Saturday, January 08, 2011

Atlanta Hawks 108 Indiana Pacers 93


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
IND 94
44 24.1
25.6 16
ATL 93 1.161 49.4

The Indiana Pacers are a good defensive team. They entered tonight's game ranked sixth in the league in defensive efficiency. They also match up terribly with the Atlanta Hawks. That latter fact ruled the night as the Hawks put on a clinic of offensive execution to rival their performance in Utah on Wednesday night. The Hawks had exploitable mis-matches all over the floor. Josh Smith (27 points on 18 shots, 6 assists) against Tyler Hansbrough. Al Horford (14 points on 14 shots, 6 assists, no turnovers) against Roy Hibbert. Jamal Crawford (20 points on 15 shots, 4 assists) against TJ Ford. Smith against Danny Granger when Indiana went small.

The Hawks' recipe for success was simple. They got the ball to a player in an advantageous position quickly. The player attacked the mis-match immediately. Often, this created a good shot. Even if it did not, it forced the other four Indiana defenders to react and opened up passing lanes. The Hawks did not limit themselves to providing a demonstration on how to exploit matchups, their spacing and ball-movement were impeccable as well. That's how Mike Bibby scored 15 points on just 7 shots and how Joe Johnson looked so perfectly integrated into the offense, scoring 24 points on 19 shots and earning 6 assists.

It's a testament to the ease with which Atlanta did whatever they wanted offensively that, when the quintet of Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford exited the game en masse with 3:17 left and the Hawks up 104-85, those five players had scored 100 of Atlanta's 104 points and the Hawks had earned assists 26 of the team's 35 field goals. Indiana could do nothing to force the ball out of the hands of Atlanta's best offensive players.

The Hawks won the game through offensive execution but they put the game away with one sound defensive quarter. Content to outscore the Pacers for a half, the Hawks made a concerted effort to control the pace, limit Indiana's transition opportunities, and force the Pacers to try and score against a set defense. The Hawks committed just two turnovers in the third quarter (both Joe Johnson passes out of bounds, no chance to run off those), grabbed four offensive rebounds, and made a noticeable effort to get back on defense promptly and in numbers. After getting 49 offensive possessions in the first half, Indiana had just 21 offensive possessions to use in the third quarter. Denied easy transition buckets, Indiana's offense was rendered even more impotent than normal and scored just 14 points in the first eleven-and-a-half minutes of the second half, falling behind by 20 points, a margin they never seriously diminished.

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