Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chicago Bulls should probably change their expectations when playing the Atlanta Hawks





In the Atlanta Hawks' 119-114 come-from-behind win over the Chicago Bulls, the home team blew a 110-100 lead in the final four minutes of the game. Ouch. That has to hurt. To be outscored 19-4 in the most important minutes of the game, especially after stellar efforts from Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, hurts, sure, and the Bulls stars blew up after the Hawks comeback was in the books.

Afterwards, Wade and Butler took turns questioning the efforts of their teammates, but not themselves, which while looking selfish from the outside, seems appropriate anyway. Wade and Butler have been great this season, while the rest of the team either suffers from lack of talent or the Rubik's Cube treatment that Fred Hoiberg has used for all the other positions.

Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Jerian Grant, Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, et al have all, at one matchup or another, rotated through the starting lineup, leaving the team rudderless, with the exception of Butler and Wade. That they don't execute well late in game may not be such a surprise as a result.

But I am burying the lead here -- this isn't the first time the Bulls have apologized/questioned themselves after a loss to the Hawks. Why, it just happened a few days ago!

This was after the Hawks win on January 20th where the Hawks blew out the visitors, though Budenholzer did have to go back to the starters after a strong fourth quarter start by the Bulls forced the Hawks to close the deal with the regulars.

So, two games, two looks inside by Wade, who was no doubt used to beating the Hawks when a member of the Heat, especially in the LeBron James era.

Just for fun, let's remember another highlight of the Wade era in Miami in regards to the Hawks, shall we?


Ah, Mr. Holman. Never change, sir.

Anyway, Wade may be used to beating the Hawks, but should the Bulls really expect to beat the Hawks so much that it needs to self-inspect after each loss?

Let's look at recent history of Bulls v. Hawks (thanks, basketball reference!):

Hmmm, I am starting to see a pattern here. Is it such a disgrace to lose to the Hawks? Seems like a win should result in an old fashioned rushing of the court in Chicago. Heck, the Hawks even won in the preseason this year, too!

The Hawks play one more time this season, in Chicago, April 1st. Maybe things will have changed in Chicago by then. Maybe Fred Hoiberg will still be coach or finally have figured out the PG position on the team, just a tiny important piece to the puzzle.

Any which way, maybe they should brace themselves for a Hawks win and save the apologies for games against the Nets.




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Paul Millsap Trade Breakdown Breakdown


Well, wha' happened?

Paul Millsap was supposed to be dealt, but now it looks like he is not going anywhere, no sir. Out is the notion that the Hawks have detonated this team and in is the notion that Millsap is too valuable to let get away.

What changed? Let's break it down just a smidgy.

What was said: "Paul Millsap is too valuable to trade"

Translation: We shopped him, but teams took a look at his contract, his opt out and what the Hawks wanted in return for the All-Star and said, "Ummm, not at this juncture, no."

Result: No Millsap trade, yet.


What was said: "Hawks are determined to compete in the Eastern Conference"

Translation: "Holy crap, this conference is so flat we've won six in a row and are in 4th place!"

Result: It's hard to take anything less than the best possible deal for Millsap when you are reasonably well placed in the playoff hunt.


WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!?!?!!

What it means is that the Hawks would have traded Millsap if someone like the Raptors had come across with Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell and a pick, but since no trade like that emerged, and the Hawks are suddenly three games and two spots behind those same Raptors, why take a lesser deal than you want when you can kick the can two months down the road and see where you are?

The trade market for Millsap will not go away unless he is injured, a possible scenario of course, but the Hawks can hold for a little while as they see where all of this goes and open the market back up if things change.

Will it matter?

The Hawks have figured out their defense and are back to being the second best defense over the past 10 games and first over the last five games. The offense still needs help, as it is middle of the pack over the last five games, but their net rating is back up to third best.

Perhaps improvement in Dennis Schröder is part of that -- over the last five games he has played slower in pace, but raised his efficiency and lowered his personal defensive rating.

Also, part of the recent spike for the team may have addition by subtraction because (hold on, I'm getting emotional) the departure of Kyle Korver took the lowest net rated player this season and the 28 minutes per game he was getting, replacing it with more minutes for the much higher rated Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha.

Does it mean the Hawks secretly infected the Cavs with Korver and have now turned the tables on the defending champs? Maybe! And that's a better outlook than the Hawks had 10 games ago when all of this began to take shape.

Always love comments in the comments area -- reply SLAs are posted in THHB offices under lock and key.




Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Coming Back Soon

Hey, yo! The Human Highlight Blog will be coming back after a significant hiatus.

The goal will be to pass along occasional thoughts about the team, an interesting sidenote, etc.

Kris Willis, Brad Rowland and the team are going to roll right along without me at Peachtree Hoops and remain THE place to catch up on all things Atlanta Hawks.

I'll just chime in over here where I can't hurt anything.

Stay tuned....

Jason

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

THHB Moves to Peachtree Hoops

So, my dear, it's been a blast
You were not my first
You won't be my last
Ciao, I got to mambo



-Billy Crystal as Fernando, 1985

As the sign says over the door at Peachtree Hoops, we are indeed moving our staff and intrepid band of researchers, statisticians, wizards, and accountants over to the fine offices of the Sports Blog Network.

We are doing this to join forces with the incomparable Drew over there, to split the administrative load it takes to produce this kind of operation, and to bring to life some of the ideas that have been languishing on the desktops, iPads, and post-its of the entire THHB crew.

It's a privilege to be included as a co-manager, to gain access to an incredible network of people who have similar goals as ours, and to bring more and more Hawks opinion, data, and entertainment to everyone in concert with someone as fun and dedicated as Drew.

The Human Highlight Blog will live on over there, as we will continue to use this title in our posts, and this site will stay warm, with Twitter updates and other site post updates appearing in case folks have grown accustomed to seeing it. No new posts, just frozen in time. As we explained to CoCo, it's like putting a sheet over the hot rod and putting it in the garage for now.

Now we going to ride in the limo as long as they'll have us--and we thank everyone over there for that.

And of course, we invite you to come join us for the ride.

Hope the spell check works good over there.

ATL-NYC Game Recap: Misdirection Plays

In the aftermath of the Hawks 99-98 loss on the road to the New York Knicks, there will be plenty of talk about Wilson Chandler's block of Josh Smith dunk attempt with seconds left on the clock, Al Horford's split second too late bank shot, and the Knicks' 10-15 three point shooting after an 0-18 effort the previous game against New Jersey.

Those were definitely factors in the game, but none were bigger than the offensive decisions in the (16) minutes in the beginning of the second half and four possessions inside the last 2 1/2 minutes of the game. With wiser strategy in that vast amount of time---there may never have been a need for such drama.

The Hawks entered the game against the Knicks, as they have every game this season with New York, with a decided advantage inside. In the first game of the year, THHB declared that Al Horford had stolen David Lee's lunch money. But since that first matchup against the Knicks, the Hawks have shown that they are not aware or do not buy into that advantage.

The Hawks played the first half and took (28) shots inside of 16-feet to (14) shots outside that mark. In the third quarter alone the Hawks took (12) shots outside of 16-feet to (11) inside--not an indication that a team buys into an inside = success correlation.

By the time the fourth quarter clock reached 8:16, the Hawks trailed by (11)--the biggest Knicks lead of the night--and had taken more second half jump shots (16) than inside shots (12).

Then, when it seemed the Hawks might just send up the white flag and continue to try and shoot their way out of trouble--a method that has spelled doom to their recent fourth quarter chances--the Hawks began to get the ball inside to Josh Smith and play strong defense on the other end.

Slowly, the Hawks paralyzed the Knicks scoring while chipping away at the lead on the other end going through Smith in the post. Whereas the Hawks took (7) free throws in the first (16) minutes of the second half, they shot (9) in the next six minutes of the game. And when Joe Johnson made the last of those nine attempts, the Hawks had cut the lead to a single point, a 20-10 run.

But just as quickly as you could say, "Lesson Learned. Hooray!", the Hawks abandoned the boat that had taken them off their sinking ship. After continued success going inside and narrowing the margin, Johnson couldn't help himself when he found himself open coming off a screen, 23 feet from the hoop. He missed.

Then it was Smoove's turn to defy what had been working when he too launched a jump shot with daylight in front of him to the hoop--a path that had played a large part in his (9) fourth quarter points. That was no time to see if the clunker could still start up--it was time to stay in the Ferrari that had got you there.

Still the Hawks defense had clamped down on the Knicks and Atlanta, for the third time, had a chance to take the lead. This time Smith ran the middle of the lane and short-armed a runner that the Knicks rebounded and turned into an Al Harrington two-pointer.

Now with the Hawks down three with (50) seconds left, they took another three pointer. Jamal Crawford aimed and missed his 11th shot of the game on (16) attempts. Fortunately, the Hawks got the rebound--but wasted it when Josh took another 20-footer, which also missed. Smith rallied to put in a layup and the Hawks trailed by one with 27.5 seconds left.

The Hawks continued their strong defense, forcing a turnover from Toney Douglas with a little less than (8) seconds left. Jamal Crawford weaved his way down the court, into the lane, gave up a 7-10 footer to hit a baseline running Smoove. Josh caught the ball went up for the slam, but didn't get up high enough to beat Wilson Chandler's second block around the rim of the game. The ball came off into Al Horford's hands with .6 seconds left, but he took too long to get the shot back on the glass so, despite the fact the ball went in, the Hawks would lose when the officials determined it had been shot too late.

The Hawks played (6) minutes of the second half going inside and nearly won. Now imagine if they had played with their heads the other (18) minutes of the game. One day they'll learn the lesson of understanding where your advantages lie---and that it's not always in your predetermined "big guns".

Other Red Herrings

On a night where the Hawks played a small Knicks team that is tied for the fourth worst blocked shot rate and gives up the fourth most makes at the rim per game and the 7th worst opponent field goal percentage at the rim, and had David Lee in foul trouble late in the game (33 minutes), the Hawks top frontcourt players (Smith, Horford) shot (36) times (18-36, 50 percent) whereas Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson shot (33) times (13-33, 39 percent).

When David Lee left the game with his 5th foul and 10:03 to play, the Hawks celebrated the matchup of Al Harrington on Al Horford by running no plays for Horford in the 3 1/2 minutes Lee was off the court. Horford scored on a fine look by Smith on an unscripted play, and Horford himself blew it by turning it over once away from the post and getting called for an illegal screen, but one has to wonder why the Hawks didn't immediately try to exploit the matchup versus taking two jump shots and not running Horford to the post.

The Hawks defense was roundly exploited throughout the other three quarters for laying off the shooters, allowing easy buckets on ball movement, etc. Exhibit A was Danilo Gallinari, who saw plenty of daylight on his 9-14, 27 point night. The Knicks, who average 45 percent shooting per night, shot 51 percent against the Hawks.


There's Matches in the Bathroom, Just Beneath the Stairs

Mo Evans seemed well suited as a zone buster, running the baseline quite well and cashing in on 3 of his 6 shots.

Woodson does seem to be learning his lesson in another area, bringing Marvin Williams back into the game for Mike Bibby for the final 4:26 to improve the team defense.

Jeff Teague made a nice driving layup during his 5+ minutes, but THHB couldn't help but notice that he got caught turning his head twice on cuts to the hoop by the Knicks, costing buckets on both gaffes.

The Hawks shot free throws (21-27, 78 percent) above their seasonal average (76.4 percent), but when the team loses by a point, it's hard not to think about those free points rimming away. Smith missed (4) of his (7), Crawford missed a technical free throw early in the fourth quarter, and Joe Johnson missed one in a pair that would have tied the game at 97.

The Hawks have now slipped below .500 on the road (15-16) and are wobbling a bit versus getting stronger headed down the stretch. They desperately need to recalibrate and understand what is working for them and when. The fact that they switched to the post for almost (6) minutes in the fourth quarter against a team that struggles defending the post is a glimmer of hope, but we'll have to ignore what happened in those four late possessions to take too much heart in it.

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