Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hawks 103 Clippers 97


Hoopdata Boxscore



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
LAC 91.3
47.8 13.5
28.0 14.2
ATL 91.3 1.128 49.4

It's fairly simple. In the first 34 minutes of the game, the Hawks took 30 jump shots (making them at a 35 eFG% clip) versus 28 shots in the paint (making those at a 42.8 eFG% clip) and attempted 14 free throws. They were outscored 70-57. In the final 14 minutes, the Hawks took 10 jump shots (making those at an 85 eFG% clip) versus 11 shots in the paint (making 80% of those) and attempted 14 free throws. They outscored the Clippers 46-27.

The shots became a little easier, they started going in much more often, and the Hawks looked a lot better. Sure, it's convenient that this explanation of last night's win dovetails nicely with my explanation for why the Hawks have suffered so mightily against Orlando, but it also benefits form the fact that I actually believe it to be true.

This isn't a great defensive team. At best, they're an average rebounding team. They don't get to the free throw line* very often. They have to make shots to win. Now, they do an extraordinary job of not turning the ball over and their average rebounding overall contains within it good offensive rebounding so there is a reasonable margin for error built into the method but they're not going to win, not even at home against the Clippers, without knocking down open threes (two from Jamal Crawford, one from Joe Johnson during the closing run) and attacking the basket for easy twos and free throw opportunities. During that closing run, Horford and Josh Smith combined for 14 points on 7 shots; Crawford and Johnson earned 9 trips to the free throw line and made each and every one of their attempts.

*Except for Joe Johnson the last two games. 18 free throw attempts over consecutive games? That's a season-best. His 10 free throw attempts last night tied his season-high. It was the third time since January 11, 2009 he's reached double figures in free throw attempts in a single game. His FT Rate for the last two games: 41.6. That's almost Kevin Durant's rate. Almost.

Baron Davis:
"They started making shots, which helped them get confidence. A good team like this is hard to contain when they start knocking down shots."
Marcus Camby:
"Going down the stretch they got to the line a lot and made a lot of free-throws."
Josh Smith:
"We just got up and them put them on a carousel. We limited them to one shot, rebounded and had a couple of fast-break points. That is what this team has to do."
Mike Woodson:
"We finally came to play in the fourth quarter."
Joe Johnson:
"We can’t have letdowns like this where we are fighting hard to come back pretty much the whole game."
Mike Dunleavy, Sr.:
"In the second half, especially the fourth quarter, Joe and Jamal began to do what they do best, which is score baskets. The Hawks are tough to contain when both of those guys begin to score the way they did."
The Human Highlight Blog:
In games past, the Hawks have been called out for resorting to a Joe-centric offensive game plan, especially when times got rough on the offensive end. The Hawks could hardly be criticized for doing so the last couple of games, as Johnson has been among the hottest scorers in the league, yet the team has sought to diversify during the last few games and avoid the now-infamous Iso-Joe sets that opponents have been sitting on when chasing down the Hawks.

In the fourth, while attempting to once again pull even with the Clippers, the Hawks spread the ball around getting the ball into Al Horford for some inside points and Crawford for some mid-range magic. Meanwhile Johnson continued to scope for scoring opportunities himself, getting to the line for a couple of free throws.
The Vent:
Joe had the quietest 34 points you'll ever see. I honestly did not know he'd scored that many until I checked the box score. I just assumed he was somewhere around his average. He forced the action and actually got to the free throw line like a superstar tonight. We need to see more of this. Jamal was just Jamal. He came off the bench and did what they pay him to do. He scored 22 points and also tied Reggie Miller with most 4 point plays in league history. That record will belong solely to him by the end of this month. I'm willing to bet on that.
Joe Johnson took the last two games to re-establish why he's really, really, really good. And when he forgets about trying to force us to recognize his greatness - it's that apparent...The refs are clearly aware that Jamal Crawford is the 4 pt play king and are ready to make sure that record is obliterated.
Al Horford:
"I told Jamal, 'You have to step it up, man.' So he did it."
DJ Foster, ClipperBlog:
It’s hard not to think of that future when you watch Joe Johnson. With the possible exception of Brandon Roy, is there a player in the league who can systematically and quietly go off like Johnson can? He’s that guy that you think has 20 points when he actually has 30. He’s also that guy who is going to be on the free agent market this Summer, and the Clippers are one of the few suitors with the necessary cap room to make it happen. We’ll stay away from whether Johnson would want to come to L.A. for now, and instead focus on whether the Clippers “need” Johnson. Surely they need efficient and consistent perimeter scoring. Surely they could use a perimeter player who can get to the line and knock down his free throws as well. Probably most importantly, the Clippers could really use a crunch time scorer.

These needs look painfully obvious upon viewing Johnson’s performance tonight. When Johnson finds himself open in the corner from deep [5:30, 1st Q, 5:54 2nd Q], he nails the open looks. When the Clippers defensive intensity raises, Johnson puts his head down and gets to the line, and finishes 9 for 10 from there. With the Hawks down heading into the fourth, Johnson takes over and scores 14 of his 34 total points.

It’s just one game, but for now let’s make the answer to the question of whether the Clippers need a player like Joe Johnson an unequivocal “yes”.


CoCo said...

If only Joe could get to the line regularly. Free throws are probably keeping him from being a 25-27 ppg player. He normally goes out of his way to avoid contact while getting off his shot, he needs to start jumping into players like the rest of the superstars in the league.

Bret LaGree said...

I don't know that it's a matter of Joe jumping or not jumping into defenders. Whether it's a lack of explosiveness or an inherent deliberateness to his game, he rarely gets defenders in a position such that he can draw contact and get a call.

That's what interests me about the calls for Joe to come off screens more. What happens when he catches the ball on a curl? He stops where he catches and measures the defender. Same when he gets a ball-screen. He's far more likely to move laterally across the court than to try and turn the corner and attack.

He's simply far more likely to use his length and touch to score over defenders than to get his shoulders/hips past them and be in a position to initiate beneficial contact.

Bronnt said...

That's my observation as well, Bret. Joe's style doesn't lead to free throws. He prefers to take the floater over the top and the fall-away from 16 feet. He uses his length to get his shot off rather than to block off defenders while he's driving.