Saturday, November 07, 2009

Hawks 125 Nuggets 100


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
DEN 94.8
21.7 10.5
ATL 94.8 1.318 56.3

Whatever the Hawks suffered due to the vagaries of the schedule last night, the Nuggets--sluggish, disinterested, and irritable--made up for it tonight in Atlanta. Denver appeared more comfortable with their feet up than with them on the court, giving up an 8-2 run to start the game, a 7-0 Atlanta run over the first three minutes of the second quarter and a 10-0 run over the first 4:20 of the third quarter. That interminable, foul-riddled (22 personal fouls and 33 free throw attempts combined) third quarter delayed knowledge of the game's margin but not its result.

Once Carmelo Anthony figured himself unlikely to make many shots from the field, he put all his efforts into getting to the foul line. Scoring one point at a time will (almost) never better two- and three-point baskets. Denver attempted 11 and made 7 more free throws than the Hawks but Atlanta made 7 more two-point and 6 more three-point field goals.

Josh Smith led the team in two-pointers made. Not coincidentally, just one of his 10 attempts was a jump shot*. Even better, he grabbed nine rebounds, earned seven assists, blocked six shots, stole the ball twice, and turned it over just once. Those seven assists (just three fewer than the entire team registered last night in Charlotte) led the team which, as a whole, assisted on two-thirds of made baskets. Al Horford registered five assists (and 12 rebounds). Joe Johnson had five assists to go with 22 points and 7 rebounds of his own. Jamal Crawford (25 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) and Jeff Teague each had four assists. Mike Bibby had three (plus 11 points on seven shots) in 20:13, his minutes limited by an inability to guard Chauncey Billups without fouling. There was little one-on-one basketball to irritate either insiders or outsiders.

*and he even made that one, 5-21 on the year now

An NBA season finds its balance, and team's find their true selves, in between the extremes. Just as the Bobcats are not so much better than the Hawks as they looked last night nor are the Hawks so much better than the Nuggets as they appeared tonight. The Hawks' road trip had an unsatisfying end but was, in its entirety, a successful trip. Before the game, Mike Woodson offered the perspective his best player was unable to see immediately following the loss last night:
"If we had won last night, it would have been a great trip. It was a good trip because you go out, you play .500 on the road...that's what we want to do this year. We only won 16 out there last year and your elite teams, your good teams, they're winning at least 21 to 25 games on the road. If we can get to 21 games on the road it'd fantastic for this team and anything over that is icing on the cake."
George Karl will probably say something similar about the Nuggets tonight or tomorrow. They've lost two in a row on the road, haven't really been in either game in its final quarter-and-a-half, but they're 3-2 on the road, they're 2-0 at home, JR Smith's about to return, and it will take something more drastic than consecutive losses for the team's structure to feel true stress.

Closer to home, it's seven days into November and Atlanta's 2-2 on the road and 3-0 at home. The season's eight-and-a-half-percent done, as a whole, it's been strong, everyone's healthy, and the team's course is not due to change. Calm (which is not the same as complacency) should prevail in the coming days before the Hawks will head to New York and Boston, try to win both games (even though they probably won't win more than one), then return home to take advantage of their home court and some other teams' road trips as the season putters along, one hopes, in a similar competent rhythm.

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