Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hornets 96 Hawks 88




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 86.9
39.4 14.9
36.4 9.2
NO 86.9 1.105 50.6

I don't know if it was due to travel, to the Hawks playing their second game in two nights, to the amount of effort summoned to defeat the Rockets on Friday night, or a combination of all three* but the Hawks appeared very heavy-legged last night in New Orleans, none moreso than the team's two best players, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.

Johnson struggled to get himself into dangerous positions, either for himself or in service of setting up his teammates, offensively needing 18 shots to score 14 points and carded just three assists. Defensively, Johnson appeared to have no chance to keep up with Marcus Thornton.

Smith was credited with seven assists, the result of solid play and his teammates making an inordinate percentage of the few jump shots they made on the night after he passed them the ball but he needed 12 field goal and 8 free throw attempts to score 14 points and was generally less aggressive than he has typically been this season, a situation exemplified best by either his using four of his twelve field goal attempts on jump shots** or his actions after David West overpowered him in the post to the lay the ball in with 2:53 in the game to put New Orleans up 88-76. While in-bounding the ball Smith complained vociferously and animatedly to the nearest official about...something, Jamal Crawford brought the ball up court at the galloping pace one would expect from a team down 12 late and trying to do something about it. Smith, however, does not appear in the picture until 16 seconds are left on the shot clock and even then he's seen strolling sort-of into position outside the three-point line at the top of the key.

*Not that any or all these represent a failing of some kind so much as human reality writes the man recapping the game 12 hours after its conclusion.

**He missed all four and has missed his last 12 jump shots over a period of time spanning back to the third quarter of the game in Boston.

The Hornets missed their first eight shots which seemed like a good sign three-and-three-quarter minutes into the game. An 0-8 stretch is bad. An 0-8 stretch to start a game is obvious and attention-grabbing but likely no more damaging than 0-8 stretch at any point in the game. An 0-8 stretch followed by a 37-77 stretch that includes 12 made three-pointers isn't, after all, that damaging a start and certainly is better than a consistent, game-long 35-94 effort from the field that includes just four made three-pointers.

Extending that line of thought* to a season-long perspective, an 11-2 start is great and relatively rare. Partly due the fact that each team only gets one first 13-game stretch of the season. But there are lots of 13-game stretches and thus lots of opportunities to win 11 of 13 games over the course of an entire season.

*and previewing an upcoming post

It's easier to win when everyone's healthy and available to play. There's no word yet how long Mike Bibby's ankle injury will keep him out. I don't believe any of us who have watched every moment of every Hawks game this season have an explanation as to why the Hawks have been so good defensively when Bibby is on the floor but they have been and he could be missed defensively. We do know that, good as he's been as a complementary player so far this season, Jamal Crawford has never played a key role on a good team and, as promising and talented as Jeff Teague is in the long-term, guards drafted outside the lottery rarely contribute meaningfully in their rookie seasons. Should Bibby miss any time (and the four days off until the Thanksgiving night game against Orlando increase the chance that he won't) the Hawks figure, in his absence, to face their toughest test of the season, one which will provide valuable perspective on the team's hot start.

Mike Woodson on Bibby's injury:
"He's a big part of what we do and we don't know how long he'll be out."
Joe Johnson:
"Marcus Thornton was definitely the story of the game. We really didn't have an answer for him. Their guard play really helped then get over the hump. ... They shot lights out from the 3-point line."
I suspect that Drew is using understatement to put the loss into perspective here:
It only took three losses, but opponents now have a clear understanding of how to beat the Atlanta Hawks. Drill three pointers at a clip your team will not see the rest of the season and force long jumpers by the Hawks.
Finally, Niall Doherty recaps the game from the Hornet perspective and provides an opportunity for some Hawks fans to indulfe their rookie guard jealousies.


Bronnt said...

Surprised you're not talking about the 3 point shooting, considering your preseason predictions. Hawks only shooting 32.9% from three so far this year, and yet those are 20% of the Hawks' overall shot attempts. A lot of this is the impressively cold starts from JJ and Crawford, but it seems like the Hawks believe they are a good shooting team when, clearly, they are not.

Bret LaGree said...

I've got to save something to write about on the off days.

Also, is it poor form to write a post intimating that I was right about the three-point shooting when the team's 25% of the way to my prediction of their win total through just 14 games?