Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pistons 94 Hawks 88


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 82.8
54.7 9.5
17.1 16.9
DET 82.8 1.135 44.5

Just when I was beginning to question the validity of the season-long themes I suggested in October, the Hawks demonstrate an inability to keep opposing guards in front of them, shoot, but fail to make, a lot of threes, and get killed on the glass all in the same game. It may be an aberration. It may or may not mark the resumption of serious concerns. But there's nothing to feel good about after watching an undermanned Detroit team snap a seven-game losing streak at the Hawks' expense.

Primary credit goes to Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum for driving the Piston offense. There wasn't a Hawk guard that could stay in front of either Piston guard and, when the Hawks chose to switch on ball screens, the Atlanta big men proved themselves incapable of succeeding themselves while the Piston big men took advantage of their mismatches against the Atlanta guards to attack the offensive glass relentlessly. John Kuester was able to create consistent offensive mismatches for his team despite playing up to three players incapable of creating their own shot (Or, in Chucky Atkins's case, incapable of creating a shot he can make) for long stretches of the game.

The success of the Detroit offense isn't just down to Kuester. With the exception of the third quarter when (see Chucky Atkins, above) the Pistons settled for jump shots and allowed a set Atlanta defense to box out relatively successfully, the Piston players refrained from over-complicating things. Stuckey or Bynum would beat a defender on the perimeter and attack the basket, shooting or passing as the scrambling Atlanta defense dictated, consistently creating decent shots for themselves or their teammates and creating clear paths to the offensive glass.

The Hawks, on the other hand, appeared unable to maintain an interest in getting good shots. Jamal Crawford looked quite good going to the basket. He made all six of his two-point attempts and was credited with four assists (against three turnovers) but also took six three-point shots, making just two. Josh Smith settled for six jump shots out of his fifteen total field goal attempts. He made three of those jump shots but even the improbable 50-percent success rate pales in comparison to his making eight of nine shots at the rim. Not to mention that Smith can't create good shots for any of his teammates when standing twenty feet from the basket with or without the ball.

And then there's Joe Johnson. He's struggling terribly right now, looking almost exclusively for his own shot, failing to find it, shooting anyway, or passing the ball very late in the shot clock to a teammate with little chance of doing something productive in the circumstance. Johnson has taken 66 shots in the last four games. He's made 23 of those shots overall, and just 5 of 19 three-pointers. That's an eFG% of 38.6. He's also turned the ball over nine times while earning just 10 assists in 157 minutes while getting to the line for a grand total of five free throw attempts.

It's likely just a slump but it's one from which the Hawks seem determined to suffer maximum damage. The Hawks needn't rely on Joe Johnson to this degree when he's not playing well. They have three guys capable of creating offense in the post. Four, if you count Zaza Pachulia against the other team's backup 5. They have Crawford and Mike Bibby to handle the ball. Wasting possessions while some combination of those guys watch Joe Johnson make little progress against multiple defenders, stranded between waiting for him to pass out of a double- or triple-team or getting in position for the inevitable offensive rebound opportunity is unnecessary. It's not just that Johnson is being unproductive himself, but the late passes out of those double- and triple-teams lead to rushed jumpers from Marvin Williams or Crawford or Al Horford, Josh Smith jump shots, and antsy, hurried drives to the basket.

What makes it most frustrating to witness is that the Hawks are using their other options successfully in these games but they refuse (save for the time Johnson spent on the bench in Philadelphia in foul trouble) to stick with them, appearing instead to place a primacy on getting Joe Johnson out of this slump* rather than giving the team its best shot to win the game.

*Or, god forbid, getting Joe Johnson his shots.


CoCo said...

I used something from your recap in my recap. I gave you full credit. Thanks for doing the dirty work.

Eric said...

This team has always suffered a little from watching Joe Johnson too much, but one has to wonder if Johnson is pressing given his upcoming contract situation. He turned down a lot of money this offseason and he looks like he's pressing and looking for his shot more often than usual. I could be wrong and only Joe knows. Also, the Hawks got worked on the boards today. This team will continue to struggle when the opposing team has a true center (See Shaq, D. Howard, B. Wallace, etc.) Sund's one error was failing to get a big man in the offseason.

Natural Neutral said...

Do you attribute this constant reliance on Joe to Joe being a ball hog, even though he's struggling, his teammates not stepping up and demanding the ball sooner, or Woodson ordering them to stay with Joe? There should be no reason why they don't run plays for Marvin, Josh, and Al when the jumpers for Joe are not falling.

Nothing gets you back from a deficit in a loud road game like going to the post and drawing fouls and (hopefully) getting baskets.

CoCo said...

Contract year Joe is a problem. It was different with Bibby because as a point guard he was going to have to prove he could run a team and make guys around him better to get his money, which he did (maybe a little more than he should have) As far as Joe is concerned, he is out to prove that he's the man and he deserves to be one of if not the highest paid player on the team. He is displaying selfish player tendencies this season.

rbubp said...

Joe seems to almost exclusively, inextricably equate team leadership with taking shots.

No need to complicate it: I think he knows that it is also important to defend and rebound, and even sometimes pass, but when it comes to down to really leading for Joe, it's taking a shot.