Monday, March 1, 2010

MIL-ATL Game Review: Stump the Band

Sometimes, we just don't know.

Somewhere deep beneath the box scores and replays of the Hawks 106-102 overtime victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks we know there are reasons and explanations.

There have to be theories why the Hawks needed overtime at home to dispatch a .500 Bucks team that lacked firepower to the point where they signed Jerry Stackhouse to come in and provide some oomph to their efforts.

THHB watched as the home team outrebounded the Bucks, along with having fewer turnovers, more free throws, and made more baskets than their visitors.

We mean, apart from the same old, same old of standing around on offense leading to poor transition defense, right? Right?

This game ended in a win, which makes the all of the minutes we watched go down as easy as castor oil. But the contest served to turn up the burner on all the simmering doubts and questions regarding viability for the long term and whether this team even believes or understands that there are issues that need to be resolved here.

The fourth quarter malaise that has been a Hawks staple since just before the Cleveland games is on the verge of graduating to a tradition. Once again the ball stopped moving, and therefore the Hawks stopped moving as well. When this occurs the ATL end of the scoreboard follows suit. It's discussed on their telecasts, by the head coach and players after the games, and yet there they are still---not moving, watching, waiting for someone else to do something.

It wasn't like that in the beginning---the Hawks blitzed the Bucks with (7) field goals in the game's first (4) minutes, using energy and ball movement to get any shot they wanted. Why then, after such success, did Joe Johnson take a Josh Smith outlet and then toss off the effectiveness of what they were doing to back a guard down (23) feet from the basket and attempt a quick fadeaway without a single pass?

This lack of respect to what was working began the Hawks down a tailspin that would see them only convert (10) more baskets for the other (20) minutes of the first half. The Hawks never really got back into the same kind of flow, rather, they scratched and clawed to survive in a game where John Salmons and Jerry Stackhouse took turns scoring on the Hawks backcourt "defense".

(Sidenote: There is a lot to love about Joe Johnson, including the fact that he is willing to take and can make the clutch shots late in games. Much is made about how Joe never talks to the officials, doesn't run his mouth, etc. But what is unspoken is the darker trend of the frustration foul, something the Johnson does habitually, especially after a bad forced shot, self turnover, or an uncalled offense to his being. Johnson had two of these against Milwaukee, the second of which Johnson was fortunate not to get called for a flagrant foul as he shoved a driving Buck to the ground. There is not much to make of this--just a shade of Johnson that is under-reported but obvious to the rolling eyes of THHB.)

Maybe no sequences define the Joe Johnson era in Atlanta better than the fourth quarter isolations of Joe-on-Five, the final shot--a last second 20+ foot fall away after dribbling the clock down from (13) seconds, and the overtime, when Johnson spent the time taking and making the shots he had missed previously.

The Hawks have done a better job of distributing scoring opportunities more equally across their talented roster, however Sunday night Johnson took (26) shots to score his (24) points--with (10) field goals made. Johnson wasn't the only player below the 1.00 Points Contributed/Possessions Used---his backcourt mates continued their trend down below the same 1.00 mark, with Jamal Crawford posting a .82 and Mike Bibby offering a stinky .56. It has been long said that Crawford and Bibby offer little when they are not making shots--last night was another piece of evidence in that argument.

It's a shame the Hawks didn't sign Stackhouse because when Jamal and Bibby aren't hitting, it would be nice to plug in another streak scorer to have another option. As it is, Woody feels like he has to ride out their slumps because he has no other options. Bucks coach Scott Skiles, on the other hand, shows how to do the hot/cold shuffle.

Skiles had seen enough of Luc M'bah a Moute in his short stints on the floor--yielding a -20 in his (13) minutes on the floor. Skiles had other options, and he used them. When Sekou Smith favorite Luke Ridnour showed he had his game going, Skiles rode him over rookie Brandon Jennings.

Everyone in THHB Viewing Center could visualize Stackhouse coming off the bench for the ATL so we wonder why the Hawks brass couldn't do the same.

Da, Da, Da

Al Horford, on the surface, seems to have had a decent game. (17) points and (10) rebounds, but he continually made himself small around the hoop by leaning in too far and tossing behind his body, trying to sneak the ball in under the basket, etc. Horford has left the All-Star in some western city---he needs to get his groove back, especially with the Backcourt struggling to be efficient.

On the other hand, Josh Smith continues to prove that he was the best the Hawks had to offer that exhibition in Dallas. Smith went 22/15/6, continuing his sick stat-stuffing since returning to action. He had two of the Hawks three And-1s, ditching the long shot to get back to attacking the rim, drawing contact, and finishing or getting to the line, where he made 6-8.

It's difficult for Marvin Williams to find a place in the offense other than flying in after the Backcourt launches a shot to keep a possession alive when the ball isn't moving. Marvin made a couple of shots after Josh Smith found him on the weakside---really the only times the ball moves from side to side in the halfcourt is when Smoove initiates.

Highlights Right Now:


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