Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bulls 101 Hawks 98 (OT)




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 92.0
46.0 20.7
25.5 14.1
CHI 92.0 1.098 50.0

The Bulls open the second half by twice running a 1/3 screen-and-roll to get Mike Bibby switched onto Luol Deng. They immediately feed Deng in the post resulting in first, a foul on Bibby, and second, an open 16-foot jump shot for Derrick Rose, one that Rose makes.

The Hawks open the second half with Joe Johnson forced to take a fall-away 18-footer over Deng as the shot clock winds down. He misses. On their second possession, Josh Smith chooses to take an unguarded 22-footer. He misses. Smith also gets beaten down the court by Joakim Noah as Chicago pushes the ball following his bad miss which causes him to commit his fourth foul to prevent a layup.

Those weren't the only key possessions* of the game and the Hawks broke even for the quarter, largely due to a rush of blood to Kirk Hinrich's head late in the period, but those minutes Smith missed were forever lost and the minutes Al Horford accumulated in Smith's (Smiths?) absence, which appeared to diminish him* as the game wore on to its extended conclusion, began in the third.

*I'd also nominate...
  • Josh Smith's first field goal attempt upon his return, a 21-foot jumper shot one pass into a possession with 9:39 left in the fourth and the game tied at 71.
  • The foiled 3-on-2 fast break where Horford lacked the energy to beat Noah down the court and Josh Smith didn't even try to join in the transition opportunity, a possession that ended with a Jamal Crawford charge at 3:15 of the fourth.
  • Jamal Crawford's one-man zone (locking down a spot approximately 18-feet from the basket on the left wing seemingly equidistant from all three Bulls on that side of the court) on the Chicago possession which culminated in Kirk Hinrich's corner 3 to cut the lead to two points with 2:36 left in regulation.
  • Derrick Rose's coast-to-coast layup over/around Josh Smith to tie the game at 92. Pure class and awesome speed.
  • Joe Johnson's missed fall-aways against single, smaller defenders (Rose, Hinrich) on Atlanta's final two possessions of regulation. Johnson's inability to beat people off the dribble is a huge weakness.
**Horford made his last field goal on the Hawks' first possession of the fourth quarter. He attempted only two field goals in the final 16:44 of the game.

If Friday night's win demonstrated the vast potential of this team, last night's loss demonstrated the team's long term uncertainties. Because Joe Johnson can't beat opponents off the dribble for easy buckets or trips to the free throw line, even on a great shooting night, one in which he scores 40 points, he needs 36 possessions to get those points, not that much better a rate than the 58 points on 56 possessions his teammates managed* on a night where each of Smith, Crawford, and Bibby laid offensive eggs. Bibby and Crawford showed how little they contribute** when they aren't making shots. There is a reasonable argument for not building a team around Josh Smith even if he might be the team's best player. Jeff Teague is talented, but just a rookie, and, though the bench is improved, the Hawks carry just 13 players, three of whom have given no indication they can contribute.

*Accounting for assists can be open to interpretation here so, for the record, Johnson's 4 assists led to 11 points (and all three of the 3-point buckets he didn't make himself) and 5 of Johnson's 16 made field goals, leading to 14 points, were courtesy of a teammate's assist.

**To their team. As defenders they provided the Bulls with an unusual number of opportunities to get offense in the low post with either Deng or Salmons posting up Bibby or Crawford.

Back ends of back-to-back games (like last night) and road-heavy stretches of the schedule (as the Hawks just began) will, in the end, define this team as much as their dominance at home.

On that note, Joe Johnson:
"I thought down towards the end, we ran out of gas."
There's no shame on that score, I don't think.

Mike Woodson:
"When you're up eight with about four minutes to go like we were, we just didn't manage the game at all down the stretch. We didn't make plays like they did.

We stared looking to Joe too much. He bailed us out the whole game. We just didn't have it then down the stretch. Josh and Marvin struggled tonight. They just didn't make their shots."
It's fine to recognize this after the fact. It's better to prevent this from happening in the first place.

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