Monday, December 20, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 91 Orlando Magic 81


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 92
0.989 45

Even with the loss in New Jersey it's been a promising weekend for Larry Drew. Friday, the Horford Treatment abated. Tonight, Josh Powell disappeared. Even better, it was Zaza Pachulia (2 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists in 10:47) playing in Powell's stead. With the exception of a dicey stretch of the third quarter and the odd fourth quarter possession when they forced the ball to Joe Johnson (17 points on 18 shots, 6 assists against 5 turnovers), the Hawks ran their offense through Al Horford and were amply rewarded: 24 points on 15 shots, 11 rebounds, 4 assists (3 of them leading to three-point buckets), and no turnovers. Marvin Williams played the entire fourth quarter and was everywhere, scoring 10 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and earning an assist in the final quarter while extending and/or salvaging a handful of potentially empty offensive possessions.

The Hawks, it appears, possess a sound defensive strategy against the Orlando Magic. Yes, that strategy involves Jason Collins and thus is less than ideal but Collins inclusion serves the greater good and, whatever his individual limitations, they're more than made up for by the way his teammates now defend the three-point line. Rather than the panicked scramble which once characterized Atlanta's defensive possessions against the Magic, the Hawks now stay at home and refuse to grant the Orlando shooters absolute freedom on the perimeter.

Through three games against the Hawks this season, the Magic are 12-61 from beyond the arc. Even better, the Hawks lured the Magic into taking 19 long two-point jumpers tonight, of which they made five. That's five more of those low percentage shot attempts than Orlando averages. Last season, especially in the playoffs, Orlando could get whatever shot they wanted against the Hawks. That's no longer the case and there's basically no amount of Dwight Howard post-ups and trips to the free throw line (as long as it's mostly not either Al Horford or Josh Smith sending him to the line) that can put the Hawks away in and of themselves. Especially on a night that features a 13 point quarter from Mike Bibby and Josh Smith (though he struggled to get the ball in the bucket) fully committed to defending and rebounding.

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