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."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Your endless and open loathing of Mario West basketball has to be one of my favorite parts of reading your blog. So subtle yet so shameless.