Sunday, January 31, 2010

Magic 104 Hawks 86


Hoopdata Boxscore



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 88.2
43.8 18.5
11.9 11.3
ORL 88.2 1.18 59

The Hawks are -67 in three games against Orlando this year. They're +293 in 43 games against the rest of the league. Orlando's a good team. They're also a terrible matchup for the Hawks. Last night's loss drove that home. The Hawks weren't out-shot from beyond the three-point line nor were they killed on the offensive glass and still they couldn't hang with Orlando for 48 minutes. Two of the three things that doomed the Hawks in their first two games against Orlando were, if not fixed, neutralized for a night. That suggests that the fundamental problem the Hawks face against the Magic is making shots.

Atlanta has shot 42.9, 42.3, and 43.8 eFG% in the three games against Orlando and there simply aren't enough extra possessions to be gained by not turning the ball over or grabbing offensive rebounds (especially because Orlando does a great job of negating the latter) to overcome that unless you're an elite defensive team and the Hawks are not.

That the essential problem for the Hawks against Orlando in the first two games was getting the ball in the basket, it's curious that the most significant change Mike Woodson made in the third game was to get Jason Collins and Mario West in the game as soon as possible at the expense of Zaza Pachulia and Jeff Teague, especially considering the contributions Pachulia and Teague made the night before to help defeat Boston. I don't believe that difference between Pachulia/Teague and Collins/West is so great as to have changed the outcome of last night's game but there's no evidence Collins and West made a positive difference.

The decision was extra disappointing coming on the heels of a couple of games where Woodson demonstrated his evolution as a tactical coach. In his willingness to let Al Horford pick up his third foul in the first half in San Antonio and in his willingness to leave Mike Bibby on the bench for almost the entire second half, Woodson showed an ability to adjust to the game situation we didn't see two or three seasons ago. Last night's rotation shake-up may have been a similar attempt at growth, misguided though it was.

In the end, though, if Dwight Howard plays as well as he did last night (31 points on 16 shots, 19 rebounds, 3 blocks, and most of the credit for the Hawks shooting 15-35 inside of 10 feet) while Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson (33 points on 21 shots in 48 minutes) combine to make the stretch four appear to be the antidote to Josh Smith's defensive aptitude, there's no amount of coaching wizardry that's going to change the outcome when the Hawks face the Magic.

Joe Johnson:
"This game is all about matchups, and I think we match up well with everyone but them. They pretty much have their way with us."
Al Horford:
"They just have our number right now. We have to figure them out. We have to do a better job inside in the post, starting with me."
Josh Smith, who has attempted seven jump shots in the last two games, had a different explanation for the 18-point loss:
"It’s tough to beat a great team like Orlando when you can’t get to the line. We were aggressive like they were aggressive."
Orlando attempted seven more free throws in the game. Beyond inserting Jason Collins in the first quarter with the express purpose of having him foul Dwight Howard, Orlando got four free throws courtesy of Josh Smith fouling Jameer Nelson at half-court with 1.9 seconds left in the first half and Mike Woodson getting a technical at halftime.

Peachtree Hoops:
At the end of the first quarter, Hawks assistant Jim Todd was interviewed and said, "Well, we are getting fouled, driving the ball and trying to get to the line, and we are not getting calls." That is fine, maybe true, but Orlando is getting open shots or huge advantages that require fouling. Most of the time, the Hawks were beat so bad they did not leave the call up to the refs. Screw driving to get fouled. Atlanta has advantages. Take advantage. Spread the floor and pick and roll with Horford. Create ball movement. All these Isolation drives or shots are horrible because Howard is either going to alter the shot or get the rebound.
Mike Woodson:
"We haven't figured [Orlando] out, that's all I can tell you. It's about coming out and having a lot of heart and we didn't do that for 48 minutes."
Rashard Lewis:
"We definitely match up well with them. They don't have anybody that can guard Dwight inside. They were in foul trouble all night; anybody that tried to guard him always had to foul."
At Orlando Pinstriped Post, Ben Q Rock makes good use of the color red to highlight Atlanta's wide-ranging deficiencies last night.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

January 30th Game Thread: Atlanta (30-15) @ Orlando (30-16)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: SportSouth, NBA TV

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Magic


: None.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
50.6 21.2
27.9 13.4
ORL (def)
91.4 1.05 47.9

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
49.5 28.6
27.1 16.0
ORL (off)
91.4 1.102 52

: Orlando -5.5, 195 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Orlando Magic Daily, Orlando Pinstriped Post

PREVIOUSLY, THE ORLANDO MAGIC...beat Boston 96-94 on Thursday night. Orlando have won four of their last five games and comfortably defeated Atlanta both times they've met so far this season.

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

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 100 Celtics 91

Hoopdata Boxscore



Kendrick Perkins on Jamal Crawford before the game:
"We put a hit out on him today."
Jamal Crawford:
28 points on 16 shots many of them vital in building a lead that kept Perkins, the defender, nailed to the bench for the game's final 17:38.
Oh, and Crawford also said:
"They can knock me down, and I’ll get back up. I know my teammates got my back."
That's the thing that has made Crawford, who is having a good year by his standards and is better than Flip Murray was last year (though not to an extreme degree), appear so devastating this year. He's surrounded by guys who can cover for everything he can't do. Jamal Crawford has always been able to score. He's never been able to do anything else. On this team, the latter doesn't really matter. That Crawford's name comes up on the fringes of the All-Star discussion is, in part, another argument in favor of Al Horford and Josh Smith both making the team.

John Hollinger:
[I]t was Crawford who did all the hitting -- in the paint, off the backboard, beyond the 3-point line, and even from halfcourt. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half to turn a nine-point deficit into a 12-point halftime lead, and the Hawks coasted the rest of the way to a 100-91 win -- one that was unusually chippy for a regular season game but par for the course for a Hawks-Celtics tilt.
Paul Pierce:
"They played hard for four games. They took care of business, like we did to them last year."
Mark Bradley:
[T]hat’s the thing about these C’s. They’re yesterday’s men. They talk better than they play, at least against the Hawks. They were better than the local team in 2008 and 2009, but now it’s Twenty-Ten and time marches onward.
Zach Lowe at Celtics Hub provides a detailed example of what Paul Pierce was working with last night:
Here’s a frozen moment for you: The Celtics are up 16-7 with 3:10 left in the 1st quarter. They are getting good looks inside by attacking Mike Bibby and frustrating Atlanta’s halfcourt offense with their usual stalwart screen/roll defense. Rajon Rondo dribbles left to right along the baseline, slides under the hoop and curls up toward the right elbow around a solid Rasheed Wallace screen. The pick catches Rajon’s man (Joe Johnson), and Sheed’s man (Josh Smith) stays with Sheed on the roll toward the hoop.

Rondo is wide open 15 feet from the rim. I’m looking at the video right now. No one is within eight feet of him. He’s so wide open—and Joe Johnson is so unconcerned about it—that Rajon actually takes an extra dribble in toward the rim and still finds himself with plenty of space to jack what would now be an open 14-footer.

Except, of course, he opts to pick up his dribble and throw a left-handed pass across the court to Paul Pierce. Mo Evans sees it coming, jumps into the passing lane to steal it and goes coast-to-coast for an And-1.
More from Pierce:
"Once the playoffs start it’s all 0-0, but you know they feel like they have the edge."
Doc Rivers, not so subtly, asking for help before the trading deadline:
"We brought the bench in, which you had to do because of playing [Thursday night], and they go up by 11. Starters come back in the third quarter and get it back to 1, you put the bench in, and bam. So it’s tough."
By-the-by, Shelden Williams yesterday: DNP-CD and zero (0) stories in the Boston press about him returning to Atlanta for revenge on the organization that didn't appreciate him and/or give him a fair shake.

Paul Pierce makes a good, and at this point quite obvious, point about how the Celtics choose to defend Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter:
"We let them isolate us, and that’s the way they play. They did it four games vs. us. I think we should have done a better job with our help defense, getting another man to bother him. When those guys get going, they can really go off."
When Zaza Pachulia has a good night, there's only one place to go for commentary, Peachtree Hoops:
Zaza had one of his best Zaza nights. Down around six points in the second quarter, he hit a wide open jump shot and celebrated like it was a quarter ending three. Then he went and grabbed three rebounds in a row.
The Vent:
I'm not even going to talk much about the flagrant foul that Josh Smith picked up because he wrapped his arms around Kendrick Perkins, I'll just say I expect the league to rescind it and send Josh a detailed apology written in calligraphy on the finest stationery.
I don't envy the job of having to officiate a game such as last night's, where some of the world's greatest athletes look to bump into each other to assert their dominance over territory, and, it must be said, there were no ugly incidents. But, Josh Smith was (eventually) whistled for a flagrant foul because Kendrick Perkins swung an arm back and hit Smith in the face. That's poor officiating of a type all too common in basketball today: making decisions about actions primarily in term of reactions.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hawks 100 Celtics 91


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
BOS 93.2
43.9 40.5
17.9 18.2
ATL 93.2 1.073 51.3

Let's see if I can complete one of these post-game recaps by forgoing attempts at a coherent argument and simply empty the notebook.
  • The Celtics made a concerted effort to attack Mike Bibby, either directly or indirectly, in the first five minutes. Boston scored 12 of their 41 first half points in the 6:07 Bibby played. Foul trouble did most of the work in keeping Bibby from being so exploited again, but credit to Mike Woodson for leaving his veteran point guard on the bench for the final 21:24 of the game.
  • Once Crawford replaced Bibby, stops were easier to come by and the Hawks did an excellent job of converting both turnovers and defensive rebounds into transition opportunities they converted.
  • When Pachulia plays as he did in his first stint tonight the bench is truly formidable.
  • Same goes for Jeff Teague. Even more impressive than Teague's eighth block of the year was how he got back in the play to run the ensuing break and find Crawford in the corner for a three.
  • That five-point swing plus Crawford's half-court three at the first quarter buzzer may have been the difference in the game.
  • Next candidate for the difference in the game: Pierce's 5 minute, 43 second rest to open the second quarter. Boston never found a productive way to run their offense when Pierce was off the court.
  • Pierce got the Celtics back in the game not just by getting the Hawks in the penalty but by getting the Hawks in the penalty while also getting Marvin Williams in foul trouble. Pierce had a great offensive game (35 points on 15 shots) but whatever trouble he encountered was usually courtesy of Marvin. Had Pierce gotten to face the Bibby/Crawford/Johnson lineup in the second half, things could have played out differently.
  • The third quarter was chock full of hotly contested thoroughly uninspiring basketball.
  • The fourth quarter wasn't much better outside of Joe Johnson suddenly remembering he was playing the Celtics and, thus, should start making every fall-away he could create for himself.
  • 55 points on 38 shots and 12 free throw attempts for Johnson and Crawford. Considering the opposing post defenders, Horford and Smith got a suitable number of touches. A fine offensive performance from concept down to execution.
  • This was more of a Celtics type of game than a Hawks type of game: lots of turnovers, lots of foul shots. Whereas the Hawks win by getting more shots up than their opponents, the Celtics usually win by making a far higher percentage of their shots than their opponents. They couldn't tonight.
  • Not coincidentally, the Hawks really should do everything in their power to be in Boston's half of the playoff draw.
  • It's probably a good sign for the Celtics that Garnett looked far lively on the second night of back-to-back road games. He's not healthy right now, but the possibility that he'll still be upright come playoff time seems more plausible than it did 24 hours ago.
  • Al Horford did great work on the block when guarded by Kendrick Perkins but struggled against Glen Davis. Go figure.
  • Josh Smith's inspirational takeaway from his All-Star snub appeared to center around taking jump shots and dribbling more.
  • On current form, it's a good bet that neither Rasheed Wallace nor Mo Evans are entered in the three-point shootout.
Quotes, notes, and links in the morning. Go to bed happy, Hawks fans.

January 29th Game Thread: Boston (29-14) @ Atlanta (29-15)

TIP-OFF: 7:30pm (EST)

: SportSouth, NBA TV

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Celtics


: Marquis Daniels is out.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
BOS (off)
52.9 24.7
23.4 17.2
ATL (def)
89.9 1.075 49.7

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
BOS (def)
47.5 31.7
27.0 17.5
ATL (off)
89.9 1.132 50.6

: Atlanta -4, 191 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Celtics Hub, CelticsBlog

PREVIOUSLY, THE BOSTON CELTICS...lost 96-94 in Orlando last night. It was Boston's first loss (also their first road game) in the three games since Kevin Garnett returned to action last Friday. Garnett did not appear healthy last night. John Hollinger from today's Daily Dime:
Garnett was invisible, and not just with his defense on the final play. He finished with six points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes and twice failed to finish alley-oop plays at the basket. On the crucial play against Lewis he played his customary in-your-grill defense, only he lacked the dexterity to stay in front of him on the drive -- a recurring pattern during Orlando's second-half comeback.

Playing his third game since missing 10 games with what was diagnosed as a hyperextended right knee, Garnett appeared to favor his leg noticeably throughout. Afterward he insisted that nothing was wrong -- "I just played like [expletive]," he said, "pure [expletive]." Few observers believed him -- at least the part about nothing being wrong with his leg.
Garnett's health is neither the least nor the total of Boston's problems. Paul Pierce hasn't looked nearly as spry as he did before he missed five games with a knee infection, Ray Allen has begun to show his age, Rasheed Wallace has not been rejuvenated upon his arrival in Boston, and Doc Rivers nightly faces a no-win decision as to how to replace or supplement Kevin Garnett with Glen Davis, Shelden Williams, and Brian Scalabrine as his options.

The Celtics don't want to get swept by the Hawks. Should they avoid that fate tonight, I suspect they'll find the joy short-lived as the team's uncertain future remains. I take no joy in seeing the core of Boston's most recent championship show the signs of age.

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

All-Star Roster Reaction Roundup

Al Horford:
"It’s like a dream come true for me. When you’re playing basketball as a kid, you envision yourself making it to the NBA. And once you make it to this level, you work so hard to get to an All-Star level. It’s just a blessing for me to take part in this game."
Joe Johnson:
"It means a lot to me to be selected as an All-Star again. It’s really a tribute to the Atlanta Hawks organization, and my teammates and coaches. I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the years, and over the summers, and it’s always nice to see it pay off."
See if you can spot where in this quote Stan Van Gundy gives a tacit admission that he and I don't hang out and talk about basketball:
"I think he's a really good player, and everybody agrees he's pretty much a power forward that's playing center. He's learned to use his quickness. I don't think there's any negatives with him."
John Hollinger (HT: TrueHoop):
Horford and Johnson made the All-Star team and Josh Smith didn't. I guess nobody actually watched the Hawks this year.
Always with the attendance jokes.

Mark Bradley:
Got no problem with Joe Johnson. Got no problem with Al Horford. They’re both deserving. But they’re no more deserving — maybe not as deserving — as Josh Smith.


And I’m not the only one who’s disappointed. Here’s co-owner Michael Gearon Jr.: “Josh Smith is an All-Star and he deserves to be there. He deserves to make that team as much as any of the players who were selected. He is an All-Star, and he’s the heart and soul of our team. He deserves to be there.”

From general manager Rick Sund: “There area lot of players in the NBA who put up All-Star numbers, and then there are players who are All-Star players. Josh is an All-Star player.”
The Human Highlight Blog:
Looking at the numbers between the two and you can see why they are compared to each other. Why then Wallace then over Smith, hypothetically?

One reason could be that Wallace's raw stats are better, more points per game, more rebounds per game, etc--a product of his (9) MPG advantage over Smith. Basketball has come some way in appreciating the finer aspects of the game rather than just looking at PPG, but not all the way, and if coaches were looking at Wallace's stats over Smith's, a difference of (3) PPG and (3) RPG might have tipped the scales for the Bobcats' first All-Star.

But that line of reasoning doesn't compute when you look at the selection of Horford over David Lee. Lee's advanced stats and raw stats are higher than Horford's, but so is his overall Usage Rate. Still, if raw numbers were what led to the selection of Wallace over Smith, why wouldn't Lee have been selected over Horford?

No, what I believe what ultimately led to Smith's exclusion this season, in addition to the smaller things already listed, was Smith's perpetual demeanor on the court and to his head coach.
Drew at Peachtree Hoops:
If Al Horford is the rower, the guy who always will keep the team moving through sheer force of will, and Joe Johnson is the motor who consistently powers the team through at a steady pace. Well Josh Smith is the sail. When the wind is blowing right for him, this team flies, and it looks effortless. And this season, it has been a constant damn wind gust. Josh Smith takes over games. He changes games. Josh makes horrible games worth going to. He almost single-handedly makes Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford's defense a non factor most nights. Read that sentence again. It is true. Josh Smith is having a career year, and he should be an all-star. Hell, the all-star game was created for people like Josh Smith. God is not happy. In the end, the fans voting for KG screwed Josh. Lets hope he takes that anger out on Friday.
Also at Peachtree Hoops, Bronn makes the case for Josh Smith over Paul Pierce:
While Paul Pierce does one thing very well-score, and score efficiently-it's tough to build an argument based solely on that for his All-Star inclusion.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yahoo! Sports: All-Star Reserves Leaked

Secrecy is no match for the combined efforts of Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears:
Point guards Deron Williams of Utah, Chicago's Derrick Rose and Boston's Rajon Rondo will make their All-Star Game debuts next month in Dallas, sources said Thursday.

Williams, Rondo and Rose top the list of reserves chosen by the league's coaches to participate in the Feb. 14 game at Cowboys Stadium. The names won't be made official until Thursday night, but Yahoo! Sports has obtained the list of reserves.

Besides Rondo and Rose, the East roster includes Boston's Paul Pierce, Toronto's Chris Bosh, Charlotte's Gerald Wallace and Atlanta's Joe Johnson and Al Horford.

The West includes the New Orleans' Chris Paul, the Lakers' Pau Gasol, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, Memphis' Zach Randolph and Portland's Brandon Roy.

Among the notable candidates left off the team are the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Kaman, New York's David Lee and Denver's Chauncey Billups.
Josh Smith has not been quoted as saying the Eastern Conference are a bunch of "goddam phonies" but it'd be a reasonable sentiment given his performance this season.

UPDATE (3:29pm): In my experience the only four-letter words Kevin Pelton uses are actually acronyms. Josh Smith's absence from the All-Star team inspired him to use consciously strong language at Basketball Prospectus: "snub."

Spurs 105 Hawks 90


Hoopdata Boxscore



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 90.2
42.6 17.0
22.6 7.8
SA 90.2 1.164 45.7

Is that how you beat the Hawks? It is if you have multiple perimeter players who can attack off the dribble, at least one of whom can join the ranks of shooters spotting up for the corner three, and two excellent offensive rebounders, one of whom must also draw significant defensive attention whenever he catches (or even threatens to catch) the ball.

San Antonio put on a clinic as to how to take advantage of Atlanta's weaknesses in the first half. Not that many teams could contend with so precise and high-tempo a display of dribble penetration, spacing, and ball movement. The Hawks, more than most teams, must engage in complex risk-reward strategies to cope with quick ball-handlers. In the first half (when San Antonio's guards didn't simply use speed to beat the Hawks down the court) the Hawks went with their normal approach and tried to use the length and quickness of Josh Smith and Al Horford to contain Tony Parker, George Hill, or Manu Ginobili. The problem with this was twofold: San Antonio wasn't isolating their guards so the additional help defense couldn't leave other Spurs unattended without consequence and drawing Smith and Horford away from the basket defensively allowed Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair to run rampant on the offensive glass.

The cumulative result: 66 points, 55.8 eFG%, 41.7 OR%, 2.1 TO%

To their credit, the Hawks adjusted and got back in the game. Though the nature of their adjustments could be what caused their rally to run out of steam in the fourth quarter. Most importantly, Joe Johnson switched onto Tony Parker. The Hawks could do this in no small part because Gregg Popovich opened the second half with Keith Bogans alongside Parker rather than George Hill. The decision surprised me as Bogans is exactly the sort of player against whom Mike Woodson can hide Mike Bibby defensively with the least damage done to his team. Unlike his teammates (both larger and smaller) Johnson proved capable of keeping Parker in front of him. With Bogans and Antonio McDyess functioning as relatively stationary spot-up shooters in this lineup, Johnson had more help defense than anyone attempting to check Parker in the first half received and successfully bottled him up, holding Parker scoreless until his premature exit late in the third quarter due to an ankle injury.

And, for a quarter, Johnson combined effective defense with great shot-making. He scored 25 points on 20 shots through three quarters before appearing, understandably, to tire in the fourth and could only manage 6 points on 6 shots, committed one of his two turnovers, and earned no assists.

Similarly, Johnson's frontcourt counterpart in excellence, Josh Smith, put in three quarters of outstanding and productive work which left little in reserve for the game's close. I contend, that without Smith's defensive effort in the first half Atlanta never would have had the chance to get the game within single digits in the second half. San Antonio's 66 first half points came despite Smith, not because of him. He showed hard when defending the pick-and-roll, protected the basket area, helped on Duncan (either as a second defender or as a primary defender when Horford sat due to foul trouble), and closed out on shooters. In the third quarter, he matched his defensive effort on the offensive end. He scored only a single point in the quarter but he assisted on half of Atlanta's field goals and grabbed three offensive rebounds. The latter lead a team-wide effort on the opening glass that discouraged San Antonio from running out on misses as they had to such devastating effect in the first half.

In the end, the lead San Antonio built was too great to overcome, especially on a night where Mike Bibby went scoreless and Al Horford both struggled (offensively) against Duncan and failed to take advantage of DeJuan Blair in the post in the second quarter when the Hawks made a concerted effort to get Horford the ball. Jamal Crawford's 25 points (on 19 shots) were a worthy contribution but it's no coincidence he was on the court while San Antonio scored 43 of their 66 first half points.

Mike Woodson:
"We gave up so many layups to start the game it was like a track meet. We are supposed to be the team to get up and down the court and get layups. Parker really pushed the tempo."
Joe Johnson:
"We just didn’t come out and match their intensity. They were more hungry."
Josh Smith:
"We love that kind of tempo, but I guess we weren’t ready to play."
Now's the time to remind everyone that the Hawks are 25th in the league in possessions per game. That's somewhat deceptive in terms of tempo because the Hawks are eighth-best in the league in rebounding their own misses and eighth-worst at keeping their opponents from rebounding their own misses but it's also indicative of the fact that, though the Hawks are at their best when pushing the ball up the court quickly, they don't really do so most of the time.

Al Horford:
"I haven’t had a night like that this year. Unfortunately, I had it tonight."
The Human Highlight Blog:
The Hawks actually seemed interested in going into the post, at least early on, but couldn't generate any positive effects. Horford was particularly bad, as he fell into his habit of wilting against longer opponents, something he needs to resolve before facing Kendrick Perkins and Dwight Howard over the next couple of games.
Peachtree Hoops on Tim Duncan:
The man is a machine. He is crafty, hard working, and did I mention a machine? He is a machine. 27 rebounds is good by yourself against 30 shots. We just watched one of the best ever and didn't even care. Impressive.
Tim Duncan on Tim Duncan:
"I mostly rebounded my own shots and that helps. Helps a whole lot, so I can just get that out of the way."
Mike Woodson stumped for his players in the coaches' portion of the All-Star voting:
"You just send the letters out and hope like hell they do the right thing. Bottom line, I look at it based on what your team has done. That’s how I’ve always based the All-Star team."
Who doesn't remember the controversy surrounding Mike Woodson's criticism of the coaches for voting a player from a 21-31 team into the 2006-07 All-Star Game?

Sarcasm aside, there's absolutely nothing wrong with supporting your guys to participate the All-Star Game. Trying to couch the common decency and got-your-backness in some sort of principle inherent in a frivolity is comical.

Don't forget: the All-Star reserves will be announced tonight starting at 7pm (EST) on TNT's hour-long pre-game show.

Also check out Lang Whitaker's guest spot on the Blogs With Balls podcast. There's anecdotes, a discussion of the future of sports media, and mention of Lang's upcoming book about which I'm most excited to read the chapter about the universal utility of the suffix -y in creating nicknames.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 27th Game Thread: Atlanta (29-14) @ San Antonio (25-18)

TIP-OFF: 8:30pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Spurs


: Michael Finley is out.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
49.8 21.2
28.2 13.5
SA (def)
90 1.064 48.2

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
50.8 28.3
27.0 16.1
SA (off)
90 1.116 51.9

: San Antonio -3, 195 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: 48 Minutes of Hell

PREVIOUSLY, THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS...have lost three straight games, all at home (Chicago, Houston, Utah 1.3%) and a defensive decline of 0.5 points per 100 possessions (or), and five of six overall. As with any team, San Antonio's problems have been blamed on their defense but their offensive struggles have outpaced their defensive slide. After the win in Oklahoma City moved San Antonio to 24-12 on the season, they were scoring 113.1 points per 100 possesions and allowing 105.9 points per 100 possessions on the season. Six games later, they're averaging 111.6 points per 100 possessions and allowing 106.4 points per 100 possession on the season. That's an offensive decline of 1.5 points per 100 possession (or 0.4%).

Of course, offense and defense are interrelated efforts.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts including predictions as to what, if anything, Mike Woodson has shaved since the last time we saw him. Alexie: Let me sing for Saint Thomas Aquinas...

A poem* from Sherman Alexie** regarding the All-Star Game includes this Hawks-relevant pair of stanzas:
Why do hoops fans believe what they see
When there’s no sense weaker than sight?
Why do hoops fans take such delight
In crossovers and dunks, those simple dreams,

But hardly ever reward those players
Like Joe Johnson or Shane Battier,
Who have complex and strange games---
Whose skills have layer upon layer?
*Easily the best poem I've ever read that concludes with a wry, wistful reference to Luke Ridnour.

**You may also enjoy this short story from Mr. Alexie. I did.

Season-Long Theme: Josh Smith's Shot Selection

Fueled by a suspicion that this will be a very good week* for Josh Smith, I thought it would be a good time to re-visit his shot selection.

*All-Star reserves are to be announced on an hour-long TNT pre-game show beginning at 7pm (EST) Thursday.

When last we looked at this, his three-point attempts had dropped from 10% of his total field goal attempts last season to 0% of his total field goal attempts this season and his two-point jump shots had dropped from 36% to 28.8% of his total field goal attempts.

Today, he's taken just 3 (two coming as a result of end of quarter heaves, the third coming with 18 seconds left and the Hawks down four in Detroit) three-point field goal attempts this season and his two-point jump shots now comprise 22.9% of his total field goal attempts.

That comes out to 2.7 jump shots per game which is at least 2 jump shots per game too many because Smith still can't make that shot. In fact, he's well below his (already low) career field goal percentage on two-point jumpers. He entered the season a 36.2% two-point jump shooter but has made only 27% of his two-point jumpers so far this season. Zero jump shots in a season isn't a reasonable (or necessary) expectation for him but there's absolutely no need for Smith to take 2.7 jump shots per game. That's at least twice a game he's choosing a(n approximate) 30% chance at two points over a chance to get himself a high percentage shot or draw a foul or make a good pass.

Despite the 114 long two-point jumpers that have produced little more than half a point per possession for his team, Smith is having a career year. He's not simply reduced his bad shot attempts. Rather, he's replaced many of his bad shot attempts with good shot attempts. The shots he's not taking on the perimeter have become shots he takes at the rim (where he's made well over 65% of his attempts for his career) while also drawing the bulk of the fouls that lead to his 5 free throw attempts per game.

Just as importantly, by largely occupying space on the floor where he must be guarded by at least one defender, Smith has used the improved passing lanes to take advantage of his court vision and passing ability and is on pace to set career highs in assists per minute (or game, or possession), assist rate, and a career low turnover rate. He's increased his offensive production without having to increase his usage rate. That's tremendously valuable.

He had an excellent first half of the season. His second half could be even better.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hawks 102 Rockets 95


Hoopdata Boxscore



The next three* games will allow the Hawks to measure themselves against some of the league's pre-season title favorites. That's interesting to be sure. Also interesting: how easily the Hawks have handled two consecutive league-average (maybe slightly better than average) opponents. Neither the Bobcats nor the Rockets had a real chance to win either game. Nor could one say that the Hawks played especially impressive basketball for the anything approaching the entirety of either game.

*Maybe. Gregg Popovich doesn't give outsized importance to any one regular season game so San Antonio may or may not be at full strength.

Similar to how the Hawks played an ineffective second quarter in between brilliant first and third quarter performances on Friday night, they didn't start playing at full speed until almost half-way through the second quarter. The Hawks began the game walking the ball* up the floor, watching Aaron Brooks get wherever he wanted on the floor, and displaying shockingly poor body language. Al Horford appeared irriated long before Chuck Hayes sent him to the locker room to get stitches in his left thumb. Jeff Teague looked absolutely miserable and not a little distracted on the court.

*Or, on one first half possession, were you Josh Smith, you walked up the floor behind the ball and never broke out of a stroll to join your teammates. 4-on-5 offensive possessions: They're not just for when Mario West's on the floor.

It wasn't a substitution* or obvious tactical adjustment that ignited the change in Atlanta's fortunes. They simply began to keep Aaron Brooks relatively contained (at least to one side of the floor per possession), Al Horford and Josh Smith (who were also involved in bottling up Brooks) used their length to stymie Carl Landry, took advantage of a cold outside shooting stretch by dominating the defensive glass, and, most importantly, attacked offensively off of Houston's misses.

*Contrary to 'Nique's insistence throughout the rest of the game, the bulk of Atlanta's 21-3 second quarter run came against Houston's first five. On a further commentary note, the team that was said to "settle" for jump shots far too often last night actually took 12 fewer jump shots and had 17 more shot attempts at the rim than their opponents.

The ideal, aggressive play didn't last. The Hawks mostly cruised from the seven-minute mark of the third quarter until the end of the game. Josh Smith undermined (to some degree) an otherwise outstanding performance by taking five jump shots, making just a statistically likely total of one. Smith was 8-11 from the floor and went 4-6 from the line when attacking the basket. The fourth quarter saw Jamal Crawford (2-7) and Joe Johnson (1-4) attempt 11 of Atlanta's 20 field goals. To be fair, the ball-handling duo did set up Mike Bibby for each of the three fourth quarter buckets he made.

Despite the niggling worries, it speaks to this team's ability that they can go on the road, face a perfectly average team, and win comfortably while playing about 12 minutes of really good basketball.

Mike Woodson:
"This week we’ll see what we are made of."
I think we already have. Not least of which that Woodson is no longer made, even partially, of eyebrows.

Josh Smith:
"Everybody was thinking it, but they didn't say it. Everybody started laughing. He claimed that his barber did it on accident, but I got the inside scoop. His barber told him he should slash them.

He didn't want to come out and put the pressure on us and tell us how much we really needed this game. He came out with the Velcro eyebrows and it was really funny. It went over well with everybody. I think it loosened the team up."
Carl Landry:
"We just broke down. Every team in the NBA has times during the game where the opposing team goes on the run. They went on a run and we were really not able to bounce back after that."
Trevor Ariza:
"We kind of kept the ball on one side instead of moving it from side to side and we missed shots, too."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sixth Man of the Year Face-Off Game Thread: Atlanta (28-14) @ Houston (24-19)

TIP-OFF: 8:30pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Rockets


: Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady are out.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
49.9 21.3
28.2 13.5
HOU (def)
91.6 1.084 50.3

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
50.7 28.1
27.0 16.2
HOU (off)
91.6 1.087 49.1

: Houston -1, 197.5 o/u


PREVIOUSLY, THE HOUSTON ROCKETS...lost 104-97 at home against the Bulls on Saturday night. The night before that, they beat the Spurs 116-109 in San Antonio. The Rockets have split their last 14 games, rank 15th in the league in pace, 14th in offensive efficiency, and 16th in defensive efficiency. They're fascinating not in their something-other-than-averageness* but that they're average despite having more salary committed to two inactive players than the rest of the roster combined.

*Maybe Trevor Ariza is but that's a fascination with how below average he's been offensively. He's a bad quarter from seeing his TS% drop below Chuck Hayes's.

The Hawks beat the Rockets 105-103 in Atlanta on Novemeber 20th.

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

Monday Morning Links

In the AJC, Michael Cunningham takes stock of the Hawks at the half-way point (plus one) of the season.

At Basketball Prospectus, Kevin Pelton taps Josh Smith and Al Horford for reserve spots on the All-Star team.

At Hardwood Paroxysm, Matt Moore graphs usage and PER.

Also at, Mark Bradley hosts a state of the Hawks discussion.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hawks 103 Bobcats 89




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
CHA 85.6
48.6 43.5
33.3 19.9
ATL 85.6 1.203 54.3

Had I both the time to study everything* that interests me and the technical ability to parse play-by-play data effectively I would take a keen interest in how offense and defense influence each other. For example, how much a team's offensive efficiency is related to how often they force turnovers** or how well they rebound defensively. Conversely, does a team's defensive efficiency reflect its ability or inability to score on a high percentage of its offensive possessions and thus get its defense set.

*I speak here of just the basketball-related things that interest me which is a marginally less ridiculous thought-experiment.

**There would, I assume, be a difference between live and dead-ball turnovers.

I bring this up because I think that both of Atlanta's big runs, the 19-2 run late in the first quarter and the 21-6 run in the middle of the third were made possible by good Atlanta defense punishing a poor offensive team. The stops then allowed the Atlanta offense to attack before Charlotte's defense could get set and do its usual excellent work of trying to make up for its offense. Similarly, Charlotte's excellent defensive performance in the second quarter had a lot to do with all the shots they got and converted at the rim.

The theorizing out of the way, let's move on to celebrate Al Horford co-leading the team with 17 field goal attempts, all five of Horford, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson, and Jamal Crawford getting between 10 and 17 shots (collectively making 58.7% of their shots), each of the top six players earning at least three assists, and Joe Johnson getting to the free throw line five times. Regardless of the influence defense had on the Atlanta offense their collective effort demonstrated, for one night at least and against stout opposition, their full potential as a multi-headed beast embodying post-positional basketball.

Josh Smith:
"Everybody had a chance to see who was on tonight. Whenever we get a chance to see who has the hot hand, we are a good team."
Mike Woodson:
"We shot it pretty well, but defensively I thought we were solid.

That third quarter is as good a third quarter as we played all season."
Gerald Wallace has no time for the theories espoused by Coach Woodson or myself:
"They didn't affect anything we did. We just came out tonight and played terrible ball. We didn't share the ball. We didn't hit the open man. We didn't make the extra pass. Defensively, we didn't rotate, we didn't help out."
Larry Brown turned the sarcasm dial from dry to exaggeration after the game:
"We take bad shots and turn it over. That's incriminating."
There may be a T-shirt in that quote. Or this one from Josh Smith:
"You have to hustle whenever you can, and do whatever is necessary."
At Queen City Hoops, Brett thinks the Bobcats were done in by more than their inconsistent offense:
[E]ven if the Bobcats got to play with special rules where the opponent is not allowed to score on steals, they still got lit up.

Friday, January 22, 2010

January 22nd Game Thread: Charlotte (21-19) @ Atlanta (27-14)

TIP-OFF: 7:30pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Bobcats


: Tyson Chandler is out.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
CHA (off)
48.6 25.4
25.7 17.8
ATL (def)
90 1.074 50.0

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
CHA (def)
48.4 27.6
25.1 17.9
ATL (off)
90 1.133 50.7

: Atlanta -7, 190.5 o/u


PREVIOUSLY, THE CHARLOTTE BOBCATS...won six straight games at home and not over chumps, either. Sacramento was the only sub-.500 team on the docket. Charlotte wrapped up the homestand with a ridiculous 104-65 win over Florida International the Miami Heat.

The Bobcats have passed the Lakers and the Celtics to become, currently, the league's stingiest defense. Their offense (ranked 26th in the league) is still making opposing defenses look good but they've improved markedly in that respect since adding Stephen Jackson ten games into the season. Both the current rank and that they improved significantly by adding a high-volume, low-efficiency player tells much about how poor they were early in the season.

Despite the recent success* and season-long suffocating defense, Charlotte have been terrible on the road. They've won just 3 of 18 road games though two of the wins were at Cleveland and Miami. The third was at Washington.

*That this season increases the chances that Larry Brown will be remembered as the premier coach of his generation rather than the cranky old guy who spectacularly mis-calculated the rationality of the New York Knicks organization allows me to sleep more easily.

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

Hawks To Sign Mario West To Second 10-Day Contract

So blogs Michael Cunningham. Barring a Tyronn Lue comeback or the trade of a 2nd-round pick for Royal Ivey, I can't imagine they don't intend to sign West for the remainder of the season once this contract runs out.

Improving Attendance

Thanks to JMar, M, Ben Castellon, bradleyjah, CoCo, and Mike Lu (so far) for addressing my questions regarding attendance. Having discussed why more people don't attend games I've learned/confirmed that the primary issues seem to be start time* and cost of/value derived from tickets.

*Including the sub-problem that there may not be a sufficient in-town basketball market to offset the logistical problems created for people who have to drive any distance for weeknight games.

Presumably, the Hawks could address the former on their own and make 7:30 the default starting time* for games not broadcast on national TV. The latter is obviously something that's never going to be anything other than personal decision.

*What, are Fox Sports South and SportSouth going to revolt and function as a more half-assed broadcast partner?

My new questions:
  • What could the Hawks do to improve attendance?
  • Do you think they do a good job marketing the team?
  • Could they realistically do anything to raise the team's profile within the local sports media (such as it is)?
  • What, if anything, can Hawks fans do to change the culture and make a Hawks game a hot ticket?
  • Do Hawks fans really want to make games a hot ticket and thus reduce, if not eliminate, the below face value tickets they may have enjoyed purchasing for years?
Please leave your answers and any other relevant questions in the comments.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hawks 108 Kings 97



Hoopdata Boxscore


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
SAC 91.6
48.9 17.2
26.8 15.3
ATL 91.6 1.179 54.5

I don't know that much was learned from that victory. We already knew the Hawks can outlast inferior opposition at home with only sporadic defensive contributions. We already knew that the Hawks are difficult to beat anywhere when Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford make their shots (14-26 FGA, 4-9 3PTA combined). We already knew that the Hawks will not ask their post players to carry them offensively even when they posses seriously significant* matchup advantages. Josh Smith and Al Horford combined for 31 points on 17 shots, were 9-11 at the rim, and earned seven** assists between them. Still, the Hawks used more than a quarter (21 of 78, 26.9%) of their field goal attempts on long two-point shots.

*Sacramento's post rotation: Jason Thompson, Jon Brockman, Hilton Armstrong, Spencer Hawes. There's not a good defender on that list.

Paul Westphal:
"Their bigs dominated the paint."
Tom Ziller:
All season, the biggest defense problem for the Kings has been a dearth of resistance in the interior. The Kings allow the league's fourth worst opposing field goal percentage at the rim, allowing opponents to shoot 63.7 percent within five feet. Switching up the starting line-up didn't help: Atlanta shot 75 percent at the rim on its way to a solid victory over Sacramento. The Hawks also happened to win a ton of second chances (11 in 35 opportunities, 31 percent), capitalizing on the Kings' lack of defensive rebounding prowess.

The record player's broke, and ain't no one on this roster fixing it.
I happen to think it's something of an accomplishment by Westphal that Sacramento's 26th rather than 30th in the league in defensive efficiency but there's only somuch any coach could do with this roster.

**Six of those assists coming in the more competitive first half.

Amidst all that sameness, one thing stood out: Mike Woodson made a concerted effort to rest his starters. With the exception of Josh Smith (who missed the last 6:40 of the first quarter after getting kneed in the left quad), the starters rested for at least the first 4:23 of the second quarter, none played more than 8:34 of the third quarter, and Marvin Williams (who ably attacked Sacramento's interior defense himself, scoring 13 points on 9 field goal and 5 free throw attempts) was the only starter to play more than half of the fourth quarter. He played six minutes and one second fo the fourth.

The second unit (mostly) repayed Woodson's trust. Joe Smith, Zaza Pachulia, and Mo Evans were all active and reasonably productive. Jeff Teague and Mario West were both active and even Randolph Morris worked effectively against Sacramento's post defense in his late cameo.

West again got off to a terrible start defensively, giving up Tyreke Evans layups* on the first two possessions he played, fouling Jon Brockman on a breakaway dunk** and committing two more fouls in his first 153 seconds on the court. From that point on, though, he did a decent job making it difficult for Sacramento to get Evans the ball. Is this perhaps a strategy to force Woodson into giving him extended run?

*That West couldn't guard Evans was neither a surprise nor unique among Hawks players.

**Which, had Brockman made the free throw, would rather have compounded the team's embarrassment at letting Jon Brockman score on a breakway dunk.

Unable to get Evans the ball whenever and wherever he wanted it, Spencer Hawes (for some reason) took it upon himself to be the focal point of Sacramento's offense. That Paul Westphal neither called a timeout nor removed Hawes from the game to prevent this from happening was the largest factor in turning a four point Hawks lead with 2:26 left in the third quarter into thirteen point lead at the end of the quarter.

Zach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom:
[W]hen I was watching this game a certain play seemed to stand out to me and sum the entire contest.

Spencer Hawes drove up the right side of the floor and endured a bit of contact and some ball swiping. Hawes lost the ball or was stripped of the ball or lost the ball while he was stripped and instead of fighting for the ball, he just looked to the ref for a foul call. While he was silently protesting the non-call, Mo Evans took the ball the other way, flew up the court and flushed it home.

Why was this play a summary of the game for the Kings? Well, they were aggressive but couldn’t quite execute the way they needed to...
Michael Cunningham:
So the Hawks had a video session Tuesday in which Woody calls out his vets for not leading the effort on D. J.J. agrees and says the perimeter guys in particular need to pick it up.
A lovely sentiment, the practical implications of which are best ignored.

I don't understand 1) Why more people don't attend mid-week games. 2) Why people can't get to games by tip-off. 3) Why this is considered a valid factor for some of the (completely unsurprising) mediocre defensive performances from the Hawks. Yes, it would help the team if they had a raucous home crowd behind them 41 times a year but it can hardly be a surprise to them when they don't.

Mike Woodson:
"We can't do anything about the fans not showing up. The bottom line is we still have to play the game, and we've got to be professional about how you approach the game when you step out on the court. You've got to generate your own energy."
I'm actually quite interested in why attendance remains low but lack any coherent or constructive analysis. If anyone has a useful theory to explain any part of the reluctance to watch a good basketball team in person, please pass it along.