Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hawks 86 Magic 84




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ORL 87.6
41.7 33.3
20.5 14.8
ATL 87.6 0.982 45.4

Well, I was wrong. The Hawks can beat the Magic while playing terribly offensively. Six points in the first eight-and-a-half minutes. Eight points in the last five-and-a-half minutes. One victory.

It wasn't pretty but I think we learned a couple of things about how the Hawks could beat the Magic in a game that doesn't turn on JJ Redick missing a wide-open corner three just before Josh Smith makes a contested 20-footer as the shot clock expires or Joe Johnson not getting called for traveling, thus letting his embarrassing effort at a game-winner stand so Josh Smith could take advantage of a napping Rashard Lewis to slam home the miss at the buzzer.

First, the Hawks have to make their threes, and, because Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford (28 points on 31 shots) will likely be suckered into contested two-point jump shots (14 combined last night, they each made two) by Orlando's defense, that means Mike Bibby and Maurice Evans have to make their threes. They made six of eight last night. Neither can create their own shot so credit to Josh Smith, Johnson, and Crawford who each assisted on two three-pointers made by Bibby or Evans.

Second, the Hawks have to take advantage of as many transition opportunities as possible. There won't be many. Orlando simply won't allow it. But every offensive possession that doesn't come against a set Orlando defense is to Atlanta's advantage. 14 fast break points isn't a lot but when you can't seem to break 86 against a certain opponent, every little bit helps.

Speaking of little bits, let's not overlook Atlanta's good work in getting to the foul line. By Atlanta, I mean Josh Smith and Joe Johnson, who attempted 16 of Atlanta's 20 free throws. Just as improbable as the corner jumper Smith made with 1:38 left in the game (and just as important to the outcome) were the seven of nine free throws he made.

Finally, the changes the Hawks made both to when and from where they doubled Dwight Howard early in the game, slowed Orlando's ball movement. They didn't keep up with this half-court run-and-jump as the game carried on, so it remains to be seen if the change is a sustainable improvement or just reliant on the element of surprise.

Now, the Hawks couldn't have won this game on their own. Stan Van Gundy was too conservative with Dwight Howard in the second quarter, both by choosing to have Brandon Bass rather than Howard guard Al Horford in the post and by removing Howard for the final 90 second of the first half because he had two* fouls. The Hawks almost turned Howard's absence into a six-point advantage at the end of the half. Mike Woodson couldn't resist a bit of coaching and put his defensive specialist** Mario West in the game for Orlando's final offensive possession. Jameer Nelson blew past West, drew a foul, and made both free throws to cut Atlanta's lead to four.

The Magic also did a terrible job on entry passes to the post after they got the switch they wanted. Again, credit is due the defensive effort of the Hawks but there were a number of times where Orlando played half an offensive possession, gained an advantage, failed to convert that advantage and left themselves starting from scratch on a short clock.

*Howard played the entirety of the second half and finished with three fouls. Dumb when Mike Woodson does it. Dumb when Stan Van Gundy does it.

**When the other team immediately attacks your defensive specialist, attacks him to a degree they didn't even attack Mike Bibby, perhaps it's time to reassess your perceptions. And this substituting Mario West for defensive possessions at the end of close games has to stop. Because Orlando scored on their last possession of the game, and because the Hawks had used their last timeout to get Mario West out of the game so they could play offense after Orlando's previous possession, the Hawks had the ball for the final ten seconds and Mario West on the floor. Mo Evans, Jeff Teague, these are actual basketball players available for Mike Woodson to use in these situations. If he continues to refuse those options this is going to end badly some night.

Despite my qualms about how much this win portends tactically for a potential playoff matchup, I don't think it's possible to overstate the psychological value of the Hawks beating the Magic.

Al Horford:
"A lot of people were talking and questioning us against the great teams. It’s nice to go get a win."
Jamal Crawford:
"It would have been one thing if we’d split the season series coming in, but they’d beaten us every game. I believe this will do something for our psyche. It was a big win."
Josh Smith:
"It would have been another heartbreak for us."
Josh Smith on the game-winner:
"I knew [Johnson] was going to shoot the basketball. He's made some big shots for us. I was hoping he would make this one. But I had his back."
Stan Van Gundy:
"On the weak side, we just stood and watched. The guys on the court are doing the same thing the guys on the bench are doing: just standing there watching."
Speaking of guys on the bench, the always classy and never self-involved, Matt Barnes:
"(Van Gundy) obviously must not trust me down the stretch. Only thing I can think of. I'm knocking down 3s, I'm playing D, I'm rebounding. I couldn't believe it. I could see it if the person I'm coming out for is cooking or something… but that wasn't really the case tonight. It's very frustrating to sit on the bench the last five minutes when I held Joe to 13 points. It's very frustrating."
Zach Harper at Hardwood Paroxysm:
If Lewis boxes out Smith, the carom goes harmlessly off to the side and the players get ready for the overtime period. In this period, Matt Barnes gets a chance to make a difference and Rashard Lewis probably gets four or five more shot attempts to botch to satisfy his ego. The Magic go into their normal wing-clipping mode against the Hawks, pull out the tough road victory and head home with a season sweep of Atlanta.

Instead, Lewis got lazy, the rebound got crammed home and the Hawks now have a little swagger against Orlando that was previously nonexistent. Orlando now has to face internal issues that are being immaturely aired out in the media.
Eric Freeman at The Baseline:
Smoove didn't make the All-Star team this year in a scandalous choice, so we need to find another way to honor him this year. How about we just give him the Coolest Player Award? It's a trophy in the shape of an exclamation point.

At NBA Playbook, Sebastian Priuti breaks down how far Josh Smith came to follow Joe Johnson's miss. Also captured: Josh Smith calling for the ball while being ignored beyond the three-point line earlier in the possession.

Peachtree Hoops has the thought process.

Check out Both Teams Played Hard, also.

At Orlando Magic Daily, Philip Rossman-Reich puts Orlando's offensive struggles down primarily to a failure to make shots:
The Magic did have 20 assists (the season average is 19.3) on their 27 field goals, which is a pretty good number. But obviously 27 field goals is well below the 36.3 field goals the team was averaging entering tonight's game. That explains a lot of Orlando's offensive struggles.
Ben Q. Rock has a typically thorough recap from the opposing perspective at Orlando Pinstriped Post.

1 comment:

Bronnt said...

Not sure how much credit to give JJ on his last 4 free throws. VC made a foolish mistake to foul JJ before the help defense arrived, and then JJ was intentionally fouled with 17 seconds left. The only effective thing the Hawks did in the final quarter offensively was to get Josh driving and drawing fouls.

Another interesting side note. Dwight Howard was credited with 4 blocks that resulted in Atlanta keeping possession each time, and Atlanta scored 6 points. One of those four blocks was a phantom call where he either fouled Josh Smith, or Josh traveled. That led to the Barnes forcing a jumpball, and eventually to a missed shot by JJ. So each of Dwight's 3 actual blocks went out of bounds, and the Hawks posted an eFG% of 100% for those possessions on a night when they had trouble scoring.