Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hawks 109 Lakers 92


With the Lakers (minus Andrew Bynum) playing the fifth game of a five-game road trip and the Hawks off since Sunday afternoon and having spent the interregnum developing a productive aversion to the specter of Laker fans filling Philips Arena, the game essentially ended when, with the Hawks up 66-55 with5:16 left in the third quarter, Kobe Bryant made no effort to fight through a ball screen and allowed Joe Johnson a wide-open three-point attempt which Johnson made. The Lakers got back within 12 a handful of times in the fourth quarter, but never closer.

Atlanta's bench provided a good effort in both the first and second half. Their efforts made a greater impact due to their context. Unlike the last two games, the starters showed up to play from the opening tip and bracketed the second unit's appearances with productive efforts of their own. Joe Johnson was exceptional, scoring 25 points on 20 shots while earning eight assists against one turnover (of the five committed by the Hawks). Six teammates (Josh Smith, Al Horford, Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, Mo Evans, and Zaza Pachulia) joined him in double figures for the game as the Hawks nearly (59.6 eFG%) shot 60% from the floor.

If there's any worry created by an otherwise sound performance, it's not a surprising one: team defense. Despite it being a low possession game and not a competitive one over the final 17 minutes, the Hawks allowed 92 points in just 82 possessions. Should the Hawks make it to the second round of the playoffs and meet there a team of the quality of the Lakers they'll have no guarantee their opponent will be missing a starter and no opportunity to be well-rested at home while said opponent ends a lengthy road trip. That's the difference between an impressive regular season win and playoff basketball. That's not a difference to dwell on tonight.

March 31st Open Thread: Los Angeles Lakers (54-20) @ Atlanta (47-26)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EDT)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Lakers


: Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton are out. Ron Artest and Sasha Vujacic are probable.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
LAL (off)
50 22.1
27.6 14.7
ATL (def)
89.1 1.083 49.9

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
LAL (def)
48.1 26.4
25.4 15.6
ATL (off)
89.1 1.132 50.4

: Atlanta -1, 194.5 o/u


PREVIOUSLY, THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS...lost 108-100 in New Orleans on Monday night. It was the second loss in the first four games of their five-game road trip which concludes tonight. The also lost in Oklahoma City in between wins in San Antonio and Houston.

The presumptive cause of splitting those four games: lollygagging.

The Lakers beat the Hawks 118-110 one day short of five months ago in Los Angeles.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

TrueHoop: Arnovitz: Understanding Atlanta and Its Fans

Kevin Arnovitz offers a native-Atlantan perspective on local fandom:
I practically grew up at the Omni. I had a more familiar relationship with our chain-smoking usher decked out in her red sateen jacket with the octogonal patch sewn on the sleeve than I did with the administrators who roamed the halls of my elementary school.

At the time I started attending Hawks games, the population of metro Atlanta was around 2.3 million people, qualifying it as a medium-sized market still in its relative infancy as a major league city -- the Falcons were the first to arrive in Atlanta in 1965. When I attended my first Hawks game, the team had been in Atlanta for only 13 years. At age eight that meant nothing to me, but for my father, who was born and raised a couple of miles from the Omni, the Hawks were still a novelty. For most of his lifetime, southern cities simply weren't candidates for big-league sports teams for reasons ranging from economics to history.

Quotes of the Day

Mike Woodson on those Atlanta residents who might need to bring a change of pants to the game tonight given their presumed excitement over the opportunity to breathe the same air as Kobe Bryant:
"How can you not be a fan of the Lakers? There are fans all over the world who root for the Lakers. They win titles. We are trying to get where they’ve been. I understand that. But if we are going to be a serious team and a city that really stands behind our team, then it should just be one way: Hawks fans in Philips Arena, getting it on and having a good time. That’s what it is all about."
Josh Smith:
"It sucks. You always want to use home floor as an advantage. When we go out there and teams have more [jerseys] or more fans cheering, that’s a bad feeling for the home team."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Your Pre-Summer Josh Childress Update

Jeff Zillgitt and J. Michael Falgoust of USA Today have a quote from Josh Childress regarding his plan of action and a reminder of some of the relevant deadlines for his decision:
Childress can opt out of his contract with Olympiacos after this season but would be a restricted free agent with Atlanta. Or he can sign a qualifying offer from the Hawks for one year and become a free agent in 2011 or sign a longer deal with the Hawks if they offer one. Childress also can sign an offer sheet with another team, but Atlanta can match it. Or he can return to Greece for the final year of his contract.

He has until July 15 to let Olympiacos know his decision.

"It's going to come down to getting information quickly and weighing my options and making a quick decision," Childress said.

The 26-year-old said he wasn't leaning either way. But hypothetically, "I'd be leaning towards finishing my contract here because I signed a three-year deal," he said.
Two more important things to remember: 1) The qualifying offer to retain the right to match any deal offered by another team is $4.037 million and 2) The cap hold on Childress will be $14.533 million. Further information is available in this post from last summer.

Monday, March 29, 2010

TrueHoop: Abbott: Who Cares About Divisions?

Henry Abbott on the first tie-breaker should the Hawks and Celtics finish the season with the same record:
Yesterday, during the ESPN broadcast of the Spurs at Celtics, there was talk about how if the Celtics and Hawks ended up with the same record, the Celtics would get the higher seed.

Even though they have lost every single time they have played the Hawks this season.

That's because the Celtics will win their division. You can see the NBA's tie-break rules here.

The reason the NBA made the rules this way is to give the divisions some meaning. To my mind, the NBA is right in assessing that divisions need all the help they can get in remaining relevant.

'Cause I'm not sure they matter at all.

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Hawks 94 Pacers 84




Michael Cunningham had a more charitable view of the effort than did I:
After a poor effort led to a dispiriting loss at Eastern Conference also-ran Philadelphia on Friday, the Hawks said they would be ready for lottery-bound Indiana on Sunday.

It took them more than a quarter but the Hawks finally backed up their talk with action. Jamal Crawford and Al Horford provided jolts and Josh Smith helped put the finishing touches on a 94-84 victory at Philips arena.
Mike Woodson on Horford:
"He’s been consistent from Day One he stepped foot in Atlanta and put on a Hawks uniform. He’s been fantastic. He’s been on a nice roll here of late by getting the doubles-doubles and we are going to need him to continue to do that."
Woodson on the second unit:
"Our second unit came in and really picked up our defense up and got us going. I thought that was the difference in the game."
Crawford on Crawford:
"Now that’s what my team expects of me. If I’m not doing that I am kind of throwing everyone else out of wack."
Danny Granger on Atlanta's D:
"Atlanta always gives you problems because they switch every ball screen. We just really didn’t take advantage of the switches like we should have tonight."
In Indiana's defense, it's difficult to take advantage of switches when you have just one player capable of creating his own shot.

The perpetually enigmatic Brandon Rush on the same subject:
"Their switching on defense really gave us problems today, which really took us out of our rhythm to make any shots"
Indiana's all-Kansas City starting backcourt made me wonder if any other NBA team starts two guards from the same city. Not so much that I'd do the research myself but enough to wonder out loud. This query ignores whether or not Indiana wants to start an all-Kansas City backcourt.

Jim O'Brien:
"Their athleticism up front always gives us problems. They were quicker to the offensive rebounds, quicker driving by us with Josh Smith and Al Horford. We've struggled with them all year."
Horford's first quarter defense against Roy Hibbert was exemplary and, perhaps, the only thing that kept the Pacers under 40 points in the opening quarter. If anyone wants an object lesson as to why an increased role for Veteran Big Man Joe Smith in the playoffs sends a chill down my spine, compare Horford's repeated stmyies of Hibbert to the ease with which Hibbert scored the first time he caught the ball in the post after Joe Smith entered the game.

Eight Points, Nine Seconds compares Horford and Hibbert.

Peachtree Hoops:
Josh Smith finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. He was the stat star of the game, but the quintessential play may have been his lazy self-led fast break in the third quarter where he dribbled half speed down the court, demanding you see how little he cared, then picked up his dribble around the free throw line and seemed to say, "I can think even less if I just run with it." Josh picked up an offensive foul and then a technical. There are better examples of going through the motions, like if someone is in a charades game and is trying to act out "going through the motions" but other than that Josh pretty much has it nailed. If you are looking for a positive, Josh Smith tried for around five minutes of this game and still dominated. Which is a pretty big positive, especially if the Hawks can find a way to play the Pacers in the playoffs.

Soaring Down South provides the definitive sentence about the game:
Well it wasn’t pretty but a win always looks better than a loss.
Indy Cornrows searched high and low for positives in defeat:
Solomon Jones showed up against his former team, putting up 7 hustle points and 7 pride filled rebounds in front his old fans.
Solomon Jones had fans?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hawks 94 Pacers 84


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
IND 87.9
45.7 12.3
18.8 14.8
ATL 87.9 1.07 46.6

Score one for just showing up and beating a team. It must be easier to do at home than on the road. The first quarter effort was shocking with both Mike Bibby and Josh Smith* spending much of the quarter walking from one end of the floor to the other. The Pacers played hard, were rewarded with open shots, and scored 31 first quarter points on 20 offensive possessions.

*Smith appeared interested (in basketball, not in complaining about calls referees got right) for about three minutes of the fourth quarter. He loafed through the rest of the game and finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. He's ridiculously talented.

Jamal Crawford, Zaza Pachulia, and Jeff Teague* provided some energetic production early in the second quarter as the Hawks went on a 12-5 run to take a 38-36 lead. Jim O'Brien called a timeout, the energy waned, and the Hawks scored just 10 points in the final 9:29 of the first half.

*It's a shame Teague's good work wasn't rewarded with third quarter minutes in relief of the diffident Bibby. It would be nice if some of those good looks Teague creates for big men, fell to Al Horford and Josh Smith rather than Joe Smith and Pachulia.

Al Horford showed up for the third quarter, scoring 12 of Atlanta's 24 points and grabbing seven rebounds, as did Marvin Williams and Mo Evans who were both on the court for much of Indiana's four minute scoring drought that allowed the Hawks to take control of the game for good. Barely. The early insertion of Jason Collins and Mario West appeared to have as much to do with the head coach wishing the game to be over than it actually being over. Either that, or Solomon Jones is less wildly incompetent than a rather unnecessary double agent.

I empathize with Woodson's frustration even as a feel a firmer hand with regard to accountability could have held preventative value. If effort and attitude were the test, some of the Hawks failed outright. None scored perfectly. But Danny Granger shot poorly, the Indiana bench shot worse, and Atlanta got away with a win.

March 28th Open Thread: Indiana (27-46) @ Atlanta (46-26)

TIP-OFF: 3:30pm (EDT)

: SportSouth

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Pacers


: Jeff Foster and Tyler Hansbrough are out. TJ Ford is listed as day-to-day.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
IND (off)
48.7 23.2
21.6 16
ATL (def)
89.2 1.085 49.9

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
IND (def)
48.9 34.8
26.8 15.5
ATL (off)
89.2 1.133 50.5

: Atlanta -8, 207.5 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Eight Points, Nine Seconds

PREVIOUSLY, THE INDIANA PACERS...beat Utah 122-106 on Friday night. It was Indiana's fifth straight win.

The Hawks beat the Pacers both times they've met this season. 120-109 on opening night in Atlanta and 110-98 on December 26th.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

76ers 105 Hawks 98




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 88.9
51.9 21.8
35.9 21.4
PHI 88.9 1.181 53.7

The victory against Orlando was down more to effort than execution. The loss in Philadelphia was similar, minus the effort.

At this point, the Hawks should be incapable of surprise. The perimeter players aren't suddenly going to become good defensively. Hawks whose first name begins with oe aren't suddenly going to stop taking almost every available jump shots. The team, as a whole, isn't suddenly going to commit to pushing the tempo, or moving without the ball in the half-court, or recognize the value mis-matches in their favor, or recognize the danger of the opposite.

Still, they're frustrating and the cause of the frustration may be ourselves. Perhaps these Hawks can't be better than they are. Perhaps their obvious weaknesses are as inherent as their strengths (both the obvious ones and those we assume to be latent) to who they really are and they will not become what we hope they might. Perhaps the franchise will continue to spend too much on good but great or competent but not good players and remain above average but unable to address their obvious weaknesses.

This is a team with relatively small goals. They print T-shirts for making the playoffs and give themselves a few days off after not quite blowing a game against a team trying to win the NBA championship.

Jamal Crawford:
"You always know after a big game like Orlando can’t have a letdown. We should have handled our business from the beginning and been done with it."
Al Horford:
"I think from the start we just weren’t with it.

I feel like we overlooked them."
Joe Johnson:
"From time to time we come out with a lack of focus.

Mentally we just weren’t in the game."
Mike Woodson:
"We haven't had many games like this one, but we are playing for something. I am trying to tell the team and push these guys to understand that you have to beat teams you're supposed to beat. There are no gimme games. I don't care where you play, when you play on the road, it is tough to win. We just showed up like we were just going to win and it didn't happen."
Joe Johnson:
"Our mindset was back in Atlanta. We just thought we were going to show up and beat a team that was struggling. It doesn't work like that. We have to regroup and get ready for Sunday's game against Indiana. I am very disappointed in the way we played."
I'm very disappointed that Joe Johnson spent more than one possession down the stretch of a second consecutive road game going one-on-one against a bigger, quicker defender. There are times he can dominate a single defender but not when that defender is Mbah a Moute or Iguodala.

The Human Highlight Blog at Peachtree Hoops
[T]ime and again the Sixers got wherever they wanted to on the floor, facing little resistance both in transition or in the half court set. Kapono, a known lethal shooter, got set up easily to tie his season high in threes (4). Holiday entered the lane with a free pass all night, setting up many of his (12) assists. The Hawks defense often waited for the ball to fall into their hands after a Sixer miss, and when it didn't, PHL collected their (15) offensive rebounds.
*The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the Hawks' blogosphere

Soaring Down South:
If a less than casual fan had tuned into this game they would have thought that the Sixers were the team playing for playoff positioning and the Hawks were the team playing the season out.
Liberty Ballers:
So which is it? Did the Hawks sleepwalk through the game? Or did the Sixers decide to play hard? It's neither. The NBA season is 82 games long; there's going to be nights when teams have it, and nights when they don't. There's going to be nights when the Sixers shoot 50% from the floor and there's going to be nights when they shoot 40%. There's going to be stretches where they play good basketball (last 2 games) and stretches when they play terrible basketball (losing to the Granger-less Pacers and Lee-less Knicks).

The better team doesn't always win (tonight's favorites alone only went 5-3 so far), but that doesn't mean they weren't trying. And the worse team doesn't always lose, but that doesn't mean they all of a sudden decided to play hard.

There's a reason the Sixers are 26-47 right now, and there's a reason the Hawks are 46-26 - the Hawks are a good team and the Sixers aren't. They played a good game - leave it at that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

March 26th Game Thread: Atlanta (46-25) @ Philadelphia (25-47)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/76ers


: Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams are listed as game-time decisions. Francisco Elson is out.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
PHI (off)
48.8 20.7
28 15.9
ATL (def)
89.2 1.083 49.9

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
PHI (def)
51.4 29.3
26.6 16.1
ATL (off)
89.2 1.133 50.5

: Atlanta -5, 195 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Philadunkia, Liberty Ballers

PREVIOUSLY, THE PHILADELPHIA 76ers...won 101-86 in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, their third win in their last sixteen games. I'm not one to accuse a team of tanking (nor one to make a moral judgment about the tactic) so I'll just pass along the following item: Jason Kapono is expected to make his third consecutive start for the 76ers tonight.

The Hawks beat the 76ers 100-87 in Philadelphia on November 27th and 112-93 in Atlanta on the 3rd of this month.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Quote of the Day

Al Horford, on the team's inability to score efficiently in the fourth quarter of games:
"That really falls on the guys that are running our team. The guards have the ball in their hands. They control the game, and that's something they have to kind of realize."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rosen: Hawks' offense won't cut it in playoffs

After calling the win "extremely important for the Hawks' collective psyche," Charley Rosen lets loose a litany of limitations witnessed:
[D]espite their dramatic, hard-earned triumph, the Hawks' highly predictable offensive game plan precludes the possibility of their venturing deep into the playoffs.

Here’s why:

The Hawks ran three discernible plays in their half-court sets that involved more than two players. Not three plays run several times each, but a total of three plays.
Johnson was the chief practitioner of Atlanta’s one-on-one sequences. For sure, he’s mighty tricky with the ball, can finish and/or pull going either way, and is a willing passer (eight assists) when he’s stymied by a double-team. At the same time, while JJ had the ball on a string, his teammates were virtually statuesque.

The same absence of ball and player movement occurred when Smith, Williams, Horford and Jamal Crawford took their turns playing one-against-the-world.
[I]f superior defenses know exactly where the ball is going to wind up on any given sequence, they can easily force the isolator to help areas, prepare to ambush the available passing lanes, and rotate to cover dive-cutters. As the weak sisters are weeded out of the playoff picture, the defenses of the surviving teams get sharper and smarter with each succeeding round and iso-oriented offenses become increasingly ineffective.
It's not exactly groundbreaking analysis for those who watch this team regularly but it's very thorough and it's nice to have one's own observations validated and worries about familiarity breeding contempt mitigated for a time.

Hawks 86 Magic 84




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ORL 87.6
41.7 33.3
20.5 14.8
ATL 87.6 0.982 45.4

Well, I was wrong. The Hawks can beat the Magic while playing terribly offensively. Six points in the first eight-and-a-half minutes. Eight points in the last five-and-a-half minutes. One victory.

It wasn't pretty but I think we learned a couple of things about how the Hawks could beat the Magic in a game that doesn't turn on JJ Redick missing a wide-open corner three just before Josh Smith makes a contested 20-footer as the shot clock expires or Joe Johnson not getting called for traveling, thus letting his embarrassing effort at a game-winner stand so Josh Smith could take advantage of a napping Rashard Lewis to slam home the miss at the buzzer.

First, the Hawks have to make their threes, and, because Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford (28 points on 31 shots) will likely be suckered into contested two-point jump shots (14 combined last night, they each made two) by Orlando's defense, that means Mike Bibby and Maurice Evans have to make their threes. They made six of eight last night. Neither can create their own shot so credit to Josh Smith, Johnson, and Crawford who each assisted on two three-pointers made by Bibby or Evans.

Second, the Hawks have to take advantage of as many transition opportunities as possible. There won't be many. Orlando simply won't allow it. But every offensive possession that doesn't come against a set Orlando defense is to Atlanta's advantage. 14 fast break points isn't a lot but when you can't seem to break 86 against a certain opponent, every little bit helps.

Speaking of little bits, let's not overlook Atlanta's good work in getting to the foul line. By Atlanta, I mean Josh Smith and Joe Johnson, who attempted 16 of Atlanta's 20 free throws. Just as improbable as the corner jumper Smith made with 1:38 left in the game (and just as important to the outcome) were the seven of nine free throws he made.

Finally, the changes the Hawks made both to when and from where they doubled Dwight Howard early in the game, slowed Orlando's ball movement. They didn't keep up with this half-court run-and-jump as the game carried on, so it remains to be seen if the change is a sustainable improvement or just reliant on the element of surprise.

Now, the Hawks couldn't have won this game on their own. Stan Van Gundy was too conservative with Dwight Howard in the second quarter, both by choosing to have Brandon Bass rather than Howard guard Al Horford in the post and by removing Howard for the final 90 second of the first half because he had two* fouls. The Hawks almost turned Howard's absence into a six-point advantage at the end of the half. Mike Woodson couldn't resist a bit of coaching and put his defensive specialist** Mario West in the game for Orlando's final offensive possession. Jameer Nelson blew past West, drew a foul, and made both free throws to cut Atlanta's lead to four.

The Magic also did a terrible job on entry passes to the post after they got the switch they wanted. Again, credit is due the defensive effort of the Hawks but there were a number of times where Orlando played half an offensive possession, gained an advantage, failed to convert that advantage and left themselves starting from scratch on a short clock.

*Howard played the entirety of the second half and finished with three fouls. Dumb when Mike Woodson does it. Dumb when Stan Van Gundy does it.

**When the other team immediately attacks your defensive specialist, attacks him to a degree they didn't even attack Mike Bibby, perhaps it's time to reassess your perceptions. And this substituting Mario West for defensive possessions at the end of close games has to stop. Because Orlando scored on their last possession of the game, and because the Hawks had used their last timeout to get Mario West out of the game so they could play offense after Orlando's previous possession, the Hawks had the ball for the final ten seconds and Mario West on the floor. Mo Evans, Jeff Teague, these are actual basketball players available for Mike Woodson to use in these situations. If he continues to refuse those options this is going to end badly some night.

Despite my qualms about how much this win portends tactically for a potential playoff matchup, I don't think it's possible to overstate the psychological value of the Hawks beating the Magic.

Al Horford:
"A lot of people were talking and questioning us against the great teams. It’s nice to go get a win."
Jamal Crawford:
"It would have been one thing if we’d split the season series coming in, but they’d beaten us every game. I believe this will do something for our psyche. It was a big win."
Josh Smith:
"It would have been another heartbreak for us."
Josh Smith on the game-winner:
"I knew [Johnson] was going to shoot the basketball. He's made some big shots for us. I was hoping he would make this one. But I had his back."
Stan Van Gundy:
"On the weak side, we just stood and watched. The guys on the court are doing the same thing the guys on the bench are doing: just standing there watching."
Speaking of guys on the bench, the always classy and never self-involved, Matt Barnes:
"(Van Gundy) obviously must not trust me down the stretch. Only thing I can think of. I'm knocking down 3s, I'm playing D, I'm rebounding. I couldn't believe it. I could see it if the person I'm coming out for is cooking or something… but that wasn't really the case tonight. It's very frustrating to sit on the bench the last five minutes when I held Joe to 13 points. It's very frustrating."
Zach Harper at Hardwood Paroxysm:
If Lewis boxes out Smith, the carom goes harmlessly off to the side and the players get ready for the overtime period. In this period, Matt Barnes gets a chance to make a difference and Rashard Lewis probably gets four or five more shot attempts to botch to satisfy his ego. The Magic go into their normal wing-clipping mode against the Hawks, pull out the tough road victory and head home with a season sweep of Atlanta.

Instead, Lewis got lazy, the rebound got crammed home and the Hawks now have a little swagger against Orlando that was previously nonexistent. Orlando now has to face internal issues that are being immaturely aired out in the media.
Eric Freeman at The Baseline:
Smoove didn't make the All-Star team this year in a scandalous choice, so we need to find another way to honor him this year. How about we just give him the Coolest Player Award? It's a trophy in the shape of an exclamation point.

At NBA Playbook, Sebastian Priuti breaks down how far Josh Smith came to follow Joe Johnson's miss. Also captured: Josh Smith calling for the ball while being ignored beyond the three-point line earlier in the possession.

Peachtree Hoops has the thought process.

Check out Both Teams Played Hard, also.

At Orlando Magic Daily, Philip Rossman-Reich puts Orlando's offensive struggles down primarily to a failure to make shots:
The Magic did have 20 assists (the season average is 19.3) on their 27 field goals, which is a pretty good number. But obviously 27 field goals is well below the 36.3 field goals the team was averaging entering tonight's game. That explains a lot of Orlando's offensive struggles.
Ben Q. Rock has a typically thorough recap from the opposing perspective at Orlando Pinstriped Post.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24th Open Thread: Orlando (50-21) @ Atlanta (45-25)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

RADIO: Hawks Radio Network, Audio League Pass

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Magic


: None.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ORL (off)
53 25
24.4 15.8
ATL (def)
89.2 1.085 50

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ORL (def)
47.5 27.2
22.8 14.2
ATL (off)
89.2 1.135 50.5

: Atlanta -1.5, 197.5 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Orlando Magic Daily, Orlando Pinstriped Post

PREVIOUSLY, THE ORLANDO MAGIC...won 109-93 in Philadelphia on Monday night. It was Orlando's 11th win in their last 12 games.

For thoughts on the three previous meetings between these two teams this season, please read this post from earlier today.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Why the Hawks Have Lost So Badly Every Time They've Played the Magic This Season

With all due respect, it has less to do with defensive game plans* than Atlanta's complete and utter inability to score against the Magic.

*Though, as Milwaukee showed in the fourth quarter Monday night, playing four-out/one-in seriously limits Josh Smith's effectiveness as help defender while also exposing his limitations as an on-the-ball defender and his disinclination to close out on shooters.

Atlanta's offense vs. Orlando and the rest of the league...

Opp Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ORL 88.1
43 13.5
18.4 14.5
Rest of League
89.2 1.145 50.9

Despite there being fewer offensive rebounds and fewer turnovers in the games against the Magic than those against the rest of the league there's also one fewer possession per game. Combine that fact with both observation and Atlanta's eFG% against Orlando* and it's clear that the Hawks get neither quick nor easy shots against the Magic.

*it breaks down to 41.7 2PTFG% and 31.6 3PTFG%

As I wrote after the overtime win against Charlotte Friday night, without a second manner of attack, the Hawks remain susceptible to good defensive teams that prevent the creation of advantageous one-on-one matchups leaving isolated individual Hawk players attacking a defense at a numerical disadvantage. This applies not just to Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford. When the Hawks make an effort to get the ball to Al Horford on the left block he remains just as isolated* from his immobile teammates as does Johnson when the Hawks clear out the left side for him.

*Perhaps more so when matched up against a superior post defender.

Not that Atlanta hasn't struggled defensively against Orlando as well. you don't lose three games by a combined 67 points by being especially solid in any facet of the game. But bad defense* isn't nearly as unusual for this team as bad offense.

*You'll notice every story like this relies on quotes rather than evidence to make the case the Hawks have ever shown any ability of playing consistently good defense.

Atlanta's defense vs. Orlando and the rest of the league...

Opp Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ORL 88.1
56.2 28.6
26.1 13.9
Rest of League
89.2 1.081 49.7

It's not Orlando's three-point shooting that's killed Atlanta in the first three meetings. They've made 35.4% of their threes against Atlanta. Their season average is 36.8%. It's not especially Dwight Howard (though his occupation of Al Horford's attention has some value not represented in Howard's box score line) who has scored slightly above his season average (21.7 vs. 18.5) against the Hawks but while shooting slightly worse from the field (60.5 vs. 61.2) and the line (57.6 vs. 60).

It's been the Hawks inability to guard Anthony Johnson (17 points on 10 shots in Jameer Nelson's absence on Thanksgiving night), JJ Redick (9 points on 6 shots (4-4 2PTFGA) on Thanksgiving, 17 points on 12 shots in the first game in Orlando), Ryan Anderson (32 points on 21 shots in the two games in Orlando), Matt Barnes (18 points on 11 shots in the first game in Orlando), Jason Williams (14 points on 9 shots in the first game in Orlando), and Jameer Nelson (5 of 6 on 2PTFGA and 4-4 from the line in the second game in Orlando) due to their inability either to stop dribble penetration or protect the rim with Al Horford occupied by Howard and Josh Smith 20+ feet from the basket with Lewis or Anderson that has made them look even worse than normal defensively. With Horford and Smith unable to defend multiple spots on the floor, Orlando has made at least 51% of their two-point attempts in each of the three games and 57.9% of their two-point attempts over the three games.

Through excellent spacing, complementary skill sets, and multiple points of attack (especially now that Vince Carter appears both healthy and settled) Orlando makes their opponents guard all five players at all times. The Hawks never have five good defensive players on the court at the same time. Nor is it a realistic option for them to put five good defensive players on the court without further weakening their offensive attack.

It's certainly possible the Hawks can beat the Magic tonight. It's probable that they'll be more competitive than they've been in the three previous meetings. It's unlikely either will be accomplished in a sustainable manner should this be a preview of a second-round playoff series. The Magic are both better than the Hawks (in absolute terms) and a bad matchup given Atlanta's tactical inflexibility and defensive limitations.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 Simmons: Monday Night Diary

Excerpts from his diary of last night's fourth quarter:
6:39: And … that's why Jamal Crawford has been traded twice. He just jacked up a bad 20-footer with 12 seconds left on the shot clock even though Johnson has flames coming out of his head like an "NBA Jam" character. I like Crawford and thought he was a shrewd summer pickup for the Hawks, but it remains to be seen whether he'll win playoff games or shoot them out of the playoffs. Or maybe both.

4:48: Smith abuses Stackhouse with a lefty hook down low. (The Hawks lead the league in "Couldn't that guy post up anytime he wants?" guys.) After Salmons blows a spinning layup, Smith does the same move on Stack. Like an instant replay. After rebounding another Bucks miss, Smith rebounds a missed 3 and gets fouled. And that's why we love Josh Smith. He can take over games for 90 seconds at a time.

0:21: Really dumb foul by Johnson trying to deny Salmons the ball 30 feet from the hoop. Salmons drains the free throws. Thanks for the two free points, Joe. That play was enough to raise both of Mike Woodson's recently regrown eyebrows.
(HT: Brew Hoop)

Bucks 98 Hawks 95




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 82.2
57.1 7.7
18.9 9.7
MIL 82.2 1.193 50.6

What was Joe Johnson doing? Wrong question. It was clear what he was doing with less than 30 seconds left in a tie game. He was holding John Salmons thirty feet from the basket. He was clutching at Salmons, snuggling with him. At the risk of betraying my inexperience, can one spoon while standing up? The referees tried to ignore it. They didn't want to call a foul but the scene continued, becoming more and more bizarre. Dick Bavetta snapped, called Johnson for the foul, and sent John Salmons to the line where Salmons made both free throws to give Milwaukee a two-point lead with 21.9 left, a lead, through great individual defensive effort by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and an impressive team* rebounding effort, they would not relinquish.

*Bogut's box out of Al Horford on Johnson's subsequent miss was textbook. The way Luke Ridnour attacked the miss while Bogut sealed off Atlanta's best rebounder capped off a spectacular night for someone who, both as a competitor and an unrestricted free agent, must desperately wish to get to play against Atlanta's guards in the playoffs.

The question is why was Joe Johnson doing that?

Joe Johnson:
"I was just being aggressive and trying to deny him the ball. But he called a foul. That was at a crucial part of the game. That’s a tough call."
That's not a very compelling answer. Were roles reversed (and that would make more sense, a defender desperate to deny Joe Johnson rather than John Salmons, current hot streak notwithstanding, the ball) I suspect Joe Johnson would believe the aggressiveness worthy of a foul call.

Michael Cunningham:
...a play so perplexing I looked up at the scoreboard and figured the Hawks actually had a foul to give.
Mike Woodson:
"I don't know what Joe's thinking was there."
John Salmons:
"He was trying to be aggressive. Maybe a little too aggressive, and the ref made the call."
The Human Highlight Blog at Peachtree Hoops:
Johnson compounded the misfire by becoming Mario West at midcourt, overplaying Salmons to the point of grabbing him and picking up a foul with (12) seconds left. We can debate whether Dick Bavetta should have called it, but Johnson didn't need to be pushing the envelope at that particular point in the game, especially at that place on the floor. All it did was highlight that not even Joe Johnson was convinced that he alone could keep Salmons from getting to the hoop again.
Drew at Peachtree Hoops:
The difference in the last minutes of the game was simply that Joe fouled John Salmons 12 feet beyond the three point line with the Hawks in the bonus. Joe had denied Salmons the ball on a few possessions down the stretch. It was the only defense Atlanta had one him. (You know because if he got the ball the Bucks just set a screen and put Josh Smith on him.) So I get the intent, but that does not make it correct. And I get that Joe was not playing perfectly legal defense either, but that does not make that call correct either.
It's a shame that Johnson had to lose the plot at the end of such a spectacular individual fourth quarter. The Hawks needed that effort. Whether it was due to (understandably) tired legs making them a step slower defensively, or Milwaukee finally starting to make open shots, they found themselves in a shootout late. The Bucks repeatedly scored off dribble penetration from Salmons and Ridnour. That pair scored or assisted on 27 of Milwaukee's 31 fourth quarter points.

Mike Woodson:
"It was a good effort considering we had an overtime game and then got in late. We had our chances but we had a bad fourth quarter defensively. We gave up 31 points. We were solid on defense up until then. They got hot, made some shots. We matched shots but we couldn’t get stops when we needed top get them. We couldn’t control the dribble. Everybody just picked and choosed when they wanted to drive the ball."
Joe Johnson:
"Defensively, it's as if we lost sight of what our principle was coming down the stretch. We just couldn't get stops. That's not like us."
The Hawks had Johnson. Matched up (until the final minute of the game) against Carlos Delfino and allowed to work one-on-one against Delfino, Johnson scored 14 of Atlanta's 21 fourth quarter points, taking 11 of the team's 19 shots. Johnson was 7-9 from the floor to open the fourth quarter. Then Scott Skiles replaced Jerry Stackhouse with Mbah a Moute. Perhaps, with Mbah a Moute rather than Stackhouse on the court earlier in the quarter, Milwaukee's spacing would not have been so effective and Salmons and Ridnour would have had smaller gaps to carve. Regardless, Mbah a Moute's man-to-man defense on Johnson provided a massive improvement on Delfino's. The Hawks didn't recognize, or dismissed (as a certain color commentator did) the difference, carried on with what had been working in different circumstances, but getting only two very difficult, contested shots, resulting in two empty possessions in the final minute.

Scott Skiles:
"We played a good part of the game kind of bogged down. We couldn't get any stops, we couldn't get any ball movement. We went to our small lineup and I had four perimeter guys out there with Kurt [Thomas] and that opened it up."
Just as Woodson deserves credit for trusting his bench more than normal during the team's second game in 24 hours, Skiles' decision to go small neutered Josh Smith's help defense to a greater degree than Smith was able to take advantage of his size advantage in the post. Maybe that was another reason to leave Delfino isolated on Johnson. Letting the Hawks play through Johnson seriously reduced the chance of Atlanta scoring three points on a possession (as long as Delfino didn't commit a silly, relatively unlikely foul) even if it increased the chance Atlanta would score two points on a possession whereas playing through Josh Smith (matched up against Stackhouse in the post) could create open looks from beyond the arc.

Bucksketball: felt like the same story as the last Hawks-Bucks game. Atlanta had a superstar and he’d carry them past the Bucks, who were playing them even otherwise. I wrote after the last game, “The difference between (John) Salmons and Joe Johnson was vivid in overtime…this is why teams are lining up to try and get a star this off-season, they want guys who can make the plays Johnson was making at the end of the game.”

To me, it seemed clear that having Johnson gave the Hawks an edge in late game situations. The Hawks had a go-to-guy and the Bucks didn’t.

And then all of a sudden John Salmons morphed into a go-to-guy before my very eyes.
Kurt Helin, ProBasketball Talk:
Please, please let this be the four/five matchup in the East. It would be the best first round matchup of all the playoffs.
Soaring Down South:
While this may in fact be a playoff preview this loss won’t effect that potential series in any way. There is still too much basketball left to be played in the regular season. If the Bucks do take anything away it will be the fact that they were able to get John Salmons any match up that they wanted down the stretch due to the Hawks constant switching screens. This is a repeat from the last two games where the scores have been close and teams have isolated Raymond Felton or Manu Ginobli up against Al Horford and Josh Smith. If the opposing team thinks they know what is coming then why not throw a wrinkle at them? Trap the ball handler maybe? Not every time but the element of surprise is still a valuable thing and predictability on the basketball court is a weakness.

Monday, March 22, 2010

March 22nd Open Thread: Atlanta (45-24) @ Milwaukee (38-30)

TIP-OFF: 8pm (EST)

: SportSouth

CHAT: Daily Dime Live (in which I will not be participating)

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Bucks


: Michael Redd is out.


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIL (off)
48.4 18
25.9 14.7
ATL (def)
89.3 1.083 50

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIL (def)
48.4 35.4
23 16.9
ATL (off)
89.3 1.135 50.5

: Milwaukee -5.5, 190.5 o/u

OTHER PERSPECTIVES: Bucksketball, Brew Hoop

PREVIOUSLY, THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS...won 102-97 in Denver on Saturday night despite being without Andrew Bogut much of the game due to foul trouble. It was Milwaukee's 14th win in their last 16 games. One of those two losses came when the Hawks beat the Bucks 106-102 in overtime in Atlanta on February 28th in the only previous meeting between the teams this season. The other came in Los Angeles against...the Clippers? That's what it says here. Huh.

Consider this an open thread for all pre-game, in-game, and post-game (but pre-recap) thoughts.

Hawks 119 Spurs 114 (OT)




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
SA 94.1
55.6 29.6
26.8 13.8
ATL 94.1 1.264 49

Gregg Popovich:
"This was a good one."
Here's the thing: Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan were the two best players on the court. The Hawks couldn't stop the Spurs at all in the first quarter and put up marginal resistance at best for the duration. The Hawks couldn't buy a bucket for the first quarter-and-a-half despite creating far superior shot opportunities than they did against the Bobcats thanks to a relatively relentless commitment to player and ball-movement.

And yet, the Hawks won. They executed down the stretch of both the fourth quarter, scoring on consecutive possessions in the final 90 seconds to erase a four-point San Antonio lead before getting two good (though unsuccessful) looks at a game-winner on the final possession of regulation, and in overtime, scoring on three straight possessions (and rebounding consecutive San Antonio misses) to turn a 111-111 tie at the 1:37 mark into a 117-111 lead with 13.9 seconds left.

The Hawks refused to let the Spurs, as the Bobcats managed Friday night, splinter them. The ball moved and, knowing that the ball would find them were they to get themselves open, the players moved. It was a team effort. With emphasis on both words. To wit...

Marvin Williams took the game over in the second quarter, gaining the Hawks a foothold that looked unlikely to that point and one they would never relinquish. When Williams re-entered the game, the Hawks trailed by 11 with 6:21 left in the first half. Williams proceeded to score 11 points on 5 shots to lead the charge that earned Atlanta a two-point lead at the half.

Al Horford demonstrated his full repetoire: scoring 22 points on 15 shots, grabbing 9 offensive and 9 defensive rebounds, while splitting his time on the defensive end between making Duncan work and doing a better job than any of his teammates of staying in front of Manu Ginobili.

Joe Johnson shot the ball poorly but his shot selection was much improved compared to his return Friday night. His turnaround jumper (after backing down George Hill) to give the Hawks a 113-111 lead in overtime was an especially impressive exhibit of using his skill and size to create the best possible shot. Even more impressive were his 13 assists. Maybe he doesn't get all 13 if this game is played on the road but it's been a while since the offense ran so effectively through Joe Johnson rather than to Joe Johnson. It was only the second time this calendar year that he tallied more than eight assists and just the sixth time the Hawks have won in the thirteen games Johnson has attempted at least 23 shots from the field. Even though they didn't go in frequently, he got himself good shots and he got his teammates better shots.

Jamal Crawford grabbed a crucial defensive rebound after George Hill missed a corner 3 with the Hawks up four and less than 24 seconds left in overtime. Jamal Crawford. Crucial rebound. Truly a feel-good moment.

The second unit didn't get a lot of playing time and they didn't do a tremendous amount but they didn't give up any ground while on the court at the end of the first and the start of the second quarter. Without them accomplishing that modest feat, the comeback is, if not less likely to occur, less likely to be complete. Joe Smith, Zaza Pachulia, and Jeff Teague took four shots between them. They made three. Maurice Evans knocked down a three early in the fourth quarter. Each was valuable.

As a result, the Hawks clinched a playoff spot.

Jamal Crawford:
"I've been wating a long time for this. I'm not going to take this for granted."
Mike Woodson:
"Fantastic, but there's still a lot of work ahead of us before the playoffs. We've got to keep rolling. We'll handle the playoffs once they get here."
Crawford, again:
"We all play off of each other. Whoever is going good, we give it to him. There is no jealousy."
Woodson on Horford:
"Duncan frustrated Al early, then Al picked it up and hit his stride. He had timely baskets and when we needed a rebound he was there."
Woodson on Marvin:
"He needs to not take a backseat to his teammates. t’s not about calling plays. (Shoot), I played 11 years and I got one or two plays called for me."
Though when, with 3:27 left in the fourth and Williams having taken just one shot and two free throws since halftime, the Hawks did run a play for him, he made a strong move into the lane and dropped in a running one-hander.

Tim Duncan:
"I feel we gave this one away. With the stretch that we have, we can't give any away. I think this was a building block because we played well, well enough to win against an elite team, but we just could not get over the hump."
Tom Ziller at FanHouse:
Horford was simply monstrous, finishing with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Nine of those boards came on the offensive end, a leading indicator of how thoroughly Atlanta dominated S.A. on the glass. The Hawks held the Spurs to 11 offensive rebounds in 41 opportunities; meanwhile, Atlanta took a stunning 21 of 51 offensive rebound opportunities. Despite the aging roster, San Antonio is still elite on the defensive glass (4th in the league), just as it has been through the entirety of Tim Duncan's tenure. But Horford caused problems all night.