Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 119 Memphis Grizzlies 104

Box Score

Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 96
57.5 33.8
23.1 15.6
MEM 98 1.061 48.8

There's no diminishing the value of an easy road win, but there are legitimate reasons not to set the ease with which the Atlanta Hawks dismissed the Grizzlies in Memphis as the standard against which the Hawks should henceforth be judged. It was a good performance by the Hawks, but one clearly aided and abetted by their hosts.

Marc Gasol's absence and Zach Randolph's early exit gave the Hawks an opportunity to control the defensive glass. To their credit, they took advantage of that opportunity and maximized the advantage by consistently pushing the ball up the court after Memphis misses to the tune of 26 fast break points. The Grizzlies led the league in offensive rebound rate last season. Take that away from them and they're a well below-average offensive team even before accounting for the loss of efficient post scoring from Gasol and Randolph.

Thus, there's little comfort to be taken from the Hawks allowing 1.061 points per possession. Despite the good rebounding, Marvin Williams's good work in the first half in shutting down Rudy Gay, and Josh Smith's spectacularly effective help defense, the team's familiar defensive problems defined much of the night. Mike Conley (23 points on 15 shots, 8 assists) inflicted most of his damage when matched up against Mike Bibby but both Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson had chances to prove they still can't stay slow even a nominal NBA point guard.

Without Zach Randolph, Lionel Hollins went small at the start of the second half and, with both Gay and Sam Young in the game, Memphis could consistently take advantage of the fact that the Hawks employ only one player capable of guarding small forwards. Hollins deserves credit for that move as well as blame for putting out lineups of Acie Law/Tony Allen/Sam Young/Darrell Arthur/Hasheem Thabeet and Law/Allen/Xavier Henry/Demarre Carroll/Thabeet late in the third quarter to help turn a 6-point deficit into a 16-point hole by quarter's end.

Larry Drew inspired a couple of minor worries himself: sitting Al Horford for the final 20:33 of the first half after he picked up his second personal foul, then bringing Josh Powell off the bench before Zaza Pachulia in the third quarter despite Pachulia's 13 point, 9 rebound first half. Neither decision affected the outcome of the game but are both worth watching going forward.

The lowering of expectations out of the way, it must be said that the defining element of the game was the ease with which the Hawks scored. In addition to his fine defense, Marvin Williams scored 15 points on just 6 shots. Mike Bibby mitigated his poor defense to a fine degree by scoring 19 points on 9 shots, making all 4 of his three-point attempts, and earning 4 assists against a single turnover. The aforementioned Pachulia finished with 17 points on 7 shots (plus 7 free throw attempts) and 5 offensive rebounds.

Jamal Crawford needed 11 shots to score 13 points and Joe Johnson used 16 shots and 11 free throw attempts to score 22 but neither forced the offensive action to any serious degree. That Johnson got the the line 11 times should be cause for celebration in Atlanta (as well as concern in Memphis for their lack of interior depth) as should his 7 assists, many of them courtesy of his teammates' movement off-the-ball punishing the Memphis defense for the attention paid Johnson.
Larry Drew's motion offense will face tougher tests but it cleared its initial hurdle with much room to spare.

Only Josh Smith and Al Horford really struggled* offensively. Horford's failure to get in rhythm could plausibly be linked to his foul trouble. Smith's problems were purely self-inflicted.

Josh Smith's shot chart vs. Memphis, 10.27.10

Seven of Smith's ten field goal attempts were taken outside of 17 feet. He made just two of those shots, including his only three-point attempt. Smith converted all three of his attempts inside the paint. He also earned 4 assists in just 25 minutes, demonstrating once again how self-indulgence can't fully negate his gifts.

*Bad as he looked both catching passes and forcing shots, Josh Powell was 3-7 from the floor and committed just one turnover.


Anonymous said...

It was nice to see Marvin play well and hopefully they will try to get him the ball more in scoring situations, but the amount of jump shots J-Smoov took is ridiculous maybe 2-3 a game at most. I liked the motion offense but I'd like to see how long it will last especially when we play the good defenses in the NBA

Bronnt said...

I'm going to be on the look-out for the return of the "two foul" policy. Horford was an obvious victim, but both Mo Evans and Josh Smith were also benched for the duration of the first half upon picking up their second fouls. I'll give Larry Drew the benefit of the doubt for now.

The Casey said...

Yeah, I'm hoping that Horford sitting the duration of the first was more a side effect of how well Zaza and, to a lesser extent, New Josh were playing than the ol' Woody knee-jerk.

Bret LaGree said...

Bronn --

I figure Mo Evans could have been limited for health reasons. Plus, having written a modest advocacy for Marvin Williams to lead the team in minutes this season, I felt it would have been churlish to fold Evans into that concern regarding The Horford Treatment given his struggles to defend frontcourt players.

JMar said...

I too had little problem with keeping Al on the bench. Zaza wasn't just playing well, he was playing great - there was no reason to expect Horford to be better at this particular time.

jrauch said...

I don't necessarily understand the move to keep Al planted on the bench because Zaza's playing great.
Didn't LD extoll the virtues this preseason of playing Zaza more so Al could flourish at the 4 spot?

Why not run Al back out there at the 4 while Zaza is tearing it up? My fear is the Woody Rule still lives.