Sunday, January 02, 2011

Atlanta Hawks 107 Los Angeles Clippers 98


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
LAC 91
1.077 48.8

A better team than the Clippers would have put the Hawks away in the first half. A lesser team than the Hawks couldn't have made the volume of individual plays necessary for the second half comeback. At 19-5 against sub-.500 teams and 3-9 against teams above .500 the Hawks are currently the perfect gauge for NBA quality.

Rarely, on this Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, was anyone witness to two teams playing well simultaneously. Good plays and mistakes were traded off for the better part of three quarters but the Hawks made the vast majority of their fourth quarter jump shots (7-9 including two Josh Smith three-pointers) and the Clippers continued to send jump shooters to the line. Joe Johnson had 7 fourth quarter FTAs on a day the Clippers fouled him* at least four times while he was shooting a fall-away and Jamal Crawford got to the line 5 times in the fourth. Heck, given his shot selection (8 of his 14 field goal attempts were jumpers), Josh Smith's two fourth quarter free throws could fall under the general "Clippers fouling a jump shooter" heading.

*The 17 free throw attempts bested Johnson's previous career high by 3 attempts.

The comeback was all about offense. The Hawks scored 65 second half points on 43 second half possessions to win by 9. Their defense didn't improve so much as the pace slowed. Baron Davis, Blake Griffin, and Eric Gordon each missed an open layup in the final five minutes to aid Atlanta's cause down the stretch. The reasons for the poor defense were familiar: If the Atlanta guards played off the ball-handler and went under a ball-screen, they gave up an uncontested, wide-open jump shot. If the Atlanta guards pressured the ball-handler, they could be easily beat off the dribble. Once they were beat off the dribble, the ensuing chaos led to poor rotations on the weak-side perimeter and exposed the Hawks on the defensive glass.

If my notes are correct, not until Jeff Teague entered the game with 3:42 left in the first half did a single Hawks guard go over a ball-screen. The three buckets Teague made in his first half cameo (as many as Joe Johnson made in 10 attempts and 19-and-a-half first half minutes, one more than Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby combined for in 9 shots and 28-and-a-half first half minutes) shouldn't be overlooked in setting up the second half comeback, either.

Had his shotmakers (plus Josh Smith) not shown up for the second half, Larry Drew would have had a difficult time explaining Teague's late introduction, his application of The Horford Treatment, Jason Collins (0 points, 2 defensive rebounds, 1 turnover, little help defense) playing 18 minutes and 11 seconds against a team without a post player for him to impede, and the re-appearance of Josh Powell (0 points, 2 defensive rebounds, 1 turnover). Luckily for Drew, his team was playing the Clippers and he was matched up against Vinny Del Negro. So Al-Farouq Aminu played most of the fourth quarter (0-4, 1 turnover, 1 foul), Joe Johnson scored 11 points on 6 shots in the final quarter, and Jamal Crawford combined for a 92.9 eFG% on 14 second half field goal attempts and made 11 of 13 second half free throws.

Given all that working in Atlanta's favor, it didn't even matter that Al Horford's lone fourth quarter field goal attempt came as a result of rebounding a Joe Johnson air ball.

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