It amazes and confounds watching this club sometimes.
How is it that a team can work for countless hours in practice and shootarounds, and then 3-4 hours on gamenight preparing to win---and then do the things that lose ballgames for them every time at the most inopportune times?
Below is the ESPN shot chart for the fourth quarter in the Hawks 100-94 loss in Miami Saturday night:
That's a whole lot of standing around shooting from the outside for the Hawks, who again forgot that the most effective way of attacking a zone defense is dribble penetration and ball movement. Whoops. Guess that lesson will have to be re-run again--in the form of the second half defense of the Miami Heat.
The Hawks scored (38) whole points in the second half, and if you examine the other quarters of the shot chart, you'll see that the migration of shots to the outside over the course of four quarters resembles a weather front heading from inside to outside. That has never been a good weather pattern (4-7 in games where they shoot 22 or more threes) for the Hawks this season and the results bore it out again in Miami.
The stagnation of the offense eventually toppled the Hawks calling card on the season, turnover margin. The #1 team in Turnover Margin this season (averaging 2.39 fewer turnovers per game than their opponents) lost that battle 13-6 to the Heat, including a brutal (7) in the fourth quarter.
It was comical to hear Larry Drew talk after the first quarter about how much they want to play their offense inside-out. It may be the plan, but against the Heat it must have been written in disappearing ink. The Hawks scored a low (26) points in the paint, in large part due to the zone the Heat deployed in the third quarter. Teams normally don't stay in zones in the pros due to the excellent penetration skills teams have and subsequent ball movement that leaves teams getting good shots and leaving the zone as a quick defensive gimmick. The Heat were able to stay in zone for the majority of the final (18) minutes of the game as the Hawks effort to dribble around it or pass/shoot over it left the offense in park and the Heat with the game.
Jamal Crawford hit yet another (4) point play which when you consider that was 11 percent of the Hawks offense in the second half should dampen the joy such a play usually brings.
We're not going to continue to harp on Joe Johnson, but his idea of dribble penetration is usually Part 23 of his (20) second Isolation Plan. It makes him much less effective against zones which is why Joe should not be triggering any offense against zone. He should be a zone killer spotting up after the dribble penetration has been engaged by a different Hawks player.
(Sidenote: When Joe Johnson backs down a player in the "post" while Josh Smith is on the floor, it makes Smith a shooter. Not a good plan.)
As if battling the zone wasn't hard enough mentally and physically on the team, they continued to wander down on offense and try to set things up the with (11) seconds left on the shot clock. Where's the urgency?
Joe Smith should be noted for his great play off the bench in the first half. But at the end of that shift, he got hit in the nose and pulled an Unsolved Mysteries for the rest of the game (Robert Stack voice: He was never seen nor heard from again).
We just don't understand how the staff/players continue to fall into the same traps. Maybe it's the way it is in the NBA, or with teams that just don't have what it takes to be deep players in the playoffs. But we see this team as talented enough to do just that---but the problem with seeing the same mistakes/trends with a team is that those errors/choices become grooved into habits--and habits are hard to break.
See, we didn't ever move on. Force of habit.
April 24: Game 3 Pacers vs Hawks
5 hours ago