Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Initial Feedback: The Return of Real Basketball

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: Either needs a new coach to give him more confidence with the ball in his hands or needs to take it upon himself to be a better defender, non-box score stats division. 5/10

Joe Johnson: Larry Drew's legacy will be long, two-point jump shots and letting Joe Johnson play through injuries. Played a good third quarter. Gave us a Willie Green impression the other three. 5/10

Marvin Williams: Struggled to get the ball in the basket but put in a tremendous effort on the glass. Rebounding is a skill. Not many Hawks have that skill. Marvin Williams does. Only got back in the game in the fourth quarter because Willie Green got hurt. It's like Green is Williams and Williams is Josh Childress, circa 2007-08. 5/10

Josh Smith: A terrible, terrible shooting night (2-11 outside of 16 feet). A mediocre defensive night for the familiar reasons when it goes bad on that end: poor pick-and-roll defense, getting caught flat-footed when defending the ball, and refusing to block anybody out before going after rebounds. 4/10

Zaza Pachulia: His offensive rebounds and poor shooting balance each other out when he rebounds his own misses so often. The only Hawk to consistently move without the ball, 11 defensive rebounds and 3 assists to boot. 6/10

Willie Green: Vintage Willie Green. Sub-par offense, terrible defense. Miss you, unexpectedly productive 2011-12 Willie Green. What Larry Drew saw in him tonight is perhaps the most interesting thing about a poor game. 2/10

Kirk Hinrich: If the Hawks have but 11 minutes a game to give Hinrich, they certainly ought to dump his salary. 3/10

Tracy McGrady: No idea why he didn't get in the game until the second quarter. I presume he didn't return after tumbling over the baseline advertising for health reasons. Maybe because the Hawks play to include him as a throw-in when they dump salary. An ex-famous person might be worth a little extra at the trade deadline. 2/10

Ivan Johnson: Ivan Johnson played well. He played briefly, though, so it didn't impress anyone who matters. 3/10

Jannero Pargo: Personally, I'd either play Pargo earlier or when the team was down more than four points in the fourth quarter. Doesn't really matter. He missed a couple shots and returned to the bench. If only Willie Green had joined him. 2/10

The head coach
The Hawks lost at home to Golden State (without Steph Curry). Everyone but Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson (for just five-and-a-half minutes) played less than their best. The Hawks scored 82 points on 94 possessions against the 4th-worst defense in the league. The Hawks scored 21 of those 82 points following a missed shots. Yes, the Warriors are a terrible (28th in the league) defensive rebounding team but they're also a terrible (25th in the league) field goal percentage defense and defensive free throw rate (29th) team. The Hawks couldn't take advantage of either of those. Mostly because a certain snubee was taking 11 jump shots and missing 4 of 8 free throws. 1/10

A thought regarding the opposition
The Hawks are totally going to sign Monta Ellis in the Summer of 2014.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Possible Trades

I don't know the right answers. The cap situation is a huge mess. It will take drastic, risky choices to create cap room at the first opportunity. That opportunity: approximately 15 months from now.

I can envision (and envision defending) the Hawks trading an average or a below average player to get below the luxury tax line this season or to get far enough below the 2012-13 luxury tax line to try and use an exception.

I can also envision (and envision defending) the Hawks not wanting to get a first-round draft picks in a deal that sends out the salary of an average or a below average player because that guaranteed money due the players drafted gets you back toward the luxury tax in 2012-13 and eats into the cap space that might be created in the Summer of 2013. Then again, to create that cap space, Josh Smith has to not be on the 2013-14 team and Josh Smith plus a draft pick might be worth something interesting and valuable on draft night this Summer.

Finally, I can envision no move at all. What evidence is there that the franchise has any problem with losing in the second round of the playoffs? If the Hawks remain in the top six in the Eastern Conference, that familiar result remains a real possibility, explained away by injuries, the future pinned to a draft pick who probably won't play much as a rookie and a promise to use some or all of the MLE.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Assessing the Hawks at the Midway Point or “How I Succumbed to the Pessimism”

By Matt Tanner

Disclaimer: I am going to keep this shorter than my last post because, like many mothers out there, mine was fond of the mantra that “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Well, saying nothing at all would make for a very poor blog post, so I am just going to say very little.

Without further ado, your Atlanta Hawks thus far. . .

The Record: 20-14 (.588)

Current Pace: 39-27 (48-34 in a normal 82 game season)

The Second Quarter Not Like the First
It has been exactly one month since my last post on this blog, in which I assessed the Hawks after one-quarter of this lockout-abbreviated season. My oh my how things have changed. At that point the team was on pace for nearly 60 wins, had earned a split with Eastern heavyweights Chicago and Miami, and the idea that the team might rally around the injury to center forward Al Horford and remain a contender for the rest of the season didn’t seem impossible. Then the second quarter of the season happened.

Things actually got off to a promising start, as the squad went 4-1 on a road trip that saw them crisscross the nation, beating Milwaukee, Detroit, New Orleans and Toronto. The Hawks then came home and promptly lost 3 straight to Memphis, Philadelphia and Phoenix. It was at that point that I assumed the loss of Horford and the increased difficulty of the schedule was finally catching up to the Hawks. They then went out and thoroughly dismantled Indiana and toughed out a road win over Orlando in overtime.

As I watched the win over Orlando just two short weeks ago, I thought to myself, “okay, so this is going to be an up-and-down year, but at least this team can win on any given night. I can live with that.” Since that night, any good feeling I had about this team has been transmuted to general disgust. The team has lost 8 of their last 12 and are now just 6-12 against teams with a winning record. On three separate occasions this month the Hawks have found themselves trailing by 30 points.

Marvin Wiliams wants a trade. Or he doesn’t. Who really cares? Tracy McGrady wants more minutes? That’s hilarious. I know there have been injuries and I know they are still on pace to finish with a decent record, but very little about watching the Hawks play basketball these past couple of weeks has been enjoyable.

Polling the Power Polls
Apparently not everyone is as down on the team as I am. Just as he did the last time I assessed the Hawks, John Schuhmann of has the Hawks 13th in his Power Rankings and SI’s Britt Robson has the Hawks all the way up to 9th. Sam Amico of Fox Sports also has the squad in the upper third of the league, putting them in the 10th spot. However, ESPN’s Marc Stein has the team at 16 and his colleague John Hollinger, who I remind you does his rankings based on a complex formula and updates them daily, has the Hawks at 17th. In case you were wondering, every single one of these guys has the Heat in the top spot.

The Big Picture
Last month I wrote that "If you looked at things solely on paper (and maybe squinted a bit) you could talk yourself into the Hawks being amongst the East Elite with the likes of Miami and Chicago." Um, can we all just forget I wrote that? The team is clinging to 3 .5 game lead over New York for the 6th seed, but it would surprise no one if the Knicks don’t pass the Hawks on the combination of Carmelo Anthony’s return from injury and the emergence of Jeremy Lin (I refuse to even attempt a Lin pun). While the 7th seed looks to be the absolute floor for this team, on the most optimistic of days I can’t imagine anything better than a first round win over Orlando or Indiana followed by a humiliating sweep at the hands of Chicago or Miami.

Looking Ahead
A friend of mine that still watches The Office recently told me that he was openly rooting for Jim to cheat on his wife with Cathy while the two were stationed in Florida for a Dunder-Mifflin project. His reasoning? He was so bored by the show he wanted to see something interesting, even if it was something horrible (He loves the Pam-Jim marriage).

You don’t have to watch the Office to get the analogy. I love the Hawks. I can remember going to games in the Omni when I was 7 years old. Is it wrong that part of me is openly rooting for this current iteration to bottom out this year so management has no choice but to blow things up?

This team is made up of one star (Johnson) that doesn’t want to be a star and another (Smith) who will never be a leader. The one potential star (Horford) that wants to lead and maybe could, is playing out of position and will never take a game over. Of course, I openly admit that it’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and point out all that is wrong with the team without offering any solutions. And to be honest, I don’t have them. Too many mistakes, all of which have been addressed and discussed ad nauseum (whiffing on the Chris Paul draft, Joe's contract, the ownership situation) have put this team in a tough spot. I honestly don’t know what major changes I would make, I am just curious if there is anything that can happen in the second half of this year to make those changes happen.

Whatever happens, I will be watching.

Matt Tanner formerly worked the missing kitten beat for a small daily newspaper in Milledgeville, GA before eschewing the journalism world for a corporate gig. Recently he eschewed that gig to sell popsicles. He is an Atlanta native and lifelong Hawks fan.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Initial Feedback: Oh, Orlando, Always There When You're Needed

By Mark Phelps

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: Jeff picked up limited minutes while Pargo was lighting it up from three in the first half, but solid ball handling helped disrupt the Magic defense as he picked up big minutes down the stretch. 5/10

Kirk Hinrich: Hinrich was definitely undersized for this job, but came out with aggression and made good passes to help push Atlanta offensively. 4/10

Marvin Williams: Once again, Marvin looked lost on offense and hesitated even when he shot in extremely limited minutes (especially considering the extent of injuries on the team). Still picked up six boards to contribute, but he'll need to find his shot again if the Hawks are to make a solid second half run. 2/10

Josh Smith: Despite not even shooting 50% on 22 shots, Josh came out with such energy that it motivated the rest of the team in the first half while building a big lead that would prove to be necessary. In addition to carrying the early scoring load, his 12 boards helped the Hawks outrebound the Magic 47-40. 8/10

Zaza Pachulia: How does a guy shooting 1-6 pick up 40 minutes in a close game? Shut down your man. Sure, Howard was 5-7 from the field, but Zaza's pesky defense kept the ball out of Howard's hands for most of the night. And that's how you beat the Magic -- deny the inside-out game. Throw in 13 rebounds, six of those offensive, and
you have the best worst-shooting-night around. 6/10

Jannero Pargo: Pargo ate his Wheaties today. 3-4 from the arc and would have had a better percentage overall if not for a few heat-check shots. Surprisingly rode the pine in most of the second half. 7/10

Willie Green: Willie came up big in the second half, especially in a stretch run where he scored back-to-back buckets. Didn't rack up points like last game, but calculated shots over volume shooting = things looking up for Green. 7/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Much like Marvin, VladRad needs to find his shot again. Reasonable defense, which is better than I normally say for Radmanovic. 3/10

Tracy McGrady: Was Tracy on the floor? Oh yeah, and he did pick up a few assists while out there, but if he's upset about playing time, this game didn't help. 2/10

Ivan Johnson: Five minutes, one effective roll to the basket. Noteworthy, good or bad? Nope. 2/10

The head coach
Anytime I see a 17 point lead evaporate over a quarter, I feel the coach is doing something wrong. Drew's actions are downright inexplicable. The Hawks came through with a fortunate win over an obviously reeling Magic team simply by talent alone. Don't tell me he drew up that Kobe-style turnaround for Pargo.

A thought regarding the opposition
For a team as large as the Magic are, they don't use their size in a bullying way. They only coaxed the Hawks into 12 fouls tonight, and couldn't even use their edge to get Zaza fouled out of the game. Consistent emphasis on forcing fouls early in the game could really make the Magic a much tougher team on any given night.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Initial Feedback: Pessimism Is in the Title of This Blog

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.



Jeff Teague
: It'll be another season before we can fairly judge Jeff Teague's ability to defend the pick-and-roll. In the meantime, Teague offers to outscore the point guards the Hawks can't stop. Which would be interesting were it not for the long stretches he spends on the bench. 5/10

Willie Green: Landry Fields put a clown suit on him in the first half. 16 points on 16 shots ain't making up for that. 3/10

Marvin Williams: Marvin didn't ask for a trade but he's not exactly integrated into a functional organization, either. Condolences, and play better tomorrow night. The team will need it. Again. 4/10

Josh Smith: It's on a night like this, down two of his three fellow paid players, that Smith's willingness to take horrible shots, throw his hands in the air, and generally not overcome adversity hurts his reputation. A defensive rebound every 11 minutes? That's one for every two jump shots he took. 4/10

Zaza Pachulia: A terrible matchup for Zaza. That he was under-appreciated for several years does not mean he's not sometimes overmatched as a starter in Horford's absence. 3/10

Kirk Hinrich: Looked horrible again though Larry Drew's reluctance to play Hinrich and Teague together is approaching Marvin/McGrady levels. If the Hawks think they're showcasing Hinrich for a trade, they're not improving the potential return. 2/10

Tracy McGrady: Understandably, he likes playing. Unfortunately, he's not a difference maker, on his own, any more. 3/10

Jerry Stackhouse: Started the second half. Played the entire third quarter. Made a couple of corner threes. Probably will give him the chance to create garbage time in the near future. 3/10

Jannero Pargo: For some reason, he played seven scoreless first half minutes. Pargo's the guy you go to down 20 in the second half. 1/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: A decent defensive rebounder for a stretch four. Who wouldn't rather, on tonight's evidence, have Steve Novak to make most of his shots when stretching instead. 2/10

Ivan Johnson: I propose that the lack of structure within the organization manifests itself when Ivan Johnson touches the ball. He clearly thinks that it's little different than Erie and that he should create offense. It's not and he mostly shouldn't. 2/10

Erick Dampier: Can't defend the pick-and-roll. In that respect, a perfect Jason Collins fill-in. 1/10

The head coach
It's not easy to coach without 40% of the team's payroll, but it shouldn't be easy to oversee a structureless mess, either. Outside of Smith, Johnson, and Pachulia, no one's getting regular minutes or has a defined role. Johnson and Smith arguably don't have roles defined toward their strengths. With the rest of the roster on one-year deals or possessing a history of mistrust and self-doubt from the franchise, it's not surprising they're susceptible to a not very good team that, to one-up the Hawks in a profound way, has a defined system. 1/10

A thought regarding the opposition
Josh Smith is a good defensive player. Some nights, he's a very good defensive player. Watching Tyson Chandler play defense puts Smith in perspective. Chandler doesn't take plays off, switch screens, or yell at teammates. Chandler tries to stop the other team from scoring. He deserved to be part of a championship team last season and he deserves the increased offensive role Jeremy Lin's emergence in New York provides him.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Initial Feedback: Volume Shooting Almost Works

By Buddy Grizzard

Initial feedback: A completely subjective response to the events of the game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.

Joe Johnson: Left the game with 2:27 to play in the third and did not return due to a knee injury. Had 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting, 4 assists and 2 rebounds in 26 minutes. Also had the worst +/- on the team at -20 for the game. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Played only 18 minutes after Jannero Pargo got hot in the third quarter and stayed in for the entire 4th. Had 6 points, 1 assist and two turnovers and was -13 in those 18 minutes. 2/10

Willie Green: Started, played 18 minutes and had 6 points on 50% shooting from the field but also was not a part of the third quarter crew that played the entire 4th. 4/10

Zaza Pachulia: Not averaging a double-double as a starter but gives steady, unspectacular production. In this game he provided 8 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 31 minutes and was part of the unit that got the Bulls lead down to 5 in the fourth quarter but couldn't come all the way back. 5/10

Josh Smith: The numbers looked good: 17 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks in 43 minutes. But Smoove shot only 7-for-21, all of his points coming in the paint as he went 0-for-8 on jumpers. 5/10

Jannero Pargo: The Hawks were unable to re-sign Jamal Crawford in the off-season and instead replaced him with streak-shooter-by-committee. Tonight's contributor was Jannero Pargo, a player absurdly listed at 6-foot-1 who does not deserve the designation "point guard." Pargo's 19 points were flashy as he shot the team to within 6 with 4 threes over the game's final 14 minutes. But his ball handling in the 4th quarter? Not so flashy. He started off the 4th with a heat-check three that missed the entire rim, followed with a bad pass straight to noted passing-lane disruptor Kyle Korver, dribbled out the clock and missed a layup, then dribbled into a triple-team on the baseline and pelted it out of bounds off Smoove. 4/10

Kirk Hinrich: The Hawks are obviously playing Kirk a lot of minutes in an effort to get him in game shape and create some sort of trade value (lest the team receive little in return for the pair of first-round draft picks it traded away to acquire him). But 5 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 30 minutes from one of your primary point guards is not going to win you a lot of games in the meantime. 3/10

Tracy McGrady: After complaining about playing time after the loss at Portland, played 22 minutes and gave customary production of 6 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Helped the fourth-quarter unit close to within 5, but the Bulls made enough tough shots with the clock winding down to keep this game just out of reach. Larry Drew would do well to communicate better with his players. He has enough problems without a player mutiny like the one McGrady helped orchestrate in Detroit last year. 4/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: With Pargo as the evening's designated streak shooter, Radmanovic took the night off, shooting 0-for-5 and going scoreless in 12 minutes, although he did collect 5 rebounds. The Hawks are 1-7 in the month of February in games in which Radmanovic plays at least 10 minutes. Two of the Hawks three wins this month came as Vlad averaged 3 minutes against Orlando and Indiana. 1/10

Ivan Johnson: During a stretch of 4 games from Jan. 29th through Feb. 4th, Ivan averaged 23.5 minutes, 9.5 points and almost 8 rebounds per game playing primarily as backup center. During that stretch, the Hawks out-rebounded 3 of 4 opponents. In the 7 games that followed, Ivan averaged 8 minutes, 3 points and 2 rebounds. In those 7 games, the Hawks were out-rebounded by 6 opponents. Against Chicago, Ivan played 2 minutes and the Hawks were out-rebounded 51-41. Grade: Incomplete

The head coach: The Hawks are 5th in the NBA in future committed salaries at over $244 million. To manage that quarter-billion dollar investment in personnel, the Hawks hired a coach with no previous NBA head coaching experience. He looks as in-over-his-head as you would imagine he would be. Since Lenny Wilkens retired, the Hawks have employed Lon Kruger, Terry Stotts, Mike Woodson and Larry Drew as head coaches. Once Drew is let go by the Hawks, it's hard to imagine that any head coach the organization has employed since 2000-2001 will be in any demand whatsoever by other NBA teams seeking to fill head coaching positions. 1/10

A thought regarding the opposition: With 3:42 to play in the third quarter, Tom Thibodeau angrily called timeout after a Zaza Pachulia run-out layup. As Thibs shouted at his team on the sideline, the scoreboard showed his team ahead by 19.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quote of the Day -- February 19, 2012

Tracy McGrady on the subject of his playing time:
"I’m tired of this [bleep]. You can put that in the paper, I don’t give a [bleep]."
What a wonderful stretch of the season this is.

Initial Feedback: Zero Effect

By James Goeders

Initial feedback: A completely subjective response to the events of the game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Joe Johnson: One of the better games Joe has played on the road this season having 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting (and 3-for-9 from behind the arc) but only 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Needs more help offensively than Willie Green. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Other than his rundown block of Wesley Matthews it was a forgettable night for Teague. Finished 1-for-10 from the floor (and 0-for-3 from behind the arc) for 5 points. Added 4 assists but did not have a single rebound or steal. 2/10

Marvin Williams: One of only four Hawks in double figures but grabbed just 2 rebounds. One of few guys playing with energy the entire time he was on the court, but like always he played the fewest minutes of any of the starters. Need Marvin to be more of a presence on the boards. 3/10

Zaza Pachulia: Some extremely ticky-tack fouls went against Zaza early which may have altered his effectiveness under the basket. Made four-of-six free throws and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with his 8 points. 3/10

Josh Smith: One assist shy of a triple double, but went cold for an extended period of time that spanned across the second and third quarters. Finished with 14 points on 7-of-14 shooting, but why is he taking 2 bad 3 pointers? The 10 rebounds were nice, but only 1 offensive board when the Hawks were limited to 4 on the night compared to the 15 the Trailblazers were able to grab. 5/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: More fouls than points. Totally ineffective while in the game and a defensive liability. When the Hawks went small (Teague, Hinrich, Green, Josh, and VladRad) he was lost in the paint and only grabbed a single rebound the whole night 1/10

Ivan Johnson: Only a single point and a -4 in 2 minutes of meaningful game time. Added a dunk late in the game when Drew cleared the bench. 1/10

Tracy McGrady: Sitting out the entire game on Wednesday must have not been enough time off for TMac as he only played 5 minutes and missed his only field goal attempt. 1/10

Kirk Hinrich: Completely forgettable 20 minutes of action. Missed all four of his field goal attempts but added 3 assists and 3 steals. His miserable airball on the Hawks' final possession epitomized the night for the entire team. 1/10

Willie Green: When he's your offensive spark off the bench you know it's going to be a bad night for the Hawks. Had double digits points for the second straight game and hit 7-of-9 shots from the floor (including 2-of-3 from behind the arc). Not able to bring anything else to the court, but without his 17 points this would have been even more of a laugher. 4/10

Jannero Pargo: Looked just as lost as everyone else in his few seconds of game time. 1/10

The head coach
Running three guards (including Hinrich and Teague both on the court together) did not pay off at all. The Trailblazers were on fire from the field in the first quarter, but won the game by destroying the Hawks on the boards (50-27). Dampier never saw the court and Ivan Johnson only played 4 minutes. The Hawks were only down 8 after the first quarter, but Drew went with the entire second team for an extended period in that 2nd quarter and the Hawks never got out of the hole. 2/10

A thought regarding the opposition
Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge dominated shooting combining to go 17-for-34 from the floor for 41 points. The Trailblazers didn't beat the Hawks on fast breaks (they only had 8 fast break points) but rather by grabbing rebounds and making jump shots. Very frustrating game to watch as a Hawks fan.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Shot Location and Success

Here's the stuff I mentioned earlier in the week. Shot volume and field goal percentage by location, broken down by quality of opponent. First, the percentage of field goal attempts from each of the five locations provided by Hoopdata:

Opponentat rim3-9 feet10-15 feet16-23 feet3PTA
under .50028.8%11.8%5.8%29.7%23.9%
over .50030.2%12.1%5.6%30.6%21.4%

The main item of note is that the Hawks take far fewer three-point shots against teams above .500. Since the Hawks are 4th in the league in three-point shooting but just 13th in offensive efficiency, not getting those shots up is a big deal. Not for the first time, Michael Cunningham is onto something.

Fewer three-point attempts doesn't entirely explain* the Hawks scoring 15.6 fewer points per 100 possessions against opponents with winning records. The slight upticks in shot attempts from the two lowest percentage areas (3-9 and 16-23 feet) are exaggerated by how rarely the Hawks have been making those low-percentage shots. Here's the teams eFG% from each location:

Opponentat rim3-9 feet10-15 feet16-23 feet3PTA
under .50060.9%45.1%40.8%39%60.6%
over .50059.8%32.7%47.1%32.6%55.6%

The inability to make the high-percentage shots (at the rim and beyond the arc) is also an obvious hindrance to scoring efficiently against better opponents. Don't let that 47% shooting from 10-15 feet against opponents over .500 get you too excited. That's a sample of just 68 shots over 15 games.

*Nor does their shooting numbers. As shown previously, the Hawks rebound far fewer of their misses against better opponents.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Smoove Criminal: Who's to Blame for the Faulty Jumpers?

By Bo Churney

[Ed. note -- Bo Churney writes for Hawks blog SoaringDownSouth, and can be reached @bochurney on Twitter]

Few plays in basketball can influence an entire crowd to express a joint emotion: a thunderous dunk can cause an uproar of elation and awe. A bad foul call can incite the collective chanting of obscenities. And an opposing team's three-pointer can force absolutely silence upon 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, Josh Smith's three-pointers have sent an entire metropolis into panic, prompting screams of, "NOOOOO!!!"

I'll start off by saying this: I think Josh Smith is the best player on the Hawks. His defense is outstanding (top five DRtg), he's a marketable figure, and he has the ability to dominate the offensive end in several facets like few others can in this league. But why does it seem like that last one has become so absent from his performances on the court?

The stats don't lie. Over the past two years, Josh Smith has expanded on his game from outside 15 feet, also meaning that his shots from around the basket have dwindled from a career high 549 in 2009-10. Gee, what happened before the 2010-11 season that could have caused Josh to field his best Larry Bird impersonations? Anything at all? Oh, wait a minute...

Larry Drew.

Can all of the blame be pinned on Drew? Of course not; Josh still has to take those ill-advised shots that leave you scratching your head. But to act like there is not an underlying issue here by placing all of the blame on Josh (like Atlanta loves to do) is borderline ignorant.

So, what is the case against Larry Drew? Let's start with the Hawks' recent 89-87 OT win over the Magic. Coming fresh off of another All-Star snub, Josh was playing out of his mind; he was grabbing every rebound, making all of the hustle plays, and was playing well enough on offense despite taking a few of those objectionable long two-point jumpers. Late in the game, Larry Drew kept calling for Josh in a post-up against Ryan Anderson. And guess what? It was working! Josh was either getting a good look close to the rim, or he initiated a pass-heavy sequence that led to an open shot. The Hawks were up eight with a little over three minutes left in the game. Then, Orlando went on an 8-0 run to send the game into overtime. What happened?

Iso-Joe happened. The Hawks tried to rely too much on their $120 million man, leading to a stagnant offense and bad shots. Is it Joe's fault that Drew keeps calling the same play that won't work, even though Joe often had a small defender on him? Is it then Josh's (or some other player's) fault that they have to try to get up a shot with little time remaining on the shot clock?

Need another example? Look at Wednesday's game against the Suns. The Hawks were running some sort of "offense" early that clearly wasn't working and allowed the Suns to get out on the break. At several times throughout the game, the team started resorting to Josh in a high-iso, where he was then able to find open shooters after being double-teamed. Each time the Hawks did this, they were about to either close or expand the lead. What happened on offense for the rest of the game? Well, as some of my fellow bloggers said, "Are we even running any plays right now?"

This is something that completely falls on Drew as the Head Coach. It's the same thing that helped lead to the ouster of his old boss, Mike Woodson; relying on isolation plays, and hope that someone can get up a shot if the isolated player can't beat his man. The difference this time, though, is that Larry Drew has shown that the team can function well when it keeps the ball moving. Even though Horford is out, Drew now has the benefit of a deeper bench than Woodson ever had. There is no reason this team should still have the offensive problems that it exhibited under the now Knicks assistant.

For the last three years under Woodson, the Hawks ranked 9th, 22nd, and 6th in shots from 16-23 ft. Under Drew, the Hawks are 2nd and 3rd so far this season, with the worst percentage under either coach. (36.1%) The team is taking more attempts from that range this year (24.6), despite the fact that Al Horford, the most efficient shooter from that distance last year, is out for the season. To keep it simple, that is completely unacceptable.

Now, back to Smoove; some still go as far as to call Smith "uncoachable", "lazy", and "dumb", asserting that he has a "low basketball-IQ." However, both Drew and newcomer Tracy McGrady have stated that Josh knows the offense better than any other player on the team. To simply put this to rest, one cannot attain such praise from two different people by being "uncoachable", "lazy", or "dumb." Are some of Josh's jumpers bad shots? Yes, but to act as if he should carry all of the blame is absurd. This is a problem that I think Larry Drew can easily fix by continuing his preaching of his motion offense. By letting the offense get stagnant, he is only fueling the same problems that led to Atlanta's quick departures from the 2nd round in previous years. With the Eastern Conference Finals sitting with a reachable distance, this is not something that Larry Drew should scoff at.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Initial Feedback: Josh F. Smith

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Josh Smith: The shot selection (11 jump shots) was terrible at times. Given the victory, that makes his production (30 points on 23 shots, 17 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks) even more incredible. Not as incredible as the Hawks going completely away from him on the block in the final two minutes in favor of Joe Johnson dribbling, but still awfully fascinating. His final inbounds pass was an absolute disaster, saved entirely by Willie Green. 9/10

Jeff Teague: Was no more effective against Phoenix's pick-and-roll this time around but his concerted effort to outscore Steve Nash mitigated matters. Unfortunate he didn't get back in the game once the Hawks went zone on every possession. 5/10

Zaza Pachulia: Just like Teague, Zaza flailed in his efforts to defend the pick-and-roll but scored a bunch a points to try and make up for it. 5/10

Joe Johnson: Utterly dominated by Grant Hill. Utterly and uselessly dominated the ball to let Phoenix back in the game in the final two minutes. Whatever it was that made him rebound for a spell following Al Horford's injury has disappeared. Nary a one in 36 minutes against the 25th-best rebounding team in the league. 3/10

Marvin Williams: He can't get minutes when Tracy McGrady is in street clothes. The modest skills he brings to the table aren't important to this franchise. Which makes his contract only more mind-bending. 4/10

Willie Green: As ambivalent a 20 points performance off the bench as you'll see. Excellent shooting, terrible everything else. EXCEPT for chasing down Josh Smith's pass with 1.7 seconds left. If Green doesn't do that, it's Phoenix ball under Atlanta's basket. 6/10

Kirk Hinrich: Credit for his defense on Nash in the second half on the rare possessions where the Hawks played man-to-man defense but I really wish he'd had his surgery earlier. He's missing a ton of good, open shots. 3/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Didn't play at all in the first half. Played 15 minutes in the second half. Hardly encouraging work conditions. 2/10

Ivan Johnson: Generally overwhelmed by the pace of play. 1/10

Erick Dampier: Was not the answer to defending the pick-and-roll. On the other hand, watching him play makes me feel so spry and youthful. 2/10

The head coach
Not a lot of what Larry Drew did tonight made sense but the Hawks won, in no small part, because he went zone for much of the second half. That it took so long to appear, or that the Hawks needed to try everything, both tactical and in terms of personnel, to barely beat the Suns takes a bit off the shine of the victory. 4/10

A thought regarding the opposition
Check the Daily Dime later tonight for a breakdown of the Phoenix offense comparing the possessions Nash used and those his teammates used.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Initial Feedback: A Tale of Two Halves

By James Goeders

Initial feedback: A completely subjective response to the events of the game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Jeff Teague: Attacked the basket all night with great flashes of energy, but along with the rest of his teammates just could not get the lay-ups to fall consistently. Was the leading scorer for the Hawks with 17. Had two threes but only two assists. 5/10

Marvin Williams: Played great help defense on Kobe all night. Grabbed 6 rebounds but was only able to contribute 4 points in 25 minutes of action. Drew decided to go with VladRad over Marvin to try and increase the Hawks' size inside, but it didn't seem to make much of a difference who was in the game as Gasol and Bynum combined for 35 points and 28 rebounds. 3/10

Joe Johnson: Very quiet night for Joe as he was only 7-of-17 from the floor and 1-for-8 from 3, but he did score his 10,000th point as a Hawk. Added 5 assists, but was most useful when facing up against Kobe. Held the NBA's leading scorer to his lowest output of the season (10). If only a few of those three pointers had gone in... 4/10

Josh Smith: Started the game on fire as he was 6-for-11 in the first half. Cooled off in a bad way in the 2nd half with only a single field goal. Unable to slow down Gasol and Bynum even though he played with energy while the game was still in doubt. Another game where having Horford around might have opened things up inside for Josh. 4/10

Zaza Pachulia: Zaza just was overmatched on both sides of the court having only a single point in 27 minutes. Was able to grab 9 rebounds, but his inability to slow down the Lakers' big men was the story of the game. On the bright side, Zaza did have a season high 4 steals. 2/10

Willie Green: Not horrible, as Green had 6 points in 11 minutes. His made jumper early in the 4th ended a greater than 9 minute scoreless streak for the Hawks. 2/10

Erick Dampier: If Damp can get his legs back he should be a decent replacement for Jason Collins (though if you follow this blog regularly you'll know that's not really saying much). Didn't score any points but grabbed 4 boards in 16 minutes. Had a few point-blank shots that just wouldn't fall. 2/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: Being back in the Staples Center seemed to help VladRad find his stroke from 3 as he went 3-for-6 from behind the arc. Also grabbed 6 rebounds in the most minutes he has played in a game since early January when the Hawks blew out Charlotte. 4/10

Tracy McGrady: T-Mac attacked the basket but could not seem to draw any foul calls when the contact came. Had 5 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes, but not a single steal or assist. The second team offense always seems to run smoother when it goes through McGrady. 3/10

Kirk Hinrich: Another player who had a quiet game offensively. Only played 14 minutes (the least he's played since only playing 13 in his first game back with the team on January 25th in San Antonio) and had 5 points, 2 boards, and 2 assists. 2/10

The head coach
Drew realized Zaza was overmatched early on and brought in Dampier at the 6 minute mark of the 1st Quarter. Interesting that while no one was effective against Bynum or Gasol that Drew never brought in Ivan Johnson. Perhaps his atrocious game against the Heat was a big part of that, though it's questionable if the 6'8" forward could have done any better than the guys in the game.

A thought regarding the opposition
On a night where Kobe was held to a season low 10 points and as a team the Lakers only shot 9 free throws, you wouldn't expect them to get such an easy win. Though the stat sheet will show they only out-rebounded the Hawks 52-47, they absolutely dominated inside. Los Angeles held Atlanta to 34.4% shooting from the floor and took advantage of 20 missed 3-pointers by the Hawks while shooting 8-for-17 from behind the arc. This is not an elite Lakers team like we saw from 2008-2010, but they have enough veteran talent that if their young guys get it together they certainly can make a run in the Western Conference.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Previewing Hawks/Lakers with Andy Kamenetzky of Land O'Lakers

To help wile away the long hours until the Hawks and Lakers tip-off at 10:30pm Eastern Standard Time tonight, I traded some questions and answers with Andy Kamenetzky, one half of the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPN Los Angeles and on Twitter at @ESPNLandOLakers. You can head over there to read my responses to Andy's questions.

Bret LaGree: Mike Brown was put in a tough position: replace an all-time great coach following a bad playoff loss, have almost no practice time thanks to the lockout, and no quality additions to the roster. How well has he coped with circumstance?

Andy Kamenetzky: It's been a mixed bag. On one hand, the obstacles you cited are legitimately difficult to overcome. And beyond not adding an impact player, the Lakers lost one in Lamar Odom, and this "Trade Exception" fella they got in exchange has brought little to the table. The roster holes are big. Having said that, Brown's not without fault. His rotations have been unpredictable, which has prevented the second unit from jelling as much as possible. (I also get a sense players have grown annoyed.) And those who questioned his offensive creativity upon getting hired (like me) are gaining ammo. He's made adjustments with Kobe and Pau's spots on the floor, but in terms of what's being run, the offense remains a mess. The players at his disposal are problematic, but he's also paid to figure out a way to maximize what he has. I'm not convinced he has.

BL: Kobe Bryant is having a great season. Given his age, is there a sense that this might be his last hurrah? If so, does that make watching him this season any different an experience from watching him during his past great seasons?

AK: To some degree, sure. This is Kobe's 16th season and when you include playoff games, he's played roughly the equivalent of 19 campaigns. With all sincere respect to Bryant's conditioning, his German doctor's handiwork and a skill set still envied by 95 percent of the NBA, the mileage is the mileage. And the overwhelming amount of responsibilities this season increases that toll even more. Truth be told, Kobe's already slowed down this season. He's only shot above 40 percent once since February began and fourth quarters have treated him increasingly worse. Bryant's opening 15-20 games were amazing and fun, but anybody moderately realistic knew this wasn't sustainable. At some point, a trip back to Earth had to be expected.

Of course, Bryant's still performing at a very high level, and I expect he will next season as well. But there's only so much sand in the hour glass. I'd be lying if I claimed not to have contemplated the end. In that sense, I am conscious of appreciating Kobe while I can, even if I don't suspect the end is literally around the corner.

BL: Since so many players aren't trade eligible until March 1st, it's almost as if we're waiting for the transfer window to open. Once it becomes simpler to make trades on March 1, what do the Lakers need and how realistic are chances of acquiring what they need?

AK: The biggest needs are two-fold. First, a perimeter player capable of creating his own shot and/or someone else's. This roster is desperately low on wing players not named "Kobe" or "Bryant" with either skill set, much less both. From there, a reliable outside shooter. The Lakers aren't just the worst outside shooting team in the NBA. They're possibly the worst outside shooting team I've ever seen. Beyond the empty possessions, opponents regularly pack the lanes to force action away from the action. The Lakers rarely make them pay, which reduces the effectiveness of a formidable inside game.

Oh, and Dwight Howard... right?

As for the odds of filling these needs, easier said than done. The Lakers aren't steeped in trade assets, unless Metta World Peace's market value is deceptively high. And the players potentially drawing the most interest (Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol) are in theory being saved until D12 is off the market. The trade exception from the Odom deal could be handy, but who knows when/if they want to use it. It appears the Lakers are in a holding pattern until Orlando figures out what to do with Howard, save a move around the margins.

BL: The Western Conference is far more open than the Eastern Conference. For example, John Hollinger's playoff odds give the Lakers almost equal chances of winning the division and missing the playoffs. Is the compressed schedule amplifying the excitement of the playoff race or making you lament the quality of play during what could be a historically competitive battle for playoff spots and seeding out West?

AK: Considering the Western Conference is always exciting and competitive, the weaker on-court product stands out more to me. Scoring is down. Fluidity is down. Sloppiness is on the rise. A dog fight is expected in the west, but typically the play matches the superior competition. This season, not so much, and that's a shame.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Hawks Against Opponents of Quality

I'm not entirely satisfied with how I presented this information yesterday and I believe I have set things up so I can update these splits after every game so that this can be a recurring feature comparing the team's performance against teams above and below .500.

First, general efficiency:

OpponentOff EffDef EffMargin
under .500113.398.4+14.9
over .50098104.3-6.3

Next, shooting and scoring:

OpponentTS%2PT%3PT%3PTA/FGAFT RateFT%
under .50055.248.539.9.23722.476.2
over .50050.344.738.4.20716.769.3

Obviously, the next step is to look at shot location data broken down by quality of opponent. I'll get to that when I can carve out a couple of hours to compile the data accurately. I'm not foolish enough to promise when that will be.

About a third of the decline in Free Throw Rate against teams above .500 is due to the team's inferior free throw percentage in those games.

Shooting and scoring defense:

OpponentTS%2PT%3PT%3PTA/FGAFT RateFT%
under .50050.445.133.5.22223.479.7
over .50051.346.436.1.19623.573.6

Finally, rebounding and turnovers:

OpponentOR%DR%TO%Opp TO%
under .50028.876.214.717.5
over .50020.273.71515.1

The differences in the above table are stark.

Quote of the Day -- February 13, 2012

Willie Green:
"Any time a team is able to get that many fast-break points -- and we let those guys penetrate, get to the basket, get to the free-throw line – you are in for a long night. We have to do a better job with our effort on the defensive end of the court. We have to be better in order for us to be an elite type of team. Right now we’ve got to look in the mirror and do a better job than we did tonight."
With the road trip coming up, it'll be more than 48 hours between the end of last night's debacle and the next Hawks game. It's best to go ahead and get it all out of your system. Don't hold it in and let it eat at you from the inside. In that spirit, when Willie Green* is the voice of reason, the institution of the Atlanta Hawks rather fundamentally fails to inspire confidence.

*Another nice game, by the way. Not especially effective in terms of helping the team win, nor indicative of him needing more minutes, but the Hawks are getting all they could reasonably hope for from Willie Green and he deserves credit for that.

With the Hawks visiting three teams with winning records and two that will try and pick-and-roll them to death, the opportunity exists for them to improve the mood as they improve their record. Or, they'll just make clear that the number one priority for the rest of the season will be getting under the salary cap.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Initial Feedback: Hawks Win (The Part of the Game After They Fell Behind By 32)

By Mark Phelps

Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.

Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.


Josh Smith: Josh came hot out of the gates, but it didn't last long. The rest of the team seemed to follow his lead. Points for the other facets of the game, but really a sluggish game from J-Smoove. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Teague, like most of the Hawks, struggled to contain the Heat's attack on the basket, and once he played back to defend the first step, it was too little, too late. 3/10

Joe Johnson: Who can contain the big 3? Don't ask Joe. He clearly does not know. -27 in 28 minutes of floor time. 3/10

Zaza Pachulia: Zaza stayed active on the offensive boards, but had a difficult time blocking out on the defensive end. Stayed consistent on offense. 5/10

Marvin Williams: Abused by James and Co. Marvin looked to get hot toward the end of the first half, but offense was not coming today. Not enough additional effort to contribute effectively. 2/10

Tracy McGrady: McGrady was aggressive in his floor time, but was more out of control than penetrating. 2/10

Kirk Hinrich: Yet another guard being assaulted by the Heat's backcourt.1/10

Ivan Johnson: LeBron had it in mind to make Ivan his patsy when they were on the floor together. Absolutely lost on D. -11 in THREE minutes in the first half. Used some garbage time to pad a few stats, but in the useful parts of the game, Ivan wasn't useful at all. 2/10 (a generous 2)

Willie Green: Give Willie credit for hitting his open shots, but when he was on the floor, D-Wade went into full-attack mode and scorched Green. He had no answer. A game where Willie Green gets 25 minutes is often a bad sign. 3/10

Jannero Pargo: Garbage minutes AKA the fourth quarter. 1/10

Vladimir Radmanovic: See: Pargo, though it was nice to see him hit a couple of threes. 2/10

Erick Dampier: Occupied floor space/got court time workout for 5 minutes. 1/10

Jerry Stackhouse: Simultaneously painful to watch and one of his best games as a Hawk. 2/10

The head coach
Drew preached slowing down the Heat's transition game, and did virtually nothing to actually achieve that. GI Joe said that knowing is half the battle, but maybe Drew didn't understand that the other half is putting that knowledge into action. 2/10

A thought regarding the opposition
The Heat enjoy clogging the lane and daring you to shoot jumpers, so it seems that an effective offense would be one to attack the rim and focus on drawing fouls to weaken the front line. Take a few bricks out, perhaps the house will fall.

What Quality of Opponent Means to the Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have killed inferior teams. They're 13-1 against teams below .500, outscoring those opponents by 14.8 points per 100 possessions.

The Hawks have struggled against teams with .500 records or better, going 5-8 and getting outscored by 5 points per 100 possessions.

Some comparisons:

OpponentOff EffDef EffTS%FT RateOR%DR%TO%Opp TO%
under .500113.298.455.222.428.876.214.717.5
over .5009810350.6

Against average or better opponents, the Hawks have been just as bad offensively as bad teams have been while going 1-13 against them. It's an across-the-board offensive failing. The Hawks shoot worse from the field, rebound far fewer of those missed shots, get to the line less often, and turn the ball over more often.

It's a bit worse for the current-state Hawks than even that table suggests. The Hawks went 2-3 against teams with winning records before Al Horford got hurt. They've gone 3-5 against those teams without Horford. That's not a big difference record-wise (.400 vs. .375). It's a bit different if you look at the efficiency margin:

over .500
Off EffDef EffMargin
w/ Horford101.3100.6+0.7
w/o Horford95.8104.6-8.8

Though he was a frustratingly low usage player this season, even by his standards, before he tore his pectoral, the Hawks really benefited from the efficiency he offered on the possessions he did use against better opponents. Especially since two of the team's most efficient players*, Marvin Williams (56.1 TS%) and Tracy McGrady (55.9 TS%), rarely share the court.

*Teague (55.6) and Pachulia (58.8) both have good True Shooting Percentages themselves but they also turn the ball over more often than McGrady and much more often than Williams, who, this season, is shooting the ball well, getting to the free throw line, rebounding and not turning the ball. He's playing a career low minutes per game. Go figure.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Initial Feedback: Atlanta at Orlando, February 10

By Buddy Grizzard

[Apologies for the delay. I created technical issues that prevented Buddy from being able to post this following the game last night. -- Bret LaGree]


Josh Smith: If Josh went into this game hoping to show Eastern Conference coaches the error of their ways, his 1-for-7 shooting from 16-26 feet in the first half certainly made a statement. In the second half Drew repeatedly called plays with Smith posted up on the right block. With the Hawks leading only 73-70 with 4:31 to play in the fourth quarter, Smith posted up Ryan Anderson, split a Dwight Howard double team and scored a layup, then followed with a dunk off another post up to stretch the Hawks lead to 77-70 with 3:43 to play. On a 23 point, 19 rebound, 5 assist and 3 block night, we nevertheless deduct a point for the first-half chucking. 9/10

Jeff Teague: Teague repeatedly bailed out the Hawks on busted plays by attacking the basket in the third quarter. He would find less success with this strategy with 3 minutes to play as misses on forced shots turned into a layup drill at the other end. Why do the Hawks have so many busted plays throughout the course of a game? 5/10

Joe Johnson: Was quiet throughout regulation but had another of his patented tear-drop layups over Howard as the Hawks built a 4-point lead in overtime. Was surprisingly bothered by Jason Richardson's defense on a 14-point, 5 assist night in which he did not collect a rebound. 5/10

Zaza Pachulia: Started strong at both ends and did well to avoid fouls and the Al Horford Treatment. Drew a pair of offensive fouls on Howard in the third quarter and repeatedly beat Dwight down the court for layups. Was a point shy of a double-double but had his third credible performance against an All-Star center this month. 7/10

Marvin Williams: His half court shot to close the half and 3-for-6 shooting overall from three-point range were indispensable in securing a Hawks victory. 6/10

Tracy McGrady: The only positive contributor among the bench unit with 9 points in 16 minutes. 5/10

Kirk Hinrich: Made Jameer Nelson look young again. 2/10

Jannero Pargo: Made Jameer Nelson look like Derrick Rose. 1/10

Vladimir Radmanovic
: Made Ryan Anderson look like Dwight Howard. 1/10

Erick Dampier: Two rebounds in two minutes... looked good out there! 4/10

Ivan Johnson: Wasn't given much of a chance to make an impact, scoring a basket and collecting two rebounds in 6 minutes. 4/10

Willie Green: A basket and two rebounds in 12 minutes as he padded the stat he leads the Hawks in: Green has the worst aggregate +/- for the team for the season. 1/10

The head coach
Drew put the Hawks in position to win, pounding the ball inside to Smith repeatedly as the team built a 78-70 lead with 2:26 to play in regulation. Where has this play calling been all season? I guess All-Star snubs need to happen more frequently to convince Drew to get Smith the ball in optimal scoring position. From that point, the Hawks game plan disintegrated. Blown Teague layups on busted plays opened the door for three consecutive Orlando layups as the Magic closed regulation on an 8-0 run to send it into overtime. Drew should feel fortunate that the Hawks gutted it out in the extra session. A loss here would have dropped the Hawks to third in the Southeast Division and focused a lot of attention on Drew's struggles managing late-game situations. 3/10

A thought regarding the opposition
Howard had only three points through the first 20 minutes of the game. Pachulia's ability to stay on the court for 43 minutes kept this game close despite Howard's 18 point, 18 rebound night.