Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 116 New Jersey Nets 101



Hoopdata boxscore


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 90
1.289 64.1

One night they win with defense and asymmetry. The next night they coast to victory on the back of an offensive onslaught. A team that contains multitudes or just one of those things? I don't think one can doubt the varied and significant abilities of Josh Smith and Al Horford. Nor can one doubt the difference in defensive quality between the Orlando Magic and the New Jersey Nets. Suffice it to say, the Hawks cannot count either on holding opponents to 74 points on 87 possessions nor scoring 116 points on 90 possessions with any regularity. Accomplishing those feats on successive nights simply provides the spice of life.

It would be harsh to fault the Hawks for a workmanlike effort against the Nets. However important the victory of the Magic may or may not be in the grand scheme of things, it had to be immediately draining both physically and emotionally and it's not like the home crowd* was going to give them a boost.

*I really dislike complaining about the home crowd because 1) there's an inference one includes the fans who do go to the game for lacking something and 2) at some level you're criticizing people for a lack of disposable time and income. Still, that was a disappointing crowd, both in size and volume, to welcome the Hawks back after the win in Orlando.

I declared the game over when Avery Johnson called timeout immediately following the Jason Collins that put the Hawks up 16 with 8:24 left in the third quarter. Tot heir credit, the visitors did not fold completely. They scored 50 points in the final 20 minutes of the game and pulled within six with 4:08 left in the game. But they never looked like they could stop the Hawks when Smith and Horford were both on the floor and allowed 49 points over the final 20 minutes. The Hawks scored on eight straight possessions after New Jersey pulled within six, with Horford making three buckets and a pair of free throws, Smith setting Mike Bibby up for a layup, Jamal Crawford making a couple of shots off the dribble, and Marvin Williams knocking down two free throws.

Smith, Horford, and Crawford were the story of the game. They scored 84 of Atlanta's 116 points and assisted on another 13 points. Horford was +25, Crawford was +19, and Smith was +17. In this game, for those three players, single-game plus/minus numbers are not misleading.

ESPN Stats and Information on Josh Smith's 34 points on 14-16 shooting:
[O]ver the last four seasons, only three other players have scored at least 34 points on at least 14-16 shooting: Amar’e Stoudemire (this season), Chris Bosh (2007-08) and Kevin Martin (2007-08).
Josh Smith:
"We were unselfish with the basketball, and everybody was reaping the benefits."
Smith, 12-18 from outside of 16 feet (3-6 from three-point range) over the past two games:
"I work hard on my jump shot. I’m not surprised if anything goes in. I assume it’s going to go in every time. I’m a confident player."
There will be an update to the Josh Smith: Jump Shooter? series before Friday's game.

Jamal Crawford:
"I feel a lot more comfortable (in the offense) right now."
Larry Drew on starting the big lineup again:
"Most 3’s will not be able to match up against [Smith] especially when he posts them. He’s learned to be a pretty good paleyr in the post when I can get him down there, but it does pose a problem for the opposition because they have to make a decision on whether to match up big against him or like last night (against Orlando), they matched up Quentin Richardson and I went right into the post at him and they had to change the matchup.

I think [Horford] likes the fact that he doesn’t have to get down there, every single night, bang against somebody that’s bigger and stronger. It certainly relieves him of that, puts him in a position where he can be a little fresher at the end of the game."
It's important not to go overboard with the new lineup, as well. The Hawks are +20 as a team the past two nights. They're -3 over the 34:39 Jason Collins has played.

Avery Johnson aids the argument that effort is not the secret to playing effective defense:
"I know statistically, with them shooting 60 percent from the field and the amount of points we gave up, it doesn't look good, but I thought our effort was much better tonight than it was on Sunday. Our guys tried. Unfortunately, we played a better team tonight."
At Nets Are Scorching, Mark Ginocchio appraises the New Jersey defensive performance:
Before the season began in October, one of Avery Johnson’s primary goals was to hold opposing teams to a field goal percentage of under 44 percent. It was a very ambitious goal, one that’s indicative of a top defense in this league. We liked this goal so much at Nets Are Scorching, we even keep track of this stat in the sidebar on our front page.

I’m obviously bringing this up because defensive performances like the one the Nets put forward in last night’s 116-101 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta, will go a long way in ensuring the team does not meet Johnson’s preseason goal. In allowing Atlanta to shoot 60.3 percent for the game, the Nets, while more competitive than they were in Sunday’s smackdown against Boston, had perhaps their worst defensive game of the season, though something tells me there’s plenty of time for this team to top themselves later in the season.
At Peachtree Hoops, Kris Willis offers the shorter recap:
"It is really hard to lose when you can't miss."


Adam Malka said...

The corollary to the "Josh Smith: Jump Shooter? Series" could be "Josh Smith: Small Forward? Series." If there was any way for Smith to play the three well, and thus allow Horford to play the four, it would (1) allow the team to play another big man, (2) open up all sorts of matchup advantages and, I suspect, (3) help with the team's defensive rebounding deficiencies.

But I have no idea if he could sustain the role. Nor do I think the Hawks should be playing Collins or Powell anywhere near as much as they have been.

Bret LaGree said...

Spoiler alert.