Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Atlanta Hawks 100 Sacramento Kings 98




Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
SAC 90
36.2 8.9
ATL 89 1.124 50

In the first half, the Atlanta Hawks squandered any benefit of the doubt they received following Saturday night's home loss to the Houston Rockets. Unlike the Rockets, the Sacramento Kings are a comprehensively sub-par offensive team and not at all a bad matchup for the Hawks. But the Kings beat the Hawks down the court for easy buckets*, beat the Atlanta guards off the dribble for easy buckets, and rebounded 11 of their 23 first-half misses, often resulting in, yes, easy buckets. The result: 62 Sacramento points on 49 possessions. Only through the stalwart offensive efforts of Joe Johnson (18 first-half points on 15 shots, 4 assists) and Al Horford (15 first-half points on 12 shots, 3 assists) were the Hawks still in the game at halftime.

*The nadir probably being Donte Green's first quarter fast-break, alley-oop lay-in following a made Al Horford jumper.

One need only subtract 98 from 62 to realize that the Hawks defended far better in the second half. They slowed the tempo (Sacramento had just 41 second-half possessions), did a better job against dribble penetration, and rebounded almost 75% of Sacramento's misses.

Atlanta's offense perked up in the second-half, though the slower pace might hide the fact. Joe Johnson remained unstoppable, finishing with 36 points on 27 shots, 6 assists and no turnovers. Al Horford made the most of his rare (despite playing the entire second half) second-half touches, adding 8 points on 4 shots and 3 assists to his first-half totals, and Josh Smith, after using five of six field goal attempts on jump shots in the first three quarters, took six of seven* shots at the rim in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 essential points in the final 12 minutes.

*The seventh was the corner 3 he made off a pass from Horford with 3:17 left to put the Hawks up six.

As much as a win outweighs the bad performance that earns said win, there were some worrying aspects to this victory:
  • Four starters needing to play more than 40 minutes to beat the Kings by 2 at home.
  • Mike Bibby playing 42:33 of an NBA game in 2011.
  • Bibby and Jamal Crawford sharing the court for most the final 15-and-a-half minutes despite combining to shoot 1-9 from the field over that stretch and their on-court presence encouraging Larry Drew to try out that 2-3 zone again.
  • Jeff Teague not being a part of the rotation in either game against the Kings. I guess he really doesn't match up well with Pooh Jeter.
  • Lester Conner being interviewed on TV at the start of the second quarter and talking about the coaching staff demanding a commitment to defense from the players. Great sentiment. But while Conner spoke, one could clearly see Jamal Crawford, Josh Powell, and Etan Thomas all on the court for the Hawks, their presence rather undermining the coaching staff's sentiment.
  • Damien Wilkins being asked, after sitting all but 5 seconds of the previous 34 minutes of game action, to guard Tyreke Evans on Sacramento's penultimate possession. The one where Evans drove right past Wilkins for a game-tying layup.
  • Lots and lots of isolation sets over the final 3 minutes, not just for Johnson but for Crawford and Bibby as well.
The Hawks are so much better than the Kings that all this affected the margin but not the result. That will not be the case as the schedule gets tougher.

Larry Drew:
"After the way we played against Houston, I really expected us to come out and play with more of a sense of urgency, especially having lost a game, having had a bad performance against Houston. I told our guys at halftime we came out soft and we played soft across the board."
Tom Ziller on Larry Drew's use of Damien Wilkins:
Hawks coach Larry Drew had inserted Wilkins, a 31-year-old veteran roleplayer who averages a few minutes a week, specifically to guard 'Reke on the important possession, thus conceding any votes he would have gotten for Coach of the Year.
At NBA Playbook, Sebatian Pruiti has little positive to say about either team when breaking down the final play of the game.

No comments: