Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cavaliers 106 Hawks 101


Hoopdata Boxscore



Let's get this out of the way first: the clock operator screwed up in a manner I, even as one who has watched countless games in Philips Arena*, have never before witnessed. Said screw up put the Hawks at an unfair disadvantage for one key possession. There does not appear to be a rule covering this particular screw up and I cannot recall a precedent that would encourage the referees grasp the power to turn back time to the point of the screw up, thus nullifying a Cleveland basket, and replay the game from there.

*The suspicion that this screw up might be karmic is not mine alone.

Mike Woodson:
"We've got a one-point lead with the ball going the other way, and we're rushing to get a shot because the clock is not in our favor."
Thing is, they're not really rushing. They're taking the usual six or eight seconds before initiating an offensive set. From that point they're rushed. On one hand, the Hawks' behavior on this possession is fairly typical of their second half possessions as a whole. That the Hawks were initiating their halfcourt offense relatively late in the shot clock was not, in and of itself, unusual. None of which negates the fact that the officials should have noticed a ten-second discrepancy on the shot clock, that the shot clock should have reset, or that the Hawks should have noticed and said something (or called a timeout) at the time rather than one possession later.

On the other hand, that what the Hawks attempted to run on this incomplete possession was a Mike Bibby/Josh Smith screen-and-roll rather than another isolation for Joe Johnson or something initiated (and completed) by Jamal Crawford magnifies the sadness of the false circumstances surrounding the possession.

Joe Johnson took 16 of Atlanta's 39 second half field goal attempts and two of the team's four free throw attempts. LeBron James took 12 of Cleveland's 40 field goal attempts and 11 of the team's 17 free throw attempts. Both players committed a turnover in the second half. James was credited with five assists. Johnson was credited with one. The difference in ability between James and Johnson is greater than the difference in quality between these two teams. By choosing to make the second half a referendum on the relative ability of the two to create offense* on their own, the Hawks put the lead they worked so hard and so well as a team to build unnecessarily at risk.

The Hawks must build a lead against teams of comparable talent because, on key possessions down the stretch, both offensively and defensively, they will operate at a disadvantage. The other team knows what the Hawks are going to do. When the Hawks have the ball Joe Johnson will begin to try to create a shot for himself, or, as a last result** a teammate, after milking six to ten seconds on the front end of the shot clock. When the other team has the ball, the Hawks will switch every screen and, in doing so, allow the opposition to pick the matchup they want. As Bronn points out at Peachtree Hoops, with Marvin Williams*** on the bench for the final 6:50 of the game, that meant the Cavs could pick whether he wanted Mike Bibby or Jamal Crawford or Josh Smith guarding LeBron on any particular possession.

*Relying on James to create offense on his own is hardly a foolproof strategy as the majority of words written about Mike Brown in his career would attest.

**See the Josh Smith baseline jumper just before the shot clock expires on the first Atlanta possession (coming out of a timeout, no less) after the shot clock fiasco.

***It's not like Marvin was a liability offensively (8 points on 5 shots) or on the glass (7 rebounds, 6 defensive) that necessitated Bibby and Crawford (a combined 2-10 from the floor in the second half, both makes courtesy of Bibby) being on the floor.

Without the shot clock fiasco, we'd be arguing this morning over which was more unlikely: Anderson Varejao's first career three-pointer or the 4 minutes and 49 seconds of the second quarter during which Jason Collins was the most effective player on the floor. We'd be arguing about a free throw differential that was a determining factor in the game's outcome but not, actually, all that unusual for the Hawks. We'd be praising Joe Johnson for again demonstrating his remarkable ability* to make difficult shots. We'd be praising the team's offensive performance in the first half which lead to the Hawks scoring 17 more points than they did Tuesday night in a game featuring three fewer possessions. We'd be applauding the coaching staff and players for making and ably carrying out the adjustments (early, at least) they failed to make during Tuesday night's game. We'd be applauding the improved performance on the defensive glass. And, we'd still be cursing the Hawks blowing a 17-point lead, losing again to one of the top 3 teams in the East, falling to 1-3 against those teams this season, and questioning again how much, if any, these Hawks can expect to improve on last season's 2-10 record against those teams.

*We, well I, would also be pointing out, in the interests of the team's long-term offensive consistency, that Josh Smith (5 assists) and Al Horford (3 assists) did a fine job themselves of creating offense in a team context despite playing less and receiving significantly fewer touches than Johnson.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 30th Game Thread: Atlanta (21-9) @ Cleveland (25-8)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: Fox Sports South

PRE-GAME PODCAST (6pm EST): Wine and Gold Podcast

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Cavaliers


: Leon Powe is out.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
51.2 21.6
28.1 13.4
CLE (def)
89.7 1.037 46.7

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
50.0 27.5
26.6 16.6
CLE (off)
89.7 1.113 53.0


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Cavs: The Blog, Stepien Rules

PREVIOUSLY, THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS...beat the Hawks 95-84 last night in Atlanta. The win moved Cleveland past the Hawks and into first place in John Hollinger's mechanized power rankings. It was Cleveland's fifth straight win (and tenth in eleven games), four of which have come on the road. Cleveland have not lost at home since November 5th.

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

Live on The Wine and Gold Pregame Podcast Tonight

I'll be joining Glenn Moore and Brendan Bowers around 6:20pm EST. All the info for listening and participating is here.

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Cavaliers 95 Hawks 84



Mike Woodson:
"Offensively, we were our own worst nightmare tonight. We didn't handle the pressure in terms of being able to execute. We haven't been like this from an offensive standpoint. I don't know how to even begin to explain it. I don't know how to even begin to explain it."
Jamal Crawford:
"I don't think panic set in. We just knew that every time down was more pressure to score."
Equally discouraging, Josh Smith:
"They weren't doing anything special defensively. ... We had shots we normally make and kept missing them."
LeBron James on Joe Johnson's hot start and slow finish*:
"It was a complete team effort. The coaches came up with a game plan after he went off for 11 in the first three or four minutes, then the guys buckled down. We just kept different faces and different schemes on him and kept him off-balance."
There was no counter-game plan to re-balance Joe Johnson.

*Johnson made his first four shots, scoring 11 points in the first 5:52. He made 1-10 shots, scoring 4 points in the remaining 36:51 he played with the only made shot coming with 2:00 left in the game, cutting Cleveland's lead to 89-80.

John Hollinger:
For the fifth straight time, Atlanta failed to score more than 85 points against the Cavs, even though they entered the game ranked second in offensive efficiency. Included was a ghastly 9:20 stretch of the third and fourth quarters where the Hawks didn't score a single point, piecing together 17 straight empty trips and sucking the life out of a Philips Arena-record crowd of 20,150.


Cleveland took advantage of Atlanta's habitual switching on pick-and-rolls by running plays that would draw Mike Bibby or Crawford on to LeBron James. Crawford, in particular, often seemed to switch even when he didn't have to, taking the more robust D of Marvin Williams out of the play. While that didn't directly lead to many James baskets -- he shot 6-for-20 -- it produced the penetration and double-teams that created his game-high 10 assists.
Notes from perusing the Hoopdata Boxscore...
  • 10 of Joe Johnson's 14 field goal attempts were taken at least 16 feet from the basket. He shot 40 eFG% from the floor on those attempts.
  • In related news, Johnson attempted 4 free throws in the game, two of those attempts coming courtesy of a defensive three-second call and Delonte West's fourth quarter technical foul for taunting.
  • 12 of Jamal Crawford's 17 field goal attempts were taken at least 16 feet fromt he basket. He shot 83.3 eFG% from the floor on those attempts.
Brian Windhorst on Delonte West:
"He made about five huge hustle/strength/quickness plays in the fourth quarter alone. Perhaps none bigger than when he got the steal and dunk with 4:22 left that pretty much broke the Hawks' will. How do I know it broke their will? Because West got a technical for what he said to Josh Smith after the dunk and Joe Johnson whiffed on the free throw when the Hawks already hadn't scored for seven minutes."
John Krolik on West at Cavs: The Blog:
"Jamal Crawford had 21 points before Delonte checked into the game with 3 minutes to play in the third; over the next 15 minutes, Crawford banked in one three over a perfect Delonte close-out and made a shot with less than a minute to go."
Here's the Hawks' side of the play-by-play ledger leading up to Mike Woodson's technical foul...
  • Johnson 3pt Shot: Missed
  • Horford Turnaround Jump Shot: Missed
  • Pachulia Turnover : Lost Ball (2 TO) Steal:West (1 ST)
  • Horford Jump Shot: Missed
  • Horford Turnover : Bad Pass (4 TO) Steal:Varejao (1 ST)
  • Evans Dunk Shot: Missed Block: Moon (1 BLK)
  • Crawford Turnover : Traveling (1 TO)
  • Johnson Turnover : Bad Pass (2 TO) Steal:James (4 ST)
  • Johnson Layup Shot: Missed Block: James (1 BLK)
During that stretch, Cleveland made just one basket. They scored just two points to extend their lead from 75-74 to 77-74. The clear path foul called on Josh Smith gave Cleveland two free throws and the ball. Was that really the time to give a team that had made one bucket, scored two points in the last 5:16 a chance to score an extra point?

The technical free throw Mo Williams made with 7:55 left in the game was Cleveland's 80th point. Atlanta scored its 80th point 5:55 later.

If Woodson's technical was a conscious effort to fire up his team rather than a loss of self-control it didn't work. Here's the Hawks' side of the play-by-play following Mike Woodson's technical foul...
  • Crawford Jump Shot: Missed
  • Smith Jump Shot: Missed
  • Horford Turnaround Jump Shot: Missed
  • Johnson Turnover : Bad Pass (3 TO) Steal:James (5 ST)
  • Johnson 3pt Shot: Missed
  • Johnson Turnover : Bad Pass (4 TO) Steal:West (2 ST)
  • Johnson Free Throw Technical Missed
  • Crawford Free Throw 1 of 2 Missed
  • Crawford Free Throw 2 of 2 Missed
  • Bibby 3pt Shot: Missed
The summary of the fourth quarter scoreless streak's 17 possessions: 6 turnovers, 5 missed two-point jump shots, 3 missed three-point shots, 3 missed free throws, 1 blocked layup, and 1 blocked dunk.

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.

Resumption of Business

Due to the airline* turning a scheduled 30-minute layover in Milwaukee into a 24-hour layover, the resumption of regular business was delayed. No more. Despite complaints currently emanating form both my stomach and my back, I'll be hip-deep both in Daily Dime Live (where I'm led to believe John Krolik of Cavs: The Blog ubiquity will also be present, a state of affairs sure to lead to genuine disagreement if not also literary digressions) and @hoopinion for in-game discussion. Return here 90 or so minutes after the game for the recap, return here in the morning for a timely presentation of Quotes, Notes, and Links, in the afternoon for a proper preview/game thread dealing with the Cavaliers, and start the cycle again after tomorrow night's game

*Which airline matters not much as I doubt its identity would important to anyone not attempting to fly from Atlanta to Des Moines and back over the holidays while still holding on to enough money to buy presents for those at the destination.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hawks 110 Pacers 98


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
54.4 30.4
8.3 11.5
95.8 1.022 47.8 13.3

I don't how much credit to give the schedule (both that this was not the second of back-to-back games and that the opponent was Indiana rather than Denver) and how much to Mike Woodson's decision to give the team a couple days off while on the road over the Christmas holiday but the Hawks showed none of the signs of fatigue they demonstrated in Denver on Wednesday night.

The Hawks used their superior size, speed, and skill to overwhelm the Pacers on both ends of the court in the first quarter and never let up (at least when the starters were on the floor). Indiana's going to struggle to create offense in Danny Granger's absence but the Hawks haven't always made poor offensive teams look poor this season, as Charlotte, New York, and New Jersey can each attest. Any good defensive performance on the road is worthy of acclamation.

With 25 points (on 14 shots), 19 rebounds, and 5 blocks, I think
Al Horford earned first quote in the recap:
"It all started with Josh setting the tone early on defense and I just tried to go in there and take what the defense was giving me in the post. That's the way I like to play, that's the way we play."
Mike Woodson on Horford:
"Al had a monster game. It's nice to have him play like that."
More from Woodson:
"I thought the day off really rejuvenated us. We had fresh legs. I thought we came out and established our game right off. We had a lot of juice going. I thought it carried over throughout the game."
Jim O'Brien explains Indiana's role in the Atlanta win:
"We've been preparing for it [Atlanta's switches] for two days and it never registered with our players that the whole switching you spent Christmas Eve and this morning, talking about it in pregame and during timeouts and then acting like we were surprised they were switching. So I don't have an answer for that."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day Game Thread: Atlanta (20-8) @ Indiana (9-18)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: Fox Sports South

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Pacers

ATLANTA INJURY REPORT: Joe Smith is again upgraded to day-to-day.

: Danny Granger and Travis Diener are out. Jeff Foster is listed as day-to-day.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
51.2 21.3
29.2 13.3
IND (def)
95.2 1.064 47.7

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
50.0 27.9
26.4 16.4
IND (off)
95.2 1.022 47.2
24.2 24.4


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Eight Points, Nine Seconds; Indy Cornrows

PREVIOUSLY, THE INDIANA PACERS...lost their fourth straight game to the Celtics in Boston, 103-94, on Tuesday night. Jim O'Brien, who admirably has a plan, has been flummoxed by poor performances this year, not least of which from the otherwise admirable and could be reasonably good if not excellent, duo of Brandon Rush and TJ Ford. Rush, who would have been the MOP of the 2008 Final Four had Kansas not needed Mario Chalmers, has doubled down on his passivity as a pro while Ford has doubled down on his passivity all around, losing his starting job to my second least-favorite (after Tyronn Lue) Kansas City player of all-time.

A healthy Mikey Dunleavy has mitigated the loss of Danny Granger but the Pacers will be treading water at best until both are healthy despite the surfeit of should-be useful role players. I like Indiana in theory but health and practicality have conspired to make them poor and me poor in reflection for going on two years now. Come 2012 I might not pick them to make the playoffs.

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

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day Marathon Chat on

Clipperblog's Kevin Arnovitz will be hosting from 12pm EST. I'll show up at some point to participate as will many of my TrueHoop Network colleagues and's full-time basketball scribes.

Please, join us if you can.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nuggets 124 Hawks 104


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
53.2 25.3
14.6 15.9
94.2 1.316 61.7

Watching this game, 14 hours after the fact, in full knowledge of the final score, while suffering Scott Hastings' morose sub-Tommy Heinsohn color commentary might color my impressions of the game. There's nothing good about losing by 20 points to a Nugget team missing Chauncey Billups* but the win, large as it was, only pulled Denver within 5 points of the Hawks on the season. Perhaps the length of my journey yesterday has me sympathetic for anyone on the road right now, but I tend to agree with Joe Johnson:
"We just kind of ran out of energy. We didn't have the intensity that we normally have."
6 offensive rebounds in 41 opportunities, 8 forced turnovers, and 4 fast break points attest to the lifelessness of the Hawks. As did the poor (and somewhat misguided) defensive rotations.

Which is to say I also agree with
Mike Woodson:
"Our defense was just awful tonight."
But, as my contribution** to today's holiday edition of the Daily Dime suggests, that awfulness has as much to do with the team's inherent defensive limitations as one night's fatigue.

*Credit to the Nuggets for drafting Ty Lawson to back Billups up.

Filed before last night's consistently poor (63 points allowed in the first half, 61 points allowed in the second half; at least 29 points allowed in each quarter) defensive performance.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23rd Game Thread: Atlanta (20-7) @ Denver (19-9)

TIP-OFF: 9pm (EST)

: Fox Sports South

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Nuggets


: Chauncey Billups and Johan Petro are questionable.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
51.1 21.2
29.7 13.2
DEN (def)
94.3 1.073 48.6

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
49.5 28.1
27.1 16.7
DEN (off)
94.3 1.136 50.4


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Roundball Mining Company

PREVIOUSLY, THE DENVER NUGGETS...lost their last two games, @New Orleans (98-92) and @Memphis (102-96), both nights playing without Chauncey Billups. On the season, Denver is 12-1 at home (the sole loss coming to Minnesota on November 29th) and are outscoring opponents by 13.7 points per game in Denver.

Atlanta beat the Nuggets 125-100 in Atlanta on November 7th.

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

*Holiday hours commence today. Travel and the league pass broadband blackout rules will likely extend the length of time between the end of games and the appearance of a recap.

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 112 Timberwolves 87



Hoopdata Boxscore

Perusing Hoopdata's next generation* boxscore...
  • Jamal Crawford attempted 16 field goals in 26:40, all of them at least 16 feet from the basket.
  • Three of Al Horford's four assists set up three-point baskets.
  • Kevin Love's offensive rebound rate: 26.9%. Atlanta's team offensive rebound rate: 29.5%
*I would still love to get offensive and defensive efficiency by player and unit in the boxscore. I still don't have a good suggestion for how to present such information.

Per the AP, with last night's win the Hawks tied the 1986-87 team for the best 27-game start to the season.

Mike Woodson:
"We're trying to do something special."
Kevin Love, himself something special:
"They're kind of the example of a team that got its players young. They played together. They stuck together. They grinded out wins together. They had high points. They had low points. But they stuck together. ... That's something I hope I can be a part of one day."
Mike Woodson:
"I think that's the first time we've had two bigs foul out since I've been here."
He's referring, of course, to an actual disqualification rather than a preventative, permanent removal after the fifth foul.

More from Woodson:
"Teams are going to make runs and they made a run in the third quarter, but we overcame it with our defense. Our defense was solid. We held this team to under 100 points and only 41 percent from the field. I'm pretty pleased with our defense."
The Human Highlight Blog:
The next step in Josh Smith's Incredible Basketball Maturity is to stop the crying and campaigning after every foul called on him. Heck, even when he bowled over the Wolves in the fourth quarter on the way to the hoop and was obviously charging, he seemed to have to tell himself that, yes indeed, he did foul. THHB has seen a lot of basketball and we haven't seen an instance yet where berating, scowling, swearing, or anything other negative message has won an official over. Maybe Smith believes he can pioneer the effort, but we think that in doing so he'll accumulate a Rasheed Wallace amount of technicals while testing the theory. Pretty selfish behavior there for a guy who has taken things seriously enough in the other areas to make himself potentially visible in the actual All-Star game.
Atlanta Hawks Technical Foul Leaderboard

NameTechnical Fouls
Josh Smith5
Mike Woodson3
Al Horford1

Don't expect Joe Smith back until Saturday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hawks 112 Timberwolves 87


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
54.0 19.3
29.5 11.9
92.6 0.94 42.5

The overall defensive performance was fine, but given the opposition, the 52 points allowed in the middle two quarters kept things interesting longer than they needed to be with the (presumably) more difficult game in Denver awaiting. Al Horford having to play 40:47 on the heels of playing the final 39:35 in Chicago Saturday night* could be a problem should Joe Smith not return to bolster the post rotation tomorrow night. Horford really did have to play that many minutes as Josh Smith continued to tantalize and befuddle, playing just 20:31 due to foul trouble, but contributing ably (10 points on 6 shots, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals) to the Hawks being +19 over that 20:31. That the Hawks weren't +20 while Smith was on the court is down to another technical foul drawn due to petulance.

*Horford played 55 minutes and 3 seconds straight over the two games before resting in the second quarter tonight.

Overall, the frontcourt was productive but not especially efficient (alongside Smith, Horford and Marvin Williams combined for 26 points but on 25 shots while also grabbing 12 of Atlanta's 26 defensive rebounds) while the backcourt combined volume and efficiency. Jamal Crawford led the way with 26 points on 17 shots (in 26:40) while Joe Johnson added 21 on 18 shots (plus 6 assists against no turnovers) and Mike Bibby took advantage of Jonny Flynn* to the tune of 18 points on 11 shots with 6 assists of his own.

*Seriously, Flynn couldn't stay in front of Bibby nor could he be bothered to even look like he was closing out on Bibby's jump shots. Raise an arm, do something, man. Apocryphally, Jamal Crawford was heard to remark, "That kid doesn't try to defend much, does he?"

Kevin Love, even with his left hand wrapped and at less than full fitness playing in just his eleventh game of the season, grabbed 19 rebounds (8 offensive) and scored 15 points deserves mention for Minnesota. He couldn't have done it without Corey Brewer's admirably high-energy but disturbingly jump shot-reliant performance.

December 22nd Game Thread: Atlanta (19-7) @ Minnesota (5-23)

TIP-OFF: 8pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Timberwolves


: Ryan Gomes is doubtful.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
51.0 21.3
29.7 13.2
MINN (def)
94.4 1.111 51.7

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
49.7 27.3
26.7 16.4
MINN (off)
94.4 0.999 46.5


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Howlin' T-Wolf, Canis Hoopus

PREVIOUSLY, THE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES...lost 122-104 in Boston on Sunday. They've won two of their last four games, beating Sacramento 112-96 at home and winning in 110-108 at Utah last week. Three (@Denver, Utah, @Utah) of Minnesota's five wins are against teams with winning records.

A recent hot stretch from Jonny Flynn keeps Minnesota (should Ryan Gomes miss his fifth straight game tonight) from lacking a single active player making more than one-third of his three-point attempts. As mentioned earlier today, the Hawks' defense has been hurt by the rate at which opponents make their three-point attempts. Not that Minnesota is any great shakes when shooting inside the arc. Only Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins are making more than half their two-point attempts so far this season.

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

A Year Ago Today...

...the Hawks were 17-10, had the East's fourth-best record and were two games into a six game winning streak that would culminate with them finishing 2008 with a 21-10 record.

Today the Hawks, at 19-7, have the East's fourth-best record and, with four of their next five games on the road and the lone remaining home game of 2009 against the 21-8 Cleveland Cavaliers, will do well to greet 2010 with a 21-10 record of their own.

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
2008-09 88.0
50.3 22.7
27.0 15.7
2009-10 90.6 1.151 51.0

Despite grabbing more offensive rebounds (extending possessions) and turning the ball over less often (also extending possessions), the Hawks are playing at a markedly faster pace. One could argue the cause-and-effect relationship between the increased pace and the improved offensive efficiency all day but the synchronicity has to make the long-lamenting "Why don't the Hawks play faster?" crowd smile.

Team Poss Def Eff eFG% FT Rate DR% TO%
2008-09 88.0
47.8 25.7
72.1 14.8
2009-10 90.6 1.062 49.7

The increased rate of forcing turnovers has off-set the Hawks' opponents greater propensity to make their field goal attempts, especially their three-point field goal attempts (Dec. 22, 2008: 32.6%; Dec. 22, 2009: 37.0%), than at this time last year. The increased opponents' free throw rate has resulted in opponents making one more free throw every ten games as the Hawks have, presumably, been somewhat fortunate that their opponents this year are making just 74% of their free throws (league average: 75.6%).

Massive improvements in both preventing* and forcing turnovers have perhaps overshadowed the significant improvements in both offensive and defensive rebounding. Offensively, these improvements have combined to elevate the Hawks from an above-average to an elite offense. Defensively, these improvements have served to offset the team's decline in field goal defense.

*covered by me on 12/13, by John Hollinger on 12/17, and, finally, in the AJC today

Overall, the Hawks are 6.3 points per 100 possessions better than they were on this date last year. In terms of expected wins, on December 22, 2008 the Hawks' efficiency differential had them on pace for 48 wins. They, of course, won 47. On December 22, 2009, the Hawks' efficiency differential has them on pace for 62 wins.

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.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December 19th Game Thread: Atlanta (19-6) @ Chicago (9-15)

TIP-OFF: 8pm (EST)

: Fox Sports South

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Bulls


: Jerome James and Tyrus Thomas are out. Luol Deng (left thumb), Joakim Noah (left shoulder), and Derrick Rose (rib strain) are all listed as probable.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
51.2 21.3
29.9 13.2
CHI (def)
90.7 1.084 49.0

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
49.7 27.1
26.7 16.5
CHI (off)
90.7 0.996 44.4


OTHER PERSPECTIVES: By the Horns, Blog a Bull

PREVIOUSLY, THE CHICAGO BULLS...beat the Knicks 98-89 on Thursday night to snap a two game losing streak. The Bulls have lost 11 of 14 including a 118-83 loss to the Hawks on December 9th.

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

Hawks 96 Jazz 83




Entire game...

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
UTAH 95.3
44.3 47.1
21.1 25.2
ATL 95.3 1.007 48.2

Through 3 quarters...

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
36.4 30.9
17.1 25.2
71.5 1.133 53.8

Now is the time to be excited. Yes, the excitement may be brief what with the next four games and six of the next eight to be played on the road but last night's defeat of Utah was the most thorough and impressive entry in the Hawks' current six-game winning streak. Most impressive because the Hawks integrated* their offense and their defense to beat a good team.

*Through three quarters, the meaningless fourth destroyed the full measure of the home team's statistical, box score dominance as demonstrated above.

Utah's probably not quite as good as Dallas and this game was played at home rather than on the road but we've seen the Hawks win a game as they did in Dallas in seasons past. A jump shooting team had a cold night and Joe Johnson single-handedly carried the Hawks not-especially-impressive offense on the strength of contested runners and fall-away jumpers.

Utah's offense, in the past, has bedeviled Atlanta's defense. The volume of off-the-ball screens and screens for screeners that Utah sets has thrown the switch-happy Hawks into defensive disarray. Add the absence of anyone who can consistently keep Deron Williams in front of him on the roster and the ability of both Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer to pull Al Horford and Josh Smith away from the basket and out of their preferred (and often necessary) help positions and you've got a recipe for negating Atlanta's athletic advantage through scheme and skill.

With rare exception, none of that bothered the Hawks last night. Switching or not switching, Hawk defenders stayed between the Jazz and the basket. Granted, Atlanta was somewhat fortunate with regard to the volume of jump shots that Utah missed in the first half but it's what they did with those misses and the huge number of turnovers they forced that decided the game long before the third quarter buzzer sounded.

Through three quarters, Utah made just 20 off 55 field goals. Atlanta grabbed 29 of 35 (82.8%) possible defensive rebounds, forced 18 turnovers (10 off steals), and relentlessly pushed the ball up the court off of both. The result: 26 assists on 37 made field goals (24 on 32 through three quarters) and 29 fast break points.

The Hawks attacked off of their defense. If Boozer and Okur possess the skills to limit Al Horford and Josh Smith's defensive impact, Smith and Horford (with the necessary help of their smaller teammates) possess the skills to create offense before Okur and Boozer get back past half-court.

Josh Smith:
"We were making it hard for them to catch, playing passing lanes. We're still a little raw at it, but if we keep doing what we know we're supposed to do, we'll be fine. We just got up and made it hard for them to run their plays. We clogged the paint, and got out and got some easy points."
Too often in the past, Atlanta has allowed their opponents to dictate the style of play in any given game. Last night, they attacked to their advantage and forced their opponent to try to adapt. Even in the low-scoring, not especially well-played first half, Atlanta's offensive tactics were sound. They pounded the ball into Joe Johnson, mostly on the block, against rookie Wes Matthews. Johnson (and his teammates) recognized that Utah would have to send Matthews help. Johnson waited for the help to show (but didn't wait so long that the help arrived) and found the open man. It might have taken a second or third pass to get the open shot, and several of those open shots were missed, but the ball movement and team concept were both sound. More importantly, the Hawks didn't go away from it.

Come the New Year, this approaching spate of road games may remind us that Utah is, after all, a terrible team on the road and make this morning's missive look irrationally exuberant in retrospect. Today, though, we've catalogued another example of Atlanta's improvement--the head coach's improvement, the players' individual and collective improvement--and, for one day, at least, the question shifts from Will they really win 50 games? to Could they win 60?

Mike Woodson:
"Tonight, it was beautiful to watch."
Marvin Williams:
"That was fun.

We got every stop and made every shot for I don't know how long."
Al Horford:
"We're starting to develop that killer instinct."
Peachtree Hoops:
I hope you watched this game because I cannot describe how well Josh Smith played. He took charges, poked steals, skied for rebounds, block shots, and dunked. And that was on consecutive possessions. You can't expect Josh to get as lucky as he did tonight. The ball certainly bounced right. Still, games like this make it clear how far he has come. The man can take over games. Shoot, he can turn the tide with one shot and defense.

And I don't mean to beat a dead horse that has been dead since the mid way through the third, but I can't remember a player performing that well against a good team in a long time. Josh Smith was that good.
Deron Williams:
"We apologize to all the fans. We played like crap. I played like crap. I think more than anything, their length hurt us."
Jerry Sloan:
"They were terrific. They did everything they had to do. We got caught up in wanting to score. We had eight assists the first half. We couldn't shoot it fast enough. And far enough. They just kicked our butts from the jump."
The Human Highlight Blog:
We didn't check, but we're pretty sure the Jazz lose all games where Deron and Boozer combine for less than (10) points total. Ok, make that very sure.
SLC Dunk:
One night after appearing on national television and hearing Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley call him the best point guard in the NBA. Deron Williams put up this line: 2 points on 1-8 shooting, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 turnovers and a +/- rating of -36 in 21 minutes. If he's ever had a worse game as a professional, I can't remember it.
At Crashing the Glass, Brian Anderson leads off the game recap with a(nother) wildly inaccurate prediction of mine. That an entire is blog is not dedicated to just that premise is down only to my unimportance and the good and generous nature of those of you who read this regularly.