Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hawks 105 Jazz 100




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 81.7
59.7 26.4
22.6 9.8
UTAH 81.7 1.224 50.6

Two streaks ended last one night. One began over 17 years ago. The other began at halftime in Phoenix Friday night. The absence of Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko shouldn't take from either accomplishment. The Hawks are not yet good enough to concern themselves with the quality of their road wins and creating high percentage shots in the half-court in the fourth quarter against any five people is a profound and noticeable improvement.

For the better part of the past two seasons, I wrote about how initiating the half-court offense through Josh Smith either in the low- or high-post (last night Smith and the Hawks extended his usefulness all the way to the top of they key) would improve both spacing and ball movement simply by putting Smith in a position where he had to be guarded. That this inversion of the typical offensive set would also put Joe Johnson in a position where he was still capable of finishing (and might even create for him easier shot opportunities than he could get on his own) made it seem a no-brainer.

Last night, the Hawks (mostly) went down that tactical path for the final seven minutes. Smith took two shots (an alley oop from Mike Bibby and a layup and-one), scored five points, earned three assists, and did not turn the ball over. One of those assists set up Jamal Crawford for a wide-open three-pointer. The other two of those assists led directly to Joe Johnson buckets (a three-pointer and a layup). Johnson scored 11 points in the last 7-and-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter. He needed just five shots to do so.

Johnson didn't score in the third quarter but it may still have been a great stretch for his reputation among Hawks fans, a reminder that it's more the "iso" than the "Joe" that frustrates. The Hawks spent much of the third quarter making a concerted effort to get the ball to Al Horford on the left block. Horford's post game is improving but remains a work in progress. He doesn't necessarily draw a double-team. Not that Utah had to commit to double-teaming him while he was isolated on the left block. As is typical of the iso-Joe sets, Josh Smith set up 20-22 feet from the basket on the wing opposite Horford and, as is typical of the iso-Joe sets, the other team (quite reasonably) felt no need to pay attention to him there. Furthermore, as is typical of the iso-Joe sets, Smith just stood there. Horford would receive the entry pass, look for the double team, see none arriving but recognize the opportunity for one to come, begin his (somewhat mechanical and deliberate) post move, at that point get doubled, and have no teammate working to help him.

It's to Horford's credit that, though the effort to get him the ball didn't increase his usage, he maintained his efficiency. On the night, he got to the line eight times, allowing to score 13 points on just four field goal attempts while adding three assists against a single turnover.

As lovely as the half-court offense was in the fourth quarter, Mike Bibby's play and his presence on the court for all but the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter creates concern. On a night where both Marvin Williams and Maurice Evans were aggressive and productive, Mike Woodson chose to leave Bibby on the floor to be harassed by Ronnie Price's ball pressure before spotting up and waiting for someone to give him the ball back and to be hidden defensively on (but not stopping) Wes Matthews or CJ Miles. While the Hawks ran beautiful sets through Josh Smith, Utah kept pace for almost the entire fourth quarter by running their offense through Kyle Korver or Miles simply because they were guarded (poorly) by Jamal Crawford and Bibby, respectively.

I still fail to see the compelling argument for playing two poor perimeter defenders together for long stretches of the fourth quarter especially when one of them is incapable of creating his own shot and looks increasingly unlikely to convert the open shots his teammates create for him. If Bibby really is something like a 35% three-point shooter these days, well, so are Williams and Evans and they're both better defenders and rebounders and are no more likely to turn the ball over than Bibby.

Joe Johnson:
"I thought we were very composed tonight in the fourth quarter when we got down. We were able to not get rattled and made a run of our own."
Al Horford:
"He [Josh Smith] kept harping on us to share the ball, share the ball and make it easier for each other."
Josh Smith:
"I just noticed that we were passing the ball one time and taking a shot. They were catching our misses and getting out on the break."
Mike Woodson:
"That was a total team effort by everybody who played. That’s what we need the rest of the way."
You can make it so, sir, and, in doing so, make your future.

Jamal Crawford on his dumb technical in Oakland:
"I’ll take the blame for that loss. When good things happen I get credit so I’ve got to take blame when things go bad."
Jerry Sloan:
"Well, we made a couple mistakes trying to come down the stretch and turned the ball over a couple times and missed free throws that could help keep you in there. But I thought our guys played hard, being short-handed and that kind of thing. I thought everybody tried to step up and play hard."


weemsildinho said...

the Hawks got lucky last night that the Jazz were short of perimeter options in the 4th quarter with Deron Williams out. If he had been playing, and when Korver was killing us in the 4th quarter with Bibby and Crawford playing together, the Hawks could have really been in trouble. I feel this way mainly because I have my doubts as to whether Woodson would have gone to Marvin in the fourth, which frankly is kind of sad on Woody's part.

Thankfully, because of the thin perimeter of the Jazz last night, we were able to switch Joe on to Korver and not let the game get away from us, because Miles and Price are pretty average offensively. Kudos to the Hawks on offense, the passing was crisp in the fourth and they knocked down the open looks, which were plentiful. Good to get a win to end the trip with this three game homestand coming up

Jason Walker said...

Great 'cap, Bret---Excellent articulation of the snippet of efficiency that was those minutes in the fourth. It was as if watching the best part of a good movie. I could love to watch that part again.

rbubp said...

"Utah kept pace for almost the entire fourth quarter by running their offense through Kyle Korver or Miles simply because they were guarded (poorly) by Jamal Crawford and Bibby, respectively."

Yup. And second-chance points/points in the paint the other three quarters.

Excellent recap, Bret.