Monday, November 30, 2009

Jamal Crawford's Good Misses

Jamal Crawford likes to shoot. Sometimes that predilection benefits his team. Sometimes it does not. One way it (potentially) benefits his team* is manifested by Crawford's desire to get off a shot from anywhere on the court before the end of a quarter. By my count Crawford's heaved five prayers through seventeen games. Those five attempts** account for 5.9% of his total three-point attempts. Remove those five missed shots from his overall stat line and Crawford's three-point percentage improves from 29.4% to 31.2%.

Over the course of the season, Crawford might take 20 shots, for the good of the team, that each have a 5%? 10%? chance of being made. Lumped into his total stat line, these attempts appear to denote Crawford's relative inefficiency when, as a real-world application of field goal attempts, they mostly reveal the limitations of the box score.

*Heaving the ball at the basket can only help the team. On the (admittedly rare) times the heave falls it's a great improvement over dribbling out the clock or (selfishly) taking your heave just after the clock expires so as not to hurt your field goal percentage. The heave is simultaneously an extremely low-percentage shot and a selfless act. It should be celebrated.

**Looking back at my game notes and boxscore play-by-play logs I have him doing this at the end of the first quarter against Houston and Detroit, and at the end of the third quarter against Denver, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. I'm open to corrections or additions to this tally.

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Pistons 94 Hawks 88



Mike Woodson:
"When you get beat like that on the boards, you aren't going to beat many teams in this league. We just didn't compete today. We've been a team that has always been full of effort, and today we got outworked and I'm embarrassed."
Josh Smith:
"Ben Wallace just outworked us today. It was a lack of effort on our part. We have to know that Ben is going to do that. It's kind of discouraging, because we had all our guys, and we knew how many key guys they had out, and we were not able to get the win."
I won't argue that effort (Detroit's good, Atlanta's meh) was a significant factor in Detroit's dominance on the glass but a blanket statement about effort ignores that Detroit got some of those offensive rebounds because Atlanta's big men were making an effort to cover for their guards' defensive inadequacies.

This is what happens when a team wins: Chucky Atkins gets credit for providing a "calming influence." The man must be a veritable soothsayer to make up for his negative production (1-7 FGA, 1 turnover, -4 in 19:11).

More on Joe Johnson at The Vent.

At Piston Powered, Dan Feldman's open about his love.

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.

November 29th Game Thread: Atlanta (12-4) @ Detroit (5-11)

TIP-OFF: 1pm (EST)

: Fox Sports South

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

: Hawks/Pistons


: Ben Gordon is doubtful. Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton are out.


: Piston Powered, Detroit Bad Boys, Need4Sheed

PREVIOUSLY, THE DETROIT PISTONS...without three starters (Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, and Ben Gordon*) lost 104-96 to the Clippers on Friday night. It was Detroit's seventh straight loss overall and their third straight loss at home. A small fire spared Pistons fans from seeing it in its entirety.

*Sort of three starters. Gordon wasn't meant to be a starter but had started 14 games since Hamilton got hurt.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 100 76ers 86



Mike Bibby:
"To be honest, I was a little angry after [Thursday's] game. Before this game, I felt fresh. I wanted to play again as soon as possible after that loss. We haven't lost much this season. I carried it over into the game."
And how.

I can't explain Mike Bibby's defensive prowess this year but it's much appreciated. Also appreciated, Bibby's encouraging words for Hoopinion fave, the underrated* Jrue Holiday:
"I thought Jrue played well, even though his shot wasn't falling. He's taller than I thought and he plays good defense."
*Much like Jeff Teague, Holiday's not underrated right now so much as that in three or four years both will be considered an excellent use of a late first-round draft pick. Then again, I once thought the same about this guy.

This project to determine each player's adjusted plus/minus in each of the four factors at Hoop Numbers is worthy of (and going to get) further study but plenty of time can be spent poking around the results while letting the methodology sink in.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hawks 100 76ers 86


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 86.2
57.4 20.3
23.5 17.4
PHI 86.2 0.997 50.0

There were two distinct kinds of offensive possessions for the Hawks tonight: those where Joe Johnson handled the ball and good ones. That's a slight exaggeration but it was no coincidence that Atlanta's key second half run came with Johnson on the bench.

Late in the third quarter, the Hawks bedeviled the 76ers with a series of Jamal Crawford/Al Horford screen-and-rolls on the right wing which created good shots for either Crawford or Horford or allowed one of the two to create, after penetrating the Philadelphia defense, good shots for their teammates.

In the fourth quarter, the Hawks went away form the Horford/Crawford screen-and-roll but, even though Woodson left the ineffective Johnson on the floor until Johnson, mercifully, committed his fifth foul* the Hawks refused to let Johnson ruin too many possessions. Instead, Al Horford continued to receive, then distribute, the ball from the high post. Marvin Williams and Josh Smith got the ball on the left block. Jamal Crawford dribbled only a reasonable amount and did so while moving toward the basket. Mike Bibby finished possessions by taking (and mostly) making jump shots others created for him. For one night, an isolated Joe Johnson (in this case isolated on the weak side, one arm raised in a largely futile effort to call for the ball) freed the Atlanta offense. His teammates ignored him; as he had ignored them far too many times himself.

*Thus instigating my first celebration of Woodson's sixth foul phobia manifesting itself.

It was only an otherwise nondescript game against a depleted 76er team but any evidence that the Hawks can thrive while shedding their dependence on Joe Johnson to dominate possessions in the pursuit of contested shots is an opportunity for growth. Combine that with the material difference between Jamal Crawford attacking the basket (tonight) and settling for long two-point jumpers (last night), the reminder that Al Horford, when brought out of the post and put in motion, can use both his quickness and passing ability to negate an opposing center's size advantage and this could game could stand as something greater than the Hawks winning a game they ought to have won.

November 27th Game Thread: Atlanta (11-4) @ Philadelphia (5-10)

TIP-OFF: 7:30pm (EST)

: Fox Sports South

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

: Hawks/76ers


: Marreese Speights and Lou Williams are out. Elton Brand is a game-time decision.


: Philadunkia, Liberty Ballers

PREVIOUSLY, THE PHILADELPHIA 76ers...lost at Boston 113-110 on Wednesday night without Elton Brand and with Jrue Holiday making his first NBA start in place of the injured Lou Williams. It was Philadephia's fourth straight loss though each loss was by six points or less.

It's imperative that the Hawks play hard and play well tonight so that last night's second half collapse can be chalked up more to Orlando's capacity for excellence than to any emerging and inherent flaws of the Hawks.

Magic 93 Hawks 76




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ORL 85.9
50.0 16.5
30.2 15.1
ATL 85.9 0.885 40.9

The problem with the offense in the second half* was not so much the jump shots or not getting to the free throw line. The Hawks didn't get to the free throw line and took plenty of jump shots in their successful first half. The problem was that the Hawks stopped creating jump shots for each other, took marginally more difficult jump shots themselves, missed a disproportionate number of those jump shots, and didn't get any (well, 4 of 31) offensive rebounds. Of the eleven field goals that the Hawks made in the second half, six earned assists. The Hawks had six assists in each of the first two quarters. The lack of ball movement in the second half even made not turning the ball over (just three in forty-one second half possessions) seem a dubious achievement.

*I recognize that it's not entirely accurate to say "the second half" as the Hawks scored six points on their first three possessions of the third quarter. It's the rest of the second half, the 19 points the Hawks scored on the remaining 38 possessions that troubles.

Any outside observer, limited to knowledge gleaned only from watching last night's game would be forgiven for assuming the Hawks, rather than the Magic, were the team that played and traveled the night before. Regular readers know that I'm reluctant to blame losses on a lack of effort both because it's a vague diagnosis and because who am I to judge the relative efforts of professional athletes. For example, Al Horford put in a tremendous amount of work battling with Dwight Howard last night. Does that effort, though, excuse Horford standing and watching as Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, or Matt Barnes grabs an offensive rebound? Jamal Crawford works hard to get himself 20-foot jump shots. Does that effort preclude him from getting back on defense? Joe Johnson's excellent first half gave the Hawks a lead to blow. Does that hard, effective work in any way explain his 3-12 from the field, one assist second half?

I suspect the Hawks were worn down by Orlando's physicality more than they lacked the fortitude to equal Orlando's effort. Howard, of course, is a physical freak to be equaled by no one but Orlando looked to post up Lewis and Carter whenever they felt either had a size and strength advantage over their defender and it was Lewis and Carter and Barnes who grabbed the majority of Orlando's second half rebounds, combining for 20 (compared to the 16 rebounds the entire Hawks team managed after intermission).

Mike Woodson:
"The second half, we played totally different than we did in the first half. We shot it, we moved the ball, we defended well in the first half, and it's like we forgot how we got the lead. We played so differently in the second half.

We can't predicate everything we do on making shots. I thought tonight we did that in the third and fourth quarter. We shut it down when we couldn't make shots. When you're missing jump shots, you've got to find a way to get to the free-throw line and we didn't do that tonight."
It was not a good second half for the jump shooting Bibby/Crawford/Johnson backcourt. In the grand scheme of things, it might be a good thing that Woodson stuck with the grand plan, but it's unlikely that Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams moving toward the basket could have done any worse than their veteran betters teammates did on the perimeter.

The introspective Joe Johnson:
"It doesn't feel good. We're trying to be one of the best teams in the East, and we had no answer for what they did against us in the second half. It's like, ‘Are you a contender or a pretender?'"
Peachtree Hoops on the second half:
Whoever the play was run for was the person who was going to shoot the ball. The ball did not swing from one side of the court to another. It did not move inside out. Every play was a black hole of dribbling and selfishness. Even when a pass did happen, the extra one was certainly not going to be thrown. It was only so often you get a ball from Joe Johnson in that half, you have to take advantage.
The Human Highlight Blog:
What 54-25 displayed was a turn in the game on the Orlando offensive end, as the Magic stopped settling for outside shots and blasted a hole into the lane and creating shots and second chance opportunities that were not there in the first half. Dwight Howard, Vince Carter, and even Rashard Lewis came out banging and stunned the Hawks into submission. That frontcourt outscored the Hawks 57-22 for the game.

This led to a deterioration of shot selection on the Hawks end, as the inability to keep Orlando out of the hoop in the second half led to more time to settle in defensively for Orlando on the other end and much, much harder shots for the Hawks. In the first half, some outside shots were falling, which probably gave the hosts a significantly false sense of security as they tried to shoot their way out of the slump and instead lost more energy and momentum in the process.
Kelly Dwyer provides some balance from our Hawkcentric navel-gazing by (accurately) pointing out that Orlando played good defense in the second half:
Everyone dug in, and the Hawks didn't have an answer. Sure, some of the jumpers that fell in that first half dried up, but every screen and roll was met with menace, any bit of penetration was quickly made up for by the Magic D, and the result was a 25-point second half. 25 points. And these are the Hawks we're talking about.
Crashing the Glass addresses Atlanta's inability to stop Anthony Johnson.

Third Quarter Collapse credits the 4-out/1-in sets for unleashing Dwight Howard in the second half.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Night Game Thread: Orlando (11-4) @ Atlanta (11-3)

TIP-OFF: 8pm (EST)


: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

: Hawks/Magic

ATLANTA INJURY REPORT: Mike Bibby is still listed as day-to-day.

: Jameer Nelson and Adonal Foyle are out.


: Orlando Magic Daily, Third Quarter Collapse

PREVIOUSLY, THE ORLANDO MAGIC...gave up consecutive offensive rebound put-backs to Udonis Haslem (tap-in) and Michael Beasley (dunk) which, with the two free throws Jason Williams missed in between the Miami baskets, were the final deciding factors in a 99-98 home loss to the Heat last night. Of course, had it not been for the 25 points Williams scored (on 12 shots) Orlando would not have had a lead to blow late.

Having the Hawks play a game on one of the great eating days of the year is a mixed blessing. Getting the 8pm game on TNT is a mark of how far the team has come but due to holiday plans and obligations I can't attend and where, on a normal Thanksgiving, I could relax watching basketball in between trips back and forth to a stuffed refrigerator while becoming intermittently fixated on my suddenly distended belly, tonight I'll be taking notes and paying rapt attention to the battle for first place in the Southeast.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Starting 11-2

This post made possible by

Since the start of the 2000-01 season there have been 159 stretches* where a team has won 11 or more games and lost two or fewer games.

  • 101 different teams have accomplished this in 267 team seasons** during the period under consideration. That means 37.8% of teams in the last decade have had a stretch where they've gone 11-2 or better.
  • 64 of those 100 teams*** won 50 or more games.
  • 9 of the 100 teams won 41 games or fewer. The 2004-05 Golden State Warriors won the fewest games, 34, of any team that went at least 11-2.
  • The 100 teams averaged 51.9 wins.
  • 14 teams started a season 11-2 or better.
  • The 13 teams that started the season 11-2 or better (and have completed that season--see note ***) averaged 58.8 wins.
  • 3 teams started a season exactly 11-2 and no better. They averaged 54**** wins.
*159 separate stretches. For example, I didn't count going 12-2 as two separate 13 game stretches wherein a team went 11-2.

**I only include the Hawks 2009-10 season in this total as they've already gone 11-2. No other team has done so yet and they all theoretically could. Dallas could do so tonight. That would make it, by this method of accounting, 102 out of 268 teams, 38.1%.

***The 2009-10 Hawks are not included here as we don't know how many games they'll win this season. That state of not knowing being the driving force behind this (admittedly) now slightly out of date post.

****Which, interestingly, is almost exactly how many games Larry predicted the Hawks would win after the Houston game.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Brief Word

Mike Bibby is day-to-day.

I'm hip-deep in research regarding 11-2 starts and 11-2 streaks. Expect a post on that tomorrow. Something else to watch for tomorrow, related to the previous sentence: the Dallas Mavericks have had at least one 11-2 stretch each of the last eight seasons. They currently have won 10 of 12 and host Golden State Tuesday night which appears an excellent opportunity to make it nine seasons in a row.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hornets 96 Hawks 88




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 86.9
39.4 14.9
36.4 9.2
NO 86.9 1.105 50.6

I don't know if it was due to travel, to the Hawks playing their second game in two nights, to the amount of effort summoned to defeat the Rockets on Friday night, or a combination of all three* but the Hawks appeared very heavy-legged last night in New Orleans, none moreso than the team's two best players, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.

Johnson struggled to get himself into dangerous positions, either for himself or in service of setting up his teammates, offensively needing 18 shots to score 14 points and carded just three assists. Defensively, Johnson appeared to have no chance to keep up with Marcus Thornton.

Smith was credited with seven assists, the result of solid play and his teammates making an inordinate percentage of the few jump shots they made on the night after he passed them the ball but he needed 12 field goal and 8 free throw attempts to score 14 points and was generally less aggressive than he has typically been this season, a situation exemplified best by either his using four of his twelve field goal attempts on jump shots** or his actions after David West overpowered him in the post to the lay the ball in with 2:53 in the game to put New Orleans up 88-76. While in-bounding the ball Smith complained vociferously and animatedly to the nearest official about...something, Jamal Crawford brought the ball up court at the galloping pace one would expect from a team down 12 late and trying to do something about it. Smith, however, does not appear in the picture until 16 seconds are left on the shot clock and even then he's seen strolling sort-of into position outside the three-point line at the top of the key.

*Not that any or all these represent a failing of some kind so much as human reality writes the man recapping the game 12 hours after its conclusion.

**He missed all four and has missed his last 12 jump shots over a period of time spanning back to the third quarter of the game in Boston.

The Hornets missed their first eight shots which seemed like a good sign three-and-three-quarter minutes into the game. An 0-8 stretch is bad. An 0-8 stretch to start a game is obvious and attention-grabbing but likely no more damaging than 0-8 stretch at any point in the game. An 0-8 stretch followed by a 37-77 stretch that includes 12 made three-pointers isn't, after all, that damaging a start and certainly is better than a consistent, game-long 35-94 effort from the field that includes just four made three-pointers.

Extending that line of thought* to a season-long perspective, an 11-2 start is great and relatively rare. Partly due the fact that each team only gets one first 13-game stretch of the season. But there are lots of 13-game stretches and thus lots of opportunities to win 11 of 13 games over the course of an entire season.

*and previewing an upcoming post

It's easier to win when everyone's healthy and available to play. There's no word yet how long Mike Bibby's ankle injury will keep him out. I don't believe any of us who have watched every moment of every Hawks game this season have an explanation as to why the Hawks have been so good defensively when Bibby is on the floor but they have been and he could be missed defensively. We do know that, good as he's been as a complementary player so far this season, Jamal Crawford has never played a key role on a good team and, as promising and talented as Jeff Teague is in the long-term, guards drafted outside the lottery rarely contribute meaningfully in their rookie seasons. Should Bibby miss any time (and the four days off until the Thanksgiving night game against Orlando increase the chance that he won't) the Hawks figure, in his absence, to face their toughest test of the season, one which will provide valuable perspective on the team's hot start.

Mike Woodson on Bibby's injury:
"He's a big part of what we do and we don't know how long he'll be out."
Joe Johnson:
"Marcus Thornton was definitely the story of the game. We really didn't have an answer for him. Their guard play really helped then get over the hump. ... They shot lights out from the 3-point line."
I suspect that Drew is using understatement to put the loss into perspective here:
It only took three losses, but opponents now have a clear understanding of how to beat the Atlanta Hawks. Drill three pointers at a clip your team will not see the rest of the season and force long jumpers by the Hawks.
Finally, Niall Doherty recaps the game from the Hornet perspective and provides an opportunity for some Hawks fans to indulfe their rookie guard jealousies.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November 21st Game Thread: Atlanta (11-2) @ New Orleans (5-8)

TIP-OFF: 8pm (EST)

: Fox Sports South

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

: Hawks/Hornets


: Chris Paul is out. Ike Diogu is questionable.



won two straight home games: 110-102 over the Clippers and 110-103 over Phoenix. The Hornets' defense was merely less below average in the two wins than in their blowout loss in Atlanta last Saturday. They won because they averaged 120 points per 100 possessions, an excellent rate fueled not by especially good shooting or by not turning the ball over but by controlling the offensive glass, over the course of two games, about as well as Houston did last night. New Orleans grabbed 43% of possible offensive rebounds against the Clippers and 51% against Phoenix.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 105 Rockets 103



The Hawks were gracious (and, perhaps, a touch thankful) winners, quick to compliment the Rockets.

Mike Woodson:
"They battled from beginning to the end."
Josh Smith:
"They've got guys that aren't great athletes, but offensive rebounds killed us all night. They played their butts off."
Marvin Williams:
"They've got a lot of competitors over there, guys that are really good role players. I think that's why they're doing so well."
Woodson on Williams:
"He was phenomenal. He was solid from beginning to end. We went to him. He continued to make them."
Smith on his game-winner:
"All I wanted to do was crash the boards. In case he missed, I wanted to be there. I wanted him to make the shot, but I was there for the miss."
Luis Scola on Smith's game-winner:
"He hustled. Everyone knows how high he jumps. It was a great play."
CoCo was fine with Josh Smith, fourth quarter spectator:
Josh Smith was in an absolutely pissy mood tonight. Yes Dick Bavetta and the crew have had better days, but his displeasure with the officiating landed him a warm seat beside Mike Woodson and the gang. He was on the verge of losing it, so much so that Mike Woodson sat him for all but 44 seconds of the fourth quarter. He really didn't have a choice. It was either sit him, or let him get a technical and a possible ejection.
Hawk Str8Talk has more praise for Woodson:
I'll forgive some of the minute distribution and lack of a counter for small ball for this reason alone - a play drawn up for someone other than Joe to win the game. I mean it's easy to defend a play that everyone knows is coming. I was waiting for Joe to dribble until taking a shot and to have a different play that ultimately won the game (even on 2nd chance) was more evidence that Woodson is employing all of the tools at a coach's disposal and for that...big ups to Coach Woodson!
Peachtree Hoops has Marvin's back:
I understand people who think Marvin can be used better in Atlanta. I get that others wish we drafted someone else. I see how his seeming lack of fire can turn people off. However, you can't not like Marvin Williams the person. You just can't. And if you do, no one likes you the person. Go watch the Marvin Williams halftime interview. Then, I challenge you to say something bad about him ever again.The guy has shown up at 8 am every morning of this home stand to knock himself out of his slump, and tonight it paid off. Marvin destroyed for the first two quarters.
The Human Highlight Blog lists all the points at which Houston could have folded but didn't.

Josh Smith made Marc Stein's All-Lefty Team.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hawks 105 Rockets 103



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
HOU 88.2
46.2 19.6
45.5 14.7
ATL 88.2 1.191 51.1

It's something of a cruel irony that the Rockets lost on a put-back bucket. Typically I abhor the phrase "hustle points" as it dismisses the hard work that goes into scoring so-called "easy" points but Houston's hard work (and, yes, hustle) on the offensive glass led to 29 of their 103 points and was crucial to their being competitive in the game. Carl Landry, at both a size and athleticism disadvantage against the Hawks' frontline, best exemplified this effort. Landry took 14 shots. He made six of those. Six others were blocked and he grabbed five offensive rebounds. Chuck Hayes grabbed five offensive rebounds of his own and scored all six of his points on put-backs. Had Houston been able to take more frequent advantage of the Hawks' inability to find anyone capable of staying in front of Aaron Brooks* and Kyle Lowry.

*Save for Al Horford who played the defensive possession of the game and may have played the defensive possession of the year when, with the Hawks up four and under a minute left, he picked up Brooks on a switch and moved his feet well enough to keep Brooks in front of him, ultimately forcing Houston to settle for a Trevor Ariza three-point attempt. Ariza missed and Horford got the rebound.

The Hawks weren't exactly slouches themselves on the offensive glass. Marvin Williams (almost*) demonstrated the full complement of his offensive game in scoring 29 points on 19 shots: spot-up threes, off-the dribble twos, tip-ins, and follow dunks, the latter two coming as a result of his five offensive rebounds. Jamal Crawford overcame a slow start (he missed four of his first six field goal attempts) to score 21 points on 13 shots. Joe Johnson scored 19 on 18 shots plus nine assists. Al Horford scored 17 on nine shots (including two early, encouraging scores in the low post when defended by Hayes) before fouling out. Josh Smith sat for the final 3:39 of the second quarter with two fouls, the final 4:03 of the third with four fouls, and almost nine minutes of the fourth with five fouls to play just 23:38 (without, it should be noted, fouling out) but still he put up a respectable nine point (no jump shots for the first time this season), eight rebound, three assist, four block stat line. Plus the aforementioned game-winner.

*He didn't get to the foul line.

left.For the first time this season, the Hawks faced a team that worked appreciably harder and attacked glass more consistently. With 7:07 left in the game, Houston had a six point lead. At that point, the Hawks raised their effort level and took advantage of their superior talent to score the next 13 points. The run eventually swelled to 20-4 as Atlanta lead by ten (102-92) with 2:07 Two minutes and two seconds of game-time later it was tied at 103.

On the Hawks' final possession Mike Bibby got free for a decent look from about 18 feet over Brooks with Hayes (who had been guarding Smith) helping. As the shot went up, Shane Battier put a body on Marvin Williams on the right block. Lowry and Ariza were on the left side of the court with Johnson and Crawford. Josh Smith watched the shot go up, saw an unfettered path to the basket, took it, grabbed the ball after it caromed off the rim, and gently stuffed it home.

While the Houston bench screamed for an offensive goaltending call, the Rockets on the court didn't quit, even down two and less than a second left. To the Hawks' credit, they had the poise to postpone their celebration until the final seven-tenths ticked away. Josh Smith kept Shane Battier from throwing an in-bounds pass to half-court for a desperation heave. Thwarted, Battier had to try to get the ball the length of the court. Both Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson were playing center field or sweeper depending on your cross-sport analogy of choice. Johnson reached above Bibby to intercept the pass and put the eleventh win of the young season in the book.

November 20th Game Thread: Houston (7-5) @ Atlanta (10-2)

TIP-OFF: 7:30pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

: Hawks/Rockets


: Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming are out.


: Red 94

PREVIOUSLY, THE HOUSTON ROCKETS...have alternated wins and losses over their last nine games. Wednesday night in Minnesota it was a 97-84 win.

In the absence of both McGrady and Ming, Houston has developed an extraordinarily balanced offensive attack from Luis Scola, Trevor Ariza, Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, Chase Budinger, and David Andersen ably supported by the defense, rebounding, ball-handling, and passing provided by Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, and Kyle Lowry. It's an impressive job by the players, coach Rick Adelman, and GM Daryl Morey to be this good with more than half of the team's payroll going to two guys who can't play right now.

  • David Andersen returns to...the place he never played. Andersen:
    "Obviously, it was my draft team. I'm not too emotional about it. It was close a couple times, I suppose. I hoped that one day it would happen. The way things worked out, the trade happened and I ended up in Houston, so that was a good thing."
    It's early in the season and neither Andersen nor Joe Smith have played many minutes for their respective teams but Rick Sund choosing Joe Smith for one year at $1.3 million (plus cash and a future second-round pick) over Andersen for two years at $4.8 million (plus $2.7 million team option in 2011-12) seems a decision beyond serious criticism.
Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 105 Heat 90



Josh Smith:
"It's just beautiful basketball right now."
Mike Woodson:
"I can't ask for anything better. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys that made a commitment when they came into camp this year."
If that doesn't make you smile, Hawks fan, let Erik Spoelstra help push the corners of your mouth up:
"We have to develop some real toughness and resolve when we play teams like this on the road."
Teams like this = teams like the Atlanta Hawks. Good times.

It's likely just an accident of timing, that it's on his second-worst shooting night of the season (though a good shot selection night) that Josh Smith begins to get attention for his massively improved play.

Jeff Teague on Josh Smith:
"He plays so hard. The things he did on the floor, like blocking shots and rebounding and all of the things he doesn't get credit for, like taking charges and getting deflections and things like that ... I always try to pump him up when he comes off the floor to let him know that somebody's seeing what he's done and that we appreciate it."
Charley Rosen:
The one player on the Hawks who's most responsible for the quantum leap the team has taken thus far this young season is Josh Smith.

There's no question about this.

Where he used to hoist up at least one or two ill-advised treys per game, Smith's 3-point attempt Wednesday was his first in the 12 games the Hawks have played.

Where he used to shoot first and never ask questions, Smith totaled a game-high seven assists and is averaging 4.0 this season. Compare this to his career average of 2.6 assists per game. In addition to his registered assists, Smith also made seven other timely passes to teammates who missed their ensuing shots.
It goes on from there, praise to0 voluminous to excerpt.

As for Smith's first three-point attempt of the season, it came at the buzzer to end the second quarter when the ball ended up in Smith's hands only because Jamal Crawford, after getting tripped about 30 feet from the basket, passed/rolled the ball to Smith. It wasn't a bad shot.

John Hollinger praises the Hawks (and Smith in particular) up one side of the Daily Dime and down the other. Read the whole thing, but savor this Dwyane Wade quote contained therein:
"Atlanta forces me to be more of a jump shooter. They did a good job of forcing me out of the paint. You have to be smart when you play them, because they are a very athletic team and they will meet you at the rim."
Ira Winderman:
Once again the Heat offense stagnated early, often leaving nothing more than jumpers as options. That, in effect, had the Hawks off to the races.
At Peachtree Hoops, Drew liked what he saw from Marvin Williams offensively last night:
The refs called a great game, it just was a bad game for Marvin Williams. They allowed a lot of contact around the rim, and they allowed it both ways. I am fine with that consistency, but Marv was beating his man and driving the ball under control. With a normal ref crew and one or two of those shots dropping, and Williams easily has 20 something points. Marv was more confident, got more opportunities, and hit a few much needed jumpers.
Josh Smith, via Sekou Smith's new digs:
"We know we're a good team. We're not a cocky bunch of guys but we're confident in ourselves. And we know that we have the depth that we need this year. And we're treating each game more precious than the last because we know we have something good going here."
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. My vote for the Ugly? That "Nature Boy" hasn't taken off as a nickname. Let's all do our part to make this happen.

Another good, thorough recap from Hawk Str8Talk, if overshadowed by this announcement:
Upcoming - a mea culpa to Mike Woodson, Josh Smith, and Rick Sund.
I can't wait.

The Human Highlight Blog finds this year's Hawks team more fun than the last edition that started this hot:
10-2, atop the NBA, and near the top of every meaningful NBA category, the Hawks have relevance in a way they haven't enjoyed since the 11-0 start of 97-98 season, which happens to be the last time the Hawks won (50) games in a season.

But while they are enjoying similar statistical glory as their 90's brethren, this team is doing it in a much more exciting manner. Where the Lenny Wilkens coached teams won, their style was rather bland and garnered little enthusiasm (in context---we realize it's better than losing. Really. We know.). This team, especially when the wheels are rolling, is exciting to watch on both ends, due to the athleticism of Horford and Smith and the precision and timely shooting of The Backcourt.
Matt Moore, Hardwood Parxoysm's Lion Face/Lemon Face of 11.19.09:
Lion Face: Joe Johnson, I mean, Josh Smith, I mean, Al Horford, I mean, oh, hell. THE ATLANTA HAWKS AGAIN.

You know how you’d see Johnson go Nova, and say “Man, if they could just get someone, anyone else producing for him, they’d be pretty good.”?And then you’d see Smith do something incredible and say “Man, if only he could play consistently with a modicum of intelligence and have some artillery support, they’d be pretty great!”? It’s all coming together. Johnson wasn’t having one of his “pull it out of his backside” nights like against Portland the other night. This was work. Pump faking, range shooting, defender slipping, screen using work. And Smith? Hold on, you might want to sit down. You ready? Josh Smith…

used the low post. I know. I’m not ready for this world either. I don’t care that he was up against Beasley and Shavlik Randolph. It’s the fact that it actually occurred to him. Strike up the banjo, billy ray! We got ourselves a hoedown!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hawks 105 Heat 90


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIA 89.4
50.0 13.9
24.3 16.8
ATL 89.4 1.17 47.2

The Hawks know how to defend Dwyane Wade. The sagging, switching defense combined with a lack of attention paid to the other four (largely immobile) players, and Dwyane Wade, one of the five or six best players in the world, turns into the equivalent of Iso-Joe circa 2006, lack of free throw attempts included. I fully expect Miami to do anything to win or willingly tank games (if necessary) five months from now so as not to face the Hawks in the playoffs again.

Not that it was an entirely fair fight tonight. The Hawks were at home and the Heat were on the back end of back-to-back games. Had it not been for a great stint by Miami's second unit to open the second quarter, one that turned a 26-23 Hawks lead into a 35-32 Miami advantage, the Heat might have capitulated at the half rather than during the fourth quarter. Even with the second unit's second quarter effort, Miami could have been forgiven, given the circumstances, for going through the motions in the second half.

Mike Woodson had a quick hook with his own second unit (Crawford, Evans, Joe Smith, Horford, plus Marvin Williams) in the second quarter. With the starters back in, Joe Johnson made a three-pointer to tie the game at 35. Erik Spoelstra called a timeout to put his starters back in the game. That didn't work. From the moment the Hawk starters re-entered the game to the end of the first half, Atlanta outscored Miami 28-8, a run highlighted by transition dunks, follow dunks, and wide open three-pointers.

To Miami's credit, they were not the team that came out flat in the second half. Mario Chalmers made a couple of threes, Jermaine O'Neal took advantage of the referees' game-long and consistent reluctance to call fouls* to protect the rim with authority, and Dwyane Wade finally got to the free throw line with 32.6 seconds left in the third quarter. The end result: Miami took the quarter** 29-19 to cut Atlanta's 17-point halftime lead down to seven. But Miami's second unit couldn't repeat its first half performance. It took the Heat four minutes and 38 seconds to make a field goal in the fourth quarter, a Michael Beasley layup which served only to pull Miami within 14 points.

*Josh Smith's 6-16 night from the field was due not to poor shot selection but to an inability to finish at the basket versus contact.

**Not worth one point for all you old CBA heads. Topeka Sizzlers for life.

The Hawks cruised from there with Joe Johnson putting the finishing touches on a 30 points (21 FGA) performance with Josh Smith chipping in a nifty 16 point, 12 rebound, 7 assist, Al Horford adding 16 points and 12 rebounds in just 31 minutes, an aggressive* Marvin Williams tying a season-high with 14 points, and Jamal Crawford ably spreading the floor on the offensive end and defending capably on the opposite to chalk up a +20 despite scoring just 10 points on 10 shots.

*Multiple plays were run for Marvin while he shared the court with the bench. Had it been a night where attacking the basket was rewarded with free throw attempts, Marvin could have scored 20.

November 18th Game Thread: Miami (7-3) @ Atlanta (9-2)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

: Hawks/Heat


: None.


: Hot Hot Hoops

PREVIOUSLY, THE MIAMI HEAT...lost 100-87 at home to Oklahoma City last night. The Heat have cooled off after a 6-1 start, losing at home to Cleveland last week before earning their seventh win of the year with a one-point home victory over New Jersey. That 6-1 start was fueled by excellent team defense. Miami allowed 97.8 points per 100 possessions over the first seven games. They've failed to meet that standard in of the games of their current 1-2 stretch. Oklahoma City scored 100 in 86 possessions, New Jersey scored 80 in 81, and Cleveland scored 111 in 94.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Josh Smith Leads the League in And-1 Percentage

Among players playing at least 25 minutes a game. (HT: Matt Moore)

If I'm reading that right, the league averages three And-1s for every 100 field goal attempts. Josh Smith, year-to-date, gets an And-1 every 9 field goal attempts.

Certainly it helps to be making 58.6% of your field goal attempts, so special commendation to Jason Kidd, who's averaging an And-1 every 12 field goal attempts despite making just 39% of his field goal attempts.

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 99 Trailblazers 95 (OT)



The theme of the night: this team is different.

Joe Johnson:
"Two, three, four years ago, we'd have lost a game like this."
Josh Smith:
"Maybe three, four years ago, we wouldn't have gotten this win. It showed the will and maturity of this ballclub."
Mike Woodson:
"The last two years being in the playoffs has put this team in a totally different light. Now when they go on the court, they know they have a chance to win."
John Hollinger:
Befuddled by Portland's zone defense for most of the first three quarters, Atlanta fired blanks and struggled to get shots near the basket. In a 24-minute stretch from the late first quarter to the late third quarter, Atlanta mustered only 35 points and fell behind by a dozen before rallying behind their defense and the play of Joe Johnson.

"Normally I'm happy when teams play zone because we have enough shooters," Mike Woodson said. "We had good looks but we couldn't knock them down."
Peachtree Hoops:
...the rebounding by the Hawks is filled with the passion of a 1,000 enraged bulls.
Greg Oden:
"There's so many of them in there. Once they get in there, they just smack at the ball."
Nate McMillan:
"They won the game how they have been winning games: in the paint. I thought the defense did a good job keeping them out of the paint, but we didn't finish the plays with rebounding."
Hawk Str8Talk addresses (among other things) the issue of attendance and fan involvement:
Atlanta Fans - it has been stated already that the fans haven't yet recognized that the Hawks are a good team striving to be great and greatness needs FAN SUPPORT! Well, in a half empty Hawks gym - the fans stood up in the fourth quarter and joined Josh and Joe in leading the Hawks to victory! Hairs raise on my head when thinking of the same outcome with the other half in the building. D-Wade on there!
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Ken Sugiura has a nice note about Jeff Teague and the Teague/Woodson relationship.

Mark Bradley talks power rankings.

There's little discussion of the Hawks' decision not to foul Portland on the Blazers' final possession of regulation with the Hawks up 3 and 4.1 seconds left on the clock. I think the Hawks should have fouled. I think the Hawks should should should have fouled Greg Oden when he held the ball for about one full second on that possession. Not fouling gives Portland the chance to run one play that accomplishes its purpose and sends the game to overtime. Not fouling and switching on screens on said play leaves Al Horford chasing Rudy Fernandez 25 feet from the basket, trying to close out on him without fouling Fernandez by shooting. This is an example of inaction being the more complicated option.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hawks 99 Trailblazers 95 (OT)


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
POR 95
50.6 17.5
20.0 20.0
ATL 95 1.042 45.6

Joe Johnson's 26 second half points, 18 of them coming in the fourth quarter and overtime played an indisputable role in Atlanta's comeback victory. The 18 shots Johnson missed and his leadership by (over-dribbling) example played an indisputable role in necessitating the comeback. If a good player takes enough difficult shots, then some of them will eventually go in. Only if that good player has teammates capable of overcoming the majority of those difficult shots, i.e. the ones he misses, does he have the opportunity to make impressive, meaningful shots.

Joe Johnson got the necessary help tonight to make those late guarded jumpers count. Josh Smith scored 20 points (8-14 from the field, including 0-3 on jump shots) and followed up Saturday's 17 rebound performance against New Orleans by grabbing 16 more caroms. Al Horford sat for the last 15:08 of the first half after picking up his second foul. He played the entire second half and overtime. Atlanta scored 74 of their 99 points with Horford on the court. Portland scored 32 of their 95 points during the 15:08 that Horford spent on the bench. He finished with four fouls, 15 points, and 10 rebounds.

Marvin Williams deserves credit, on another frustrating shooting night, for demonstrating his other talents and Mike Woodson deserves credit for utilizing those talents. Williams played eight more minutes than Jamal Crawford and missed four fewer shots. Williams threw away two in-bounds passes, but that bettered Crawford's three turnovers, as did Williams' three assists, two rebounds, his steal, his block, and his effort in the team's defensive concept.

Of the two field goals Crawford made in 10 attempts, the aftermath of the first demonstrated his limited utility even when making a bucket as Crawford's layup was immediately followed by a Rudy Fernandez layup at the other end--Fernandez being Crawford's man and Crawford jogging along yards behind Fernandez. Crawford possesses no second gear when the other team has the ball. When he's hot, he can't be guarded. When he's not hot, his team can't win games with him on the floor.

But the Hawks did win. They won despite not fouling Greg Oden, when up 3, on Portland's final possession of regulation. They won despite being outshot by a team that insisted on playing Steve Blake rather than Andre Miller down the stretch. They won despite their veteran guard troika needing 52 shots to score 51 points. Simply put, this is not a game the Hawks think about winning two years ago nor is it a game the Hawks would have been likely to win last year. This is a better team--a different team. 13-of-31 shooting nights from Joe Johnson are all too familiar. It's the consistent, two-way impact of Josh Smith and Al Horford which serves as the foundation of this 9-2 start and it's their performances that must continue if the Hawks are to accomplish something truly special this season.

November 16th Game Thread: Portland (8-3) @ Atlanta (8-2)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: Fox Sports South

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

: Hawks/Trailblazers


: Travis Outlaw, Nicolas Batum, Patty Mills, and Jeff Pendergraph are all out.


: Blazersedge, Beyond Bowie

PREVIOUSLY, THE PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS...have won six straight since their 97-91 loss at home to the Hawks on November 3rd. Portland's last four wins have all come on the road, albeit @Memphis, @Minnesota, @New Orleans, and @Charlotte.

The start of the winning streak coincided with Andre Miller's insertion into the starting lineup. If Travis Outlaw's absence isn't reason enough for optimism for Hawks fans, the likelihood of Nate McMillan playing Miller alongside Steve Blake should keep Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford from having to try and defend the stronger Miller in the post.

Less promisingly, from this perspective, Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla figure to occupy Hawks post players on the offensive and defensive glass while altering the shot or fouling any Atlanta player who attacks the basket. Perhaps just as significantly, every minute that either Oden or Przybilla plays alongside LaMarcus Aldridge is a minute that Josh Smith must primarily occupy himself with defending Aldridge rather than helping his teammates.

Oden's seven turnovers in 26 minutes on opening night got a lot of attention. In Portland's 10 subsequent games, Oden has turned the ball over 13 times in 230 minutes while scoring at least eight points in each of Portland's last seven games, never playing more than 29 minutes. Greg Oden, functional-to-useful offensive player, would make for a rather complete package.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.