Sunday, January 10, 2010

Magic 113 Hawks 81


Hoopdata Boxscore



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 90.1
42.3 19.2
20.9 17.7
ORL 90.1 1.254 59.8

If Mike Woodson doesn't return as the Hawks head coach next season it won't just be because his teams have lacked the ability to make tactical adjustments. His limited finesse with man management continues even as the bench at his disposal has gotten deeper and is, by all accounts, full of players Woodson wants.

Neither bad shot* selection, nor a visibly bad attitude, nor even worse body language affected Josh Smith's minutes nor did Joe Johnson's bad body language or inability to make shots earn him a trip to the bench during the decisive second quarter. I doubt that a brief benching for either player would have made a difference in last night's result** but the lack of consequences for their actions provides no confidence in this team's future ability to face, much less overcome, adversity.

*And the bad shots were the only ones Smith seemed to make last night, whatever 'Nique's sense of how the long-term 28% jump shooter is doing recently.

**Though, I think it's unlikely that any combination of Jamal Crawford, Mo Evans, Joe Smith, and Zaza Pachulia could put up a worse combined line than Smith and Johnson did in the second quarter: 20:59, 0-6 FGA, 2-3 FTA, 4 rebounds (2 offensive), 1 assist, 4 turnovers.

It's unrealistic to expect players, even players as good as Smith and Johnson, to play well 82 times a season. There's no shame in having a bad game. A visibly bad attitude is harder to excuse but a simple demonstration of leadership from the head coach could nip such emotional and psychological weakness in the bud.

On the other hand, there's Al Horford. One would be hard-pressed to make the argument that he's the Hawks' best player but the Hawks are at their best when Horford is the team's most representative player. He always wants to play fast (in an aggressive rather than a hurried sense), he always plays hard, he's efficient both in getting his own points (when he gets the opportunity) and in creating opportunities for his teammates.

Both Johnson and Smith spent the night looking petulant and put-upon but neither had an assignment nearly as weighty as Horford's against Dwight Howard. Horford scored his team-leading 14 points on just 7 shots while playing 18:29 of his 25:43 directly against Howard. A higher percentage of Horford's court time would have been spent playing against Howard had Horford not drawn Howard's 3rd foul* late in the second quarter.

*And a technical on the frustrated Howard. Al Horford does a better job of getting Joe Johnson free throw attempts than Joe Johnson does.

Mike Woodson:
"It went wrong when we came out of the locker room."
Josh Smith:
"A couple of games ago, when we were facing a four-game losing streak and we faced the Nets, the desperation on our faces was similar to what [the Magic] had on their faces."
Based on the evidence of the two games head-to-head this season, the difference in quality between the Magic and the Hawks does appear similar to the difference in quality between the Hawks and the Nets.

Joe Johnson, franchise player:
"We knew that coming into this one tonight, they were going to give us everything they had. Our defensive assignments, we messed up a few times, but I think more than anything, I think a lot of it was just effort. They were just beating us off the dribble and pretty much getting what they wanted."
Al Horford:
"I think our guys got a little discouraged. They were going to the basket and Dwight was blocking their shots. We have to stay after a team and a shot blocker like that. I think the guys started to settle and take jump shots. They took us out of what we wanted to do and they went to the other end, and we couldn’t stop them."
Well said. Sad, but well said.


M said...

we just don't have the mindset (or the matchups) to beat this team..whereas we know we can beat boston and we are competitive with cleveland, we cannot even come close to beating Orlando this year (preseason disaster game, Thanksgiving 2nd half, last night's game, in addition to 3 out of 4 last year)... im not putting this on woody all our guys (except Al) look like they know that they can't compete with these guys

Bronnt said...

The Hawks seem surprised at how well the Magic shoot the ball every time they play Orlando, and the fact that they play perimeter defense. Going into the game, they'll talk up Dwight Howard and how to play him, and never seem prepared for the fact that the Magic will actually contest jumpshots and make a few as well.

It's becoming clear that the Hawks' inability to play a competitive game against Orlando is more about preparation and game-planning than actual mismatches. And that match-up at the 5 is not nearly as one-sided as many would believe.

Bronnt said...

That Mike Woodson quote just really bugs me. I remember watching post-game and, when questioned what went wrong, he just said "We came out of the locker room."

I mean, I appreciate the dry humor, but after that, he just muttered something about Orlando making shots and the Hawks not making them-can't he offer a better diagnosis than that?

rbubp said...

No one seems to have noticed that Howard scored 10 of the Magic's first 15 points and that, after he pushed Horford out the way, caught a pass and dunked for his 9th and 10th points, Al went to the bench, at 16-15 and 4:01 in the 1st, and did not re-appear until the 7:26 of the second quarter...with the score 40-24.

Howard got his tech and left with the score 53-33. But he didn't score on Al in that time; the scoring was all by Redick, Anderson, Lewis, Williams.

I'm not sure what to think of this. While Horford was in at the start of the game the Magic clearly went to Howard no matter who was guarding him, and he scored repeatedly on both Horford and Josh Smith. When Pachulia came in Howard stopped getting the ball at all, even on rebounds, and the Magic discovered that Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford were not interested in playing defense and there was no need for Howard anyway.

Horford didn't do much good defensively or on the boards when the game was still in doubt at the start, so I have a hard time with the idea that he was effective. In the end the only strategy would have been to play Pachulia and sit Johnson all night, it seems, and perhaps let Horford play PF. But you have to let the starters at least prove they aren't going to play, right?

I see nothing to suggest the Hawks can do anything with the Magic strategically--either because they cannot or will not figure out ow to re-match their lineups. But Horford cannot guard Howard. Let's get that myth off the table right now.

Bret LaGree said...

rbubp --

Good points. I think there's a possibility that when Horford returned in the second quarter and simply tried that made an outsized impression due to the behavior and play of his teammates during his absence.

rbubp said...

I am beginning to believe that an appropriate solution would just be to tell the starters that want a break that they can have one once a month or so, and rotate the break around so they don't all coincide. Why doesn't anyone in the NBA do this?

rbubp said...

Also, regarding the JJ quote:
They were beating YOU off the dribble, JJ. Ryan Anderson and JJ Redick were beating YOU, Franchise Player. The only other of the "us" that consistently got beat off the dribble was Crawford.

When JJ Redick blows by you for a layup out of a set offense, you're just cashing the check. Shameful.

Bret LaGree said...

Popovich comes closest to doing that but Ginobili and Parker miss enough games through injury that they rarely need to announce a player's resting for the night.

I think, assuming the PR and ticket sales consequences both real and imagined/harped upon of announcing a player was just resting for a game create extra stress outside the lines, you'd have to do this on the road even though you'd probably be better off from a win probability perspective using role players/reserves more heavily at home.

rbubp said...

But I have to agree with Woodson this one time, Bronn. This game was about effort. The Magic came out and shuttled JJ into Howard or doubled him; Johnson then GAVE UP going into the lane. On at least three occasions in the 1st Johnson shot a long contested jumper over Barnes or Redick. I have to believe that Johnson wanted no part of Howard in the middle.

And then when he did pass out, as Bret noted, Smith and Crawford launched jumpers too. There was very little effort to get the ball inside. And because the Magic have Howard inside the pressured the perimeter and the hawks turned the ball over 5 times in the 1st.

Woody's right. They came out of the locker room and made it apparent that they would rather have just stayed home. No amount of strategy would have fixed that, I'm afraid.

weemsildinho said...

yeah good point rbubp about Horford. He did not have a good first quarter. At least he took it personally and tried to make up for it when he came back into the game, which is much more than we can say about anyone else on the team the other night.

How could we let an aging Jason Williams dominate the game in the 2nd quarter? He was getting anywhere he wanted to go on the floor. He really seems to be a rhythm player, and the Hawks did absolutely nothing to try and disrupt that, which was extremely disapointing.

Unknown said...

Jason Williams took over the same way Anthony "fish" Johnson did last time we played them. He lit us up for 17.