Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Atlanta Hawks 108 Sacramento Kings 102



Hoopdata boxscore

Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
SAC 98
1.041 47.4

The Atlanta Hawks will earn no style point for this victory, with a 22-point fourth quarter lead shrinking to a 6-point victory after allowing the Sacramento Kings to score 39 fourth quarter points, 34 of them in the game's final seven minutes. But the Kings never had a real chance to win the game and the clumsy nature of the game's finish shouldn't overshadow a generally good performance from the Hawks.

In his pre-game blog, Michael Cunningham reported the following:
Lester Conner’s pregame board has a different look tonight. The offensive and defensive keys are each labeled with “good teams.” As in . . .

Defensively, good teams: box out, defend one-on-one, defend in transition and play hard. Offensively, good teams: take good shots, make the extra pass, execute the offense, put away bad teams.

At the bottom of the keys: “REALIZE We are a good team.”
How did the Hawks succeed in ticking off the boxes on Conner's list?

Box out: Extraordinarily successful. The Hawks limited Sacramento, an excellent offensive rebounding team, to grabbing 26% of their potential offensive rebounds. The Hawks were even better in the first half when they built their insurmountable lead. The Kings grabbed just 8.3% of their potential offensive rebounds before halftime.

Mike Bibby probably best exemplified the team's commitment to rebounding. He grabbed 10 rebounds in 33 minutes. The last time Bibby grabbed that many rebounds also came in Sacramento, almost five years ago.

Defend one-on-one: Successful. During the period of the game when the Hawks competed and played their regular rotation, the Kings struggled mightily to score. The Kings took the shots the Hawks wanted them to take.

Granted, Sacramento appeared to be the rare team disinterested in attacking the Atlanta backcourt off the dribble. Tyreke Evans consistently beat Joe Johnson off the dribble on the rare occasions he forswore a bad jump shot. Pooh Jeter consistently contented himself with getting Mike Bibby on his heels before pulling up for a 20-foot jumper. Beno Udrih allegedly played 26:20 but I have no recollection of that.

Defend in transition: Successful until the Hawks started turning the ball over in the fourth quarter. It's difficult to get beat in transition too often when you make more than half your shots and attack the offensive glass. The Hawks had a 27.8 offensive rebound rate despite securing zero fourth quarter offensive boards.

Play hard: Sure.

Take good shots: Very successful. Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson took 35 of Atlanta's 78 shots. No one on the Kings could guard either player so those were all essentially good shots. Josh Smith missed all five of his jump shots but was 5-6 in the paint. Al Horford was 4-14 from the floor. That happens and he didn't choose exceptionally bad shots but some of his misses were so ugly that the mind's eye tried to count them twice.

Make the extra pass: Successful but not especially relevant. Often, all it took was one pass to break down Sacramento's defense or start a successful fast break.

Execute the offense: Successful. See above.

Put away bad teams: Unsuccessful. The Jamal Crawford/Evans/Wilkins/Smith/Pachulia lineup patently failed to put away the Kings.

Poor Jeff Teague, he sat for three-and-a-half quarters, finally got to join in the garbage time play with 3:54 left. Jamal Crawford turns the ball over, leading to a Tyreke Evans layup which cut Atlanta's lead to 12 and leading to Larry Drew re-inserting the starters (plus Crawford) with 3:26 left.

Crawford and the starters were outscored by six more point over the final 3:26.

Larry Drew:
"Everyone has games like this. This is the NBA. These things happen."
"I thought we would do a better job finishing up. I wanted to give the starters some rest but we just let our guard down. We stopped defending. We stopped executing. We stopped running. They made some shots."
Jamal Crawford on Sacramento's futile comeback:
"They sped the game up and started trapping. They junked it up and it gave them some life."
Paul Westphal on the two jumpers Joe Johnson made in the final 3:26:
"We made them put their starters back in the game and Joe Johnson just kept making play after play, big shots."
Larry Drew on Joe Johnson:
"Joe is Joe. Put the ball in his hands, and he'll deliver for us. He's a tremendous weapon on offense and can score at will. He's been criticized about being in a shooting slump, but once his elbow is 100 percent, he'll regain his stroke."
"The elbow is getting better, but it's not quite where I want it to be yet. It [shooting slumps] happen (sic). I never make any excuses about my statistics."
Josh Smith:
"We have to go to a tough environment at Utah on a back-to-back in a mile-high road game. We could have used that rest."
At Cowbell Kingdom, James Ham on Jamal Crawford:
The veteran bench scorer torched the Kings early and often, tallying 31 points on 10-17 shooting and adding seven assists. Every time the Kings got close, Crawford seemed to sense it and drill a big shot. Joe Johnson was amazing as well, especially in the fourth quarter, but Crawford scored eight in the first, seven in the second, six in the third and ten in the fourth for a very balanced 31 points.

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