Monday, December 06, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 80 Orlando Magic 74

Boxscore

Team
Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL
87
0.920
41.8
10.6
22.2
16.1
ORL 87
0.851 40.5
18.9
23.8
19.5

It's extraordinarily pleasant to see the home team do something different and logical, something that acknowledged the team's weaknesses, the head coach's weaknesses, and attempts to transcend them.

The Hawks are a jump shooting team. The Magic are a team that forces difficult jump shots and doesn't let their opponents rebound the misses. Thus, it's going to be very difficult for the Hawks to outscore* the Magic as they do most opponents. So why not start a defensive lineup?

*To get to 80 tonight, the Hawks needed four late free throws courtesy of intentional Orlando fouls plus 13 points off of Josh Smith jump shots.

Whether one judges Jason Collins to be a good defender at this point in his career or just a formidable obstacle his presence on the court, through two games against the Magic, has given the Hawks the self-possession not to panic every time Dwight Howard gets involved in an offensive possession. (It also helps keep Al Horford out of fake foul trouble.) Granted, that's been much easier given Jameer Nelson's absence but Larry Drew didn't have to gameplan for Nelson tonight so he didn't. Instead, he dared Chris Duhon to beat his team.

By Duhon's established standards, 7 points on 6 shots and a couple of assists isn't bad. By the standards of an NBA point guard matched up against Mike Bibby, those are meager numbers. Bibby consistently went under ball-screens, willing to let Duhon shoot. To Duhon's credit, he didn't. Such discretion did little to help move the Orlando offense toward a good shot, though.

Furthermore, Drew cleverly attempted to leverage his big, defensive lineup into an offensive advantage. If Dwight Howard was going to guard Jason Collins, then the Hawks were going to post up Al Horford against Rashard Lewis and Josh Smith against Quentin Richardson as much as possible. I can't remember Smith and Horford getting the ball on the block as often as they did tonight. It wasn't an especially productive strategy. The Hawks guards didn't prove too adept at feeding the post. When Orlando doubled the post, their rotations encouraged the Hawks to find Jason Collins as the open man. When the Hawks got the ball to Horford or Smith and they weren't in the post, they were isolated on the wing and forced to try to create offense off the dribble. Thus, the uncharacteristic seven turnovers they committed between them.

The Atlanta Hawks beat the Orlando Magic in Orlando without a single player having a good offensive game and it's this uncharacteristic nature of the victory that gives it its power. The Hawks won without shooting well. They won without dominating the offensive glass. They won despite scoring just two fast break points. They won due to a combination of self-awareness, adaptability, and, yes, effort. It might be a one-off. That might not matter. There aren't many teams as deep, as well-designed, and as well-coached as the Orlando Magic. Tonight, the Atlanta Hawks solved a difficult problem and that achievement should, in and of itself, be sufficient. No qualifications or caveats necessary.

2 comments:

THHB said...

Tonight, the Atlanta Hawks solved a difficult problem and that achievement should, in and of itself, be sufficient. No qualifications or caveats necessary.

Well said sir...and it was a joy to watch.

Pearson said...

Good recap Bret, as always. I thought the Hawks also took advantage of the physicality being allowed by the referees in getting screens. The referees were allowing both teams to get away with some hand checking I thought, and I think it helped some Hawks defenders create some space for them between their man and the screener when they had to. This helped decrease the Orlando ballhandler's options as the Hawks didn't have to desperately rotate to help on the ball handler and/or Howard. Not watching the Magic shoot wide open threes all game was definately a welcome sight. Kudos to the Hawks for bringing it defensively last night, hopefully their will be more to come on that end (and hopefully more Nelson DNPs when they play Atlanta).