Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hawks 93 Bobcats 92 (OT)




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
CHA 89.9
48.3 10.5
34 18.9
ATL 89.9 1.035 44.2

Winning's fun. Playing good basketball is better. Unless the Hawks start accomplishing the latter more regularly, victories will remain this difficult to come by. Playing a bad offensive team, if you run enough bad offensive sets and take enough bad shots one might eventually go in and spark a celebration. Joe Johnson's game-winner is a testament both to his shot-making abilities and his stubbornness, a stubbornness that defines this team.

There's a frequent lament when the Hawks struggle offensively: too much one-on-one basketball. The (apparently) dirty secret is that the Atlanta offense is built around one-on-one basketball: Josh Smith being quicker than his defender and beating him off the dribble, Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson creating space for themselves off the dribble, or Al Horford turning over his left shoulder in the paint for his jump hook. At its best, the Atlanta offense turns one-on-one advantages into situations where the opposing defense has to collapse on the man with the ball, thus creating open shots for those off the ball.

A sound and active defensive team like Charlotte takes away the opposing team's ability to isolate defenders in matchups advantageous to the offense. When that happens, the Hawks lack recourse. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford can't create space for themselves but keep shooting jump shots (34 points on 39 field goal and 8 free throw attempts) off the dribble. Josh Smith isn't beating his defender off the dribble and his self-discipline, both as a passer (five turnovers) and shooter (the three-point attempt on the final possession of regulation and the other two jump shots he predictably missed), fails him too often. Al Horford is left to his own devices in the post against a bigger center. With no ball movement, Marvin Williams doesn't touch the ball (he played 15:07 of the fourth quarter and overtime without attempting a field goal) unless he gets an offensive rebound.

Speaking of which, the best Atlanta offensive possession of overtime came not off a set play but a Marvin Williams offensive rebound. Williams chased down a terrible Jamal Crawford miss in the corner, passed the ball quickly to Josh Smith who penetrated quickly and found Joe Johnson in the corner, open for once having not dominated the ball in the build up to the shot, for an open three that put the Hawks ahead 91-88, their biggest lead since 46-41.

The Hawks couldn't hold that three point lead for the final 2:06. A Jamal Crawford turnover, two Joe Johnson misses (the second leading to a Raymond Felton fast break layup with Josh Smith and Al Horford the only two Hawks back on defense), a Crawford miss, and Felton getting matched up against Al Horford 25 feet from the basket after the Hawks switched a ball-screen, set the table for Johnson's heroic, winning make with nine-tenths of a second remaining.

Joe Johnson:
"We had an ugly game, but that's how it's going to be sometimes."
Mike Woodson:
"Joe's a pro. He's an All-Star. You expect him to make shots when it counts."
I'll skip (mostly) the joke about Woodson thinking that points in the first half don't really count and skip ahead to the appearance that Woodson desperately wanted not to lose this game and when he gets desperate he over-coaches to no real purpose. Like going offense/defense with Jamal Crawford and Mario West late in the fourth quarter and overtime. I seriously doubt that Mario West is a better defender than Mo Evans. Even if I'm wrong about that, I don't think there's any way that West is enough better to justify having him play the occasional subsequent offensive possession if the Hawks get a stop. Which is, after all, what they want to accomplish. Not that it happened often when West was on the floor.

Three points on Charlotte's final possession when Felton (West's assignment) beat him to the loose ball (Mario was preoccupied by clapping) and made a three at the buzzer. Two points on Gerald Wallace's tip to close the third quarter. Charlotte missed shots on both fourth quarter possessions West played but the Hawks had to call timeouts to get West off the floor, timeouts which also allowed Charlotte to set their defense. One of Stephen Jackson's series of missed threes in overtime occurred with West on the floor as did Raymond Felton's go-ahead bucket with 3.8 seconds left. That's seven Charlotte points on six possessions. West was personally at fault for none of those points, but what purpose did his frequent inclusion serve?

"I've been off for five days, and ... it took a while for me to try to get into the game, and get in the rhythm. In the fourth quarter, I pretty much just tried to force it, make plays whether it was offense or defense."
Stephen Jackson:
"The turning point in the game is when I missed the two free throws. I had a chance to ice the game and put it away. And I blew it. I owe my team one."
Larry Brown:
"Sometimes the best-laid plans don't seem to work out. But yeah, we had a foul to give, they were out of time-outs. Those are things that happen. ... But give them credit; he made a great shot."
Jackson, again:
"We'll live with that shot a million times. Obviously, we wanted to foul but we didn't. That ain't nothing they drew up. That's just a great play by a great player."


CoCo said...

I got in an argument with a guy sitting beside me at the game because I was not happy with the offense/defense substitutions, especially that last one where the Hawks had the 1 point lead and got a stop. Of course they had to call timeout or risk playing 4 on 5 on offense so yes, call a timeout and let a coach who actually is a great defensive mind set up his team's defense. It just made no sense. Why would you put yourself in position to have to call a timeout with the lead right there? If Mario West was actually as good defensively as Mike Woodson made him out to be last night he'd be playing more often.

Bronnt said...

It was actually Josh Smith whom Felton switched on to for that last possession. I actually trust al Horford's lateral quickness on the perimeter a bit more than Josh. Josh's biggest problem in perimeter defense is that he still expects guys to attack his left, since it's both his favored side and the favored side of most guys he's guarding.

rbubp said...

Bronn, that's true of Josh's tendencies, and a another thing that is true is that he is not that opposed to letting a smaller guy by him because he thinks he can still block the shot. The situation with the Stephen Jackson foul was a perfect example of this; Josh goes for head fake, because he always does, then chases the giving-and-going Jackson to the hole where Josh fouls (actually, he didn't, but it looked like a foul, and his bad defense put him in position to get called for it).

Really good analysis of the offense, Bret. Against many teams the matchups create defensive compromises, but it is absolutely true that when it doesn't work (against a zone, against Orlando), the Hawks have bred a mentality of continuing to press for what has not worked.

They refuse to recognize their own limitations, pretty much to a man.

CoCo, that is a great point, and another thing is that the Hawks seem to do very, very badly executing any damn thing after a timeout in late-game situations...not sure if that is an indictment of the players or the coach, but it certainly suggests they'd do better to wing it against an unsettled defense.

Matt DeFore said...

Yes, the Hawks tend to go isolation more than your average team and are ineffective at times with it. My wish is simply for more movement from the other four guys. With everyone glued to a spot watching Crawford and Johnson take it there is no pressure on the defense to defend. Get some movement please!