Saturday, April 02, 2011

Atlanta Hawks 88 Boston Celtics 83



Hoopdata boxscore


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR%

ATL 86
1.023 39.2


Larry Drew deserves credit for his contributions to each of the last two Atlanta Hawks victories. Even if it fails to stand up in the ruthlessness of a seven-game playoff series, his twin accomplishments of designing and getting the players to execute a defensive gameplan that allows the Hawks to compete against the Orlando Magic should not be dismissed. And, though one hopes it's not an action which needs frequent repeating, Drew's decision to sit Josh Smith (who combined predictably poor shot selection with some atypically horrid defending, especially during Boston's 12-1 run late in the first half) for the final 14 minutes of last night's game proved valuable.

Now, it's certainly fair for the less trusting to wonder to what degree the Atlanta Hawks won both these games despite themselves. Without the unlikely, temporary reward of Josh Smith's jump shots going in against Orlando, the Hawks might not secure that narrow victory. (Fair also to consider whether or not, without the unlikely, temporary reward of Josh Smith's jump shots going in against Orlando, does Smith take such an intense variety of terrible shots in limited minutes against Boston?)

I feel more confident in stating that, without the 10 points and 6 rebounds (3 offensive) Zaza Pachulia provided in the fourth quarter against Boston, the Hawks do not secure that narrow victory. Five weeks ago, the Atlanta Hawks were, despite Pachulia's fine record of performance with the team and the dearth of frontcourt options behind him on the bench, trying to trade him.

One wonders how good the Hawks could be if they committed to anything that worked well with the same fervor with which they commit to Joe Johnson. Marvin Williams was no great shakes himself last night but, had Larry Drew swapped Williams for Johnson as he did Pachulia for Smith, perhaps the Hawks cruise to victory against the Celtics. Jamal Crawford (20 points on 14 shots, 4 assists against just 2 turnovers) might could have handled an even greater scoring load and the ball moved so much better in the first half when Al Horford got enough touches in the middle of the floor to attempt six shots and earn four assists.

Johnson needed 20 field goal and 11 free throw attempts to score 19 points. He earned two assists. Offense was the strong part of his performance in the game. Saddled with two fouls early in the first half from his unsuccessful efforts to defend Paul Pierce (to be fair, Williams wasn't much more effective against Pierce), Johnson took just three shots and four free throws in the first half. In the second half, when Johnson wasn't splitting his ineffective defensive play between Pierce and Ray Allen and forcing his teammates to switch with him on every screen Boston set, the Hawks were forcing the ball to Johnson--in the post, in isolation on the wing, and at the top of a 1-4 set. The results: 3-17 from the floor, 7-7 from the line, an assist, and a turnover. Were it not for the 10 second half points that Pachulia, Williams, and Al Horford scored by following Joe Johnson misses (nor the lone three-pointer that Johnson made, which put the Hawks up 82-75, a shot created completely by Kirk Hinrich), the Hawks likely lose this game the way they've lost so many others.

The bad news: No matter how much this organization wants it to be or acts as if it is true, Joe Johnson cannot beat good teams by himself.

The good news: No matter how much this organization tries to limit the amount of talent surrounding Johnson, there remains sufficient talent available to help him win games against good teams. At least some of the time.

1 comment:

Adam Malka said...

It does boggle the mind to think that there are actually people in this organization who believe not only that Joe Johnson is elite, but that he is the best player on the team.