Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Orlando Magic 114 Atlanta Hawks 71


Game 1
Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 92
35.8 16
20.4 17.4
ORL 91 1.253 57.7

And through five meetings this season...

Season Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 88.7
42 15.7
16.7 14.6
ORL 88.5 1.146 53.8

I still contend that scoring against Orlando is the real challenge for the Hawks (The Hawks were down 20 at the half despite allowing 53 points on 49 possessions. Not a great performance, but below both Orlando's season average for offensive efficiency and almost exactly Atlanta's season average for defensive efficiency.) but it I suspect it would be largely self-serving to elevate one problem above all the others the Hawks put on display in Orlando tonight.

Though the Hawks got off to a decent start, it wasn't an especially convincing one. Not least of which because Mike Woodson removed Al Horford, fresh off a dominating Game 7 performance against the Bucks and arguably Atlanta's best player for the enitrety of the first-round series, just 5:44 into the game because...he had one foul?

Sort of. Woodson was saving Horford to play against Marcin Gortat when Gortat replaced Howard on the court and Horford, presumably, couldn't do that if he picked up a second foul. Somewhat predictably, Stan Van Gundy countered this strategic innovation by leaving his best player in the game against, first, Atlanta's third-string center*, then the backup center. Woodson eventually realized that Howard wasn't headed to the bench anytime soon and put Horford back in with 8:55 left in the second quarter. That's 9 minutes and 41 seconds of the first 15 minutes and 5 seconds of the game that Al Horford spent on the bench as his coach, in an effort to create a future mis-match that didn't materialize until Orlando had a 16-point lead, gifted his opponent's best player a mis-match in the present.
It was surely the nadir of The Horford Treatment and, perhaps, a mis-calculation so severe as to kill off the misguided attempt at maintaining control for good.

*Jason Collins committed two fouls in his first 15 seconds on the court. It took him 41 seconds to miss a layup. In an upset, he scored before he committed an offensive foul.

The Magic were only +6 while Horford sat but the message Woodson sent was clear: we can't beat Orlando straight up. I don't necessarily disagree with that sentiment but the solution can't be to play Al Horford less, play Jason Collins more, and continue to take the same low-percentage shots that led to the Hawks scoring less than a point per possession against the Magic in the regular season.

Yes, the Hawks led 20-18 with 2:36 left in the first quarter, trailed by just two at the end of the first quarter, and were tied at 27 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. But they took 27 shots to get those 27 points, with 10 of them being the dreaded (by Hawks partisans, not the participants themselves...nor the Magic for that matter) long-two point jumpers, with just two three-point attempts (and one those Joe Johnson's half-court heave at the end of the first quarter), and two free throw attempts.

By the time Mike Woodson threw in the towel (2:41 left in the third, Hawks down 76-44), the Hawks had attempted 23 long two-point jumpers, 31 shots fifteen feet and in, 7 three-pointers, and 7 free throws. Orlando had to be thrilled (if not surprised by) their defensive execution and that the Hawks limited their adjustments to a convoluted rotation gambit and left their offensive game plan unchanged.

It was a team-wide failure. Jamal Crawford attempted six long two-pointers. Joe Johnson attempted four. So did Al Horford. So did Marvin Williams. So did Josh Smith, despite being 7-10 (plus a missed free throw attempt) at the rim and being the closest thing the Hawks had to a demonstrably promising offensive option when he went to the basket. Mike Bibby took three long two-pointers. Zaza Pachulia got one up in the second quarter. Mo Evans attempted a couple in garbage time, presumably in an attempt to get back in the rotation.

The Hawks showed no indication that they thought this could be a problem. Even as Orlando out-scored them 60-21 across the second and third quarters. Number of two-point jump shots the Magic attempted between 16 and 23 feet in those two quarters: four. Sure, Orlando's making an effort (both physically and mentally) to force the Hawks into these shots but the Hawks appear awfully eager to take them. If they continue to indulge themselves thusly, they'll continue to lose to the Magic.

They probably won't lose by 43 again. That took a perfect storm of poor shot selection, poor shot making, poor rebounding, an unusual number of turnovers, and the mid-game deflation that occurs when the first option isn't working and you know no second option exists nor is one likely to be created on the spot.


rbubp said...

Sounds remarkably like last year.

And unfortunately, since the problem versus the Bucks was defense, an adjustment could be made because Woodster cares about that end, or so he says.

What he can do for the offensive end is apparently even less.

CoCo said...

The offense will take care of itself.

jrauch said...

Its pretty bad when every person on the TV crew last night is saying there's too much dribbling about, not enough moving the basketball.

That would involve someone drawing up plays though, which I fail to see. I think the Hawks playbook on NBA Live is deeper than what we see in the games these days.

Unknown said...

Bret, should we blame Woodson?

Matt DeFore said...

During the game, I pondered how Bret would explain this one. How would I explain how Evander Holyfield beat up my kid sister? Where would I even start?

Bret LaGree said...

Andrew --

You should blame everyone.

Unknown said...

Once again the b-ball pundits overlook the talented and deep Magic. They say Cavs are the team to beat when it was the Magic that won the East last year. They say Dwight has to grow up, but the kid is still just 24. They continue to overlook a Magic bench that includes players that should be starting on other teams - Redick, Gortat, Pieturs, Bass and even Anderson. A bench that doesn’t give up leads but expands upon them. A team where the highest paid player (Lewis) isn’t the leader, and the superstar isn’t either - Jameer Neslon. Plus they have a veteran superstar in Vince Carter who knows how to keep playing when it’s hard to find your shot, and how to do the little things that wins games. And when their superstar center is sitting, they win without him. Because this team is not built around one player. Oh, and there’s Van Gundy, a real coach with a proven ability to win tough games and has the team on a 11 game win streak. So go figure why they’ll win the East and maybe the championship.

Bret LaGree said...

Doug --

Thanks for reading. Wouldn't that speech play better below a post overlooking the Magic or written by someone who hasn't continuously held up the Magic as an example of the limitations of the Atlanta Hawks organization?

Unknown said...

Understood. My apologies if I offended. But my comments were not directed at your article per se, but more to the fact that it seems that to many (out there) it comes as a surprise that the Magic are capable of a game such as the one played last night. And my point is that it shouldn't. The Hawks are a talented team, but the Magic have a one track mind this year, to avenge last year's Finals series and it's likely to take more than a very good team to stop them.

Bret LaGree said...

Doug --

No offense taken but Hawks fans are well aware of the capacities of the Orlando magic to play excellent basketball.

Unknown said...

I totally expect the Hawks to come out Thursday and play one of their best games. Teams with heart usually do after a big loss. Who knows, this year could be the beginning of a great Southeast rivalry. Orlando has always thought of Miami as their biggest rival, but maybe here on out it's the Hawks.

Charles said...

Rivalries require a convincing degree of parity. None exists here.

Unknown said...

lol atlanta is gonna get spanked. you can analize all you want, but the outcome is orlando will steamroll all over the hawks. i find it funny how hawks fans try to find some answer to last night. the truth is hawks are not that good, and the fact that orlando is way more solid than the hawks, only draws a conclusion hawks will be out the play offs again in the second round. sorry to give a foreshadow of the hawks post season, but even stevie wonder can see that coming. lol