Saturday, January 01, 2011

Oklahoma City Thunder 103 Atlanta Hawks 94




Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
OKC 93
1.108 54.3

Larry Drew:
"We went into the fourth quarter with a two-point game; that’s a great position to be in. It’s a little frustrating but still I am encouraged we are putting ourselves in that position."
One could argue that they're putting themselves in position to demonstrate, again and again, why they struggle to beat good teams. 3-9 now against teams above .500 on the season.

"We made very, very carless mistakes, careless turnovers. The shot selection was not good. We talked about that at the very beginning. Against a team like Oklahoma you have to conrol tempo and limit their momentum. We turned the basketball over, had some ill-advised shots."
Perhaps, given that catalogue of deficiencies, the Hawks were in position to win against the Thunder to the same extent that the Warriors were in position to win against the Hawks on Wednesday.

Joe Johnson:
"We are so close and then we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Maybe it’s a few bad shots, or maybe a few turnovers. We’ve got to grow up in that area."
Josh Smith:
"We couldn’t put the ball in the bucket at the end. We have got to be able to overcome. Jamal had it going pretty much the whole game and we kind of went away from that a little bit."
Crawford went almost six minutes (from 8:00 to 2:03) in the fourth quarter without attempting a field goal or free throw. During that stretch, Joe Johnson missed three of four shots and committed an offensive foul, Josh Smith took and made a quick 20-foot jump shot, Damien Wilkins missed a jumper and got to the foul line, and Al Horford made a hook shot.

That hook shot was one of two field goal attempts (save for his layup with 2 seconds left, an act of revenge for Russell Westbrook's trip-double-grubbing) Horford got after he re-entered the game with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter. He used as many possessions down the stretch as Damien Wilkins.

Michael Cunningham on Smith's shot selection down the stretch:
[W]ith the Hawks down 85-81 and in need of good possessions, Josh fired up a 21-footer with 12 seconds on the shot clock. After Jamal missed a 3, Smoove came down and threw up a 3 with 16 seconds on the shot clock.
Larry Drew on Joe Johnson's 11 assists and 16 points on 20 more field goal attempts:
"He missed typical Joe shots but he did have 11 assists and he was chasing Westbrook for the most part. The last couple of games he is guarding guys he wouldn’t be normally matched up with."
Wouldn't normally be matched up with? This is sixth consecutive season Joe Johnson has defended opposing point guards for the Hawks and the third consecutive season he's looked completely over-matched in attempting to do so.

As hot as Jamal Crawford was for three quarters last night, Larry Drew might well have been served to sit Joe Johnson in favor of Jeff Teague, not that such would ever, ever happen on so hierarchical and reputation-obsessed a team.

Teague hasn't shown himself to be a savant when defending the pick-and-roll. Not that he's received tremendous or consistent exposure to the set nor that much of his exposure has come alongside Joe Smith or Josh Powell, making it difficult to determine where poor pick-and-roll defense begins and ends. Plus, Teague hasn't done a good job of getting the ball in the basket efficiently during his brief NBA career. His career True Shooting Percentage is 48.1%, essentially as low as Joe Johnson's this season (48.9%), albeit over a much smaller sample of shot attempts.

Drew's refusal to use Teague only exacerbated the Hawks, minus Marvin Williams and without Josh Smith for more than eight second half minutes, looking like a roster giving its head coach no encouraging options. Zaza Pachulia (8 points and 5 boards in 14:43) was the only role player to contribute significantly to the cause.

Mike Bibby contributed just 5 points on 4 shots and 1 assist in 26 minutes and couldn't be hidden defensively on anyone when Thabo Sefolosha wasn't in the game. Jason Collins started, in the absence of Williams, didn't score, grabbed just four rebounds in 22 minutes, and committed two more turnovers. Mo Evans and Damien Wilkins played a combined 26-and-a-half minutes but scored just two points between them.

I'm all for trying to improve the team's defense but it's hard to point to Evans or Wilkins* accomplishing much on that front on a night when the Hawks allow 110.8 points per 100 possessions.

Unless, of course, you want to argue that asking Joe Johnson to guard opposing point guards is such a benighted tactical decision that it renders all others moot.

*Collins wasn't especially impressive to the eye but Oklahoma City scored just 46 points in 43 defensive possessions (107 points per 100 possessions) for which he was on the floor. Not great, but better than when he was off the court.

Joe Johnson, excuse machine:
"It may be a little tough at times because defensively I am normally guarding their main guy. Then offensively I’m coming down and fighting against two or three other guys. So it’s tough and frustrating at times. But that’s neither here nor there. We could just make the easy plays and then things wouldn’t be so difficult but we just don’t do that."
Jason Walker on Joe Johnson's offensive performance:
Assists are usually the medal of honor explaining selflessness, but I am having a hard time tonight pinning that award on Joe despite his dime total.

The offense never seemed to get into gear the whole game, always appearing to be grinding out possessions rather than the natural motion of the flex offense. There is no coincidence that this appearance is due to Johnson's monopolization of the ball for the (40) minutes he was on the floor. His assists were many, but so were his shot attempts, (20) of those despite never being in a good rhythm offensively. He stopped the ball constantly, and despite his attempts to dominate possessions, never saw fit to try to get inside to draw a foul, instead attempting a chorus line of, as Nique calls them "tough shots for Joe Johnson".

This isn't a surprise since Mike Bibby was getting so thoroughly blown away defensively that he only played 26 minutes and limited the Hawks ability to get into offensive sets. Without such structure the point guard provides, the offense can devolve into an isolationist, one-on-one grindfest.
Josh Smith did not get stitches for the cut on his head. Better keep that clean. David Lee's infection was horrible enough and that was just a cut on his elbow.

Russell Westbrook's 10th assist was petty (though not demonstrably pettier than Josh Smith hanging around the blow out in Toronto until he got his 10th assist) but the reaction from the Hawks wasn't much better. Compared to the 15-point fourth quarter, is Westbrook's action really meaningful?

Josh Smith:
"That’s a sign of disrespect. Everybody in the whole league knows that you don’t do nothing like that. We remember something like that."
I'd prioritize remembering what a good shot looks like, myself, but to each his own.

Larry Drew:
"You don't do that. The game is over with. The game is over with. You've got the ball, you run the clock out. Just that plain and simple."
The Hawks can't beat a team with a winning record but their record is unblemished when it comes to enforcing etiquette.

Scott Brooks:
"When you've got the game won, you run the clock out. Russell knows how I feel about situations like that, and it was a mistake, but I'm not going to let a mistake at the end of the game ruin what we've done tonight."

No comments: