Monday, February 28, 2011

Atlanta Hawks 90 Portland TrailBlazers 83



Hoopdata boxscore


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 89
42.9 28.1
POR 89 0.933 41.5

Even accounting for the shambolic final six minutes, that saw the Hawks go more than four minutes of game time without a field goal and a 20-point lead shrink to six, this was Atlanta's most impressive win since their overtime victory in Miami on January 18th. Impressive precisely because not everything went right for the Hawks.

Al Horford picked up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game, Josh Smith missed all five of his jump shots, the Hawks committed 25 turnovers (and not all of them while giving lie to the axiom that NBA teams are too good to be bothered by full-court pressure), and, in an all too familiar turn, responded to the existence of key fourth-quarter offensive possessions with lots of dribbling in place.

But the Hawks survived all that because they, in a not so familiar turn, made things relatively easy on themselves. Larry Drew turned to Zaza Pachulia (12 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 points) rather than Josh Powell (who committed two turnovers before he touched the ball twice) after Horford picked up his second foul and played Horford for more than six minutes of the second quarter with two fouls. Most importantly, the Hawks played effective defense for three-and-a-half quarters to create the margin that allowed them to survive the game's final six minutes.

Granted, the Portland TrailBlazers aren't naturally inclined to attack two of Atlanta's greatest defensive weaknesses (transition defense, stopping dribble penetration) and, like previous iterations of the Miami Heat, Portland are susceptible to attempting lots of jump shots out of isolations against Atlanta's sagging man-to-man defense. Then again, with Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinirch playing 42:30, transition defense and stopping dribble penetration are not weaknesses to the degree they were for the Hawks this time last week.

Plus, generally having all five players on the court taking a reasonable defensive assignment appeared to free the Hawks to be more aggressive in the passing lanes and create easy baskets in transition, thus easing the typical pressure the Hawks put on themselves to make a high percentage of their jump shots.

Al Horford:
"We don’t have to help as much. It takes a lot of pressure from Josh and myself. The guys are really doing a good job getting over screens and staying aggressive. Now we have to keep it going because we look good when we play like that."
Josh Smith:
"Obviously during a game you are going to have to help but when it’s limited to a minimum that makes it that much better.

From a bigs standpoint, it was like me and Al had to pick and choose because we didn’t want to get in foul trouble helping every night. Kirk is a hard-nosed defender. And you have definitely got to tip your hat off to Teague, who was definitely thrown in the fire after really not playing a whole lot. He’s really been handling it well. Whenever you can limit the help on the perimeter it makes the team that much better."
Outside of Andre Miller posting up Teague and Hinrich, Wesley Matthews was the only perimeter player to trouble the Hawks with any regularity and, even then, two of his buckets came on back-door cuts when Joe Johnson was ball-watching and the three-pointer he made in the fourth-quarter was a result of good spacing and ball movement taking advantage of Hinrich covering for Jamal Crawford managing to get himself in a spot on the strong side of the floor in between two Portland players but defending neither.

Larry Drew on the last six minutes:
"That was really rough. We took a lot of ill-advised shots, and then their pressure sped us up and we turned the basketball over. You just can’t do that but hopefully we’ll learn from it."
At Peachtree Hoops, Jason Walker calls for that 42:30 Teague and Hinrich combined to play to become 48 combined minutes of running the offense:
Jeff Teague looked good--and should have played more, but I'm sure he violated some unwritten rule of the court and that's why, despite his effective defense and play overall, he got the Royal Ivey treatment out there tonight.

Making that matter worse was that Drew, with Teague under house arrest and Hinrich not knowing the offense well enough to initiate, I guess, had Jamal Crawford running the offense. He's not a point guard, and no matter how many ways Drew thinks he sees it, he's not. 6 turnovers against a single assist would probably get Teague banished to the D-League or left at the team hotel, but that was Jamal's line tonight. There is no reason. You have Teague and you have Hinrich--stop the madness.
Ben Golliver at Blazers Edge provides further Portland perspective:
This one was so ugly that Blazers coach Nate McMillan started his explanatory post-game remarks by simply saying: "You saw it." In other words, it was so bad in so many ways that providing even the bare specifics felt like overkill.


ubn said...

I expect this to become a familiar sight for the rest of the year:

lukas said...


I appreciate, as ever, your phlegmatic response to what was 7/8 of a dominant performance. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, but the trade is looking pretty darn good after two strong defensive performances against two strong offensive teams. Your consistent reminder that defense amounts to more than effort -- to wit, there is such a thing as a talent for it -- was in evidence for most of last night's game. It's not as if Hinrich is the world's fastest player, but he's SO MUCH faster than Mike that, at times, I felt like I was watching an altogether unrecognizable team. Amazingly, when the perimeter D simply impedes the movement of penetrators, having one of the most versatile defenders in the league next to one of the most devastating help defenders in the league now yields the strong defense one would expect. I loved watching this, even as I almost lit my house on fire during the last six minutes.

Shah Labs said...

did you notice that we played a LOT of iso in the third quarter. it felt like that was something we were doing to protect the lead, but it really stagnated ball movement and body movement. to me, it seems that once we start playing iso, players seem to check out of the game mentally and get lazy/sloppy on both ends of the floor. (except for j.crawford, who never seems 'disinterested' on the offensive end of the floor). oh and his offensive production seems so pivotal now, do we have a choice but not re-sign him?

Bret LaGree said...

lukas --

The Hawks got as low as 104.4 points per 100 possession allowed as late as 39 games into the season following a stretch where they held 8 of 12 opponents to less than a point per possession so, even with Bibby, they showed an ability to defend well at times. It was the cumulative effect that caught up with them. So I'm just trying to be cautious in giving either Bibby's absence or Hinrich's (and Teague's) presence too much credit too soon.