Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mavericks 111 Hawks 103 (OT)


Hoopdata Boxscore



Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
DALL 93.2
56 8.7
31.6 14
ATL 93.2 1.106 44.7

If you want to know why the Hawks, a team almost guaranteed home-court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs, have the legitimacy of their chances to do much more than show up and compete in the second-round questioned* more than other teams in similar circumstances, compare and contrast them with the Dallas Mavericks in overtime.

*As well as why it's difficult to formulate a convincing counter-argument.

The Mavericks relentlessly attacked Atlanta's weakest link, Mike Bibby, throughout the extra period. With Bibby matched up against Jose Juan Barea they forced Bibby to defend the pick-and-roll. Bibby's two choices: to try and cut off the corner and deny Berea's dribble penetration, or, switch onto Dirk Nowitzki. The former is close to impossible for Bibby. The latter is far from ideal. With Bibby matched up against Jason Kidd, the Mavericks isolated Kidd on the right side (with Nowitzki shaded to the ball side beyond the top of the key), let him back Bibby down, and encouraged the only other Atlanta defender nearby (Josh Smith) to provide help defense. Once Smith helped off of Nowitzki, Kidd made a simple pass and Nowitzki, with no Atlanta defender in a position from which to rotate in time, made an open three. Despite this obvious, purposeful, and relentless attack against a poor defender, Mike Woodson left Bibby in the game until Dallas had the ball with the Hawks were down five with less than a minute left.

The Hawks, despite showing some intermittent understanding of and ability to break down the Dallas zone (a modified 2-3 that allowed Kidd, on the right side of the baseline, some freedom to wreak havoc), had no clear plan of attack. That may be giving them the benefit of the doubt. If they had a plan of attack it contained two parts: 1) Have Joe Johnson back down Barea (one of the two guys at the top of the Dallas zone) into the heart of the zone before A) taking a contested shot or B) passing out of traffic to a wide-open (natch) Josh Smith 20-feet from the basket for Smith to miss (natch, again) a jump shot just before the shot clock expires; 2) Have Johnson or Jamal Crawford keep the ball outside the three-point line until a half-chance for a three-point attempt presents itself.

The first part accounted for two empty possessions (plus Josh Smith's put-back that prevented the overtime shutout). The second part accounted for three empty possessions. The Hawks had ten overtime possessions in total. It's an extra shame that the offense imploded as it hummed so efficiently for most of the game* by the virtue of ball movement. The Hawks earned assists on 32 of their 38 made field goals. Five Hawks (Johnson, Smith, Al Horford, Bibby, and Crawford) tallied at least four assists. Many if not most of their free throw attempts were the result of good player and ball movement. Yet, still, what they're collectively best at is far from constant. There remains some disconnect in the understanding of how best practices lead to good results.

*Admittedly barring that 9:51 stretch in the first half where the Hawks didn't make a field goal though that stretch did include approximately as many missed open shots as did Dallas's 15-point third quarter.

On to the game's other talking point: Mike Woodson's fourth quarter technical. I've been critical of both the timing of and propensity for the head coach's technicals this season. This time, he got jobbed. Railroaded, even. The replays showed that Woodson had clearly gotten back* out of bounds before Kidd (himself with at least one foot out of bounds) made glancing contact with his outstretched left arm. The replays, though, only confirmed what was an obviously terrible call when witnessed live. Jason Kidd only came into contact with Mike Woodson because he, Kidd, veered suddenly to the left when approaching the Hawks' bench. Jason Kidd only came into contact with Mike Woodson because Kidd purposely dribbled the ball out of bounds.

*Oh, that one of Woodson's veteran guards had feet that quick.

It looked weird. It didn't look like a basketball play. It wasn't a basketball play. It was an attempt to con the refs and the refs fell for it. They waived the element of risk inherent in purposely dribbling the ball out of bounds in the pursuit of one point. If Kidd draws (or even creates) contact with a coach who's on the court, fair play to him. He didn't manage that but his failure didn't matter on a night where, otherwise, Kidd rarely failed.

It's a credit to Woodson (and his team) that he (and they) did not lose his (their) cool given the circumstances and the unjust penalty delivered upon him. It will be a discredit to every copycat who attempts to mimic this nationally televised bit of gamesmanship.

Jason Kidd:
"The coach is not supposed to be on the floor. You see that a lot in games. The NBA has so many rules, and there is a coaching box, and some of the coaches do stretch that box. For me, it's just a reaction. Make something happen. It was a big play for us."
Mike Woodson:
"He made a heck of a play. Jason Kidd is an All-Star, a Hall of Fame guard, and he’s had a hell of a career. He did what he had to do. I’ve got to take the hit on that. I shouldn’t have been on the floor."
Rick Carlisle:
"This is one for the ages. I don’t think there’s ever been a smarter player in this league than Jason Kidd."
Joe Johnson:
"It was a big deal. He just blatantly ran into our coach. I’ve never seen that.

Coaches are always on the floor, but nobody tries to run into them. I might have to try and do that."
Please don't.

The Human Highlight Blog:
Some call this veteran or savvy. We call it a "jerk" move.

Woodson was off the court, Kidd initiated contact, with a forearm shiver no less. It's not basketball, yet there it was.

Still, it had nothing to do with Kidd killing the Hawks with threes (3 of them in that run) or leading the charge of standing around in a zone while the Hawks continued to try to shoot over it with no success over and over again. And it certainly didn't take away from the statistically incredible night Kidd had. Bravo.
The Vent:
"They T'd Woody up. Okay fine, what's done is done. My question is simply this, WHY IN THE HELL WOULD MIKE WOODSON AGREE WITH THEM?

He should not be on record saying Kidd made a "heck of a play" and all the other nonsense he spewed after the game. He should be screaming at the top of his lungs that he made it off the court before Kidd came over and shoved him. Why is he going the opposite way? Whose side is he on? I've seen the replay, and it's not like there was overwhelming evidence against that theory. I'm blown away that he is going along with this Jason Kidd is a genius bullshit. Seriously, even if it turns out that there's indisputable evidence that you didn't make it off in time, you don't go into the post game press conference tipping your hat to him. You bitch and moan and act like Kidd just assaulted you like you were his wife. (yes, that was a cheap shot, but I'm mad)"
I get in less trouble for quoting the joke I lack the balls to make myself, don't I?

John Hollinger deems the play "unusually clever." I wonder if a look at the replay would change the good professor's mind.

Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk:
Jason Kidd is a clever a%($hole.

At least his play was, drawing a technical on Atlanta coach Mike Woodson. Smart play. Good strategy. Got a technical free throw (made by Dirk), a point that helped send the game to overtime where his team went on to win.

Still an a*#$hole move.
As for the bulk of the game...

Joe Johnson:
"It kind of changed the game, but that’s not what lost the game for us. They went zone, and we couldn’t get no continuity on offense.

We just played one-on-one against the zone"

Josh Smith:
"I think we settled too much in the zone instead of attacking. It really wasn’t an aggressive zone. They were just letting us shoot jump shots."
These would be perfectly fine and reasonable quotes were this the first time the Hawks had self-inflicted such a fate but as the good-natured Michael Cunningham trenchantly points out:
With the notable exception of the Jazz game, show some resistance against the Hawks late in games and they will stop moving the ball to get better shots.
Courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information: The Hawks were 1-9 from the field in the game (0-4 in the fourth quarter and overtime) against Dallas's zone.

Mark Bradley:
A really good team doesn’t lose games like this, and that’s what the Hawks aspire to become and, for tantalizing stretches, seem to be. But how do you lose on a night when a technical foul against your coach for brushing the opposing point guard is the difference between winning in regulation and walking off with various manifestations of egg — scrambled, poached, everything except sunny-side-up — on your face.
Again, Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk:
Personally, I give this win to Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. For the fourth quarter, down 15 with 8 minutes to go, he broke out the zone defense, and the Hawks turned into the UCLA Bruins. This year's UCLA Bruins. They seemed confused and couldn't hit the outside shot.


CoCo said...

Well Bret, I chose to only focus on the Jason Kidd event because I knew you other bloggers would thoroughly break down all of the reasons we lost. I probably could have left that cheap shot out of there, but I was mad. I'm on vacation and Mike Woodson tried to ruin it. What a jerk. It must be pointed out that Josh Smith is the straw that stirs the drink. At some point he's going to have to have an absolute tantrum in front of the guards to get this point across. I'm disappointed for him that his stat line was wasted. I'm getting to the point where I'm just expecting these collapses. We all might as well accept that the guards care not where their bread is actually buttered. They're going to do what they want to do until someone takes that option away from them.

Bret LaGree said...

I'd already used up my ranting for the week on the T-Wolves game and the Ilgauskas hope. Yours was better than I'd have managed on this topic and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to quote it. Please enjoy the rest of your vacation.

ethan said...

Woodson was on the court.

A savvy player touched him while he was on the court.

You don't want savvy players to make that move?


Yeah, Kidd is a big ol' cheater. Moron.

Anonymous said...

100% with ethan. If a player had strayed from his position, the coach would soon rip into him for it. The coach strayed; he got in trouble. Anyone who cries about Kidd's move is whitewashing Woodson's mistake.

Bronnt said...

Ethan, it's very questionable whether Woodson was still on the court. And Kidd didn't run into him, he threw a forearm into his body. Kidd not only didn't run into him, he attempted to run into him from several feet distant, failed because Woodson was getting out the way, and made contact anyway with his arm.

It's like Reggie Miller trying to bait someone into fouling, failing, then kicking the guy and falling down to get the call anyway.

MonsieurKovacs said...

As Hollinger pointed out, Woodson was out of the coaching box. It should've been a technical in any case, Kidd just made sure the refs notice. If Woodson had been in the coaching box and Kidd stiff-armed him and got the call, that would be one thing. But Woodson broke the rules, deserved a technical, and Kidd was smart enough to make sure everyone in the arena knew it. That is smart basketball.

Unknown said...

MonsieurKovacs got it exactly, the situation wasn't about Jason Kidd making contact with Woodson while he was on the court, it was about Kidd making the refs aware of the fact that Woodson was on the court in the first place, which should have been an automatic T. Just because the Refs don't actually give out Ts in a lot of these similar situations, doesn't mean that it wasn't an offense and shouldn't have drawn a Technical. I'm sure Woodson will learn from his mistakes and never leave his Coache's box again.

Bret LaGree said...

The Mavericks got the call and won the game, right?

Unknown said...

I'm not a hawks fan, but as a fan of basketball the play was terrible form. Perhaps Woodson should have been given a technical for being on the court, but intentionally running into a non participant (who at the time appeared to be off the floor) is not in the spirit of the game and is potentially dangerous.

rbubp said...

I may be the only person in Hawks Nation who feels this way--I certainly was over at Peachtree Hoops--but I agree with several others here that this was on Woodson. You cannot give Kidd a penalty for dribbling fast, or for dribbling in the direction of the coach, and Woodson was NOT clearly out of bounds--he was jumping back, while Kidd definitely, clearly was IN bounds at the time.

Then the ball stopped. The refs had to call something because the play was now dead. What are they going to call? Kidd tried to push Woodson because Woodson was illegally on the court, even though Kidd has a right to that space?

Woodson should have seen where the ball was and known to get the hell out of the way. It was truly an idiot move on his part. A jerk move on Kidd's part, sure, but he never should have had the chance.

Bret LaGree said...

rbubp --

I've no argument that Woodson needlessly created the opportunity nor that he was given a technical for breaking the rule regarding the coach's box.

The difference, though, between this situation and the other X,000 times a year a coach is out of the coach's box and not T'd up is Kidd creating the contact and in order to create the contact, Kidd purposely dribbled out-of-bounds.

It's unclear if Kidd's right foot touches the sideline on the half-step before he puts his left arm into Woodson. It's clear Kidd's next step falls out of bounds. We can blame that on the contact or not, but, the key action in my mind is Kidd getting his right foot so close or onto the left sideline 28 feet from the basket. That's unnatural. He didn't need that space (and still had to extend the left arm to draw contact) to play basketball. He only needed it in the pursuit of a point.

A point that was possibly unnecessary as I think the other 52:59 of the game demonstrated that neither Kidd nor his team really needed to go to such lengths to beat the Hawks.

rbubp said...

We could probably argue this forever, unfortunately. But in the end it doesn't matter at all what Kidd's intentions were; until he actually breaks a rule he is in the clear--intent counts for nada. Woodson had clearly broken a rule (whether one that gets called often or not) he was still technically in bounds (in the air trying to get back) when Kidd came by. It comes down to who broke a rule first, and the answer there is obviously Woodson, which is it was the right call, and not that hard of a call to make. Kidd gets all the "credit" for taking the risk that the call got made his way, deserved or not, because his action was just as risky and possibly as stupid as Woodson's.

Unknown said...

It is a technical foul in the nba for the coach to come that far out on the floor during the game, right? regardless of the contact or lack thereof.