Sunday, December 6, 2009

Torn Between Outcome and Philosophy

To have not won in the state of Texas since Josh Smith was 18 (he turned 24 Saturday) and to beat a team like the Dallas Mavericks, 80-75, one would think THHB would be somewhat euphoric to have slain an annual beast such as that.

Yes, it's a good thing to win--as one fictional pitcher once so eloquently stated---it's like better than losing. Still there was something oddly unsatisfying about the game--something missing that prevents this from being put in the first couple of pages in the Hawks Successbook.

Perhaps it was the (20) consecutive missed field goals that spanned the second and third quarters. The Hawks were persistent in insisting that the jump shots they continuously attempted would indeed go down. Alas, it was an Al Horford layup that ended the futility. Rushed shots, lack of ball movement or in some cases, strange ball movement--like getting into the lane for a good shot only to chuck it wildly back to the perimeter with little left on the shot clock to work with---was the soundtrack for the odd streak.

Or maybe it was the odd way the Hawks picked up fouls in the fourth quarter, mostly hand checking 20 feet from the hoop or away from the ball altogether. Al Horford entered the final frame with (2) fouls but in a span of five minutes, he was one foul away from disqualification. Josh Smith would join him (2) minutes later and the Mavericks were in the penalty (5) minutes into the quarter.

The fourth quarter execution altogether was remedial--the defense as indicated above along with the usual Hawks deflating of the basketball when leading by an "insurmountable" lead. The Hawks led 74-65 with 7:29 left when the Hawks popped their own balloon by "working the clock" and as a result, getting poor shots down the stretch.

The Hawks would only get (2) field goals the rest of the way. Those field goals? One was a me-against-the world fall-away 18 footer from Joe Johnson and the other was a 20 footer from Josh Smith. Not exactly the offensive firepower you want to display every night for the last 8 minutes of the game.

Also troubling was that the Hawks were, at one point, killing the Mavs on the pick and roll--and then almost as quickly as they realized it's success, they went away from it---in fact just as THHF was commenting on the telecast that they were getting great shots every time from that set (in a game where neither team was taking great shots), Joe Johnson ended their own run by dribbling down the shot clock before attempting a difficult shot. It was not a pick and roll.

Mostly it was unsatisfying because the Hawks played the type of game that won't win many (7) game series, a low shooting percentage (by choice) game dominated by one player, Joe Johnson. As Hoopinion so perfectly commented on Hardwood Paroxysm Friday---Joe doesn't have to do that anymore for the team to win--in fact, to win at the highest levels, he shouldn't. The type of game doesn't scale deeper in the playoffs, so to see the Hawks embrace it even for a single win leaves THHB shaking our heads.

There were some very good things in the game--such as the rebounding on the defensive end, mostly by the aggressive efforts of Marvin Williams on that end, collecting (14) defensive rebounds and (15) overall, a career high. The Hawks limited the Mavs to (7) offensive rebounds and their defensive efforts (combined with a total lack of inside game in Dallas) left the Mavericks settling for a mere (10) points in the paint.

Joe Smith was also very good off the bench, hitting some really big shots and putting up a 9 point/ 7 rebound effort in his (18) minutes of work.

Yes, there were things that the Hawks did well and yes it's a good thing that the Hawks won, but there were most certainly those others that left us holding our noses while chalking up the "W".

You know, because we care.


Unknown said...

I think your post is on target, but I would say that most of the Hawks victories over lesser teams face this same issue. We can beat lots of teams, but is our philosophy flawed during a bunch of them - absolutely. Rarely does it happen on the road vs. good teams...and that's what makes last night noteworthy.

thirdfalcon said...

I'd say that for the most part your right. That we don't need Joe to take over games like he did last night. Only sometimes we do. And last night was one of those times.

I believe that the difference in between a mildly successful season, and a wildly successful season will hinge on how well Joe is able to grasp when those times are.

So I guess I didn't really learn anything last night since I already knew Joe was capable of playing that well. It's whether he is still in that style when the rest of the team is playing well as the season goes along that matters.