Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hawks 97 Celtics 86




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 87.5
47.6 20.2
41.0 14.8
BOS 87.5 0.983 50.0

Ah, sweet, delicious rebounding. The Celtics, despite making just one three-pointer*, shot a higher percentage from the floor** than the Hawks. The Celtics, despite turning the ball over slightly more often than the Hawks, had a narrow edge in fastbreak points, 12-10. The Hawks entered the game leading the league in points in the paint per game. Boston outscored the Hawks in the paint 58 to 44***.

*Rasheed Wallace, 10:59 left in the second quarter to put Boston ahead 25-24.

**The Hawks' defense on the initial shot was not as good as the team's overall defense. Boston went 1-4 from the floor with a turnover on their second-chance opportunities.

***Though the 44 Hawks points in the paint were nine below the team's season average, it was the second-most points Boston's allowed in the paint through 10 games this season.

All those indicators, which any reasonable person would likely have supposed prior to the game that, were they to come to pass, would lead to a predictable Celtic victory at home, failed to overcome one thing* the Hawks did extraordinarily well. Atlanta, led by their four post players** grabbed 41% of the possible offensive rebounds and 83.8% of possible defensive rebounds. It was overwhelming display of consistent carom control. The Hawks had between 3 and 5 offensive rebounds in each of the four quarters, 7 defensive rebounds in quarters 1, 3, and 4, and 10 defensive rebounds in the second quarter.

*Or two things (offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding), depending on your semantic preference vis-a-vis rebounding.

**Four offensive rebounds a piece for Horford and Josh Smith. Three each for Joe Smith (in 13:27) and Zaza Pachulia (in 14:32).

The benefit of the offensive rebounds shows up in the Hawks' offensive efficiency as well. Despite shooting below their season average from the floor, Atlanta scored 110.9 points per 100 possessions against the Celtics, in Boston, simply due to the number of shots they got up per possession. In an 87 or 88 possession game, Atlanta attempted 84 field goals (and 23 free throws). Furthermore, the Hawks did the vast majority of that offensive damage in the second half, scoring 56 on 43.5 (estimated) possessions*, grabbing 38.1% of possible offensive rebounds, and recording more made three-pointers (4) than turnovers (3)**.

*128.9 pts per 100 possessions

**Or, as Mike D'Antoni might call it were he as self-serious as Larry Brown, "playing the right way."

The Hawks hadn't won in Boston since January 24, 2007. That's less than three years ago but Tyronn Lue, Lorenzen Wright, and Gerald Green all started that game. These teams are both a full generation removed from those teams and this Hawks team had beaten the Celtics in Atlanta, had competed with the Celtics in Boston, but hadn't won in Boston. Now they have. It's another step forward for a team that, though it's just 11% into the new season, I may fairly be accused of habitually underrating. Point to Mr. Bradley.

Mike Woodson, Trailblazer underminer:
"We needed to beat a good team on the road for our confidence level. I think that's the best team in the East. Tonight we matched them from beginning to end. From a defensive standpoint, we finally stepped up and played 48 minutes defensively."
Kevin Garnett:
"We tried to turn it up and put a little pressure on them, but I give all the credit to them."
Doc Rivers:
"I just think they kicked our butt, honestly."
More from Doc:
"I just thought [the Hawks] played with an amazing amount of speed, power, passion, and execution."
It's the fourth item in that list that makes the biggest difference.

And Paul Pierce joins the chorus of defeated opponents decrying his team's inability to stop the Hawks when they go one-on-one:
"I thought, initially, we stopped a lot of their plays and it was just all about controlling their one-on-one game . . . and I think, for the most part, we didn’t do that. We’ve got to do a better job of just staying in front of our man. I think team defense was initially good but we’ve got to play better one-on-one defense."
I've no problem with Joe Johnson being a more vocal leader in the abstract. The difficulty for me, concerning the particular times he's spoken up this season, is that what he's said hasn't made much sense.

Zaza Pachulia:
"You've got to beat this kind of team. I'm not saying every time, but you've got to steal a game especially on the road. The next step, to build on the things we did last year, this is it. This is the kind of game you have to win."
The Human Highlight Blog explains how Boston neither took advantage of mismatches when the Hawks switched on screens nor effectively ran their normal sets:
Boston looked anxious and puzzled by the Hawks well-known habit of switching---and just like when a team that doesn't zip up and down the court falls into the trap of doing so against a team who does, the Celtics disrupted their regular offense to take advantage of certain switches--and while they got inside enough to shoot almost (50) percent, there was never any flow to their show.
The opposition, here embodied by Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub, concurs:
The Hawks lived up to their reputation as a team that switches often on screen/rolls, and that left the C’s with all sorts of tantalizing mismatches—Bibby guarding Pierce, Horford guarding Rondo. Credit the Hawks—they were quick and active enough with their help to prevent the C’s from taking advantage of those mismatches.
Peachtree Hoops:
Let's review. If the Hawks outplay, out hustle, complain less, win the turnover battle, and rebound the ball like it is the only thing that has purpose in the world, they are a pretty good team. I was 99% sure that was the case, but now, I know.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


rbubp said...

I think we have all underrated what Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith bring to this team. Crawford's ability to relieve Joe Johnson, make shots with defenders all over him, and fit into the defensive scheme purely via his athletic ability if less his technique, all appear to have taken this team to a different level. Along with Smith as a reliable veteran off the bench down low, and the Hawks have gone from one of the (perceived) shallowest teams in the league at the start of last year to one of the deepest now.

We ALL may be happily eating crow about this teams and the job Woody has done. This is an upgrade. Whether they stay healthy and motivated is to be determined, but if that was a preview of what this team can do more often than not, it is damn exciting and looks full well like one of the best 8 or so teams in the league.

thirdfalcon said...

I think that's definitely true Rbubp. I feel like i was one of the most optimistic people about this team in the offseason, and I still underestimated it's potential.

The reason that we were all wrong about Crawford was because we saw him as a player that would replace Flip Murry's production. We probably should have seen that that is basically the worst case scenario with him.

I think with Ol' Smith, the effect has been mostly psychological. He's freed up Josh, and Al to play more aggressively and not worry about having to play a foul free game. They know they have someone that can reliably step in if they have to sit for extended minutes.

It's way to early to start gushing though. So I'm going to shut up before I jinx anything.