Thursday, January 21, 2010

SAC-ATL Game Review: Straight Shooting (Or Not)

Midway through this 2009-2010 season, the Atlanta Hawks have (27) wins.

Staggering to think about, eh--especially as pundits such as this fire shots across the Hawks bow. The Hawks are in first place in their division and are on pace for a whopping (54) wins.

Though it led to that 27th win, the game Wednesday night was nothing much to get excited about, though there were some exciting bursts of entertainment along the way to the Hawks' 108-97 dismissal of the Sacramento Kings. The team started slow as the Kings attacked the Hawks inside and the Hawks were overplaying the perimeter to account for Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans, but the team adjusted (gasp!) and the Kings scoring opportunities began to get a lot harder.

The Kings shot 10-38 from beyond (10) feet. Ten feet! That's a marvelous (26) percent for those w/o calculators.

The main culprit was the rookie Evans who, while he may look Joe Johnson going inside, shoots like Joe Mama from the outside. According to, for the season, Evans is shooting 184-310 (59 percent) on shots labeled "at the rim" and a gum spitting 101-305 (33 percent) from anywhere but there. To put this into some perspective---Josh Smith is 64-204 from the same range--a close 31 percent and a comparable place that we're guessing neither Evans nor the Kings want him to stay for long. Against the Hawks Evans was 7-9 at the rim and 2-8 otherwise, with most of the damage coming in that early action and then when Flubber West was assigned to defend him (more on that later).

Meanwhile the Hawks used a balanced distribution of shots and assists on their way to a (29) assist, (51) percent shooting night. Of those assists, (19) were to baskets within (10) feet, with (15) of those right at the rim. Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, and even Marvin Williams found their way into double digits in scoring and contributed more points than the possessions they used. That's a winning combination and a tasty recipe for more wins.

And with the Kings still in some kind of striking distance in the fourth quarter, the Hawks even went into the post to Horford and Smith (Sidenote: It seemed like they went to the post more in the fourth quarter than throughout the rest of the game.) to stabilize the offense and fend off the Kings last rally.

Stuff We Found While Chasing Down Another Tyreke Evans Jump Shot

With Tyreke Evans obvious shortcomings from the outside, we were surprised that Woodson elected to go to Mario "Flubber" West to defend him in the third quarter. Flubber plays notoriously close defense on everybody, can't or won't change for anybody, and was apparently willing to throw his "fastball" at Evans, even though he is a fastball hitter.

We're sorry, but you can't give "defensive specialist" labels to a player who is outplayed by Zaza Pachulia in regards to defending a lightning quick point guard such as Evans. Even Pachulia knew to dare Evans to shoot, which he did with Zaza on him (he missed).

As soon as Flubber entered the game, Evans attacked him for two quick hoops. In his nine(!) minutes of floor time, Flubber garnered (3) personal fouls, one unnecessary risk that worked and one that didn't and was mercifully (for us) pulled from the game. As we listened close, we could swear we heard Hoopinion head honcho Bret LaGree carefully documenting his case for his eventual committal hearings.

In regards to the most recent post on THHB, Al Horford used the fifth most possessions on the team despite the well stated issues the Kings had defending the frontcourt. And while Horford was used in the post down the stretch, which did put a smile on our face, he was not throughout the rest of the game. We had to laugh when The Namesake kept mentioning on the telecast that he wished the Hawks used Al more down low. After an early third quarter possession when Horford got the ball in the post and easily scored, THHF once again stated his wishes that the Hawks continue to go down there to him. They immediately went away from it and did not go back until midway through the fourth quarter. Baby steps, we remind ourselves, baby steps.

Marvin Williams took the aggressive route to the matchup and it paid off by getting to the line for 5-5 free throws and making 3-4 shots at the rim. We've been saying that Marvin would be best served showing his outside shot as a way to keep defenses honest so that he can use his speed, length, and touch to get better shots inside. Taking (6) out of his (9) shots inside of ten feet is a good place to start. Staying under control while doing so is the next step.

Joe Johnson did a nice job Wednesday night of mixing some gotta-get-to-the-basket-myself moves with good ball movement and had a solid 17/7 game and a relatively short night (31 minutes) as a reward. Though at times he looked like he wanted to give Tyreke Evans as good as Evans was giving him, it didn't become an epidemic. At one point Evans powered his way to the hoop for a score and you could tell Joe wanted to take right back at him. Which he did---successfully.

It's more than a bit fun to watch Jamal Crawford chase history. Once again he was fouled while draining a three pointer and hit the subsequent free throw. It was the 22nd time Crawford has done this and is now (2) away from Reggie Miller's all time record. Miller used to get those fouls by kicking his feet out like a frog leaping from his pad. Crawford just seems to get hit and has the---talent?--to knock down the shot anyway.

We've long lamented the efforts of Kevin Martin (and others) to get to the free throw line at any cost, including trying to actually get the ball into the hoop. So you have to know that we looked on in approval as the Hawks rarely gave into his shenanigans as he shot only (6) free throws (he averages nine per game) while still using the second most possessions on the team. Good defense on a guy who can score often in the easiest way possible.

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