Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hawks 111 Raptors 89

Boxscore

Gameflow

Highlights

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 87.6
1.267
57.2 19.3
36.1 14.8
TOR 87.6 1.016 50.0
31.1
29.4
19.4

It was more competitive than the first game between these two teams even if last night's game failed to rise to the heights of actual competitiveness for (at least) its final 18 minutes. That it was closer and that Toronto appeared to try* probably made this win more impressive for the Hawks than last week's larger blowout victory.

*The Raptors led 18-10 with four minutes left in the first quarter. The Hawks responded by scoring 47 points in the next twelve minutes to take a 14-point lead with four minutes left in the second quarter. Toronto would never get closer than 11 points from that point forward.

I've a theory (unproven, natch) from my dabbling in writing about college basketball that margin of victory is important, but so is the shape of that margin. I suspect that a team that is +20 points per 100 possessions by scoring 125 points per 100 possessions and allowing 105 points per 100 possessions is more susceptible to an upset than a team that is +15 by scoring 110 points per 100 possessions and allowing 95 points per 100 possessions. The latter team is above average both offensively and defensively. The former relies just on an outstanding offense to outscore its opposition.

That's why I feel the 126.7-101.6 efficiency margin last night in Toronto, though smaller than the 154.3-121.5 margin of the game in Atlanta last week, denotes a more encouraging/replicable result even if it's not better in absolute terms.

Thus ends the aesthetics of statistics portion of this post.

As one might expect in a drubbing, there's plenty of encomia to go around. Joe Johnson rebounded from his dreadful performance in the blowout of the Bulls by leading the way with a 20 point/15 shot/5 assist night in just 27 minutes. The rest of the starters took care of business (both offensively and defensively) sufficiently quickly so as not to have the time to amass especially impressive individual stats. Even Josh Smith's poor shooting night, augmented as it was with 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks, was positive in that it was a result of failing to make good shots rather than choosing to take bad shots.

One must be careful not to give the starters too much credit for their early exit. The bench did their part to let their betters rest so much. For Mo Evans (15 points on 9 shots, 3-5 on 3PTA) and Jeff Teague (11 points on 6 shots, 7 assists, 1 turnover, 3 steals, another block) it was as if garbage time on Wednesday night never ended. Jamal Crawford's level of play has been so consistently high that what stands out in a 15 point/12 shot performance is the uncharacteristically high number of turnovers he committed: 4. Last but not least, Zaza Pachulia* ably covered for the absent Joe Smith by making 6 of 7 field goal attempts, both of his free throws, and grabbing 6 rebounds (4 offensive). In sum, players six through nine in the Hawks' rotation made 67.6% of 34 field goal attempts, 4 of 9 three-point attempts, all five of their free throws, grabbed 17 rebounds, and earned 11 assists in just under 102 combined minutes.

Joe Johnson:
"When our bench comes out and plays like that, we're a tough team to beat. It makes us a lot more deadly, you can't really sit up and guard just one or two guys when you've got everybody rolling the way we were tonight."
Mike Woodson:
"Our second unit was huge tonight. This is three straight games they've played unbelievable."
Mo Evans:
"We knew that they would come out trying to reconcile what happened in Atlanta. We knew they really wanted to avenge that loss, they were going to play hard and they're a tough home team. We came out with that focus and I think it paid off for us."
Chris Bosh:
"You're going to get beat sometimes by teams that are better than you, and they're better than us. I can't sit here and be like, 'Well, they're not better than us, I think we're better.' No, they're better than us. They beat us. They smoked us once and then they beat us again today."
DeMar DeRozan:
"Our effort was there at the beginning but it slowly [began] to lack as the game went on."
Doug Smith, TheStar.com:
When it goes bad, it goes bad in a hurry for the Raptors, who get down and tend to cower, unable or unwilling to fight through even the tiniest bit of adversity most nights.

Whether it's a flaw of the collective character of the players, an ill-conceived playing rotation or, most likely, a combination of both, it needs to be fixed and fixed fast before the NBA season gets entirely away from them.
Peachtree Hoops:
If I knew how to use youtube, I would create a Hawks highlight mix for this game, throw down some hip hop beats in the background, and inter-splice Dominique Wilkins quotes. Josh Smith dunk. "Man the Raptors just don't play defense." Al Horford lay in. "if you move the ball, this team will not stop you." Mo Evans drive. "This team does not try." I think this could have real potential. Toronto fans might like it at least.
From AltRaps at Raptors Republic:
Quite obviously Atlanta knows how to play Chris Bosh. Yes, he got his double double, but they made him work for it and you could almost see the energy leave his body. Good effort on a night that didn’t feature many for the home team.
*Zaza's winning people over everywhere.

8 comments:

John Taliaferro G. said...

Bret,

I know this comment isn't really relevant to the game, but I was just curious. If Joe Johnson leaves as a free agent in the summer of 2010 (I believe that many analysts have expressed sentiments that indicate he will leave, and will want to sign where there's another "star" so-to-speak), how do you think Sund and the Hawks will respond?

If they are able to free up cap-space by somehow getting Childress off the books whether in a trade or him simply signing as a restricted free agent elsewhere, would any of the big name free agents be enticed to play in Atlanta with a young, athletic Hawks team?

I feel like the youth, energy, and athleticism of the Hawks would definitely be attractive, and other players seem to feel like Atlanta is one of their favorites places to visit, would LeBron even sniff Atlanta? He'd have shooters in Crawford and Bibby as well as strong defense from Marvin, Horford and the newly invigorated Josh Smith. Pachulia and Evans are solid bench role players, and Teague is only going to get better. I'm not sure if Woodson would be an issue, though - I think other coaches like D'Antoni might have a stronger pull in that sense.

I think the Cavs have hit a ceiling and don't have anywhere near the upside of the Hawks. I think LeBron has taken that team as far as he can and I don't think that there is anything in the near future that will change that, even if they trade Ilgauskas's expiring contract for another piece (Unless someone pulls a Chris Wallace and gives them a Gasol for 10 cents on the Dollar).

Moreover, the Knicks are a mess and it could take a couple of years before they could even put themselves into contention for a title. The Nets are even worse, and getting LeBron with another big free agent would might not immediately make them title contenders (even if Lopez continues to improve).

Even if the Knicks can clear enough space to sign another big free agent alongside LeBron, Lee and Gallinari are the only attractive pieces on that roster. They'd have no bench either (even if a couple of old vets sign for the minimum.)

I think that the Rockets are the real darkhorse here but I think the Hawks could be just as attractive. LeBron won't go to Miami either because both he and Wade are too ball-dominant to coexist effectively (although I'm sure they'd make a hell of a run).

I love Joe and I think hes one of the best players in the League but I don't envision him as the superstar-calibar player that could elevate the hawks to a championship (by himself that is- sometimes I wonder how he'd look as a second banana). If LeBron truly wants to immediately compete for championships and join a team that still has upside, as well as younger players for him to develop with, then I think the Hawks could be a great fit. I think that the Hawks are just on the cusp of being able to compete for a championship, and LeBron would make them title contenders.

Anyway, Who do you think the Hawks should pursue? Is it worth even discussing the possibility of getting LeBron? If not LeBron, would any other free agents fit well?

D-Wade looks awfully tired of carrying that disaster of a Heat roster night after night. I don't think Stoudemire is the answer because I see him more as a second banana anyway.

thirdfalcon said...

Interesting theory. I instinctively agree, though i don't have anything to back it up either. I think it dovetails nicely with all the old cliches about defense winning championships.

The larger point is that while the majority of the Hawks blogosphere has been focused on problems with the offense that are really pretty minor considering we are currently ranked 2nd in offensive efficiency, The Defense is really the black mark on this team so for.

M said...

although i hate lebron and his dancing, etc... our team would be pretty sick with him in the starting lineup.. you make some good points, if joe does leave, i think Lebron would love to come here (great supporting cast, "black hollywood" scene, etc)

Karibo said...

We cant let Joe go!!.Why mess up a good thing??? The Hawks will continue to Improve and have not reached their ceiling. Can't Josh or Al turn into a legit all star?
I see your point John but the Hawks can offer Joe the best deal. Why would he want to go and become a second fiddle for less money especially if the Hawks make a great run this playoffs.
Among the top 4teams in the East, the Hawks are the only team that still has a lot of upside. Patience..In 2 years with this team intact, we will be competing for a championship.

Bronn said...

John-in short, it's basically impossible to clear up enough cap space for the Hawks to even make a reasonable offer to LeBron, much less a competitive one.

There's a lot of information I can't track down, so I don't have a complete picture, but I can estimate a good bit of it.

1) The cap next year is projected to drop. The amount is uncertain, but the largest number I've seen is $53.6 million.

2) Hawks have guaranteed contracts to Josh Smith ($11.6 million) Mike Bibby (about $6 million), Marvin Williams (about $8 million, depending on incentives), Jamal Crawford ($10.08 million), Jeff Teague ($1.47 million), and Zaza Pachulia ($4.75 million).

3) Additionally, Horford will be a restricted free agent, and the Hawks will have a cap hold for his Qualifying Offer, which, if I understand correctly, is about $5.6 million.

3) The Hawks' bird right cap holds on JJ is something like $20 million. For Childress, it's something like $10 million (I believe, but am not certain). For Mo Evans, it's $3.25 million. For Randolph Morris, it's $1.11 million.

4) There's also a cap hold for drafted players who are overseas, meaning Sergiy Gladyr. I'm not certain what the hold is, but I'm guessing it's in the neighborhood of $.8 million.

5) The Hawks have a cap hold for their first round pick next year as soon as the season ends, unless they manage to trade the rights to it. If the season ended today, the cap hold for the 27th pick would be $.868 million.

6) Offers made to free agents from other teams must not push the team's total salary over the salary cap.

So, if the Hawks renounced all rights to Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, Maurice Evans, Randolph Morris, and Sergiy Glayr, the maximum amount the Hawks could afford to offer LeBron is $5.175 million for 2010-2011. If they refused to offer the QO to Horford and renounced his rights, that number increases to about $10.757 million.

LeBron James is already making over $15 million. Perhaps it's possible to renounce everyone (including Horford) then draw up a huge backloaded contract that averages $15 million but stays under 10.757 for the first year. But there are restrictions to how much of a raise players can receive each year-I don't have all the details, but I'm sure they pretty much make it impossible.

I probably missed something, but hopefully someone else will catch it.

Karibo said...

Does anyone know how good the Atlanta bench is compared to other teams in the league? Zaza said they are one of the best in the league .Can someone use stats to guage the Hawks bench? Not sure what stat to use...+/-, Points scored etc.

Bronn said...

Karibo, the plus/minus during the first 10-12 games looks really bad for the bench. Since then, they've improved quite a bit, but pretty much all the statistical evidence you'll find for the bench thus far will show them as below average.

Partially, I think substitution patterns are to blame. With the exception of Jamal Crawford, the second unit plays as a unit, instead of just one or two guys playing alongside the starters. 4 or 5 of our bench players playing together have a tough time matching other teams when they're using 3 or 4 starters.

thirdfalcon said...

They look good when measured by PER. Crawford is at 18.7, close to all-star level. Teague, and Evans are both over 15. And Zaza, and Old Smith are both over 14.

Those would all be decent numbers for a starter.