Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hawks 105 Wizards 95

Boxscore

Gameflow

Highlights

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 83.6
1.256
60.1 21.6
23.5 14.4
WASH 83.6 1.136 55.1
10.1
36.1
20.3

The Hawks salvaged both their one-game lead (effectively one-half game, given Boston's status as Atlantic Division Champions) and Washington's possible reputation as spoilers (you can't spoil anything if you beat both teams in a playoff race, then you've changed nothing) late. I'd love to report that Washington's 17-point fourth quarter was down to improved defense but I suspect that Flip Saunders deciding to play James Singleton for more than half of the final quarter had as much impact as anything the Hawks did.

In the game, Washington scored 27 points on 31 possessions with Singleton on the court and 68 in 52 with him on the court. In the fourth quarter it was 7 points in 11 possessions with Singleton on the court and 10 in 8 with him on the court.

Washington didn't have such help in shoring up their porous defense. The Hawks weren't appreciably more purposeful* in their attack but are essentially impossible to stop on nights when both Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson frequently conclude their long stretches of possession by making their jump shots.

*Case in point: on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, with the score 58-64 and 61-66, the Hawks got the ball to Josh Smith in the post, he got into the paint and found first Jamal Crawford and then Joe Johnson for wide-open three-pointers. On the next possession (at 64-66) Marvin Williams made an aggressive move to the basket. Fabricio Oberto stripped the ball (maybe a foul, maybe not, no call) off of Williams' leg for an Atlanta turnover. Then the Hawks reverted to ill-conceived and unlikely methods. First, Joe Johnson dribbles into a crowd in the lane before kicking out to Josh Smith who, with six seconds left on the shot clock, misses a 20-footer so badly it ignites a Washington fast break that results in two Shaun Livingston free throws. On the second possession, the Hawks attempt to run screen-and-roll with Johnson but his unwillingness or inability to turn the corner leads to his familiar lateral movement across the screen, which leads to directly to a contested (and missed) 25-footer.

Mike Woodson saw it differently:
"I thought in the fourth quarter is when you got to have it and we stepped up. Our defense really picked up. We were able to score the ball a little bit."
More from Woodson:
"We’ve played well enough on the road to win but little things have been hurting us. Tonight we buckled down when we had to. That’s how we did it early in the year. We’ve got to get back to that heading into the playoffs."
Jamal Crawford:
"It feels good to finally close out a game on the road. We weren’t getting blown out. We’ve been right there but we haven’t been closing out games. We tightened it up when we needed to."
Al Horford:
"It was important for us to close out the game the way we know we can. We got stops when we needed to."
It's a pretty sound observation that I'm a curmudgeon before my time, but is anyone else feeling something less than an overwhelming sense of witnessing an accomplishment last night? I don't argue that winning is a definite improvement over losing (both tangibly and intangibly) but what does it say about a team that needs the psychological boost from out-scoring Washington on the road or beating Orlando by two at home? Maybe it just says that it's a long season both to play and to watch and our concerns might be rather beside the point unless the Hawks play such lackluster ball once the playoffs begin.

Joe Johnson takes a leadership position:
"It’s been frustrating to watch. For some reason we don’t seem to have the same enthusiasm or burst of energy [on the road] as we do at home. That’s something we’ve got to work on, now. We are 80 games into the season."
It's a terrible shame the Hawks spoiled their perfect road record in Joe Johnson's absence.

Flip Saunders takes a more accurate tack than the typical "young and athletic" description of the Hawks:
"I told our team at halftime that the way Atlanta was playing was just like a typical veteran team that is basically going to play, play, play then turn things up in the fourth quarter. Atlanta played like a veteran team that is a 50-plus win team. They hang in games then turn it up in the fourth quarter by making adjustments."

1 comment:

Pearson said...

I thought it was interesting how Woody actually stuck with a lineup with 3 bench players throughout the entire 4th quarter. The lineup was working, and Woody stuck with it. Maybe this is a step in the right direction for Woody and in game adjustments. However, I won't hold my breath on that one.

Along the same lines, hats off to Crawford, Evans, and Pachulia tonight. All three gave a lot coming off the bench for the Hawks last night.