Archives For April 2013

Series tied, 2-2

IND(2-2) 91 – 102 (2-2)ATL

Key Performers:
P. George (IND): 21 pts, 12 reb, 2 ast
J. Smith (ATL): 29 pts, 11 reb, 4 ast

Indiana came out playing aggressively on both ends of the court to finish a pretty even first quarter. The Hawks took a 17-point lead into the half, only to watch it disappear behind shooting just 15 percent for the third quarter. Behind Josh Smith and Al Horford’s 17-fourth quarter points, Atlanta hung on to tie the series and send it back to Indiana with a chance to go up 3-2 and close out at home.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: Horford got in foul trouble early, which seemed to plague him for most of the night. He did, however, get under David West’s skin yet again, holding the forward to 5-of-14 from the field. After sitting out much of the third quarter, Big Al dominated the fourth with 10 points and eight free throw attempts. 7/10

Josh Smith: One of the more emotional night for Smith led to an up-and-down game. In a supremely efficient first half, Smith had 16 points, six rebounds and played stout defense on Paul George, yet again. A dreadful third quarter in which Smith shot 0-for-6 from the field was just a precursor for his fourth-quarter rebirth. Smith took the game over, scoring seven points, dishing three assists and snagged two rebounds. Smoove’s offensive rebound and dish for a Kyle trey with 2:33 left in the contest, sealed the game. 8/10

Jeff Teague: It was a pretty nonchalant game for Teague, who matched opposing guard George Hill almost point-for-point and assist-for-assist. He held onto the ball throughout the night and knocked down 5-of-6 free throws in the fourth to close out the night. 6/10

Devin Harris: Harris had another game that can only be explained in offensive spurts. He hit a buzzer-beating layup to close the half and knocked down a few shots, but wasn’t anything special. Harris’ defensive tenacity was lacking as he almost allowed a Lance Stephenson triple-double. 5/10

Johan Petro: Petro flew back to Atlanta after the birth of his son today and played 22 quality minutes in which he controlled Roy Hibbert for much of the night and he grabbed eight rebounds. 7/10

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Hawks After Game Three Win

Bo Churney —  April 28, 2013

Pacers lead series, 2-1

IND(2-1) 69 – 90 (1-2)ATL

Key Performers:
D. West (IND): 18 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast
A. Horford (ATL): 28 pts, 16 reb, 2 blk

Indiana got out to an 8-1 lead early, but head coach Larry Drew called the first timeout, let the fans back into the game and succeeded in pushing a 42-10 Hawks run to give Atlanta a massive cushion in the second half. The Hawks used transition buckets, physicality in the paint and fantastic perimeter defense on George Hill and Paul George to get back into the series, now trailing just 2-1.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: Horford had just six points when David West shoved him to the ground on a fast break, earning a flagrant foul for his trouble. Big Al responded with a massive 26-point, 16-rebound effort as he dominated the paint and led a few transition buckets. Having Horford matched up with West on both ends of floor allowed him the size advantage to work with, leading to a career night. 9.5/10

Josh Smith: It was a heck of an efficient night from Josh on both ends of the court as well. He played excellent defense on George, frustrating the forward whom Atlanta didn’t seem to have an answer for in the first two games of the series. Only three of his 13 attempts came from behind the 3-point arc and he consistently utilized his mismatch in the post over George. 9/10

Jeff Teague: Despite making only 4-of-15 shots, Teague was aggressive from the tip and had spurts of scoring Atlanta needed to push toward the big win. He finished with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists while turning the ball over only twice. He also played great defense on Hill, cutting off his driving lanes and forcing bad passes. 6/10

Devin Harris: Devin didn’t have a great night for the second consecutive game as he was virtually nonexistent on offense. He played well enough on the other end of the court to where his nonproductive night was matched by Lance Stephenson’s four-point effort. 5/10

Johan Petro: Petro only played 14 minutes, as LD preferred Ivan Johnson over the towering center, but he did have six points and four rebounds in the small chunk of minutes he played. 6/10

He also did this:

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No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. That’s the fate that faces the Atlanta Hawks if they lose this game.

The Indiana Pacers come to Atlanta having won the previous two games with offensive dominance. Paul George has been spectacular, scoring 20 plus in each game, while playing 83 of a possible 96 minutes. Indiana’s usually great defense, however, has not been as strong so far; Atlanta is shooting almost 50% from the field and 40% from the line, both better marks than the Pacers.

Indiana, however, has been marching through the lane and getting to the free throw line, something the Hawks have not been able to do. For Atlanta to win this game three, they will have to change that.

How? Well, the Hawks have tried multiple defenders on Paul George already. Kyle Korver didn’t exactly work. Devin Harris and DeShawn Stevenson did better, but George was still able to tear the Hawks about.

It is time for Josh Smith’s turn.

Larry Drew has elected to go big for game three, starting Johan Petro at center, moving Smith to the small forward position. Smoove may be hobbled a bit by an ankle injury, but he’s still the best overall defender Atlanta has. According to mySynergySports, Smith is giving up only 0.67 points per possession in isolation, good enough for 43rd in the league. (which is extremely good, by the way) Considering that Smith has already had turns guarding LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, and Monta Ellis, I don’t think Josh will balk at the challenges that Paul George will bring.

Other keys for the Hawks? Running the offense through Al Horford. Now matched up against David West, Horford should be able to work more down low than he was able to against Roy Hibbert. He should still have a good speed advantage, but Coach Drew should attempt to get his star big man established down low early.

One final key: please Larry, sub Ivan in for Petro as soon as you can. Please…

After a brutal 113-98 loss to the Indiana Pacers in game 2 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks must look to latch on to whatever has worked in this series and ride it to some much-needed victories at Phillips Arena in Games 3 and 4. Problem being, Atlanta’s biggest issue is the defense and there’s no clear-cut reason as to why it’s been struggling as much as it has been in this first round Playoffs matchup. Looking into the Hawks’ lineups played in the first two games against Indiana, I came up with some findings that can help decipher what approach should best be taken.

Before I begin, I must note two things:
1. The absence of Zaza Pachulia is absolutely hammering the Hawks, things are significantly different he was healthy and playing.
2. The statistics that are about to be used are based off of the two Playoff games the Hawks have played the Pacers in. Just two, so keep caution when jumping to conclusions as it’s a minuscule sample size.

First, the lineup most used by the Hawks has been their starting lineup obviously, totaling 29 minutes in the series. They have been ghastly on the defensive end, worse so than the five most-played lineups before them. Although their ORTG (Offensive rating: points scored per 100 possessions) is a whopping 113.1, their DRTG (Defensive rating: points allowed per 100 possessions) is a putrid 137.1. This starting lineup leads the next most-used lineup by 21 minutes over two games, nothing out of the ordinary, yet appalling considering how much they’ve had trouble defending.

The most noticeable reasoning behind these defensive woes by this lineup has to be Kyle Korver guarding Paul George, who’s now averaging 21.5 points per game Continue Reading…

The Hawks can’t get out of their own way.

Every run seems punctuated with defensive ineptitude, every quarter seems closed with a sluggish submission, every game seems lost by the fourth quarter– the Hawks just can’t stop themselves from tripping over their own feet.

Game 2 against Indiana was more of the same.

The issue is not the ability to score points, it is getting stops. In the second quarter of Wednesday night’s game, the Hawks starters returned (with the abysmal bench lineup returning to their seats), and the offense was a buzz saw. Indiana could not contain Teague in transition or stop Smith from making plays in the halfcourt. Smith’s foul trouble quickly turned the tables on Atlanta, but the Hawks were and have been successful against the NBA’s top defense, an accomplishment worth noting. But, something you’d rather go unnoticed is the fact that Atlanta’s depth and inability to field a respectable lineup for 48 minutes has harpooned their chances of stealing home court advantage.

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Pacers lead series, 2-0

IND(2-0) 113 – 98 (0-2)ATL

Key Performers:
P. George (IND): 27 pts, 8 reb, 4 stl
D. Harris (ATL): 17 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast

Summary of tonight’s game: Pacers got ahead, Hawks tried to make a comeback, and were often within striking distance. Then, something always happened to keep the Hawks out of it, whether it be a “foul” (looking at you, Malloy), or a defensive breakdown in transition. In the end, the Hawks couldn’t overcome Indy’s three-point shooting and timely baskets.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: Larry Drew let Al play 38 minutes tonight, but it wasn’t exactly that much of a plus for the Hawks. Al missed a bunch of easy shots in the lane and really seemed to be forcing some of his shots. Of course, he never really seemed the same after he unfairly got a technical in the 2nd quarter. Horford’s ejection-worthy reaction was just a testament to how weak the tech call really was. 6/10

Josh Smith: Josh picked up two fouls in the first two minutes, and picked up his third soon after he got back into the game in the second quarter. When he was on the floor, though, he was playing well, as he made his jumpers, had some strong moves to the basket, and was playing aggressive defense. He seemed really inspired in the second half with his play, but he cannot be in that kind of foul trouble in order to be an asset to the team. 7.5/10

Kyle Korver: Kyle, Kyle, Kyle… you had so many opportunities to keep the Hawks in the game. He fared better on defense not having to guard Paul George, but he was set up too perfectly on several threes that could have been momentum builders to miss. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Zero points after halftime is not going to cut it, regardless of how good your first half was. Teague looked completely out of it in the second half, and was hardly getting into the lane like he was in the first. Part of this should be credited to an improved defensive effort by the Pacers, but a lot of it had to do with Jeff turning into the passive character that we have seen him become too often this season. 6/10

Devin Harris: Devin took some head-scratching shots, but he was the only ATL starter that appeared engaged for the entire game. He tried guarding Paul George, and was effective at times, but George’s physical skill set proved too much. Harris was also one of three Hawks to receive a technical foul on the night. 7.5/10 Continue Reading…

In Atlanta’s Game 1 road loss to the Indiana Pacers, they were unable to contain a surprisingly scorching Pacers offense, led by Paul George scoring 23 points with 18 free throw attempts and 19 points on 70% shooting from the field by George Hill. Indiana finished with a whopping 107 points, so clearly defense was the primary problem for Atlanta here. However, the Hawks were throwing punch-for-punch with the Pacers in the first half, scoring 50 points on 53.7% shooting from the field. Although they were down eight points come halftime, if the Hawks could keep Indiana’s defense from containing them for the final two periods, the Pacers’ offense would eventually cool down and Atlanta should be in position to steal a game, or so we thought. This was not the case, as Atlanta’s own offense took a dive as well, scoring only 40 points on 45.7% shooting in the second half. Indiana, as we all know, took a 107-90 victory in the opening contest of the series. What was the difference in the Atlanta Hawks two halves on the offensive end?

It was the Atlanta Hawks’ aggressiveness when it came to attacking the paint. As you’ll see in the shot distribution shots below, courtesy of of NBA Stats, Atlanta opened up with the majority of their shots right at the cup, but eventually drifted off into the perimeter, settling for more outside attempts.

1st half:


2nd half:


From nearly a half of their shot Continue Reading…

“Hey, Coach Drew… are you there? It’s me, Al Horford…”

Peachtree’s Jason Walker already summed this game up very well. When you are in the playoffs, and you have the opportunity to take game one on the road, you cannot have your best player sitting on the bench.

However, that is what happened. Al Horford only played 28 minutes, a large contributing factor in a 107-90 loss to Indiana.

It wasn’t the only thing, to be fair. Josh Smith was his usual jumper-happy self, which was only compounded when he appeared to get hurt in the 2nd half. At that point, he just looked like he wasn’t able to compete; twice he found himself under the rim with the ball, and he passed out of it both times. You can hate Josh for his shot selection, but you cannot deny that a normal, healthy Josh Smith would have gone up and dunked the basketball on those plays.

The Pacers, however, found their advantages on offense and stuck to them. Paul George drove into the lane with reckless abandon, rewarding him with 18 free throw attempts on the night. Tyler Hansbrough had five offensive rebounds off the bench, including a stretch in the fourth quarter that absolutely stymied a possible Atlanta comeback.

Pacer point guard George Hill also did a lot of damage. He took advantage of Jeff Teague’s poor defensive efforts, scoring a quick 15 points. Those points gave Indiana a double-digit lead in Continue Reading…

Pacers lead series, 1-0

IND(1-0) 107 – 90 (0-1)ATL    

Key Performers:
P. George (IND): 23 pts, 11 reb, 12 ast
J. Teague (ATL): 21 pts, 7 ast

I’m not sure how to describe this game. The Pacers simply outrebounded the Hawks, forced turnovers, and took advantage of the mismatches in their favor. The Hawks, meanwhile, had Al Horford playing the same amount of minutes as DeShawn Stevenson. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t feel like a recipe for success.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: In 28 minutes, Al had 14 points, six boards, and three assists. In 28 minutes. Why did Al only play 28 minutes? Well, Coach Drew sat his star big man for the final 5:29 of the 2nd quarter, a quarter where Al had scored 10 points and was getting whatever he wanted against the Indiana defense. Why did Drew sit him? Horford picked up his second foul. Yes, Drew sat his best player for the rest of the half because he had TWO fouls. Predictably, the Hawks looked like a mess without Horford on the floor. 8/10

Josh Smith: Smoove appeared to hurt his knee early in the second half, and simply was not an effective player after it. Yes, he has his penchant for jumpers, but when he’s healthy, he can still explode to the basket, rebound, and play great defense. In the final portion of the game, it wasn’t that Josh was too lazy or disinterested to do these things; he literally looked like he wasn’t able to them. Maybe he should have only played 28 minutes… 6/10

Kyle Korver: Korver was called for a couple of fouls that left me scratching my head, but the fact remains that he could not guard Paul George. Clearly my thought that the Hawks could live with Korver on George did not turn out to be a great plan. Compounded with Kyle going 2-for-7 from the field… this wasn’t one of his highlight games of his career. 2/10

Jeff Teague: Jeff had a good offensive night with 21 points and seven assists, but his defense on George Hill in the first half… well, it left a lot to be desired. His defense improved by the second half, but by that point, it was purely the Paul George show and there was nothing Teague could have done to stop it. 7.5/10

Devin Harris: Early in the game, Devin tried to get into the lane a couple of times and draw a foul, but those whistles did not come. This seemed to adversely effect him, as he really did not get aggressive again until late in the game. However, even if he did get those calls, it might not have helped; he missed all three of his free throw attempts on the night. 5/10 Continue Reading…