Archives For January 2013

RECAP: Hawks 93, Raptors 92

Bo Churney —  January 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

FINAL

TOR(16-30) 92 – 93 (26-19)ATL

Key Performers:

A. Horford (ATL): 22 pts, 10 reb, 6 ast, 3 blk
D. DeRozan (TOR): 23 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

Toronto traded Jose Calderon and Ed Davis before the start of the game, and only had nine healthy players total… so, of course, that means the Hawks made a close game out of it. After trailing 55-45 at the half, Coach Drew apparently laid in to his players in the locker room, and it showed in a 30-14 third quarter advantage for the home team. The Raptors didn’t quit though, as they kept the game close, had the lead with under a minute remaining, and even had a chance to win on the final possession of the game. However, after a wild possession that probably saw 15 total fouls committed, the Hawks walked off the floor as the victors.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Had some trouble with his shot and finishing around the rim in this one, but he was getting to the line, and, GASP, he made the majority of his free throws! He was all over the place on defense, effectively shutting down Amir Johnson and DeRozan at times. His final line of 20-11-3-3-3 is something that should be appreciated. 8.5/10

Al Horford: The Raptors ran some plays early that got Aaron Gray some buckets, which is on Al. However, he was extremely efficient from the field, and was dropping some great passes to his teammates in both set plays and on the secondary break. In the fourth quarter, he had the game-winning bucket off an LD timeout play, blocked Kyle Lowry on what would have been the game-winner, and then probably fouled DeRozan (wasn’t called) on that last, wacky possession. 8.5/10

Devin Harris: Devin wasn’t nearly as aggressive in this game as he probably should have been, as seen by the majority of his shot attempts coming from behind the arc. Coach Drew said Devin’s foot injury is still bothering him, which has probably contributed to his last two “meh” performances. 5/10

Kyle Korver: You know that Kyle is shooting well when he draws a double-team late in the fourth quarter. (which is what allowed Al to get open for that dunk) Ever since that 58-point debacle in Chicago, Korver is averaging almost 17 points per game, while shooting 58% from three-point range. (on seven attempts per game) He’s been a huge reason as to why the Hawks have been able to stabilize over the past few games. 8/10

Jeff Teague: I’m just going to start making this Jeff’s permanent comment: “Jeff played aggressive in one half and the Hawks were good. Jeff played passive in the other half and the Hawks weren’t so good.” That works for about every game, right? Coach Drew needs to find ways to keep JT motivated, as even LD says that the Hawks thrive when Jeff is being aggressive. Teague no longer has the excuse that he might get pulled if he makes a mistake; it’s his team to run now, and he needs to be more consistent with it. 6.5/10 Continue Reading…

So, can we stop this “Josh Smith only blocks shots” meme that some of you are still perpetuating?

According to Bradford Doolittle, who uses a variety of statistical metrics to determine this, Josh ranks as the best perimeter defender in the league, ahead of known defensive stalwarts like Andre Iguodala and LeBron James.

The article linked above is an insider piece, so I’ll provide just a snippet of what Doolittle says about Josh.

“Smith is certainly athletic enough to guard any position on the floor, though it’s questionable whether he is a true perimeter stopper because of the amount of time he spends at power forward and guarding the rim. According to my system, he has played 33 percent of his minutes at small forward this season. He ranks sixth on a per-possession basis against isolations and second in steal-plus-block percentage.

Even Doolittle says that this may be skewed a bit because of how much time Josh spends on other bigs, but this is clearly an affirmation of something that should be obvious: Josh Smith is really, really good at defense.

When asked about this recognition, coach Larry Drew was in complete agreement.

“His ability to defend out on the floor is pretty amazing. As a player back in the days when I was playing, and even my coaching days, I think I can count on one hand the number of guys that have that ability to defend all five positions the way he can.”

While Josh hasn’t always been this good on the perimeter, his progress this in this area has allowed the Hawks to play efficiently on defense without a “true small forward”. Smoove played great defense on LeBron is the matchups against Miami, and was really good against Carmelo on Sunday if you focus on the entire game and not just New York’s last play. (people quickly forgot the three-play sequence in the 2nd quarter where Josh forced Anthony into three missed jumpers)

Also, Doolittle uses Synergy’s defensive numbers, but he doesn’t even mention how good Josh’s are. In isolation plays, Josh is forcing opponents into 28.6% shooting, a turnover rate of 20%, and a PPP (points per possession) of 0.52.

For those of you who don’t understand points per possession, consider this: the Hawks play at an average of about 91 possessions per game. So, in theory, if an opponent just went at Josh Smith in isolations for the entire game, they would score… 47 points.

Now, Synergy has it’s flaws in that categorization of plays can be difficult, but the theory behind it is solid; look at every single play, and determine what happens. Simple as that, and the outcomes favor Josh a helluva lot more than they take away from him.

ANGRY JEFF TEAGUE!

ANGRY JEFF TEAGUE!

Josh Smith’s suspension a couple of weeks ago for conduct detrimental to the team wasn’t just a message to Josh Smith; it was a message to the entire team that no one, not even the perceived star, was above the team, and could act out of the team’s principles and go unscathed.

While more people have been focusing on how Josh would respond to the first suspension of his career, something else has happened: Jeff Teague has exploded.

In those seven games, starting with Smoove’s absence in the Brooklyn game, Jeff has averaged over 19 points and eight assists on a true-shooting percentage of .634. He’s topped 20 points in four of those games, and has had double-digit assists in three. (including consecutive 20/10 games against Brooklyn)

Even Larry Drew has recognized Teague’s inconsistent play so far this year, sometimes going as far as to question Jeff’s motor. (in my world, this is viewed as “aggressive Jeff” vs “wait, we have a point guard?”)

Of course, there can be another view to this. Obviously, Jeff’s numbers are going to be up a little bit with Lou Williams out, as he’s playing over 36 minutes a game since Lou’s injury. However, in terms of shooting, that’s not necessarily the case; JT is actually take over a shot less per-36 minutes since Lou injury. The difference now, though, is that he is hitting more of his threes, and is attacking the basket furiously. (which can be seen in his increased free throw attempts over that span)

The Hawks will need Jeff to continue this play as the calendar rolls over to February. Atlanta kicks off that month with three games against Chicago, Indiana, and Memphis, which are the teams that comprise the top three in defense in the league. Even though the Hawks have already beaten these teams this year, they’ve played a relatively tame schedule since they beat the Pacers at the end of December. Strong point guard play will be critical in winning these games, which would give the Hawks a nice boost in national recognition if they could capture at least two.

Of course, they need to beat the Raptors at home first for any of that to matter. Kyle Lowry, who killed the Hawks last year with the Rockets, is still listed as day-to-day with back spasms. Despite their record, the Raptors have looked extremely strong recently, losing some close games against really good teams.

While the Raptors do have a surprisingly efficient offense (credit to Lowry and Calderon), they are near the bottom of the league in defense. Teague should have a field day in this game, which could serve as an indicator of whether or not his consistency is improving. Keep a close eye on this one.

More Hawks-Knicks notes

Bo Churney —  January 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

Josh Smith had a rough game yesterday… if you prefer to look at it that way. Twitter (reporters and fans alike) had a field day with Josh after last night’s game, saying he played shoddy defense on Carmelo and lost the game late by making too many mistakes.

I found myself defending Josh there, and have had to do so increasingly more often this year. Be reminded, that I thought trading Josh for Antawn Jamison’s expiring contract, plus Cleveland’s pick, would have been a good idea for the Hawks (cap space, lottery pick), so the fact that the tide has turned on him this much seems like overkill to me.

However, Josh took a lot of the blame for Carmelo sinking a Knicks’ record nine threes last night. So, let’s look at each of Carmelo’s makes from behind the arc and see how he got so open.

1st quarter, 0:45 remaining: Josh cheats off a bit, and Prigioni is able to get off a good pass to Melo. Josh is able to give a good contest, but Anthony hits the shot.

2nd quarter, 2:50 remaining: Knicks run a Felton-Stoudemire pick-and-roll. Atlanta’s defense collapses on the PnR, forcing Josh to switch onto Amar’e to avoid giving up an uncontested dunk. Josh successfully contests the shot, but the Knicks rebound and get the ball to Melo, who is open because Horford did not rotate properly after coming off of Amar’e. (seriously, he just stood out by the elbow and watched this play unfold after he switched off of STAT.) Continue Reading…

FINAL

NYK(27-15) 106 – 104 (25-19)ATL

Key Performers:

J. Teague (ATL): 27 pts, 5 reb, 6 ast
C. Anthony (NYK): 42 pts, 5 reb
[FULL BOX SCORE]

This one is going to sting for the Hawks. They shot 60% from the field, over 40% from three, and were 16-20 from the line… but lost. The team committed 19 turnovers, with Horford uncharacteristically being the biggest offender with five. The Hawks had their chance and were leading late, but committed too many mistakes with the game on the line, including getting too close to Carmelo on a drive that resulted in a “foul”. Few calls seemed to benefit the Hawks in this one, with a key miss happening in the first quarter; Jannero Pargo was called for a clear-path foul on J.R. Smith in a situation in which he was clearly ahead of Smith. Then, Smith hit both of the free throws and knocked down an open jumper to give the Knicks a critical four-point swing.

Of course, it’s also hard to win when Carmelo is hitting from here.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: We see all of the facets of Josh’s game in this one. He took head-scratching shots (and made some), dominated inside, and made some key turnovers. Overall, he did well, hitting 9/16 from the field, but missing the potential game-winning three on the last possession. I will talk more about Josh from this game in a later post. 8/10

Al Horford: Al made all eight of his shots in this one, which was somewhat limited due to foul trouble. He was clearly irate with the foul calling in this one, which seems to be becoming increasingly common from the usually stoic Horford. However, his real mistakes hurt, as he missed both of his free throw tries, and turned the ball over five times. 7.5/10

DeShawn Stevenson: After only going 1-8 in his last game, DeShawn went 4-6 from behind the arc in this one, and had another play were he converted an and-one. (I know, right?) Of course, he also drew the unfortunate task of guarding Carmelo for several stretches, which is something he probably wishes he had done a little bit better. (he did well for the most part, but also helped off of Melo a couple of times while he was on fire) 7/10

Kyle Korver: He had to start missing at some point, right? Only 3-8 from the field in this one, but was 5-5 from the line, and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. 5/10

Jeff Teague: One of his best games of the season will probably go unnoticed because of Carmelo’s explosion, and because he somewhat disappeared late in the game. He had 27 points, five boards, six assists, and was the biggest factor for this being a tie game at halftime. Unfortunately, he really couldn’t get anything going in the fourth quarter (credit to an ailing Tyson Chandler) and made a couple of turnovers. 8/10 Continue Reading…

Kyle Korver was instrumental in pushing the Hawks past the Boston Celtics, who once trailed by 27 points, Friday night in a 123-111 double-overtime victory.

He put on an astounding show, knocking down eight 3-pointers in the second half, which broke the Hawks franchise record for most in a half.

Check out the video below and relive each of Korver’s treys on the historic night.

It’s been one of his worst statistical seasons in recent memory, but the free-shooting power forward, Josh Smith, believes he deserves a max-deal when he becomes a free agent this summer.

Smith gave his pitch to the AJC’s Jeff Schutlz after Friday’s morning shoot-around in preparation for Atlanta’s tilt with the visiting Boston Celtics.

“I feel like I’m a max player,” Smith said Friday. “I feel I bring a lot to the table. I have a lot of versatility. For what I do and what I give this ball club, I feel like I’m worth it.”

After Atlanta’s last max contract– a $123-million deal to Joe Johnson– didn’t quite pan out, it would be understandable if the Hawks resist giving Smith an approximate $94-million, five-year deal.

On that notion, Smith made it clear why Atlanta should bring him back.

Smith again: “There shouldn’t be any hesitation. I’m Josh Smith, I’m not anybody else. I ‘m not Michael Jordan, I’m not LeBron James, I’m not Brook Lopez. I’m Josh Smith. You can’t look at what might’ve happened with another person. Let’s say Joe. You can’t say, ‘I’m skeptical of giving another person that’ because of whatever they feel like happened.”

And if Friday’s huge come-from-behind 123-111 double-overtime victory over the Celtics is any indication of how Smith can play in crunch time against contending squads, Atlanta might just have to consider giving the 6’10” forward whatever deal he wants.

Smith had a stat line that included 17 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks over 46 minutes. In every phase of the game, Smith was there, providing a big body on the inside and a physical frame of mind on the offensive end.

One game won’t change everything though, but it will help to push some of his more dreadful performances (and off-court blowups) out of mind.

Whether he can convince Atlanta’s ownership group to role the dice on him, though, will fully depend on where the other pieces of the 2013 free agency group lands.

FINAL

BOS(20-23) 111 – 123 (25-18) ATL

Key Performers:

K. Korver (ATL): 27 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 2 blk
R. Rondo (BOS): 16 pts, 10 reb, 11 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

From what I’ve gathered in my years of watching basketball, I’ve noticed that certain games signify certain character traits of a team. Obviously, there will be a wide array of performances that can point their way to a particular emotion for every team, but in rare and ridiculous instances like Friday night’s game, I like to think at least, that it signifies something more than the overcoming of everyday frustration, preparation, and the fatigued body and mind of these players. I like to think, regardless of its validity, that games like THAT, games like the one I just witnessed don’t happen often because a team has to channel something that it often didn’t know it was capable of channeling. There is something about games like this that make you want to believe that it’s more than just Kyle Korver getting hot from three, it’s more than just Jeff Teague changing the pace– and I believe that there is more than that. I can’t really extrapolate or make tangible what that thought is, but in rivalry games where one team (the Celtics) has so often pounded on the other (historically) inferior team (the Hawks), there is some sort of DNA inscribed in that aforementioned inferior unit to finally say “enough!” and overcome obstacles regardless of strenuousness.

Now, for what it’s worth, the Hawks are a better constructed team than the Celtics at this point in time. It’s not rocket science. But there has been a psychological advantage, an unspoken, but yet perfectly understood Boston edge that has exuded Big Brother-esque reactions ever since the 2008 playoff series. The subsequent matches only further contributed to those Bostonian sentiments of superiority. And it looked like it was going to be another lesson, another episode on why the Hawks will always lose to the Celtics regardless of seemingly extraneous factors like age and diminishing individual production of star players. Boston jumped out to a 27-point lead and they led by 19 at the break. This game should have been over. But the Hawks went on an incredible run, AN INCREDIBLE RUN (19-0, I believe it was), to cut into Boston’s lead in the third quarter. The Hawks put their foot down. By the time the third quarter had drawn to a close, the Celtics knew that they were in a blood bath. They knew their psychological advantage was waning, as well as their energy, and the Hawks did well to exploit that.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: It seems like every game warrants the same reaction to the play of Josh Smith: conflicted. I have conflicting opinions almost every time Smoove touches the ball. He was 3-9 from the free throw line and 7-20 from the field, but his defense down the stretch was spectacular. He failed to effectively create his own shot and often settled for silly faders, but he found others and made a few nice passes, even connecting with Horford on a crucial high-low play near the end of the first overtime. For every positive, there was a negative, but those negatives didn’t seem to matter all that much. Sure, I cringed as 6 of those free throws bounced in the wrong direction, but I marveled at the way he strapped up Paul Pierce on one possession and forced Kevin Garnett into a difficult shot on the next. He truly took on the role of a leader in this game, even though he wasn’t killing it with his scoring. He found open teammates, grabbed tons of rebounds, and played great defense. For the purposes of the Hawks’ comeback, he did just what he needed to do. 7/10

Al Horford: Most of Horford’s misses came in the first half. He opened himself up for some easy looks, but things just weren’t falling into place early. As the second half progressed, Horford became more and more comfortable. He was utilized in the high-post and through that he made some nice passes to the perimeter for open three-pointers. He worked the high-low with Josh Smith and crashed the boards on both ends of the floor. He was the guy, though, that really put the nail in the coffin. His strong performance in the second overtime of the game knocked a tired Celtics team on their back. Teague and Korver ran them until they were tired, and then Al kicked them to the ground. 8/10

Kyle Korver: I’ve seen players get streaky from the perimeter before. I used to love watching JJ Redick at Duke because he would just catch fire from beyond the arc and burry opponents with a barrage of long-range jumpers. Having said all of that, what Korver did was pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. His stretch from the middle of the third quarter to the end of regulation was phenomenal. He made 8 three-pointers in the second half and forced the Celtics to throw their defensive ace, Avery Bradley, on to him, which opened things up for Teague. Korver also sparked the mini-comeback when the Celtics had re-asserted themselves and led by 10 with just under 4 minutes to go in regulation. Kyle canned two consecutive three-pointers to cut the deficit to 4, and from there the Hawks were able to close things out. Bradley definitely neutralized Korver’s impact as he didn’t score in either of the overtimes and was hounded every time he caught the ball, but his 8-11 three-point shooting performance was so phenomenal that Boston had to devote its entire defensive attention to him. 10/10

Jeff Teague: Korver’s three point shooting will get most of the glory for this game, but Teague was the real difference maker tonight. Once Jeff accelerated the pace of the game, Boston didn’t stand a chance. Teague is a terror in the open court, and when he started playing passing lanes and leaking out into transition, Boston was helpless. He found his teammates on the break created for himself, and if it weren’t for him trying to initiate some of that (albeit unsuccessfully) in the first half, then the Hawks would have been down by much more than 19 at the break. Again, Teague was the guy who set everything into motion and the guy who Boston really had no answer for, regardless of if Bradley or someone else was checking him. 9/10

Ivan Johnson: Other than a really sweet euro-step layup, Ivan’s first quarter was a disaster. He couldn’t keep up defensively or on the boards. However, he provided a nice second-half boost when he scored a quick seven points and tied the game in the third quarter. He only played 18 minutes, which is considerably less time than the other starters, but he did contribute. 5/10

Continue Reading…

“I didn’t know if we could come back and win this game, but I did know that we had a competitive nature about us, and we need to go out there and show it.” -Larry Drew

 

“Once we got the energy, once we got into a rhythm, I didn’t want to disrupt it.” LD on the massive minutes played by Al, Josh, Devin, Kyle, and Jeff

 

“It seemed that everything he was throwing up was in.” -LD on Korver

 

“This was a very, very gutsy win for us, really showed what we’re made of. It showed that we have the ability to persevere through those types of situations… It wasn’t about me, this win was about what those guys decided to do coming out in that third quarter.” -LD

 

“I’m proud of the way we handled the adversity… I have to say 10 minutes with under four minutes to go, you kind of start wondering what’s going to happen, but then, you know, Kyle happened.” *laughs* -Al Horford

 

“[Kyle] shot the mess out of it. Without him shooting the ball like that we didn’t have a chance of getting back in the ballgame. He shot the ball extremely well. And I think by him making those shots early on, it kind of drove the momentum to our side. Everybody else looked a little bit more enthused. We were having fun, and were ready to player basketball. This was a great effort. We were down by 27 at one point. It was the no-quit attitude of this ball club, and we kept fighting.” -Josh Smith

 

“We copy-catted them from last game.” -Jeff Teague

 

“When the ones that don’t feel good still go in, it’s nice. It was just a good shooting night. It was one of those things when you make some shots, you get better screens and you get better passes and things like that.” -Kyle Korver

 

Also, really Kyle? Just a good shooting night?

And yes, I mean this even if Horford and Zaza are available to play.

This doesn’t really even have much to do with Ivan’s performance against the Bobcats. Yes, the 12 points and 15 rebounds were nice, but… it’s the Bobcats. Hakim Warrick and Bismack Biyombo probably couldn’t handle a lightpost; they have no shot against a dude that wears a grill and was banned from the Korean League.

No, this has much more to do with Josh Smith. If you have problems remembering, Smoove has had a lot of trouble with Boston lately, which appears to be a psychological barrier enforced by Kevin Garnett. Josh’s career numbers against the Cs? 13 points, seven boards, and 40% shooting. Not. Good.

So, Horford appears to be good to go, but Zaza may be iffy, which makes this a little more difficult, but I believe the Hawks should start with a lineup of Jeff, Devin or Korver, Josh, Al, and then Ivan. Why? To keep Josh the hell away from KG.

Oh, and Josh being at the three works. According to 82games.com, it’s his best position. According to the NBA’s Media Stats site, the best lineups for the Hawks are when Josh is playing small forward. I don’t see how putting Josh on Pierce, and then getting Horford on either Bass, Green, or Garnett wouldn’t be the most advantageous thing for Atlanta.

The only thing that could throw a wrench into this plan is if Zaza isn’t able to go. In that case, I could see why Larry Drew wouldn’t want to put his best three frontcourt options out there at once, with no real option to back up off the bench. However, if Zaza can play, I see no reason for the Hawks to not give heavy minutes to that frontcourt lineup that I listed above.