Saturday, December 04, 2010

Miami Heat 89 Atlanta Hawks 77


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIA 85
1.047 49.3

The Hawks probably don't win this game even if Al Horford plays more than 30 minutes and 31 seconds (Josh Powell was arguably the second-best Hawk tonight) but it seems perverse to increase the degree of difficulty involved in beating the Heat in Miami on the second night of a back-to-back.

Horford sat for 5:22 late in the first and early in the second quarter as part of the regular rotation. Fair enough. One minute and 32 seconds into his second quarter stint, he committed his second personal foul. Due to Larry Drew's placing a greater priority on Horford not fouling out than on winning the basketball games, Hoford sat for the final 6:28 of the first half. He would finish the game with four personal fouls.

(The admittedly well-rested) Horford dominated the third quarter, scoring 14 (and assisting on 2 more) of Atlanta's 25 points (on just 6 shots), grabbing four rebounds, and forcing the Miami Heat to adjust both their personnel and their defensive game plan in the hopes of slowing him. In retrospect, they needn't have bothered.

Quite reasonably, Horford sat out the last 29.9 seconds of the third quarter. Less reasonably, he sat for the first 5 minutes and 9 seconds of the fourth quarter. Inexplicably, Larry Drew, despite the Hawks scoring just two points in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, held Horford back as he got up to enter the game at a dead ball with 8:52 left in the game. The clock wouldn't stop again until the 6:51 mark and the Hawks scored just three points during the 121 seconds Horford spent at the scorer's table.

Following his third quarter explosion, Horford would go 11 minutes and 40 seconds of game time between shot attempts. Granted, Erik Spoelstra didn't let Horford work on Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the final seven minutes, the Heat focused their team defense on Horford when he was involved in a play, and Mo Evans had a dunk blocked by Joel Anthony erasing a could-have-been Horford assist but the Hawks did a terrible job, first of playing, then of utilizing their best player, their only consistently effective offensive player in this game. Josh Powell (12 points on 10 shots) and Mike Bibby (10 points on 10 shots) had as many fourth quarter shot attempts* as Al Horford. Mo Evans (4 points on 6 shots) had one more. Josh Smith (11 points on 11 shots) had three more. Jamal Crawford (12 points on 16 shots) had four more.

*Counting, for this rhetorical purpose, two-shot fouls as one shot attempt.

Al Horford scored 22 points on 11 shots and 4 free throw attempts. The rest of the Atlanta Hawks scored 55 points on 68 shots and 8 free throw attempts. Miami's fourth quarter defense deserves some credit but the Hawks were very easily dissuaded from getting the ball to their best player down the stretch. The Heat have a more defined hierarchy but it's no coincidence they outscored the Hawks 26-13 over the first 11:47 of the fourth quarter. Save Mario Chalmers's layup with 13 seconds left in the game, every single Miami point in the fourth quarter was scored or assisted by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh.

There's a real advantage in being the team with better players. Larry Drew and the Hawks* helped the Heat consolidate that advantage in the fourth quarter tonight.

*I'm painting with a broad brush here: Josh Powell (more for his three defensive rebounds than his twelve points), Jason Collins (two defensive rebounds and an appreciable effort to getting back on defense in the 4:37 he probably shouldn't have played in the second quarter), and Damien Wilkins (for getting physical and frustrating LeBron James during the near-comeback in the third quarter) did everything that could reasonably be asked of them. Had those Hawks whose talents rest somewhere on the spectrum between Horford and these fellows from the end of the bench been so focused on and committed to playing within themselves the game might have been competitive to the end.

No comments: