It's hard to judge the Hawks' defense based on the fourth quarter. The Bulls scored 34 points in the period after, again, putting up just 42 in the first three periods. Rose and Deng combined for 30 of those points, playing alongside Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. It's not like Drew wasn't trying to force the ball out of Rose's hands, the Hawks just weren't able to do it. When they got overaggressive with trying to trap, Rose found the open guy, usually Deng. It's not like they weren't helping once Rose flashed into the lane. On a drive that tied the game with 9.9 seconds left, Rose lost Teague with a crossover and drove the right side of the lane. Josh Smith moved over to contest the shot and was in position with both hands raised. Smith of course is one of the league's most athletic players, a premier shot blocker who is six inches taller than Rose. However, the MVP simply went up and over Smith as if he wasn't there. There is no scheme, design or quantitative analysis than can explain it.Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 is on sale.
Despite the poor finish, the Hawks ended up holding the Bulls to .85 points per possession in the game, though the wild swings of the early season dropped them to third in Defensive Rating. There was nothing schematically that I saw to explain Atlanta's defensive success. We've seen in the past that Atlanta is capable of putting the screws to teams defensively as they did during last year's playoffs and perhaps Drew's insistence on that approach has simply gotten through. With no major personnel additions to explain the defensive improvement, it's the only explanation we really have. And it's not a good one. The Hawks have finished 14th and 15th on defense the last two years, respectively, and it's going to take more than six games to prove they have made any sort of leap.
The Hawks' defense is something to keep an eye on. That third spot behind the Heat and Bulls in the East seems to be up for grabs and a more committed Atlanta squad is certainly capable of grabbing it. I don't like their chances to do so based both on the track record of the team's core and the age of its bench. But as I am always compelled to say when writing about the Hawks, we've been wrong about them before.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Basketball Prospectus: Doolittle: Riffing on the Hawks' Defense
In his ongoing attempt to figure out the Hawks (good luck, fellow traveler on that road), Bradford Doolittle examines their early season defensive success from the United Center: