford, even when matched up against smaller defenders is a far more effective offensive player when catching the ball on the move, be it in the half-court or after out-running opposing frontcourt players down the floor. Josh Smith is a poor player when slinging jump shots from the perimeter (1-3 on the night) but a devastating player when, like Horford, attacking the rim (9-12 on shots at the rim, 2-4 on FTA, 4 assists) in any circumstance. When those three, good passers all, are drawing a defense's attention, both Mike Bibby and Maurice Evans are eminently capable of finding open space on the perimeter to knock down the resultant open shots.

Sure, Marvin Williams doesn't appear to fill a useful role in the offense right now***, Jamal Crawford was so poor defensively in the first half that Mike Woodson couldn't afford to play him, Zaza Pachulia and Joe Smith similarly failed to earn even a second of playing time in the second half, the Hawks' veterans again failed to put an inferior team away early and, in failing, kept Jeff Teague on the bench, but a 13-point win over this Knicks team is not going to be an exercise in perfection so much as competence.

*A poor rebounding team whose coach wants his players to shoot a lot of threes but the players, outside or Gallinari and Douglas, can't make or aren't making threes.

** The first half demonstrated his (not unique) inability to score, dribble, or pass when double-teamed effectively.

***But what a talent to have in reserve.

There exist levels above tonight's performance for which this team can strive to reach. If they take the lessons (possibly) learned tonight and make them a part of the basic repertoire (say, starting Friday night in Boston) this could be a red-letter night for the team. If, however, they choose to take as tonight's primary lesson that they can play just one half of good basketball and still probably skate past inferior opposition then nights like this will become a discomfiting norm and Friday night's game in Boston might well resemble the loss in Los Angeles where proud effort fails to overcome inconsistent execution and the distance between the Hawks and the league's championship contenders appears as vast as ever.

With my track record as a prognosticator, I'll keep mum save for hinting at my anticipation to discover but one bit more about this team.

5 comments:

CoCo said...

Do you really think defense was the thing that made Woody not play Crawford? I didn't even consider that, considering we have so many defensive liabilities on the team on any given night.

Bret LaGree said...

Yeah, Hughes beat him twice off the dribble (one of those on a poorly defended screen-and-roll where Zaza was also culpable) and then Jeffries got an uncontested layup soon thereafter when Crawford switched onto him on another screen-and-roll.

Ben Castellon said...

And that Harrington move past Crawford that drew the and-1 foul from Josh Smith

Ken said...

Crawford sat because he had 2 fouls just as Smoove sat the rest of the first half against Sac when he picked up two.Considering Joe started the game 2-9 with like 4 to's do you think he sat Crawford because of one or two defensive possessions? But yet kept Crawford in the rest of the second half when he entered the game

Bret LaGree said...

Ken--

I don't really see how Crawford sitting because he picked up two fouls (which did not occur to me at the time as Woodson isn't an absolutist on that score anymore and has always shown veteran guards more lee-way) and Crawford sitting because he played terrible defense are necessarily different. Jamal Crawford doesn't pick up fouls because of the tough man-to-man defense he plays. He picks up fouls when he gets beat but not beat so badly he can totally distance himself from the defensive possession.

Thus far, Woodson's done a fine job of riding Crawford when Crawford's hot offensively and/or not a defensive liability (such as in the second half last night) without letting Crawford's limitations undermine the team in games (opening night against Indiana) or stretches of games (1st half last night) where his strengths aren't evident.