Monday, November 02, 2009

Lakers 118 Hawks 110


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 100.5
1.094 48.9 25.8
31.1 19.9
LAL 100.5 1.174 55.7

Let not the final score fool you. Sure, the Atlanta bench outplayed their Laker counterparts sufficiently in the fourth quarter that both Mike Woodson and Phil Jackson felt the need to put their starters back in the game but the Hawks didn't get within 10 points until Jamal Crawford's layup with 26.3 seconds left in the game. The Hawks needed an 8-0 run to cap a 34-20 fourth quarter to lose by eight points to a team without its second-best player.

Jeff Teague's fourth quarter (12 points, 2 assists, one made three-pointer, one spectacular dunk) was the closest thing to a positive the Hawks could take away from the game, an encounter thoroughly spare of hopeful signs despite Joe Johnson's bright start. Johnson scored 18 points in the game's first 9:21 and outplayed Kobe Bryant over that stretch. Bryant stopped settling for jump shots, a decision not unrelated to being guarded by Jamal Crawford for long stretches, and finished the game with 41 points. Bryant could have scored more had Ron Artest been interested in truly exploiting his teammate's mismatch against Crawford. Johnson finished with 27 points and made one field goal, a layup with 1:10 left in the game to make the score 106-118, in quarters two through four.

Unfortunately for those who think Johnson's overburdened offensively, the Hawks' young frontcourt made little argument for expanding their roles. Josh Smith took five jump shots in the first half. He made one. He took a sixth jumper late in the fourth quarter and missed that one too. For the game, Smith turned the ball over five times, largely negating his seven assists. Marvin Williams scored just six points and had but one play, a post up on the right block with 7:37 left in the second quarter, run for him. He missed a jump hook on that play. Al Horford tallied six points and nine rebounds (five offensive) against four turnovers of his own and struggled to defend the larger, stronger Andrew Bynum (21 points on 14 shots) in the post.

Turnovers doomed the Hawks in the third quarter. Their eight turnovers led to several easy Laker baskets. The Hawks scored 18 points in the third quarter. The Lakers scored 18 points on dunks in the third quarter and added 16 more points in other ways to increase a six-point halftime lead to 22 points.

I'm writing this recap before reading the post-game quotes. Let me preemptively dispute any potential suggestions that the Hawks lost due to a lack of effort. They played plenty hard but were clearly outclassed. The fundamental difference between the teams is that of talent. The Hawks got a great first quarter from Joe Johnson, a good third quarter from Mike Bibby, and a good fourth quarter from Teague. The Lakers got a great game from Bryant, good games from Bynum and Lamar Odom, and defense effective enough to counterbalance if not outweigh his shot selection from Ron Artest. The Hawks don't win this game if Joe Johnson sits a couple of minutes less in the first half or if Jamal Crawford isn't asked to guard Kobe Bryant so often. The Lakers, even without Pau Gasol, are the better team, both offensively and defensively, the same way the Hawks were simply better than Indiana on opening night.

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