Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hawks 94 Wizards 82




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
WASH 83.5
39.5 25.9
32.0 15.6
ATL 83.5 1.125 47.1

The Hawks may not play a more nondescript game all season. That the Hawks led at the half by 12 points, won the game by 12 points, yet never led by more than 14 points in the second half (and that lead lasted just one possession) arguably defines the game. The Wizards never looked a real threat to win the game and the Hawks never put them away.

There were positives to take away from the Hawks' performance. Jamal Crawford's 14 fourth quarter points went a long way toward assuring the comfortable (if unimpressive) victory. Marvin Williams played excellent basketball for the entire 37:16 he was on the court, scoring 16 points on 13 shots*, grabbing 8 rebounds (3 offensive), blocking 4 shots, getting 2 steals, and credit for 2 assists without turning the ball over once.

*He's been to the line 17 times in the last two games.

Jeff Teague took advantage of his physical advantages against Earl Boykins and flew all over the court generally taking advantage of Washington's second unit tallying two buckets, two assists, a steal, and a block. The Hawks were +18 in 7:41 Teague was on the court in the second quarter.

Josh Smith's 11 rebounds and 8 assists were nice. His 2-8 shooting (0-3 on jump shots), less so. Joe Johnson failed to repeat his outstanding performance in Boston, needing 23 shots to score 24 points, earning just 2 assists, and again failing to get to the free throw line a single time.

Observations from perusing the Hoopdata boxscore...
  • Eight of Johnson's ten made field goals came off assists. Score one for ball movement.
  • 27 of Atlanta's 85 field goal attempts were long two-point jumpers. Vinny Del Negro thinks that's too many.
  • Washington made just 7-20 shots at the rim. Those misses were essentially the difference in the game. Assuming, of course, that the Hawks wouldn't improve their effort and execution if truly threatened.
Al Horford:
"It was an ugly game tonight, but we came out on top."
A clip-and-save Jamal Crawford quote:
"If I miss my first 10 shots, that doesn't faze me. In the fourth quarter, I make my shots."
Hence his long-standing reputation as a winner.

Now, on to Mario West. I recognize that this is driving me crazy and that's it crazy to let this drive me crazy but I believe it's crazy, bordering on delusional, to credit actual value to a talentless player's energy. For a sane man's perspective, read Drew.

Ken Sugiura's recap in the AJC equates (or at least treats as parallel) the contributions derived from Jeff Teague's performance (outlined above) and Mario West's performance in the second quarter. Mario West's "sticky defense" in the second quarter consisted of 12 possessions. On seven of those, he guarded Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, or DeShawn Stevenson and never had an opportunity to play defense on the ball. On one of those seven, he grabbed a defensive rebound. I think anyone would call that a good defensive possession.

Three times he matched up against Randy Foye. The first ended with West challenging an Antawn Jamison layup. Jamison missed and no one called a foul on West so that's another good defensive possession for him. On the second, Marvin Williams stole a pass from Dominic McGuire. On the third, West ran into a screen set for Foye to run a curl to the top of the key. When Foye caught the ball at the top of the key, West wasn't within six feet of him. Foye kindly waited for a ball-screen so West had time to catch up. When the ball screen came, West ran flush into the screener. Foye missed the open 19-footer and Antawn Jamison missed the follow from his offensive rebound. That wasn't a good defensive possession, running into things being a prime example of false hustle.

On the next possession, the Hawks attempt to trap Randy Foye as he passes halfcourt. Foye fins Andray Blatche at the top of the key, 25-feet from the basket, matched up against West, who is helping from the weak side. Blatche beats West off the dribble for a layup, Josh Smith fouls Blatche, Blatche misses the free throw to minimize the damage.

On the next possession, West matches up against Caron Butler for the first time but quickly switches onto Nick Young on an off-the-ball screen and isn't involved in the play.

The next Washington possession is a semi-transition situation. West has his choice of picking up Butler or Stevenson. He chooses Stevenson, which visibly surprises Mike Bibby who is stuck with guarding Butler. Butler immediately goes into the post and gets deep position in the lane against Bibby. For whatever reason Randy Foye doesn't see or ignores Butler and begins an unimpressive set that culminates in a Brendan Haywood jumper, which he misses. The rebound hits West in the hands but he can't control it. Jamison gets the rebound and finds Caron Butler for a short baseline jumper which he makes over Jason Collins.

So, in West's better stint, the defensive specialist played 12 possessions. Two were good, three were bad, and seven were neutral. His positive contributions came on the offensive end, getting a tip-in courtesy of using Antawn Jamison for a piggy-back ride (uncalled) and beating Nick Young* on a nice cut to the basket for an and-one. West had two other offensive rebounds in the second quarter: on the first he missed a tip-in and on the second he sprint-dribbled directly away from the basket, handed the ball to Jeff Teague 28 feet from the basket, then did a victory lap back to half court before running into the corner. Again, if not false, at least useless, showy hustle.

*Not coincidentally, Nick Young played 17:57 before allowing Mario West to score a basket and 3:17 after allowing the basket.

West faced Butler or Jamison on each of the nine second half possessions for which he was on the court. On the first, he switched from Butler to Jamison on a ball-screen, then fouled Jamison in the post as Butler dribbled on the perimeter toward the opposite side of the floor. Both West's phyiscal play and Caron Butler's disinterest in giving the ball to Jamison in the post will be a continuing theme in this section.

On the next possession, Butler catches the ball behind the three-point line on the left wing, beats West off the dribble, and gets fouled by Jamal Crawford at the rim. That makes five bad, two good defensive possessions for West.

On the next possession, West starts on Butler, switches to Jamison on a ball-screen Jamison posts up, Butler gets him the ball, and Jamison makes a jump hook over West. This isn't a bad defensive possession by West so much as he's a victim of the team's rigid defensive system. He shouldn't be expected to guard Jamison in the post.

The next Washington possession again begins with West on Butler, West switching onto Jamison on a ball-screen, and Jamison posting up. For whatever reason, Caron Butler ignores Jamison to test Marvin Williams himself. Williams blocks Butler's jump shot.

On the next possession, West switches from Butler to Jamison back to Butler again (all on ball-screens). DeShawn Stevenson misses a jumper but Marvin Williams gets called for a loose ball foul. On the reset, Butler posts up West, misses his resultant layup but Brendan Haywood tips in the miss. A harsh grader would count that as a bad defensive possession as West surrendered another layup and Washington scored on the possession. It wasn't a good defensive possession but I'm ambivalent about assigning blame for West when forced to guard guys in the post. On the one hand, he shouldn't be expected to be able to guard guys in the post (without fouling). On the other hand, there's a mass delusion that he's a good defensive player. I'll put it in a separate bin and let you decide.

Current tally: 17 possessions, 5 bad, 2 good, 1 you-make-the-call

On his 18th defensive possession, Mario West does really well. Antawn Jamison has to come out of the post to receive the ball (partly due to West's defense, partly due to a poor attempt to feed the post). Unlike Blatche and Butler earlier, Jamison can't beat West off the dribble and West forces a bad pass that Marvin Williams steals.

The next Washington possession is a mystery. SportSouth came back from a replay to show Brendan Haywood turning the ball over.

West isn't involved in either of his last two defensive possessions for the game. He takes Butler both times, switches to Jamison once (Butler doesn't try to feed Jamison in the post.) and Andray Blatche uses both possessions.

Offensively, West manages to turn the ball over twice despite only touching the ball once in the second half courtesy of an illegal screen and falling out of bounds immediately after grabbing his fourth offensive rebound.

21 defensive possessions: 5 bad, 3 good, 1 debatable between bad and neutral, and 12 neutral. Your defensive stopper, Hawks fans, and a man now ahead of Jeff Teague in the rotation.


Chris said... are really following Rio's ever moves. I don't think he is ahead of Teague in the rotation...with that way of thinking, does Jason Collins move ahead of Joe Smith? Also, Zaza and Evans were both out.

Bret LaGree said...

I would have preferred to see Teague in the game in the second half with Joe Johnson sliding down to the three rather than going back to the well with the walk-on in Evans' absence. Teague's speed gave Washington fits.

weemsildinho said...

The bench really gave some good minutes tonight in the 2nd quarter, with Teague and Crawford being the main catalysts. I was astonished that Teague didn't play at all in the 2nd half, after making some plays on offense, being very disruptive on defense, and as you mentioned Bret, finishing +18 for his 8 second quarter minutes. Joe Smith also did some nice work, with 4 rebounds in 7 minutes.

Overall pretty ho hum, getting a home win over a team who we should beat. Marvin did a great job, I hope his play in the last two games carries over for the remainder of the season.

M said...

Your obsession with Mario really came out in this recap.. we get it, you don't like Mario and you don't believe he belongs on a NBA roster. I don't think you have ever dedicated that many words to a one player in a game recap. By the way, this game was pretty ugly hopefully we get a better one with Phoenix on Friday.

Bret LaGree said...

My obsession is not with West but with the empty cant about hustle and energy he inspires and the unproven, largely unquestioned claims that he's a good defender.

Unknown said...

Bret's Mario West obsession knows no bounds. Actually, I don't worry about the fact that he's just an energy guy because I don't think he's ever making a difference in the minimal amount of time he's in the game. What DOES worry me is that the coach values him more than the players who have more talent (and/or upside) than West, so I think Woodson loses all perspective on the psychology of players. So, if I'm Randolph Morris or Jeff Teague or Joe Smith and I'm sitting there watching Mario West take my minutes (most esp. Morris and Teague), then I'm saying - WTF!?! This dude ain't been on the team 10 hours and he's playing more than me and he doesn't have a skill other than hustle. THAT is what bothers me. Letting Mario run around in garbage time as the 13th man is one thing - letting him get 2 stints that he's loathe to give our FUTURE POINT GUARD!!!! drives me Bret-like insane on the first night right off the street.

Bret LaGree said...

West as energy guy is a negligible issue if a waste of a roster spot on a team too cheap to carry more than 13 guys (and three of them backup centers).

I am Doc Rivers. People blithely stating Mario West is a good defender is a flagrant foul call against Glen Davis.

I do not absolve my behavior but in my mania I have presented one game's evidence, something the West boosters fail to offer.

dmorton said...

Maybe Mario's defensive prowess is overhyped, but perhaps you should think about what kind of message Mike Woodson sends to the Hawks everytime Mario West gets floor time. Woodson is backing up what we hear all the time from him, that he doesn't give an f about offense as long as you give 100% on D. Woodson knows NBA players don't need motivation to execute on offense, especially one as good as the Hawks, but it's harder to get this team or any team to play at an elite level defensively on a consistent basis. Maybe you can dispute Mario's effectiveness, but you can't dispute his effort.

So what does Teague think when he sees Mario getting 2nd half minutes while he rides the pine? No one anywhere thinks Mario is a better basketball player than Teague, but Teague sees that if he can keep his energy at Mario's level, in games as well as practice, he'll see floor time too. Mario West is essentially a living embodiment of Mike Woodson's NBA philosophy. Maybe Teague becomes inspired to work harder, maybe it changes absolutely nothing, but at least Teague knows what type of attitude it takes to see floor time.

In terms of cost, using Mario as a lesson embodied doesn't cost the Hawks much, if anything. How many 13th men affect the outcome of even a single game? How many 10th men? And while offensively I might regularly play college pick-up games with students that have more offensive talent than Mario, he's not a complete minus because he does create extra possessions with his offensive rebounding. I love you Bret and I've read every recap you wrote over the past couple years, but unless you can convince me that having Mario West on the Hawks roster, who is a joy to watch whenever he comes in the game(obviously in short stints), will cost the Hawks even one game, I'm going to have to completely disagree with you.

Bret LaGree said...

dmorton --

Thanks for reading regularly and taking the time to reply so thoroughly and forcefully. I'm glad that for you, Mario West is a joy to watch. Obviously, I'd prefer to enjoy watching him play than feel the way I do, but I, just as obviously, don't. I suspect we'll have to disagree (though hopefully not completely disagree) on this one.

Jeff Teague played harder and better than Mario West last night so any message Woodson might have been trying to send Teague was, in my opinion, muddled.

Woodson may talk about not caring about offense and requiring 100% effort on D, but the last three point guards he's been happy with the team acquiring and used heavily are Mike Bibby, Flip Murray, and Jamal Crawford. He's never coached a team that's been better than 12th in the league in defensive efficiency. I contend that's less lack of effort than lack of good defensive players (plus a predictable defensive philosophy that can be exploited late in close games).

West, to me, is more indicative of the organization's limited vision (e.g. keeping the bench short to save money, not acquiring a high-energy player with NBA-caliber skills) than a problem inherent in himself. It's amazing he's cashed this many checks with energy as his only quality. That's a credit to him as much as it's an indictment of the franchise.

The Hawks got two extra points from West's four offensive rebounds last night. Washington got two extra points from the two defensive rebounds that hit West in the hands that he didn't control. Like most things (perhaps not my blood pressure) with West it was, as you accurately point out, probably a wash.

Unknown said...

"Mario West is essentially a living embodiment of Mike Woodson's NBA philosophy" I would say Mario West's basketball talent most represents Mike Woodson's coaching ability.

CoCo said...

I agree with Atl Hawk Luv. I'm afraid of what having West on the team means for Bret.

Bret LaGree said...

That really says more about me (and not good things, either) than anyone else.