Monday, December 27, 2010

New Orleans Hornets 93 Atlanta Hawks 86


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
NO 85
1.094 50

The Christmas break killed Larry Drew's tactical momentum. The Horford Treatment reappeared. As did Josh Powell as part of an expanded, incoherent rotation. Jeff Teague disappeared. And, in his absence, there was no rational approach to guarding Chris Paul. Joe Johnson drew the bulk of the work on that score and his method of standing six feet from Paul, allowing the league's premier point guard essentially warm-up jump shots worked for a half. As did the Atlanta offense.

For "offense," please read that to mean "the jump shots went in." The Hawks made 12 of 26 jump shots (5 of them three-pointers) en route to 55 first half points. They made just 6 of 21 jumpers (4 of them three-pointers) in the 31-point second half. A relative paucity of shots at or near the rim combined with a poor rate of conversion on those should-have-been higher-percentage shots left the Hawks inert and impotent offensively down the stretch.

At the defensive end, as Paul became more aggressive attacking Atlanta's perimeter defenders in pursuit of his own shot, Drew managed to turn his first half unit of Bibby/Crawford/Evans/Powell/Pachulia into a relatively reasonable defensive lineup in retrospect. Joe Johnson can't stay in front of Chris Paul? Bring in Mo Evans to guard him. Josh Smith picks up his fourth foul with 4:07 left in the third quarter? Put Jason Collins in to face a steady diet of pick-and-roll. Mike Bibby (7 points on 8 shots, 5 assists, just 1 turnover thanks to his teammates salvaging some truly poor passes when under pressure from Paul) and Jamal Crawford (10 points on 9 shots, 5 turnovers) are playing poorly offensively and must both be hidden from Paul defensively? Leave them both on the court for the final 18:03* and play some zone. Playing three poor defensive guards causing problems throughout the second half? Never play Josh Smith and Marvin Williams at the same time over the final 18:03.

*This didn't actually happen. In my amazement over Mo Evans being put in the game specifically to guard Chris Paul, I did not note that he replaced Bibby. I also missed the chance at correcting my error when examining the play-by-play. Jamal Crawford played the final 18:03 of the game (during which time he committed four of his five turnovers). Bibby only played alongside him for 15:16 of that stretch.

Drew consistently aggravated the potential damage of the admittedly limited defensive options at his disposal. Marvin Williams, Mo Evans, and Jason Collins can be useful defensive players but not when Williams is used at power forward, when Evans plays small forward alongside Bibby and Crawford, or when Evans and Collins are asked to stop Chris Paul from running pick-and-roll over and over and over.

With the exception of Josh Powell (whose limitations should be obvious to anyone with access to game tape or or Basketball Value or, Drew has been around these players for between two and seven seasons and, on this night, demonstrated no understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. It's not encouraging. Especially considering the understanding the rest of the league demonstrates about the Hawks: attack them off the dribble, attack the offensive glass as the frontcourt deals with dribble penetration, attack them in transition, encourage them to take jump shots, rebound the misses. Some teams (Cleveland, for example) lack the talent to beat the Hawks but that doesn't mean they don't know how to go about trying to beat the Hawks. Do the Hawks know how to give themselves the best chance at winning games?


jrauch said...

I firmly believe we hired/promoted a guy who has no idea what he is doing.

Why has Jeff Teague been buried back in whatever hole LD decided to put him in? Why is there this unflappable belief that Joe Johnson is a good perimeter defender when he clearly isn't.

Bret LaGree said...

I presume that any apparently delusional belief in Joe Johnson's abilities to be some combination of Stockholm Syndrome and sucking up to the bosses.