Sunday, December 27, 2009

Starting Five Too Much for Any Amount of Pacers

On Saturday night in Indianapolis the Atlanta Hawks hit the rewind button to the game at home against the Utah Jazz, using an insane early defensive blitz to force the Pacers into early turnovers and themselves some easy baskets en route to a fairly simple 110-98 win over the Indiana Pacers.

The starters jumped out to a 33-16 lead using that energy and the work of Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and Al Horford. Smith used the passing lane as his personal Steal to Dunk Current, Johnson had the hot touch, and the Pacers had no answer at any point for Horford during his 40+ minutes on the court.

The Pacers were able to keep the game close by providing an immense amount of bench production in a way that has been trending badly for the Atlanta Hawks. TJ Ford, Tyler Hansbrough, and Luther Head were part of the Pacers (63) point bench effort. After the Hawks jumped out to that early lead, these guys helped chip away with aggressive play, close shots, and second effort. But every time the Pacers would launch a run, the Hawks starters would be back out there to push it back and allow for yet another game that they would not have to be on the court when the final buzzer sounded.

Deeper---Deeper---You are Getting Sleepy---Sleepy

Al Horford was seriously undefendable by the Pacers, as when the Hawks decided to go into him, he time and again delivered. He was too quick and strong for any of them, resulting in the best defensive play of the night by Troy Murphy when he was resigned to trying to push Al when getting to the middle to shoot instead of actually trying to defend---Al made the shot anyway and hit the free throw on his way to a team high (25) points. Horford also led the effort on the glass, grabbing (19) of those along with (5) blocks.

Both Horford and Josh Smith can thank the Pacers for force-feeding Tyler Hansbrough on the Hawks interior. Hansbrough had a Usage Rate that Horford can only dream about and he used all of those possession to gain his (19) point night. Tyler is what we thought he was--a below the rim player who will have to use trickery, traveling, and forearm clear outs (which weren't called last night) to score inside. Otherwise, he will have his shot blocked continuously, which he did (6) times last night. much to the statistical delight of the aforementioned Al and Josh. Tyler also displayed a nice face up jump shot, which he will likely depend on throughout his NBA career, and his well chronicled motor, which does allow him the ability to give his team second chances to score.

The lack of efficiency of the bench has now been upgraded to a trend as once again a nice early advantage has turned south as soon as Woodson has his second unit standing on the floor. Primarily troubling is the play of rookie Jeff Teague, who has hit a stretch of play that has seen him completely lose his control of the floor. Teague had, early on this season, showed a nice command of running the point and getting good shots for the team. Now we see Teague as looking lost offensively at times and not having a positive impact or any control at all on the floor. Whether this is due to Jamal Crawford feeling the need to lead the second unit by isolating and scoring on his own (we'll be watching this closer in games to come) or if teams have made some sort of adjustment to Teague's quickness, we're not sure, but it bears watching as what looked very strong early on this year (bench production) has fallen off.

We hadn't seen it before Saturday night, but we've been waiting for it---the first Jamal Crawford (4) point play. We believe we saw this happen against the Hawks twice in one game while Crawford was a member of the Knicks, and this is a well known Crawford special--the art of being fouled while making a three pointer. Crawford did indeed complete a 4-pt play against the Pacers and now has (21) all time, three short of the all-time mark set by former Pacer Reggie Miller.

Calling All Fans

We were very surprised to see the Hawks fans being called out all over the Hawks Blogging Nation this season considering the high level at which the team is playing, especially at home. Peachtree Hoops and Hawks Str8Talk have noted it and so have we as we have seen many empty seatwatching from the comfort of THHB Official High Definition Viewing Center. Now the Hawks attendance is being noted and discussed in areas outside the ATL.

CBS Ken Berger discussed the NBA as a whole declining in ticket revenue (which are tickets actually sold, not giveaways/distributed) including this note specific to the Hawks.

The Atlanta Hawks (15-6), long challenged in the attendance department but off to their best start in a decade, have seen a league-high 26.8 percent increase in net gate receipts – to $468,036 per game, up from $369,157 at this point last season. Atlanta is selling an average of 10,573 tickets per game, up from 7,900 at this point last season.

Still, as Bill Simmons notes, this still has Atlanta in a less than enthusiastic club:

Eight teams (Philly, Sacramento, Charlotte, Memphis, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Indiana and Atlanta) already reside in the dreaded "We Make Less Than $500,000 Per Game" Club.

Finally, Bill Shanks, in an item for the Macon Telegraph, says the Hawks need to do more to reach outside the boundaries of the I-285 perimeter.

Well, let’s think about this for a second. They aren’t filling the seats with people from Atlanta, and then they don’t draw well from outside the metro area either? Sounds like they may need to reach out to the fans and say, “Come see us!”

When’s the last time you’ve seen or heard anything from the Hawks in Middle Georgia promoting their team? Do you see billboards or hear or see advertisements? Nope.

THHB is still cleaning up from an fun-filled but very messy company Christmas party. Happy Kwanzaa to those who began celebrating yesterday--hope your cleanup is less dreadful than ours.

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