|Team ||Poss||Off Eff||eFG%||FT Rate||OR%||TO%|
|ATL||96 ||1.24 ||57.5||33.8 ||23.1||15.6 |
|MEM||98||1.061||48.8 ||23.3 ||20.5 ||14.3|
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.
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.