Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bucks 98 Hawks 95




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 82.2
57.1 7.7
18.9 9.7
MIL 82.2 1.193 50.6

What was Joe Johnson doing? Wrong question. It was clear what he was doing with less than 30 seconds left in a tie game. He was holding John Salmons thirty feet from the basket. He was clutching at Salmons, snuggling with him. At the risk of betraying my inexperience, can one spoon while standing up? The referees tried to ignore it. They didn't want to call a foul but the scene continued, becoming more and more bizarre. Dick Bavetta snapped, called Johnson for the foul, and sent John Salmons to the line where Salmons made both free throws to give Milwaukee a two-point lead with 21.9 left, a lead, through great individual defensive effort by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and an impressive team* rebounding effort, they would not relinquish.

*Bogut's box out of Al Horford on Johnson's subsequent miss was textbook. The way Luke Ridnour attacked the miss while Bogut sealed off Atlanta's best rebounder capped off a spectacular night for someone who, both as a competitor and an unrestricted free agent, must desperately wish to get to play against Atlanta's guards in the playoffs.

The question is why was Joe Johnson doing that?

Joe Johnson:
"I was just being aggressive and trying to deny him the ball. But he called a foul. That was at a crucial part of the game. That’s a tough call."
That's not a very compelling answer. Were roles reversed (and that would make more sense, a defender desperate to deny Joe Johnson rather than John Salmons, current hot streak notwithstanding, the ball) I suspect Joe Johnson would believe the aggressiveness worthy of a foul call.

Michael Cunningham:
...a play so perplexing I looked up at the scoreboard and figured the Hawks actually had a foul to give.
Mike Woodson:
"I don't know what Joe's thinking was there."
John Salmons:
"He was trying to be aggressive. Maybe a little too aggressive, and the ref made the call."
The Human Highlight Blog at Peachtree Hoops:
Johnson compounded the misfire by becoming Mario West at midcourt, overplaying Salmons to the point of grabbing him and picking up a foul with (12) seconds left. We can debate whether Dick Bavetta should have called it, but Johnson didn't need to be pushing the envelope at that particular point in the game, especially at that place on the floor. All it did was highlight that not even Joe Johnson was convinced that he alone could keep Salmons from getting to the hoop again.
Drew at Peachtree Hoops:
The difference in the last minutes of the game was simply that Joe fouled John Salmons 12 feet beyond the three point line with the Hawks in the bonus. Joe had denied Salmons the ball on a few possessions down the stretch. It was the only defense Atlanta had one him. (You know because if he got the ball the Bucks just set a screen and put Josh Smith on him.) So I get the intent, but that does not make it correct. And I get that Joe was not playing perfectly legal defense either, but that does not make that call correct either.
It's a shame that Johnson had to lose the plot at the end of such a spectacular individual fourth quarter. The Hawks needed that effort. Whether it was due to (understandably) tired legs making them a step slower defensively, or Milwaukee finally starting to make open shots, they found themselves in a shootout late. The Bucks repeatedly scored off dribble penetration from Salmons and Ridnour. That pair scored or assisted on 27 of Milwaukee's 31 fourth quarter points.

Mike Woodson:
"It was a good effort considering we had an overtime game and then got in late. We had our chances but we had a bad fourth quarter defensively. We gave up 31 points. We were solid on defense up until then. They got hot, made some shots. We matched shots but we couldn’t get stops when we needed top get them. We couldn’t control the dribble. Everybody just picked and choosed when they wanted to drive the ball."
Joe Johnson:
"Defensively, it's as if we lost sight of what our principle was coming down the stretch. We just couldn't get stops. That's not like us."
The Hawks had Johnson. Matched up (until the final minute of the game) against Carlos Delfino and allowed to work one-on-one against Delfino, Johnson scored 14 of Atlanta's 21 fourth quarter points, taking 11 of the team's 19 shots. Johnson was 7-9 from the floor to open the fourth quarter. Then Scott Skiles replaced Jerry Stackhouse with Mbah a Moute. Perhaps, with Mbah a Moute rather than Stackhouse on the court earlier in the quarter, Milwaukee's spacing would not have been so effective and Salmons and Ridnour would have had smaller gaps to carve. Regardless, Mbah a Moute's man-to-man defense on Johnson provided a massive improvement on Delfino's. The Hawks didn't recognize, or dismissed (as a certain color commentator did) the difference, carried on with what had been working in different circumstances, but getting only two very difficult, contested shots, resulting in two empty possessions in the final minute.

Scott Skiles:
"We played a good part of the game kind of bogged down. We couldn't get any stops, we couldn't get any ball movement. We went to our small lineup and I had four perimeter guys out there with Kurt [Thomas] and that opened it up."
Just as Woodson deserves credit for trusting his bench more than normal during the team's second game in 24 hours, Skiles' decision to go small neutered Josh Smith's help defense to a greater degree than Smith was able to take advantage of his size advantage in the post. Maybe that was another reason to leave Delfino isolated on Johnson. Letting the Hawks play through Johnson seriously reduced the chance of Atlanta scoring three points on a possession (as long as Delfino didn't commit a silly, relatively unlikely foul) even if it increased the chance Atlanta would score two points on a possession whereas playing through Josh Smith (matched up against Stackhouse in the post) could create open looks from beyond the arc.

...it felt like the same story as the last Hawks-Bucks game. Atlanta had a superstar and he’d carry them past the Bucks, who were playing them even otherwise. I wrote after the last game, “The difference between (John) Salmons and Joe Johnson was vivid in overtime…this is why teams are lining up to try and get a star this off-season, they want guys who can make the plays Johnson was making at the end of the game.”

To me, it seemed clear that having Johnson gave the Hawks an edge in late game situations. The Hawks had a go-to-guy and the Bucks didn’t.

And then all of a sudden John Salmons morphed into a go-to-guy before my very eyes.
Kurt Helin, ProBasketball Talk:
Please, please let this be the four/five matchup in the East. It would be the best first round matchup of all the playoffs.
Soaring Down South:
While this may in fact be a playoff preview this loss won’t effect that potential series in any way. There is still too much basketball left to be played in the regular season. If the Bucks do take anything away it will be the fact that they were able to get John Salmons any match up that they wanted down the stretch due to the Hawks constant switching screens. This is a repeat from the last two games where the scores have been close and teams have isolated Raymond Felton or Manu Ginobli up against Al Horford and Josh Smith. If the opposing team thinks they know what is coming then why not throw a wrinkle at them? Trap the ball handler maybe? Not every time but the element of surprise is still a valuable thing and predictability on the basketball court is a weakness.

1 comment:

rbubp said...

It is high time that someone pointed out the pattern in these back-to-back games, namely, that the Hawks run of gas at the end. Well, why does that happen, Woody?

The second team needs to play more in the back-to-backs. It's borderline ridiculous. An overtime game the night before, too, where Johnson played 46 minutes.

I think everyone knows that teams need structure and consistency, and players need to know their roles. But not varying even for situations like this is crazy.