Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Atlanta Hawks 94 Detroit Pistons 79



Hoopdata boxscore


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 77
36 22.1
DET 76 1.039 45.7

Even if the win was almost certainly less than transformative, there were definite, particular encouraging signs at least once Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson re-entered the game part-way through the second quarter.

First of all, the Hawks did not give up after falling behind by 17 points. No reason to throw a parade or raise a banner but, by this team's recent standards, it's something that should not be discounted.

Second, the Hawks improved their defensive play both before and after Detroit put up a shot. I won't claim the Hawks played great defense nor that Detroit's deficiencies failed to contribute to the cause but, following the display of the first quarter-and-a-half, the simple acts of being in position, not losing track of your man when defending off the ball, forcing dribble penetration toward help, and boxing out made a tremendous difference.

Third, the Hawks used those stops to put pressure on Detroit's defense. Though they were credited with just 12 fast break points, the Hawks (fairly often, at least by their standards) made an effort to attack the Detroit defense before it got set.

Finally, the Hawks (with the obvious and terribly disappointing exception of Josh Smith) made an effort to get the ball into the post. It wasn't always successful, Joe Johnson missed some good shots created by posting up smaller defenders and it seemed as if every Hawk took a turn throwing a terrible entry pass to Al Horford but a consistent focus on getting the ball inside will provide more consistent offensive results than Josh Smith attempting 10 or more jump shots per game.

Smith attempted 11 more jump shots against the Pistons. He made seven of them (including one of his three three-point attempts) but almost all were either unnecessary or the product of a poor, stagnant team offensive possession.

Similarly to Smith, Mike Bibby deserves credit for his fine offensive performance (17 points on 12 shots, 7 assists) but the nature of that performance is probably unsustainable against more formidable opposition. Bibby consistently got into the heart of the Detroit defense off the dribble and made all four his field goal attempts inside of 10 feet against the Pistons. In the previous 53 games this season, Bibby made 27 shots inside of 10 feet. He had attempted just 40 shots from that range.

Al Horford still looked limited in his mobility (this might have contributed to the apparent poor quality of the entry passes directed toward him) and was atypically ineffective on the glass and against dribble penetration. It was almost certainly an excellent idea for Larry Drew to give him the fourth quarter off.

Regarding Joe Johnson's lack of mobility, one almost hopes that he's hurt but isn't telling anyone again. Defensively, he served as a time machine for Tracy McGrady in the first quarter, generally looked more reliant on his hands and upper body strength than his legs to keep offensive players in front of him, and was almost a sad parody of his worst self when trying to make forward progress off the dribble.

Larry Drew did not return the well of baseball analogies after the game, probably for the best considering the Hawks used 35 of their 62 field goal attempts on jumpers and attempted a whopping three more free throws than three-pointers.

Drew on Bibby:
"This was probably one of his better games this year. It just seemed like he had more zap, more spunk and he was moving around really well. I wanted to keep him out on the floor as much as I could, especially when I took Joe out."
If Larry Drew, when he publishes his coaching manual, does not use any of the words "juice," "zap," or "spunk" in the title it will truly be a missed opportunity.

"I was more aggressive. I have been letting myself get down a little too much and I let it affect the way I played. No one really expects me to go to basket anymore so I just tried to make an effort to make things happen."
Josh Smith on the team's defensive performance:
"Even though we was scrambling out there sometimes, guys stepped up and helped each other out. For the guys that was helping each other out, somebody else had their back. Whenever we have that trust factor out on the court defensively, that’s when we are a tough team to score on."
Al Horford on his back:
"At this point it’s just sore. But I feel pretty good."
At NBA Playbook Sebastian Pruiti heaps plaudits on a nice play that got Al Horford the ball on the move and on the block last night.

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