Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Chicago Bulls 86 Atlanta Hawks 73


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR%

CHI 85
1.012 42.3


The Hawks won Game 1 on the strength of their energy, their execution, and their shot-making. In Game 2, energy was all they offered with any consistency. Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams both failed to convert transition opportunities early. Jamal Crawford took the first possible (as opposed to the first plausible) shot most of the night. Outside of the three buckets at the basket Al Horford or Jeff Teague created for him in the second half and a putback of one of those Crawford misses, Josh Smith didn't (nor did he deserve to, 0-6 on jump shots) make a field goal. Horford earned six assists but, in no small part due to Joakim Noah's active defense, couldn't buy a bucket for himself. Only Teague (21 points on 14 shots, 3 assists, 0 turnovers) provided a link to the extraordinary Game 1 offensive performance.

The offensive struggles wasted a winnable defensive performance. Teague again did as good a job on Derrick Rose as could reasonably be expected before switching over to chase Kyle Korver around in the fourth quarter. The Hawks could make the change because Rose remained content (or capable only) to shoot pull-up jumpers when Jamal Crawford sagged six-to-eight feet off of him.

It was more a case of Rose not taking advantage of the matchup than Crawford putting in an unexpectedly good defensive performance. He replaced Teague with 5:20 left in the first quarter and the game tied. When Teague re-entered the game 8 minutes and 21 seconds later, the Hawks were down six and the Chicago lead would be permanent.

That the Hawks defended Chicago so effectively despite an execrable defensive performance from Josh Smith only underlines the wasted opportunity. Though Smith blocked Carlos Boozer's shots for fun, he grabbed just three defensive rebounds in 35:41 and quite possibly failed to block out a single Bull the entire night. Al Horford battling alone in the paint for a defensive rebound against two or more Chicago Bulls was a common sight as Noah, Boozer, and Taj Gibson each grabbed at least three offensive rebounds.

In a half-court game where both teams struggled to make shots, rebounding gained outsized importance. For the Bulls, rebounding was a team effort. It's true that the Hawks, especially with Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia on the bench for most of the night, lack talented rebounders and that the Bulls are always going to be likely to win that battle. That likelihood is no excuse for Josh Smith displaying a greater interest in complaining about the mistakes and shortcomings which defined his performance tonight than in rebounding Chicago's frequent missed shots.

The Hawks return to Atlanta with homecourt advantage but without the full margin for error Chicago's 42.3 eFG% and 14 turnovers tonight could have provided them.


Anonymous said...

Hey Brett, if Horford suppose to be the Hawks best player, shouldn't he be held accountable for his poor play and shooting? He's shooting the ball way below his season average in these playoff games. You have no problem in ripping into the other players, so why does Horford get a pass? Can you say man crush!!!!

Bret LaGree said...

As I try to touch on the entirety of the game, not just each player's scoring prowess, in the recaps, it's difficult to "rip" the team's best passer and defender/rebounder no matter how poorly he shoots against, it should be noted, one of the league's premeier defensive players.

And why is Noah assigned to cover the Hawk with Atlanta's fourth-highest usage rate? Largely because, as long as Josh Smith floats on the perimeter, Chicago can get away with hiding the hobbled Carlos Boozer on Smith.

Were Smith playing to his strengths, Horford might find himself in easier positions to score. Joe Johnson also suffered from Smith's passivity and poor spacing last night as Mike Fratello so aptly pointed out in the first half.

You are, of course, more than welcome to provide your own substantive criticisms of Horford or any one else (even me!) in the comments.

jrauch said...

I'll take the once-in-a-blue-moon off shooting night from Al because, generally, he takes shots that he can hit with consistency. Its why he was in the top five in field goal percentage in the league this year.

Everyone on the planet, at this point, knows Josh Smith could not put it in the ocean from outside 15 feet, except for Josh Smith it seems.

An off night from your best player happens. Its the repeated insanity from the other that's inexcusable.

cklennon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Jrauch: Off night? Al is shooting < 40% fg in the playoffs after shooting over 55% in the regular season. I think that's more than just an off night. If he shoots close to his average Chicago can't focus entire on stopping our perimeter players. Right now they have nothing to worry about from our front court players.