Sunday, February 13, 2011

Charlotte Bobcats 88 Atlanta Hawks 86




Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
CHA 86
22 11.5
ATL 85 1.012 43.3

The Atlanta Hawks have problems right now. Larry Drew recognized as much on Wednesday:
"We have, in my opinion, fallen into a bit of a comfort zone with everything. It may be time to do something just to rattle the cage a little bit.

I am not one to react on emotions but I have had this feeling for a little while. I have been in situations where it has been like this, where a team has had to do something just to shake the cage a little bit. It’s something I’ve been thinking about. Will I do it? I have a couple days to practice and make a decision."
The cage shook not.

Al Horford returned to action. There appeared to be early concerns over the completeness of his good health. He got a rest less than six minutes into the game. Those concerns (were they real) certainly did not last as Horford played all but 1:25 of the final 37:05 of the game. Horford appeared limited (either by soreness or fatigue) in the second half, scoring just 6 points on 9 shots after intermission and committing all three of his fouls in the fourth quarter. All that playing time, even on a night the Hawks used three centers.

Jason Collins replaced Marvin Williams in the starting lineup once again. Williams, in the wake of his double-double against the 76ers, was demoted to joint-third man off the bench and played poorly as such, scoring 2 points on 7 shots and grabbing just one rebound. A decision was made, one which, for one night, combined finding more playing time for Jason Collins with making Marvin Williams even less productive.

Josh Smith took 17 shots. 10 of them were jump shots. Uncharacteristically, Smith scored 12 points on those 10 jump shots. Do some subtraction involving his team high 28 points, though, and you'll see he scored 16 points (and got to the foul line seven times) on seven shots inside of 10 feet. Starting at small forward, Smith grabbed six rebounds, just three of them defensive rebounds.

Joe Johnson failed to duplicate either the explosive or discretionary aspects of his excellent performance against the Bobcats in Charlotte. He scored 11 points on 14 shots, struggled mightily to keep Stephen Jackson in front of him, and, on separate possessions when given the ball and brief to create a shot, failed to break down Boris Diaw or Nazr Mohammed off the dribble before attempting (and missing) long jumpers.

Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford combined to go 5-19 from the floor. They combined to play 18:03 scoreless fourth quarter minutes. They did combine for 13 assists and just 2 turnovers. Then again, Shaun Livingston did score 22 points on 13 shots and earned 5 assists off the Charlotte bench.

Jeff Teague earned his 10th DNP-CD of the season.

For the game's final possession, Paul Silas replaced Nazr Mohammed* with DJ Augustin. Larry Drew countered with Mo Evans (32, knee problems this season) and Damien Wilkins (31, had not played a second of the game to that point). Wilkins matched up with Shaun Livingston. Evans (6-5, 220) matched up with Stephen Jackson (6-8, 218). Jackson got deep post position on the left wing against Evans. Al Horford didn't recognize where the play was designed to go and gave Eduardo Najera a clear path to make the entry pass. Jackson faced up, took one dribble toward the elbow, easily elevated over the shorter Evans, fell-away to minimize the impact of Horford's help defense, and made the game-winner. Presumably there's now one more person in Atlanta who recognizes that Mo Evans struggles to guard bigger wings.

*Yes, the Hawks suffered a come-from-ahead loss, at home, to a team that played Mohammed and Najera for essentially the entire fourth quarter.

Larry Drew:
"We settled for a ton of jump shots."
Not unusual. The cage remains still.

Drew on Crawford and Bibby shooting poorly. And often:
"At this point, we’re trying to get them the same shots that we’ve gotten them all season long. Right now, the ball has not been falling for them but they can’t stop doing what they do best and I’m going to hound both of those guys as we go out on the road now for them to re-gain their stroke, re-gain their confidence, re-gain their attack mentality."
I suspect they'll be amenable to that.

"We ended up shooting more 3’s than we did getting to the free-throw line, and you just can’t do that."
The Hawks haven't done that since...Tuesday. And just 16 times in 53 games (30.2%) this season.

The Hawks are 26th in the league in FT Rate this season. They were 23rd last season.

Drew on shot selection:
"...been harping on since day one. When we don’t get what we want a few trips down the floor, we have to slow it down and we have to get the shot we want. Certainly at that point it’s not taking another three. Our guys, they have not grasped that concept yet."
It's not all doom and gloom. The Hawks are down to 24th in the league in pace, and that's with fewer turnovers and offensive rebounds than a league average. They've definitely grasped the concept of slowing it down.

"We start playing fast, we start going for home runs and then we start settling. That’s what happened in the second half."
This I can't unpack. The Hawks had one fewer offensive possession in the second half than they did in the first half. They committed one fewer turnover and grabbed an equal number of offensive rebounds in the second half. They attempted one more three-point shot in the second half.

Further exploration of the baseball analogy from Drew:
"When you're up by 20 or 22 points, it's not the time to go for home runs. You have to keep getting singles until you eventually wear the team down."
The Hawks attempted nine three-pointers in building a 51-29 lead with 2:50 left in the first half. Over the final 26:50, they attempted 14 three-pointers (13 if you don't wish to include Marvin Williams's heave at the end of the first half).

Al Horford on his back:
"I felt O.K. I can’t say I’m all the way (back). I don’t have lift yet, but besides that, I felt good enough to be out there playing."
I'm sure the 41:39 he played last night plus the travel inherent in a 15-day, 7-game road trip will solve any lingering issues with his back.

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