Friday, November 26, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 116 Washington Wizards 96




Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
40.9 27.3
ATL 93
1.247 51.7

What a relaxing holiday.

Just the Wizards? Sure, but keep in mind the Hawks haven't blown out a lesser team since opening night. If there are particulars that temper one's excitement over the comprehensive victory (Al Horford getting the majority of his shots (6 of 11) and points (9 of 15) off of the offensive glass, Josh Smith's fondness for the long two-point jumper, whatever's going on with Jeff Teague's minutes) then one also has to acknowledge, for the sake of fairness, the atypically fine job the Hawks did of bottling up John Wall and Gilbert Arenas (exactly the sort of two-headed, off-the-dribble guard attack that has bedeviled the Hawks for years) and getting the perimeter players involved in the defensive rebounding effort. If that sort of defensive performance* on the perimeter can be replicated against better teams, teams not playing on the road on a holiday evening, then the dream of 50 wins is not dead.

*Note the extremely intentional choice not to use the word "effort."

The Hawks have never failed to understand how they play their best, they just struggle to achieve that level of performance. One, because it's difficult to do. Two, because their opponents just as clearly understand how the Hawks play their best and try to thwart them. Three, because their lack of depth, both in numbers and in the number of well-rounded players, limits their margin for error. Firing on all cylinders, this is a team to behold. It's a sight for sore eyes at this point in time but let's not fail to appreciate the degree of difficulty involved in a good performance regardless of the quality of the opponent.

Less encouraging were the immediate lessons some of the players and head coach took from the victory.

Larry Drew:
"They had to bring energy. That was the most important thing. It wasn’t about the game plan. It wasn’t about our strategy. The first line of business was to bring energy. That type energy I saw today I had not seen for a few games, especially from start to finish."
Josh Smith:
"We really did bring the energy and the effort tonight. We were able to bring it at both ends of the court. We were just helping each other out and having fun."
Mo Evans:
"We only put up one word on the board: 'Energy.' I think we fulfilled that. Everybody played with a lot of intensity, a lot of energy, and we played together for the first time in a long time."
In a sentiment sure to shock regular readers, I'm far more taken with Al Horford's analysis:
"The big emphasis was blocking out. McGee had been playing so well coming into this game. We held him off as best we could. I think our guards played a huge role coming in and making sure they helped out with the long rebounds."
To be fair, Larry Drew expounded on the fine defensive game plan the players executed so well:
"We made it a point to make sure we shadow wall and have a big guy somewhere in the vicinity and keep him from getting into the gaps. But then we have to defend the 3-point line with Gilbert and Nick Young and I think we did a good job of that."
Larry Drew on Joe Johnson:
"I thought Joe looked like the Joe of old. Just watching the ball come off his release, it had the rotation on it. He wasn’t hesitating. Hopefully he can sustain that and keep looking for his shot."
I don't think anyone need worry about that.

The Human Highlight Blog on Joe Johnson:
I appreciated that, except for a couple of instances, he was committed to keeping the ball moving. And it was good to see him hit open shots, too. Funny how the percentages start going up when the ball starts moving around.
Sebastian Pruiti breaks down a nifty flex set the Hawks used to get Josh Smith open in the lane last night. This one also features a key Mike Bibby screen.

Kris Willis praises the Hawks' domination of the glass:
Don't let the final rebounding margin of 49-38 fool you because it wasn't that close. Washington racked up some offensive boards in garbage time to help trim that gap. In reality this Hawks team controlled the glass from the outset and raced off to the tune of 16 first quarter fast break points. When the Hawks are rebounding the basketball they can score in transition even when they are not necessarily looking to. Al Horford and Josh Smith combined to grab 27 of those 49 rebounds but make no mistake that it was a collective effort on the boards with even the likes of Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford throwing their bodies into Wizards players in an attempt to block out.
Mike Prada at Bullets Forever puts some of the blame of Washington's rebounding woes on Flip Saunders's zone defense:
On their own, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee are a subpar defensive rebounding duo (though McGee has made great strides here). Neither guy really knows how to box out well, and while McGee makes up for it with tremendous athleticism, there's a distinct lack of meat-and-potatoes play necessary to control your defensive glass. But when you go zone, it makes the problem worse. The bigs are now responsible for an area, not a man, which makes it even more difficult to box out. You're also forcing those two to step up and contest shots from the short corner and the high post, both holes in any zone defense. That leaves the basket area uncovered, and while a guard is supposed to rotate down, he has no chance boxing out guys like Al Horford and Josh Smith.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Should I really believe Larry Drew is speaking exactly what's on his mind when he gives post-game quotes, or should I assume he's bullshitting the media, telling them what they want to hear, et cetera, for the purposes of gamesmanship (aka making sure everyone else doesn't know what the Hawks have been/are going to be working on)? What should I do?