Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cavaliers 95 Hawks 84


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
52.6 24.7
28.6 22.1
90.6 0.927 48.6

25 second half points at home against Orlando. 33 second half points at home against Cleveland. These are the two most compelling reasons to ask if this 21-9 Hawks team is for real, real, in this sense, meaning something greater than just really being the fourth-best team in the East.

Extending the thread, they really are a team that relies (not as 'Nique is fond of saying "settles") on jump shots in its half-court offense. I do not believe it was coincidental that Atlanta scored 51 points tonight in the half that had 48 possessions and 33 points in the half that had 42 possessions. Against a good defensive team* the disparity in ball movement and player movement between transition and half-court possessions becomes stark. The way out of a scoring drought is not by Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford attempting a shot after one or fewer passes nor by Josh Smith acting out, be it by taking a jump shot or hurling his headband at the opposition bench over some perceived slight rather than channeling his energy toward attacking the opposition basket.

*Cleveland does deserve credit for their role in Atlanta's second half impotence. There are teams against which Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford, in isolation, can score at a reasonably effective rate.

It's easier (and, again, Cleveland helps to make it seem even easier than that) to work in isolation (either practically or emotionally) than to put in the hard, collaborative work to integrate five players in a productive concert of motion. It's easier to walk the ball up the court than it is to work hard to get the ball, be it via turnover or defensive rebound, then press on to push the ball up the court and attack a defense before it's set. Save for one Al Horford effort* to push the ball up the court following a Cleveland miss, the Hawks were fully complicit in their fourth quarter offensive spiral. Both the players and the coach visibly lacked poise and failed to take advantage of their own acceptable defensive effort/Cleveland's unconvincing fourth quarter offensive performance.

*Which became a solo effort and produced no points when none of his teammates joined his attempt.

Now, had the Hawks rebounded with more success, the game could have gone down to the wire despite the offensive ineptitude. Atlanta often demonstrated solid defense up to the point Cleveland attempted a shot (or turned the ball over). Marvin Williams, in particular, played excellent man-to-man defense against LeBron James for the entirety of his time on court. Williams was part of the rebounding problem* as well, grabbing just one defensive rebound in 30:43. Playing 70 of 240 minutes, Josh Smith and Al Horford grabbed all five of Atlanta's offensive rebounds and 12 of the 25 defensive rebounds. Yes, in 170 combined minutes, the other seven Hawks grabbed just 13 defensive rebounds.

*Not that having Mike Bibby on the court instead of Williams for the final 4:40 helped with the rebounding and Bibby, forced to guard James after a switch, allowed one of the few easy baskets of the fourth quarter for either team.

That the Hawks played a competent offensive first half, forced Cleveland to turn the ball over on more 20% of their possessions, and still looked so markedly inferior in crunch time is the greatest disappointment. If the Hawks cannot put in the hard work to overcome rather than wallow in adversity* then this team's upside is probably closer to a competitive second-round playoff loss rather than an appearance in the conference finals.

*And the officiating adversity that so consumed Mike Woodson and Josh Smith was frightfully mild.


CoCo said...

The scoring droughts are troublesome for me more than anything else. They have to find a way to get easier shots when the jumpers stop falling. They first have to acknowledge and accept that jumpers will stop falling. There's no Plan B. After all this time with the same coach and the same core group of guys. There's still no Plan B.

Eric said...

Agreed CoCo. The 4th quarter is incredibly troublesome and disheartening to watch as a fun. There were no drives to the hoop from Josh. And why not feed Horford a little more in the post? My biggest criticism of Woodson is his inability to develop a half court offense for this team. The Hawks may be one of the best offensive teams in terms of PPG, but a lot of that is due to points off of turnovers, fast breaks and offensive rebounds....not off sets.

B.A. said...

This post really nailed it home- this team's offensive retardation late in games has me pulling my hair out.

Did Woodson wet his bed, or was this the 'ole Bobby Cox/fire-up-my-team routine?