Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 100 Cleveland Cavaliers 88


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 89
47 25
29.2 7.9
CLE 87 1.011 46.6

Though the game was as close as four points with less than four minutes left, the final score is a fair representation of the contest.The Hawks started and finished strong, made a bunch of bad shots, then missed a bunch of good shots during the middle of the game before taking advantage of the willingness of Mo Williams, Boobie Gibson, and Anthony Parker to keep the ball away from JJ Hickson on several fourth quarter possessions.

Unlike in the 99-95 win over Washington on Saturday night, Joe Johnson was not guilty of similar possession gluttony. Yes, he finished with just 15 points on 21 shots but 11 of those 21 shots came inside the paint and another 6 were three-point attempts. Johnson simply failed to convert a typical percentage from either high-percentage location. He also, typically, struggled to get to the free throw line, earning but two trips to the charity stripe. Three of Johnson's nine assists came in the final 5:33 as the Hawks generally eschewed isolation sets in favor of player and ball movement down the stretch.

As in the Washington game, Johnson had lots of (needed) offensive help from his teammates. Marvin Williams led the way, scoring 22 points on 12 shots from all areas of the floor. Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford combined for 31 points on 17 shots and turned the ball over just once between them (Crawford was the guilty party) in 49 minutes of playing time.

Al Horford sat for the final 94 seconds of the first half after picking up his second foul (Jason Collins came off the bench for a trillion) and he and Josh Smith again watched Zaza Pachulia and Josh Powell from the bench for the first half of the fourth quarter but Horford squeezed 16 points, 12 rebounds (half of them offensive), and 4 assists into just under 31 minutes of playing time. Horford also provided a couple of quality defensive possessions on JJ Hickson late in the game to keep things relatively comfortable for the Hawks.

Larry Drew switched Horford onto Hickson because the 31 points Hickson scored were far more indicative of Josh Smith's defensive performance than Smith's five blocked shots and two steals. Smith added five more jump shots (out of eleven field goal attempts) and missed both of his free throw attempts. As always, Smith deeply intertwines the good with the bad. Thus his 11 rebounds and 4 assists deserve mention.

Outside of Crawford the bench was not especially productive but neither did they do anything to shake the faith Drew has shown in the second unit thus far. It remains to be seen if that faith will continue to be as absolute as the level of competition rises but it certainly hasn't hurt the Hawks in any meaningful way through four games. Which is the most encouraging thing about the 4-0 start: the Hawks aren't playing remarkable basketball, simply good basketball at a, one hopes, sustainable level.

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