|Team ||Poss||Off Eff||eFG%||FT Rate||OR%||TO%|
|CHI||84 ||0.952 ||45.9 ||17.8 ||40||20.2 |
|ATL||84||0.988||43.3 ||14.6 ||32.5 ||15.5|
It's customary, and often accurate, to discuss offense and defense as two discrete aspects of basketball. With the respect to this game, the two cannot be separated.
In the first half, the Hawks had little success dealing with the intense strong-side help defense Chicago used to keep the ball on one side of the floor. The Hawks got stagnant and their ball-handlers, Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson* primarily, took it upon themselves to dribble into traffic before creating a difficult, contested shot or turning the ball over. The Hawks scored just 33 first-half points. That 10 of Atlanta' 33 first-half points came as a direct result of offensive rebounds further indicates the impotence of their initial offensive approach.
*I'm not sure that any of Johnson's five made shots in the game came as a result of him taking a single dribble in the half-court.
All those missed shots the Hawks didn't turn into points and all the turnovers they committed created either transition scoring chances for the Bulls or just the opportunity to attack a defense that was not completely set.
It's here that it should be noted that, great and important an impact as he's made on the defensive end, Tom Thibadeau coaches a mediocre offensive team and, in the midst of Atlanta's six-minute, 57-second scoreless stretch in the second quarter, the Bulls went scoreless for four minutes and 36 seconds themselves. Four minutes and 36 seconds they probably regret now.
Clearly Larry Drew used halftime to impart the importance of ball and player movement in attacking the excellent (but extreme) Chicago defense. The Hawks were far less stagnant after the break. They attacked Chicago off the pass rather than off the dribble. They also made a much higher percentage of the open shots they created than they had in the first half. The Hawks also never played a frontline of Damien Wilkins, Josh Powell, and Hilton Armstrong* in the second half though, to be fair, Jason Collins played 10 minutes of the team's 25-point third quarter.
*Jeff Teague got into the lane repeatedly in the second quarter only to find multiple Chicago defenders waiting for him and failing to get a positive result. This was mostly because multiple Hawks on the floor did not require defensive attention.
Making buckets on a regular basis, the Hawks slowed the Chicago offensive both figuratively (30 second half points don't lie) and literally (transition opportunities nearly vanished after the half). By making it more difficult for Chicago to get the ball back, the Hawks made it easier on themselves defensively.
Trading for Kirk Hinrich made things easier on the Hawks defensively, as well. Hinrich doesn't deserve sole credit for Derrick Rose's 5-21 shooting and 6 turnover (balanced against 12 assists) performance but Atlanta surely benefited from having a competent defender at the point of attack for most of the night. Hinrich's work eased Joe Johnson's defensive workload, which didn't pay off for the Hawks at the offensive end (12 points on 20 shots, 7 assists for Johnson) but did pay off for the home team on Chicago's penultimate possession where Johnson looked as spry defensively as he had in weeks in denying Rose the ball and forcing the turnover that led to his dunk which finished the game's scoring.
31 points (on 20 shots). 16 rebounds (7 offensive).
Without the aid of Josh Smith's presence, Horford, in 41:19, out-scored (31 to 24) and nearly equaled the rebounding total (16 to 19) of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, who combined to play 67 minutes and 16 seconds. Horford scored on put-backs, on spot-up jumpers, on a corner 3, attacking the basket as both a cutter and ball-handler, and from the free throw line. He made 13 of 20 shots. His teammates made 20 of 62 shots. It's not that the Hawks wouldn't have won this game without Al Horford playing so well, it's that the Hawks wouldn't have scored 70 points without Al Horford playing so well.
In their performance over the first three quarters in Portland and in the second half against the Bulls tonight, the Hawks have likely assured* themselves of finishing no worse than fifth in the East, a result that looked far from assured as recently as Saturday.
*The severity of Josh Smith's injury deserving a caveat. Did you see Powell and Armstrong and Collins out there?