Sunday, October 31, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 99 Washington Wizards 95



Hoopdata Boxscore


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
52.6 19.7
21.1 19.6
ATL 92 1.076 45.1

They're not all going to pretty but even a game that only an illegal screen fetishist could truly enjoy can be instructive and Saturday night's 99-95 win over the Washington Wizards taught us some things about Larry Drew. We should expect overreaction to early fouls. We should expect a willingness to risk losing a game in order to give some starters extended rest. We should not expect quality of defense or infrequency of shots made to affect the playing time of any tenured members of the backcourt.

So Joe Johnson plays 43-and-a-half minutes, uses 23 shots and 4 free throw attempts to score 25 points while turning the ball over 4 times and earning 3 assists. On the other hand, Al Horford is limited to 25-and-a-half minutes because he committed two fouls in the first eight minutes and four seconds of the game. He finished with three fouls. He also finished with 21 points on 10 shots and 10 free throw attempts, grabbed 10 rebounds, earned 3 assists of his own, and turned the ball over just once.

When in the game, Horford looked constantly to attack to create easy shots for himself and his teammates. Yet Drew preferred using five minutes of the first half playing the slimmer but still profoundly limited Jason Collins rather than risk Horford actually getting in mild foul trouble. Collins squeezed three turnovers, two fouls, a defensive rebound, a block, and a 17-foot jumper into those five minutes. I suspect Horford might have provided more.

Somewhat similarly, Jamal Crawford played the final 15 minutes and 53 seconds of the game, the last 11:37 alongside both Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson, insuring little perimeter or transition defense, and even less help on the glass. Crawford made just 1 of 7 shots during this period and Jamal Crawford provides no other value to augment his scoring. Crawford, Bibby, and Johnson combined for 7 rebounds in 108 minutes of play and helped John Wall keep the Wizards in the game. Marvin Williams spaces the floor almost as well as Crawford and Bibby, doesn't turn the ball over, rebounds, plays defense, and doesn't keep the ball out of the hands of Horford or Josh Smith. Williams didn't play a second of the fourth quarter.

The above isn't to denigrate the team, the coach, or argue against the value of the victory. It's to point out the margin for error this team possesses and to acknowledge the very real reasons for optimism. On a night where John Wall had his way, Al Thornton celebrated being back home, and the Wizards played some pretty effective zone defense for stretches the Hawks won reasonably comfortably despite poor shooting from Johnson and Crawford, needlessly wasting Horford on the bench for most of the first half, Josh Smith throwing up two more long two-point jumpers (He's 4-15, 33.3 eFG% outside of 15 feet on the season now), and throwing away minutes on Jason Collins and Josh Powell. This team needn't be at its best to win. Still, it would be nice to see them make best use of their resources.

Joe Johnson:
"I'm a shooter. I've got to keep shooting."
Larry Drew on Joe Johnson:
"He’s our guy. We rely on him a lot down the stretch. I told him I don’t want him to get discouraged. We put the ball in his hands at the end of games."
Larry Drew differs in some obvious ways from his predecessor. In other ways he differs not at all.

Mark Bradley:
As much as we might want to call these the Same Old Hawks, they’re not quite. (Not that being the Same Old Hawks was all that terrible. They did win 53 games and claim the No. 3 seed in the NBA East last season.) But they’re not the Brand New Hawks, either.

I know. It’s kind of confusing. The Hawks won Friday in Philadelphia with Joe Johnson taking fewer shots than Al Horford or Josh Smith and working the fourth-fewest minutes among starters. They won here Saturday with Johnson playing 43 minutes and 28 seconds — a regulation game is 48 minutes — and taking eight of the team’s 20 fourth-quarter shots and scoring five of its nine fourth-quarter baskets.

Said Drew: “Joe — obviously he’s our guy.”

Which sounded odd, given that Drew’s case for being promoted to head coach was essentially, “I’m not like Mike.” (Meaning Mike Woodson, who requested two weeks ago in a high-decibel phone conversation that his name no longer be invoked in this correspondent’s discussion of the Hawks. That request has been inspected and rejected.)

Woodson’s Way was to give the ball to Johnson — Iso-Joe, as it became known — and get out of his way. The Drew Method involves more ball movement and less reliance on one man. And yet, come the season’s third game, here was Joe Johnson doing pretty much the Joe Johnson thing.

1 comment:

jrauch said...

Did Mike stare at the phone, befuddled for 20 minutes before figuring out how to dial to call you?