Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Atlanta Hawks 93 Miami Heat 89 (OT)


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 95
30 12.6
MIA 96 0.927 40.9

The severity of Al Horford's ankle injury will likely determine the long-term import of this game (there's probably not an NBA team better suited to using Josh Smith at center against than the Heat) but, given the opponent and the quality of Atlanta's play over the first four quarters, the Hawks must be extremely pleased with the result.

If the Hawks needed much to go right to escape Toronto with a victory last Wednesday, they scored the far more impressive victory tonight despite many, many things going wrong. There was the aforementioned Horford injury early in the third quarter, the Crawford/Evans/Wilkins/Powell/Pachulia lineup which killed the momentum generated in the first quarter, a lengthy iso-Joe flashback later in the second quarter, 10 Josh Smith jump shots en route to 15 points on 18 shots, 19 points on 24 shots from Joe Johnson, 23 trips to the free throw line for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, 8 Joel Anthony offensive rebounds (5 of them coming after Horford left the game), Jordan Crawford appearing out of nowhere in the final six minutes of regulation, which resulted in Jamal Crawford guarding Dwyane Wade for several consecutive possessions, and a beautifully-designed but horribly executed play on the penultimate possession of regulation.

Not that the Hawks didn't do things to earn the victory. Most important were the 16 points they scored on 10 overtime possessions. But their 15 offensive rebounds (including a team-leading four from Horford before his early exit) shouldn't be overlooked, nor the 16 Miami turnovers they forced. And, though neither James nor Wade showed any consistent interest in driving the basketball, the Hawks did little to encourage them to do anything other than settle for using 27 of their combined 50 field goal attempts on jump shots, 14 of those being three-pointers. They made two of the 14 three-pointers, four of the 13 two-point jumpers. Furthermore, it took the combined efforts of James and Wade to match Joe Johnson's 10 assists and the rest of the Heat lack the shot-creation skills (if not the touches as well) of Horford, Smith, and Crawford, who earned eight assists between them. The nine Heat players other than James and Wade who saw action combined for two assists.

That's the upshot (at least for one night) of having a team's talent less concentrated. Without Chris Bosh and with James and Wade playing below their admittedly lofty standards, Miami offered little else. Without Al Horford for half the game, without Marvin Williams and with Joe Johnson and Josh Smith playing below their standards, the Hawks still had Jamal Crawford capable of scoring 19 points on 15 shots (an astounding level of efficiency in the context of this game) and Atlanta will surely take their chances in any game against the Heat which comes down to the relative contributions of Mike Bibby and Mo Evans versus those of Mario Chalmers and Eddie House.

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