Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Jersey Nets 107 Atlanta Hawks 101 (OT)



Hoopdata boxscore


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 95
51.1 11.2
NJ 95
1.126 51.3

When they share the court, Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby are redundant. Their offensive strengths overlap and they don't play especially well together. They shared the court for over 19 minutes against the Nets. Bibby didn't score a single point in that time and Crawford scored just 8 of his 21 points alongside Bibby. He scored his other 13 points in the 18 minutes Bibby wasn't on the court alongside him.

Defensively, they're two of the worst perimeter players in the league. Bibby is ineffective but is generally where he needs to be. More importantly, Bibby is where his teammates expect him to be. Crawford is completely unpredictable in how he'll screw up defensive rotations which, combined with his abysmal defensive rebounding, puts tremendous stress on his teammates.

Except for the final defensive possession of regulation (when Marvin Williams replaced Bibby) and the final 19 seconds of overtime (when Jeff Teague replaced Bibby) Crawford and Bibby shared the court for the final 13 minutes and 10 seconds of the game. It did not work. Bibby didn't attempt a single shot, earned one assist, and grabbed two defensive rebounds in that time. Crawford scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, on just 5 shots, but he turned the ball over twice and was a big part of why Devin Harris had 10 points (on 6 shots) and earned 3 assists while Anthony Morrow added 11 points (on 4 shots) in the fourth quarter and overtime.

It's very difficult to get a sufficient number of stops when you play a point guard and a lead guard so poor defensively that you have to put your biggest guard, himself a sub-par defender, on the opposing team's quickest player and primary ball-handler down the stretch.

Perhaps, if Marvin Williams or Jeff Teague spent more than the final defensive seconds of the game on the court the game wouldn't have come down to the final seconds. Both played well, if far from spectacularly. Williams keyed a nice team defensive stretch* early in the second quarter, playing the point on a matchup zone. Williams knocked down a three-pointer to pull the Hawks within 1 with 1:39 left in the third quarter. He was substituted 27 seconds later and didn't play another offensive possession. Teague was far more successful in his first half stint, scoring both his points, earning both his assists, and twice picking New Jersey pockets than in his second half stint where he committed two turnovers.

*The Hawks were within two points when he left the game at the 6:58 mark of the second quarter. They were down eight when he re-appeared at the start of the second half.

The frontcourt rotations weren't appreciably better for the Hawks. The Horford Treatment reappeared and it brought with it the Pachulia Corollary. Horford picked up his second personal foul with 4:11 left in the first half and the Hawks down two. Since Pachulia (who would play just 10 minutes and 46 seconds in the game) already had two fouls, in lumbered Jason Collins who got to foul Kris Humphries twice, got to watch Brook Lopez score two quick buckets, and stood there while both Humphries and Lopez grabbed an offensive rebound. An action-packed four minutes (including a defensive rebound, bringing his DR% back over 8.0 and inching ahead of Mike Bibby's) for the bulky lynchpin. When he left the game, the Hawks were down eight.

Horford, of course, finished regulation with three personal fouls and the overtime period with five personal fouls so Larry Drew effectively fouled out his best player four minutes early. Not that the Hawks exhibited any indication of who their best player was when Horford played. Unlike the Nets, who took a page out of Boston's Monday night book, quickly and frequently got the ball to Brook Lopez in positions where his size was an advantage over Horford, the Hawks ignored their leading and most efficient scorer for much of the opening period. Horford had three touches in the 9 minutes and 5 seconds he played in the first quarter. The Hawks scored 5 of their 21 first quarter points as a result of those rare instances of involving Horford.

Here's what an off-night for Horford looks like: 14 points on 11 shots, 10 rebounds (3 offensive), 5 assists, and 1 turnover.

Here's what an increasingly typical* night looks like for franchise player Joe Johnson: 16 points on 18 shots (0 points on 4 shots in overtime), 8 assists, 6 rebounds (1 offensive), and 2 turnovers.

Neither acquitted themselves especially well defensively, though it should be noted that Brook Lopez scored 8 of his 32 points and grabbed 2 of his 4 offensive rebounds in the nine minutes he was not sharing the court with Horford and Joe Johnson was, ridiculously and hopelessly, asked to stay in front of Devin Harris.

*Johnson's True Shooting Percentage is now 49.8% on the season. And he still comfortably leads the team in usage rate. And no combination of injury and ineffectiveness will limit his playing time.

Twice it appeared as if Josh Smith's playing time was tied to his shot selection (9-21 from the floor, 1-6 from outside 16 feet, no jump shots after he was pulled from the game four minutes into the second half), a coaching decision many could get behind, one even more could get behind were it not tied to Josh Powell's minutes. Even on a night when Powell played well by his standards: 6 points on 6 shots, 4 rebounds (1 offensive), and no turnovers in 18:47, he was far less productive than the historically superior Pachulia: 4 points on 4 shots, 6 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 assists, and no turnovers in 10:46.

In a game that's tied after 48 minutes, do you really want to look back and wish you'd played your better players more? That you'd built your offense around your best player?

Larry Drew:
"We just have to keep working. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Throughout the season you are going to have ups and downs. You have to learn how to handle adversity and it makes you stronger."
You also have to learn how not to create your own adversity.

Jamal Crawford:
"The effort was there. It just didn’t go our way. We expended so much energy getting back in the game we didn’t have enough to finish."
This is what effort gets you: a narrow loss in New Jersey. Talent remains king and defense remains a talent.

Mike Bibby:
"You lose some games. You can’t win all 82. We’ve got a lot of games left. We can’t get down."
Michael Cunningham on the decidedly familiar look of the offense last night:
The Hawks went retro with some Iso-Joe and Jamal. It was a mixed bag. They rallied behind a combined 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting from those two in the fourth quarter. But costly turnovers by both cost them possessions when the game was there to be taken late in regulation.
The Human Highlight Blog on the same subject:
The Hawks scrapped the new motion/flex offense in favor of a handoff heavy isolation offense featuring the two players that have been struggling the most offensively: Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford.

So gone were the open looks that Al Horford would get out of the flex. Not a single Joe Johnson cutting to the hoop to get a pass from Horford with Bibby setting the back screen. Nope, we got Horford hunched over with his back to the basket, straining to handoff to his outside shooting overlords and a series of what Nique always calls "tough shots" for the backcourt.

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