Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Game Preview: Atlanta Hawks (21-13) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (22-11)

TIP-OFF: 8pm (EST)

: SportSouth

RADIO: The Hawks have moved to 97.9 on the FM dial this season.

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Thunder

ATLANTA INJURY REPORT: Marvin Williams is out.

: None.


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
23.9 15.3
OKC (def)
93.2 1.072 50.5

Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
48.2 27.2
25.3 14.4
OKC (off)
93.2 1.097

: Daily Thunder

FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY: Oklahoma City -5.5, 196 o/u

PREVIOUSLY...the Oklahoma City Thunder have alternated wins and losses over their last seven games. They last played on Wednesday and beat the New Jersey Nets 114-93. Obviously, they're scheduled to lose tonight. Basic math.

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Atlanta Hawks 103 Golden State Warriors 93



Hoopdata boxscore


Al Horford:
"The game plan was just to play inside out. I think when we do that we usually have a lot of success. Josh is unselfish and I’m unselfish. When there’s a double team, we usually kick it out to the guards. That’s how we got going as a team, then later that opened up everything else.

We had some careless turnovers on the break, [including] myself. I try not to do that. I want to look back and see where I can improve in that area. We could have had a lot more opportunities on the fast break."
Larry Drew:
"At times we revert back to isolations, but that’s fine because we have some good isolation players. For the most part we are doing what we want to do."
Josh Smith:
"They had a couple ‘bigs' out, and the game plan from the get-go was to get the ball to me and Al and create for others. We got away from it for a little bit, and then we went back to it."
Drew on his team's successful defensive performance:
"Our focus in this game was really to defend the 3-point line. I thought we did that for the most part."
It may not make a huge difference in the results over the course of an entire season, but a focus on defending the three-point line will be the greatest cause of any improvement this team displays at that end this season.

Michael Cunningham reports that Marvin Williams suffered a lower back bruise when he fell over Lou Amundson in the third quarter. Williams:
"I got up quick but when I tried to walk back to the bench it locked up on me."
Joe Johnson's not completely healthy himself:
"When you shoot the ball you’ve got to pop your elbow and I can’t quite do that. When I’m on the court, I don’t really think about it. As long as we win, that’s all that matters."
Keith Smart on Monta Ellis falling off his 33.5 points per game pace to 12 points on 13 shots: "Some nights he’s just not going to have it. Guarding bigger guys will take some of his energy on nights like this."

Smart on the Hawks' big men:
"They play at a high level. Battle tested big guys who have gone through wars in the East, gone through wars in the playoffs. Our size, not having enough of it tonight, really hurt us."
Jason Walker addresses Vladimir Radmanovic's impact on the game:
I believe for every one of Radmanovic's 22 minutes, the Hawks tossed the ball into whoever he was guarding. On an early play, Horford showed the ball and Vlad froze as if watching a beautiful snowflake on a silent winter morning, and then Al blew by him and knocked down a layup while being fouled. From that point on, he looked to be mostly on Josh, who by no coincidence got the ball a lot in the post.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 103 Golden State Warriors 93


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 94
1.096 55.8

In general, the game offered a restatement of themes rather than revelations.

The Hawks always looked likely to create wide open shot with sufficient regularity and, at least when Al Horford (15 rebounds, 5 offensive) and/or Zaza Pachulia (7 rebounds in 19 minutes) in the game, to grab enough rebounds for the game's outcome never to be truly in doubt despite ample evidence of Atlanta's inability to stop dribble penetration or rotate well once said dribble penetration demands the attention of help defense. Golden State committed too many turnovers and didn't knock down enough of their (mostly open) three-point attempts, while the Hawks kept them off the free throw line and rebounded well enough defensively for it to be a poor Warrior offensive night overall even with Atlanta's familiar defensive worries on display.

Offensively, the Hawks provided a reminder that, when they move the ball, move without the ball, and look to get the ball inside initially, they create extremely high quality shots. 31 assists on 44 field goals on 55.8 eFG% attest to that. Each of those numbers could have been higher had Atlanta not displayed, at times, some shockingly poor transition passing.

Larry Drew appears capable of tightening up his rotation at home against over-matched opposition. As in last Wednesday's comfortable win over the Cavaliers, the Hawks essentially played eight. Tonight, the ninth man was Jeff Teague. Facing facts, if Drew can't find minutes for Teague (coming off the latest strong performance in a fairly successful season) against the Warriors on a night Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford combine to make one of eight first half shots, when Crawford makes just two of ten shots for the game, and even a hobbling Stephen Curry can get in the lane at will then Teague's not simply not going to receive regular minutes.

December 29th Game Preview: Golden State Warriors (12-18) @ Atlanta Hawks (20-13)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: SportSouth

RADIO: The Hawks have moved to 97.9 on the FM dial this season.

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Warriors


: Andris Biedrins and Dan Gadzuric are game-time decisions.


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
GS (off)
29 16.9
ATL (def)
89.9 1.046 48.1

Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
GS (def)
50.8 35.2
31.7 17.7
ATL (off)
90 1.068

:, Golden State of Mind


PREVIOUSLY...the Golden State Warriors beat Philadelphia 110-95 on Monday. It was their third straight win and their fourth in their last six games.

Monta Ellis is some kind of hot. He's scored 201 points in those six games on 55.8 eFG% shooting from the field and 47-57 from the foul line.

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

Al Horford Did Not Get an MRI On His Right Hand

Michael Cunningham reports:
Hawks center Al Horford said today he decided against having an MRI for his bruised shooting hand. Horford said after Atlanta’s victory at Milwaukee Monday that he would get more tests for the hand after X-rays were negative but he changed his mind.

“I didn’t think it was necessary,” he said. “I just think it’s a matter of, I’ve had several injuries to it and it takes longer to heal. I was getting concerned because it wasn’t getting any better. It feels somewhat better today.”

Horford said he’s accumulated injuries to the hand in his three-plus seasons with the Hawks. The latest flare-up came after he was hit on the hand in a game against Indiana on Dec. 11. Horford hasn’t missed any games.

The current treatment regiment for the hand is ice and electrical stimulation. The Hawks had a three-day break last week but a return to contact in games caused the hand to swell again.

“I hope it goes away,” he said. “[Rest] is the key. I thought taking those couple days off would make it better but it really didn’t. I just have to stay on it.”

Atlanta Hawks Pace and Efficiency Graphs

Looking at the point scored and allowed per 100 possessions from each game, we can see that Atlanta's best defensive results of the season have been concentrated in the last 16 games:

click to enlarge

Here's the game-by-game season average efficiency graph for the Hawks this season which shows both the team's improving defensive efficiency and the team's declining offensive efficiency:

click to enlarge

Sine I've done the work, here's a graph of the team's offensive possessions from each game:

click to enlarge

And the game-by-game season average of offensive possessions:

click to enlarge

The Hawks are again 27th in the league in pace this season.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is Michael Cunningham the Best Beat Writer in the NBA?

It's both a nominating provocation and an open question as there's no beat writer I read more often. His blog post this afternoon (an off day, I add) about the discrepancy between Larry Drew's words action regarding Jeff Teague is an example for anyone writing about basketball. It has it all: research, quality prose, sharp questions, and expansive quotes for the answers to those questions.

To whomever compiles the best basketball writing of 2010: do not less this pass you by. The Point Forward: LaGree: Average Hawks in Need of Financial Creativity

Given the opportunity to help fill in for the vacationing Zach Lowe, I jumped at the chance to play Nate Robinson to his Rajon Rondo at The Point Forward on They asked me to write about Rick Sund's belief in improving by staying the same:
Given that Philips Arenas has been, on average, at 75 percent capacity this season and that the franchise has not won a second-round playoff game since 1997, deciding to stay below the luxury-tax threshold is perfectly reasonable.

The lack of creativity in spending their limited resources is less so. Does any team (at least as 2011 dawns) need Mo Evans and Damien Wilkins? Both Jason Collins and Etan Thomas? Simply limiting themselves to one aging role player per position would create some financial flexibility while freeing up a couple of roster spots for younger players capable of augmenting the core in the present and possibly providing greater value in the future.

Unless the organization is willing to accept diminishing returns from their long-standing belief in sticking with more of the same, cutting back on aging role players may be a necessary change. Cunningham: Jordan Crawford Could Join Pape Sy in D-League

Michael Cunningham reports:
Pape Sy is off to play in the NBA Development League, and fellow Hawks rookie guard Jordan Crawford soon could join him.

“There has been some talk about it,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We are certainly going to keep our options open with our young guys [and] putting them in situations where they can get some playing time instead of practicing every day and just being with the team. I would rather them be somewhere playing, where they are learning, where they can get some experience.”
Jordan Crawford played in 8 of Atlanta's first 16 games, for a total of just under 97 minutes, displaying promising shot creation if not always shot conversion skills plus perfectly acceptable assist, turnover, and defensive rebounding rates.

He's played in just 2 of the last 17 games, for just under 12 minutes, and has been inactive for 9 of the last 14 games as you never know when you might need to use Mo Evans and Damien Wilkins or Jason Collins and Etan Thomas at the same time.

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Atlanta Hawks 95 Milwaukee Bucks 80




Joe Johnson:
"The last time we played this team they pretty much embarrassed us. To come out and play the way we did tonight means a lot. We’ve got to try to build on this. We’ve got to try to string five or six wins together."
Al Horford on the success of the pick-and-roll setting up most of his 14 second half points:
"We set a pick-and-roll, everyone sunk in and almost gave me those wide open jump shots. I had to take them."
As expected, this did not please the ever-quotable Scott Skiles:
"They threw the ball wherever they wanted to throw it, did whatever they wanted to do all night really. Just methodically went through their stuff and their options and handled us pretty easily. It was worse than the score even appeared."
Andrew Bogut:
"That's it right there. I'll even give you a quote on that: 'When we let teams shoot a high percentage, we lose.'"

"It's nice to watch when we're sharing the ball, different guys are getting involved. When we play like that, it seems like we're at our best."
Horford on Jason Collins:
"Jason has been doing a great job all year guarding bigger players. He’s been huge for us. It takes away from us having to help so much."
Josh Smith on Collins starting:
"I told him after the game, I want to see what our record is when he starts. It has to be well over .500."
Games Jason Collins Has Started
@Minnesota WIN
Phoenix loss
@Orlando loss
Milwaukee loss
@Orlando WIN
New Jersey WIN
@San Antonio loss
@Boston loss
Orlando WIN
@Milwaukee WIN
5-5, .500. But the Collins-inclusive starting lineup has been stellar on the court.

Larry Drew on another solid Jeff Teague performance:
"We knew with the matchup he was going to be able to match speed for speed. I thought Jeff did a great job."
"Lester [Conner] tells me every day, just come in and try to make an impact on the game. Do what I do and try to push the ball and try to be active on defense. That’s all they ask from me."
Jason Walker on Jeff Teague, the inch-for-inch chasedown king:
Jeff Teague had the play of the game when, with 9:22 left in the game and the Hawks up eight, Earl Boykins stole Jeff's pass and went the other way. The ball went up ahead to Jon Brockman, who thought he had an easy layup to cut the Hawks' lead to six.

It was not such a good game for Brockman who earlier in the game had shot a prodigiously bad airball during a free throw attempt. It would be a sign of things to come.

As Brockman gently lay the ball up for his bucket, Teague swooped in and did his best Josh Smith impression, swatting the shot off the glass. As the loose ball was saved, Teague was the one who scooped up the ball and raced down the court with a full head of steam. As he entered the lane, he flipped the ball to Horford, who laid it in and stretched the lead back up to 10. The Bucks would never be closer than (9) points again. Game Over.
It's ten blocks in 391 minutes for Teague this season.

Keyon Dooling is on board with Rick Sund's "core" philosophy:
"We got off to a slow start and against a good team like that - a battle-tested team that has great continuity - it's hard to fight an uphill battle."
At Brew Hoop, Alex Boeder laments Atlanta's success on the offensive glass:
Allowing offensive rebounds and second-chance points continues to plague the Bucks of late. And not getting offensive rebounds or second-chance points themselves isn't helping the matter. The Hawks doubled up the Bucks in second-chance points (12-6), and while the Hawks only tallied a couple more offensive rebounds (11-9), you must consider that both teams shot exactly 75 field goals, but the Bucks missed 10 more shots, so they had plenty more chances.

Al Horford To Get MRI On Right Hand Today

Worrying news: Al Horford's right hand is not getting any better:
"I know I look fine out there but it’s tough. When I stop playing it feels OK but as soon as I get back out there it’s hurting."
Michael Cunningham reports that X-rays have been negative and that Horford will get an MRI today.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 95 Milwaukee Bucks 80


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIL 88
0.909 40

A positive, sound performance like this tempts one to doubt how conscious the good coaching and good play on display actually is, but let's resist that temptation and catalogue that which was good:
  • Atlanta's five best offensive players enjoyed relatively equal shot distribution.
  • Josh Smith, for a half at least, stayed inside of 10 feet and dominated offensively for a spell.
  • Al Horford used 9 offensive possessions in the fourth quarter.
  • Josh Powell received a DNP-CD and Jeff Teague played 18:19.
  • Mike Bibby had a poor night and sat for the final 13:25.
  • Jason Collins started, kept Al Horford out of fake foul trouble, drew a couple of charges, and grabbed 12* rebounds.
  • Jamal Crawford focused on getting his own shot, but did so in a team context (primarily running pick-and-roll) and was effective and efficient.
  • Marvin Williams probably didn't deserve to start the game on the bench given his recent play but a modest change of role did not reduce his effectiveness.
*Last time that happened? April 11, 2006.

Good though it was in parts, it was far from a perfect performance. The Hawks followed up an excellent offensive first half with a jump shot happy, iso-Joe heavy third quarter. Even without Brandon Jennings around to pressure defensively and penetrate offensively, the Hawks turned the ball over too often and were too porous on the defensive perimeter. Milwaukee only managed to turn 17 Atlanta turnovers into 10 points.

As for Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins combining for 28 points (on 24 shots) and 11 assists (against 5 turnovers) and John Salmons moving to 17.4 Pts/36 and 62.5 eFG% in two games against the Hawks versus 13.6 Pts/36 and 41.9 eFG% in twenty-six games against the rest of the league this season...perimeter defense is a problem that is not going to go away for this team and, in lieu of a solution, they'll need more offensive performances like the first half in New Orleans or the bulk of tonight's game to overcome it.

Mathletics: NBA Insights December 27

Wayne Winston offers an adjusted plus/minus inspired thought or two for every NBA team on the basis of season-to-date data. Concerning the Hawks:
Bibby +10 and Jamaal Crawford +9 have keyed the Hawks moderate success. Despite a great PER rating Horford has not had a great impact on their usccess [sic].
It's true that Al Horford has poor adjusted plus/minus numbers this season. As do LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It's also true that, over the entirety of this season plus last season, Horford's 15th in the league in adjusted plus/minus.

In defense of Horford's reputation, I'll offer some unadjusted plus/minus numbers from this season:

Al HorfordOff EffDef EffPoss
w/ Josh Powell102.0124.1202
w/o Josh Powell108.9103.41787

Josh Powell has been on the court for 10.2% of the possessions Al Horford has played. Those possessions have decreased Horford's overall on-court offensive rating by 0.7 points per 100 possessions and increased Horford's overall on-court defensive rating by 2.1 points per 100 possessions.

December 27th Game Preview: Atlanta Hawks (19-13) @ Milwaukee Bucks (12-16)

TIP-OFF: 8pm (EST)

: SportSouth

RADIO: The Hawks have moved to 97.9 on the FM dial this season.

CHAT: Daily Dime Live

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Bucks

ATLANTA INJURY REPORT: Jamal Crawford is still listed as questionable but is expected to play.

: Brandon Jennings, Carlos Delfino, and Michael Redd are out. Drew Gooden is a game-time decision.


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
23.8 15.2
MIL (def)
89.2 1.036 48.6

Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
48.4 27.3
25.6 14.2
MIL (off)
89.3 1.019

: Bucksketball, Brew Hoop


PREVIOUSLY...the Milwaukee Bucks won back-to-back road games against the Lakers and the Kings despite being without Brandon Jennings, Carlos Delfino, and Drew Gooden in both contests.

The Bucks beat the Hawks 108-91 in Atlanta on November 10th.

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

Expanded Thoughts On the Resolution of the Ownership Dispute

Kris Willis offered a thoughtful Boxing Day piece on
the ownership situation over at Peachtree Hoops. His conclusion:
I have to think Belkin's ouster from the Spirit group is a good thing for the franchise going forward. Number one the search for new investors in the group can proceed at full force now. No investor is seriously going to consider coming on board in a situation when the first thing they might be asked to do is pay off a settlement to a disgruntled ex-partner. This in reality is probably priority one as the Spirit had to go into their bank accounts to pay some sort of settlement to Belkin so I wouldn't expect the Hawks to run out and make a trade that takes them into luxury tax territory just yet.

No one other than those on the inside really know the constraints that the lawsuit had on the day to day operations of the club. There have been times where we have raised the question that perhaps Rick Sund has to jump through a few more hoops than a lot of GM's do such as the coaching search this past off season. If anything this should clearly define the roles of those in charge going forward.
As it disclaims at the top of this blog every day, I'm naturally pessimistic and, though the lawsuit surely discouraged new investors, I'm not sure the opportunity to give money to the guys who spearheaded offering the worst contract in the NBA is going to be especially attractive. The only way I see the resolution of the ownership dispute having a profoundly positive impact on the franchise is if it somehow causes Gearon and Levenson either to reform their behavior as owners or sell the team to someone who proves to be a better owner.

It is probably more likely that someone buys the Hawks from Gearon and Levenson now that the internal dispute is resolved. That could be good for Hawks fans because Gearon and Levenson have displayed a great enthusiasm for making decisions that, in better-run franchises, fall to basketball people: remember not just that they (allegedly) overruled Sund in hiring Larry Drew but that Sund is the GM in the first place because he, unlike other candidates, accepted that he would not have a choice in whether or not to re-sign Mike Woodson. Which shouldn't have been a surprise considering Sund's predecessor was not allowed to decide the fate of the head coach purported to work under him.

In both their actions and public comments, Gearon and Levenson have demonstrated little basketball acumen. Despite having their two best players locked in to reasonable, long-term deals, their propensity to vastly overpay to keep role players has the team facing a terribly limiting salary cap future. Furthermore, whatever the difficulties of the market, they have not succeeded in making the team attractive to new or casual fans.

Al Horford An Afterthought In Another Fourth Quarter

From his game recap at Peachtree Hoops, Jason Walker on Al Horford:
Al Horford isn't perfect, but dang, can the man be more than a freaking afterthought on this team? His number comes up less often than any starter in terms of having a play specifically called for him to get the ball despite his effectiveness. We see every single player blow through their possessions like Kleenex, yet they continue to get the plays called for them. Al doesn't seem to get that grace, and it all goes back to the franchise seeing him as a useful engine, but not the top of the franchise player that would have a gameplan built around his skills.

By the way, Coach Drew.....28 minutes, four fouls. Horford missed (12) minutes due to the foul "trouble" of getting two whole fouls in the first half, which is far more than he likely would have missed if he had fouled out late in the fourth quarter. One often meets his destiny on the path taken to avoid it. And yes, that's a Kung Fu Panda reference.
It was another Hawks loss, it was another one-shot fourth quarter from Al Horford. That makes it four of the last seven games and three of Atlanta's last four losses wherein Horford has gotten a single field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps, rather than adjusting the team's on-court and the franchise's off-court plans to reflect the reality of his excellence, the plan is to suppress the evidence that Horford is the team's best player.

Quotes, Notes, and Links: New Orleans Hornets 93 Atlanta Hawks 86



Hoopdata boxscore


Larry Drew:
"We missed some defensive assignments against [Chris Paul] on how we were defending the pick-and-roll. Then we tried to mix it up and play a little zone to get him off balance a little bit. But he made some shots and he got too deep on us on the pick-and-roll a couple times. We went underneath, which was a missed assignment."
Because these assignments were missed by Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford, rest assured that no one's playing time was affected.

Jamal Crawford on defending Paul:
"He’s seen every coverage by now. You just have to live with it sometimes."
That dismissal of one's own agency and responsibility aptly sums up the limitations of this basketball team.

"As bad as that third quarter was, we were still right there and had a chance. But against good teams we have to be able to follow through on the game plan, especially defensively. On the road you have to have better shot selection."
If that was the defensive game plan, an alleged lack of follow-through is the least of the problems. And if you want better shot selection, stop enabling the tenured guards and Josh Smith, jump shooter (48 jumpers vs. 25 shots at the rim in his last 8 games).

Mo Evans:
"The game was tied at 78-78 and then I think we were stagnant in the latter part of the game. They continued to run their offense. CP continued to create for other guys and put it in position where all they had to do was score the ball or shoot it. They got great looks every time down the floor and eventually that is going to win out."
New Orleans won despite making just 2 of 17 three-point attempts and 9 of 15 free throws. They were just massively better at getting the ball inside.

Joe Johnson:
"I was kind of taking what the defense gives me. Our offense, basically everybody is moving the basketball, and if you are open, you take the shot."
David West on Atlanta's first-half offense:
"We let them move the ball where they wanted to."
Doing what you want rather than what they give you is preferred.

Jarrett Jack on Paul:
"I told him, 'Hey, you have to be a scorer for us. Our offense is kind of stagnant there. You've got to be aggressive and be ready to score."
Rohan of At the Hive, on the zone defense New Orleans employed for much of the second half:
New Orleans ran the zone a number of times in the first half; in the second, they went to it on virtually every defensive possession. The Hornets have been remarkably successful employing the zone in limited doses this year; seeing it work over a 20+ minute stretch against a plus shooting offensive team was heartening.

Interestingly, the team used David West to show on to the wings on all perimeter screens. This often led to West and a guard (Jack or Paul throughout the second half) going to a pseudo-trap on the perimeter, with Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor accounting for either the roll or the weakside backdoor cut. It worked with remarkable consistency. The concept of employing Ariza to deny the passing lanes created by screens (instead of having West sit back) was a novel one, but Ariza performed it well. Again, it was yet another wrinkle in Monty Williams' impressively effective defensive strategy.

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?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day Game Preview: Atlanta Hawks (19-12) @ New Orleans Hornets (17-12)

TIP-OFF: 7pm (EST)

: SportSouth

RADIO: The Hawks have moved to 97.9 on the FM dial this season.

GAME NOTES: Hawks/Hornets

: Jamal Crawford is questionable.

: Pops Mensah-Bonsu is out.


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
23.9 15.2
NO (def)
88.4 1.035 48.2

Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
48.3 27.6
25.5 14.4
NO (off)
88.4 1.065

: Hornets 247, At The Hive

: New Orleans -4, 184.5 o/u

PREVIOUSLY...the New Orleans Hornets have won just 6 of 17 games following their 11-1 start to the season. They appear to have turned a corner on the most deflating stretch of their season. They've only split their last four games, but the victories were by 29 points against Utah and 14 against New Jersey, while the losses were by a single point at Indiana and by 3 points (in overtime) at Detroit.

What is Boxing Day? Per Wikipedia:
During the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of the manor "boxed up" leftover food, or sometimes gifts, and distributed them the day after Christmas to tenants on their lands. Many poorly paid workers had to work on Christmas Day and took the following day off to visit family. As they prepared to leave, employers presented them with these Christmas boxes.
Pape Sy visits the D-League tomorrow.

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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

More Hawks on Christmas Day History

The Hawks haven't played on Christmas Day in 21 years but, in their last two Christmas Day games (1987 and 1989), two Atlanta Hawks (pictured together below in a scanned newspaper photo circa the 1986 All-Star Game in Dallas) provided their fans with holiday delights, displays that rank among the top 15 individual Christmas Day performances since 1986.

On December 25th, 1987 in Philadelphia, Dominique Wilkins scored 45 points on 28 shots, grabbed 9 rebounds, and earned 3 assists to lead the Hawks over the 76ers 106-100.

Neil Paine's adjusted plus/minus game score ranks this as the 15th-best individual Christmas Day performance since 1986. John Hollinger's game score ranks this as the 4th-best individual Christmas Day performance since 1986. And neither metric gives 'Nique extra credit for dragging Jon Koncak, Scott Hastings, and Chris Washburn along for the victory.

Two years later, the Hawks hosted Cleveland on Christmas Day. That 115-104 victory was far more of a team effort: all 5 starters scored in double figures (Wilkins, Moses Malone, and Spud Webb each tallied at least 20 points) and Cliff Levingston chipped in 9 points and 7 boards off the bench.

Webb, though, was the unquestioned star of the day, scoring 26 points on 14 shots, grabbing 6 rebounds, earning 12 assists, and committing just 1 turnover. Paine's game score rates this the 3rd-best individual Christmas Day performance since 1986. Hollinger's version ranks Webb 6th.

40 Years Ago Today

The Atlanta Hawks, featuring Lou Hudson, Bill Bridges, Walt Bellamy, and rookie guard Pete Maravich visited the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Josh Smith, Jump Shooter? A Graphical Update

Previously: 12.8.10, 11.24.10, 11.9.10

The green line shows Smith's eFG% on all shot attempts outside of sixteen feet over the past four seasons. The red line shows Smith's eFG% on long (16-23 feet) two-point jumpers over the past four seasons. As you can see there was little difference in his results over that time.

The yellow and blue lines represent Smith's game-by-game season averages this season.

click to enlarge

Further updates for chart fiends...

Josh Smith3PTA/FGA

Smith's hot start (12-52) from beyond the arc has lifted his career 3PTFG% to 28.1%.

Smith is making a significantly higher percentage of his long two-point jump shots so far this season.

Josh SmitheFG% (16-23')

He's both taking and making a greater percentage of his long jump shots so far this season.

Josh Smith%FGA (16+')eFG% (16+')

Smith has continued to take a lower percentage of his shot attempts at the rim than in previous seasons. Some of that may be due to a data collection change at Hoopdata. Last season, 32.5% of shots in the NBA were categorized as at the rim. This season, 27.3% of shots in the NBA have been so categorized.

More of it has to do with shot selection. Smith has made just 10 and attempted just 23 shots at the rim over the last seven games, a stretch during which he's taken 41 jump shots outside of 16 feet. He's eFG% on those jump shots is 40.2%. All of which goes a fair way toward explaining why Smith has seen improved results as a jump shooter yet his eFG% this season is slightly lower than last season's.

Josh Smith%FGA (at rim)eFG% (at rim)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Atlanta Hawks 98 Cleveland Cavaliers 84



Hoopdata boxscore


John Hollinger on the simple brutality of Atlanta's offensive attack:
Size matters in basketball, and in more subtle ways than you think. Take Atlanta’s win over Cleveland on Wednesday, a perfunctory 98-84 triumph that came about almost entirely because the Hawks’ wing players were several inches taller than Cleveland.

The resulting attack wasn’t necessarily exhilarating, but it was highly effective. Atlanta posted Joe Johnson on the right block ... and then Marvin Williams on the left block … and then Joe on the left block … and back to the right block ... and so on.

Atlanta posted up the 6-foot-7 Johnson on Daniel Gibson (6-2) nearly every possession, and while Gibson is capable defender in other respects (my Cleveland spies said he’s the best team defender they have besides Anderson Varejao), he was no match for Johnson physically. Cleveland’s best hope would have been to put him on a medieval stretcher rack at halftime and have him come out of the locker room 6-5. Sadly, the players’ union frowns on such tactics.

Here’s the insidious part: Johnson himself didn’t have a monstrous game, as he finished with 23 points. But with Cleveland double-teaming on nearly every catch, it set the ball whirling around the perimeter to another open Hawk, inevitably leading to an open J for Williams (7 of 11, 17 points) or Al Horford (8 of 13, 18 points).

At the end of the night Johnson had seven assists and several more “hockey assists,” and the Hawks slowly wore down Cleveland’s resistance after a post-heavy attack produced only 17 first-quarter points for Atlanta.
Larry Drew:
"Certainly with Gibson or Williams on Joe, we thought that to be an advantage we should take advantage of at times."
Joe Johnson, on making more than half his shots from the field for the first time since November 12th and for just the fifth time in 22 games this season:
"I haven’t really been feeling that rhythm pretty much all season for whatever reason. But tonight, I felt pretty good."
Boobie Gibson on guarding Joe Johnson:
"I could be 6-9 and you're not going to stop those shots. Those were tough shots. He just got it going and got the separation they needed. You can't guard guys like that individually. It's more of a team effort."
Josh Smith on Johnson:
"Joe came back without any practices, and he finally found the stroke. He played lights out tonight."
Not that Johnson, even without practice and despite his quick return, is completely healed from his surgery:
"I still can't extend all the way. But I can come out with a free mind."
Free your mind and your shots will follow.

Byron Scott, grading his team on a curve:
"It was another solid effort by our guys, but we ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw in the third quarter."

Hawks Ownership Settles Lawsuit

The various factions which comprised the Atlanta Spirit Group which owns the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena, settled their internal dispute with the groups led by Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon buying out Steve Belkin.

The official press release, in full:
The lawsuit among the owners of the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Thrashers has been settled. Terms of the settlement are confidential. Going forward, Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson will serve as managing partners of the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers, and Philips Arena.
In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kristi E. Stewart reports:
[T]he settlement includes seven of the group's co-owners buying out former partner Steve Belkin's 30 percent stake in the group. There are no new investors in line to replace Belkin.
Stewart goes on to report that at halftime of the Hawks/Cavaliers game, Levenson reiterated that he and and Gearon are actively searching for additional investors:
"We're still trying to find investors to come in here and help us. That hasn’t changed at all."
For reasons unpersuasive to me, Jeff Schultz considers the settlement good news:
The Spirit owners could never understand — or at least would never admit publicly — why they’ve been subjected to so much criticism over the past six and a half years. The reason is simple: Fans want their sports teams’ owners who are passionate and want to win as much as they do, and who give the impression that they know what they’re doing.

When owners are suing each other, it obviously sends a different message.

Now that they’re out of the courtroom, the remaining members of the Atlanta Spirit need to go about trying to repair some of the damage they’ve inflicted during their tenure. But if they don’t succeed right away, maybe it’s because there are more than a few bridges that need repairing.
The owners who have secured control of the Hawks are those most passionate about investing $200 million in salary, two first-round draft picks, and Boris Diaw in order to secure Joe Johnson's prime and decline which has thus far produced two winning seasons, an 11-18 post-season record, and no cap space until the Summer of 2013.

Passion is to good ownership and effort is to effective defense.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 98 Cleveland Cavaliers 84


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 86
1.14 55.4

A win's a win but there's little more the Hawks can take away from a fairly desultory performance against inferior opposition. Outside of Al Horford's post-Anderson Varejao ball-screen efforts to keep Mo Williams and Boobie Gibson away from the basket, Atlanta's defensive resistance was minimal. On the offensive end, the team appeared content to convert the occasional easy transition opportunity and take advantage of their jump shots being less contested than normal. And make no mistake, the game was normal from Cleveland's perspective. The Cavs, on average, score 102 and allow 112 points per possession.

If little was learned about this Hawks teams, certain things were reinforced. Al Horford (18 points on 13 shots, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers) is awesome, Joe Johnson (23 points on 17 shots, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and no turnovers) is a pretty damn good offensive player when he's making shots, a healthy Marvin Williams (17 points on 11 shots) is a lot better than Damien Wilkins, Jeff Teague (7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, and another block in 18 minutes) is fast and fairly productive when entrusted with playing time, Zaza Pachulia (2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals) is active and fairly productive when entrusted with playing time, and Josh Smith is never more frustrating than when he's both fairly productive and clearly going through the motions. Smith rarely broke into a stride more dynamic than a stroll, was a relative non-factor defensively, and made it a point to settle for jumpers. Seven of his 14 field goal attempts were outside of 14 feet. He made 3 of them. Still, he posted 16 points, 11 rebounds (3 offensive), 6 assists, and no turnovers.

It was equal parts curious and encouraging that Larry Drew tightened up the rotation to 8 players given Jamal Crawford's absence and the poor opposition. The Hawks could benefit from more minutes for their top-line talent against sterner competition, though they might yet learn that Josh Powell can hurt them even when he doesn't set foot on the court as his presence on the roster precludes giving Larry Drew a reasonable option on the nights when Smith can't be bothered to play at full speed.