Alvin Gentry on Al Horford:
"I don’t think anyone in the league works harder than Horford does on either end of the floor. Whatever they signed him for, it’s a bargain. He’s a stud."Neither Michael Cunningham:
Al has done a pretty good job when switched on Nash in the past. This time, though, Nash attacked the basket instead of settling for long, contested jumpers. Once he got Al thinking about that, he burned him with step-backs.Nor Matt Moore were as impressed with Al Horford's defense on Steve Nash as I:
The Hawks managed to make it all the way to the end of the game without their penchant for switching killing them. Then Al Horford got switched onto Steve Nash. Swish. Channing Frye‘s in-the-block, “where did that come from” bucket was just the icing.I should have found room to discuss the Frye basket that put Phoenix up 114-112 in the recap. It was a play Phoenix used regularly as an alternative to screen-and-roll. On the right block, Frye set a screen for Jason Richardson to run a curl. Mike Bibby had consistently gotten caught on that screen leading to open looks for Richardson. The Hawks switched that screen. Josh Smith cut off the passing lane between Nash and Richardson. That left Frye on the block with Bibby behind him. Nash hit Frye, Frye backed Bibby down with a dribble, made a quick move over his right shoulder, and hit a floating jump hook before any help arrived.
Not that help looked likely to arrive. Horford was on the opposite wing matched up against Turkoglu. Joe Johnson had Steve Nash at the top of the key. Jamal Crawford was next to Grant Hill behind the basket on the left baseline. Josh Smith was, perhaps, late in helping Bibby though a reluctance to leave Richardson all alone at the three-point line is a reasonable instinct even if, in this instance, it probably overrated Frye's ability to pass effectively out of the post.
Larry Drew was closer to my estimation of Horford's work against Nash:
"We have had some success with switching with Nash. Tonight he made some shots, which we knew chances are he was going to make some. We got a little complacent on a few of the Childress drives where that didn’t call for any help. We got sucked in and he kicked out to shooters. That’s failure to execute the gameplan."There's a (time-permitting) future Bet It Hit Rim episode brewing on the subject of Horford's on-the-ball defense against Nash compared to his teammates' off-the-ball defense. Just from memory though, the Josh Childress and-1 with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter came as a result of Joe Johnson's lax defense of a Childress cut into the lane after Horford cut Nash off in the lane and forced him toward the right corner.
Larry Drew on switching against the Suns:
"The thing that hurt us as far as the switches, we couldn’t match up the way we wanted to match up if you don’t have perimeters when they go small. You have to go small along with them, especially when you play big and playing big is not effective. Tonight was a clear case how bad we needed a Marvin or a Mo so we could look at going a lot smaller and trying some other things defensively."I'd argue that the cause-and-effect is backwards there, that starting Jason Collins is a willingness to play not effective in order to play big.
"Tonight was a clear case how bad we needed a Marvin or a Mo so we could look at going a lot smaller and trying some other things defensively."Or, you know, how clearly the Hawks needed a backup for Marvin Williams rather than four centers, two of whom can't play.
"Down the stretch we couldn't get the key stops we normally get on defense."On Friday, Neil Paine posted offensive and defensive efficiency adjusted for opposition on the Basketball-Reference.com blog. The Hawks ranked 18th in the league in adjusted defensive efficiency. This weekend, Wayne Winston did the same at Mathletics. He had the Hawks as better-than-average defensively, but below average overall on the young season.
The lesson: It's too early to define normal with any certainty for this team.
The presumption: Getting key stops would be evidence of significant defensive improvement over previous Hawks teams.
Josh Childress on receiving boos upon his return to Atlanta:
"I didn't expect it. I played here for four years. Every single night I played with maximum energy and effort. I don't think fans realized the business side of it. They don't know what went on in negotiations. If they felt they need to boo me, so what? I wish them well."Childress was underrated (within the organization most of all) the entire time he played (and played well) for the Hawks and may not have received anything more than the qualifying offer from the Hawks when he was a restricted free agent. The reception he received was sadly fitting. Even in his current nine-fingered state, he'd be the fourth-best player on this Hawks team.
The Hawks are looking ahead to facing Orlando in Orlando tonight.
"We've got to go down there and be men on a mission. We are playing a team that has pretty much had its way with us the last few games. As I told the guys, it's time for us to go stand up and be counted. We have got to go down there and see what we are made of."Joe Johnson:
"It's time for us to to go there and make a statement."Josh Smith:
"We have just got to go out there carefree and take it to them. Their defense seems to bother us a little bit. We just let certain things get to us, and we can't let that happen."Chief among those certain things: better players, an offensive game plan that maximizes their individual strengths, and a top-to-bottom organizational commitment to playing defense.