Friday, April 02, 2010

Cavaliers 93 Hawks 88


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 88.8
43.9 10
18 7.9
CLE 88.8 1.048 45

Playing better teams give the Hawks the opportunity to realize their potential (Wednesday night against the Lakers) or display the full array of their weaknesses (Friday night in Cleveland). The Hawks struggled to create good shots (and struggled to make* those they did create) through a combination of a predictable half court offense and an inability to control the defensive glass which limited their transition opportunities. Not that transition basketball is ever a distinct priority for this team but, should they face Cleveland or Orlando in the second round of the playoffs, they'll need every relatively easy shot they can get. Because of the quality of those two teams defensively (even on this night where Cleveland missed Anderson Varejao) once they're set and the importance both place on defensive rebounding limits Atlanta's second chance opportunities. Also because the Hawks don't get to the foul line. They have to make shots to score.

Given Cleveland's shared tendency toward deliberateness and their own issues with over-reliance on isolation offense in the half-court, I would suspect both the individual games and the series as a whole to be more competitive were the Hawks to face the Cavaliers rather than the Magic, but, with another long fourth quarter stretch without a field goal (6:43 tonight, leavened only by two Al Horford free throws) on their record, it'd be difficult to argue convincingly how they'd beat the Cavaliers more than once in a best-of-seven series. Even that argument might half to fall back on the "it's hard to beat a team four straight times" canard fairly quickly.

*The final shooting and scoring numbers, bad as they are, are inflated (as is the number of possessions in the game) by Josh Smith making an unsustainable 60% of his jump shots and the meaningless 12-5 run the Hawks went on over the final 73 seconds.

If you are searching for a reasonable cause for optimism, I think one exists. Save for the first half of the third quarter, the Hawks made an impressive and mostly successful effort not to switch every screen and keep Marvin Williams matched up against LeBron James as much as possible. Marvin's fourth quarter strip of James is his defensive highlight of the night but the shots he forced James into, even the shots James made, were far more difficult than those James could get either matched up against Mo Evans or after the Cavs got Josh Smith or Jamal Crawford or Mike Bibby to switch onto him. On the other hand, that the Hawks played a more straightforward defense most of the night makes their defensive rebounding even more inexcusably poor than normal.

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