Friday, October 29, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 104 Philadelphia 76ers 101


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 92
55.7 37.1
29.4 21.7
PHI 94 1.074 44.1

The Hawks held on to win but, in doing so, exhibited some familiar fourth quarter problems: little ball movement, an inability to identify favorable matchups, an inability to put the team's best players on the floor, and poor transition defense.

For most of the fourth quarter, the Hawks put the ball in the hands of Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford and asked them to create offense for themselves. Now, the Hawks did this almost exclusively in screen-and-roll rather than isolation sets but the mode of attack remained predictable. Making it more difficult, the 76ers could guard Johnson with Andre Iguodala and Crawford with Jrue Holiday. Crawford managed just two points and two turnovers and Johnson scored six points (two of those coming off of four attempts earned via intentional Philadelphia fouls in the final 12 seconds) on three field goal attempts and six free throw attempts while committing three turnovers. The 6 Atlanta live-ball turnovers (they committed 3 more turnovers on offensive fouls) in the fourth quarter led to 12 Philadelphia fast break points. For the game, 29 of Philadelphia's 101 points came in transition.

Thus, the Hawks consistently attempted to attack the strength of Philadelphia's defense rather than to get the ball to Al Horford against Elton Brand. Horford made all three field goals he attempted in the fourth quarter. Complicating matters, Josh Smith got himself benched for 2 minutes and 40 seconds of the fourth quarter following an offensive foul/technical foul exacta. For reasons he alone knows, Larry Drew chose to replace Smith with Josh Powell (6 points on 5 shots, 4 rebounds in 22 minutes on the night, and no history of success playing in the NBA) rather than Zaza Pachulia (7 points on 5 shots , 7 rebounds in 14 minutes on the night, and a history of success playing in the NBA). Drew also preferred both Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby to Marvin Williams from the 8:30 mark (Hawks up 81-70) to the 0:47 mark of the fourth quarter (Hawks up 102-97) which only exacerbated the transition defense problems.

The thing is, both Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford were very effective through three quarters as the Hawks made a concerted effort to push the ball up the court following missed Philadelphia shots and to move the ball in the half-court. The pair committed just three turnovers between them through three quarters and, despite their fourth quarter struggles, Johnson finished the game with 22 points on 10 shots while Crawford scored 17 on 9 shots and earned 5 assists.

Josh Smith roughly duplicated his bipolar performance in the Memphis game, exhibiting terrible shot selection on the offensive end while wreaking havoc on the defensive end. Six of Smith's eleven field goal attempts were outside 16 feet. He made two of the shots, including a contested three-pointer that extended Atlanta's lead to 5 points with 47 seconds left. Through two games, Smith is 4-13 from outside 16 feet, good for a 38.5 eFG%. Inside of 16 feet, Smith is 5-8 from the floor (62.5 eFG%) and 3-4 from the line. Smith added six blocks to the five he recorded in Memphis, bringing his season total to 11 in 54 minutes on the court.

The good news is significant, both in size and import. The Hawks are 2-0 without having played at home. They're 2-0 despite self-negating play from Josh Smith, despite a terrible game from Al Horford in Memphis, despite a poor team effort in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia, and despite Jeff Teague still being firmly entrenched as the backup point guard. Things have not gone perfectly, and the Hawks are 2-0.

There will be stiffer tests (though likely not on Saturday night) and greater obstacles to overcome. Eventually, Larry Drew will lose a game he coaches. It hasn't happened yet. The season's off to a good start.

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