Archives For Daniel Christian

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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The Atlanta Hawks have signed reserve point guard Shelvin Mack for the remainder of the season, according to a statement by Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry. Mack was signed to a 10-day contract on March 6, which was subsequently renewed on March 16. Mack will be an unrestricted free agent upon season’s end.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound former Butler Bulldog has averaged 2.6 points and 1.2 assists in 6.7 minutes-per-contest in his nine games with the Hawks. He scored a season high 10 points on Monday night against the Indiana Pacers, connecting on four of nine attempted field goals. He also contributed four assists, two rebounds, and a steal in 19 minutes of play.

Mack has been playing as the third string point guard behind Jeff Teague and Devin Harris, but with Harris out for Monday night’s game, Mack assumed regular back-up responsibilities. He played the entire fourth quarter in lieu of starter Jeff Teague.

Mack has also spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards this season. His career averages are 3.5 points per game, 2.0 assists per game, and 1.4 rebounds per game.

FINAL

IND(44-27) 100 – 94 (39-32) ATL

Key Performers:
J. Smith (ATL): 20 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast, 4 stl, 2 blk
R. Hibbert (IND): 17 pts, 13 reb, 3 blk
[FULL BOX SCORE]

Coming off an important win over the Milwaukee Bucks last Sunday, Atlanta failed to capitalize on any positive momentum and fell flat against the Pacers on Monday night. It was a lethargic effort from the Hawks, who were plagued by a lack of activity from the starters apart from Josh Smith. Teague struggled from the field and failed to successfully initiate any sort of offense, and that reflected in Horford’s offensive production, as he only shot 6-15 on the night. More on player specificities later, but the energy, as I’m sure Larry Drew would like to say, was not there– the energy (cut to LD nodding vigorously)– was lacking. Obviously it isn’t easy working in the paint against Roy Hibbert, one of the league’s premier defensive centers, and defending the Gerald Green renaissance isn’t any fun either, but the Hawks failed to pick up what would have been an impressive win in an important stretch of the season.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Smith played the best of any Atlanta player on Monday night, and one thing that is worth mentioning, whether it’s obvious or not, is that Smoove is so much better when he’s moving towards the hoop. Any shot in which his body or his motion is carrying him in a direction closer to the rim is usually a good Josh Smith shot. That was clearly evidenced by the work he did on Paul George in the post. Smith, who is a left handed player, frequently posted George while showing an intent to attack with a left-handed hook (a shot for which he has an affinity). Instead, however, Smith backed George down, showed the ball left, and then swerved and turned his body right for a right-handed shot around the hoop. The first three times he did this the Indiana help was late and he scored rather easily. Now for his jumpers: one was at the end of the shot clock and the other was a play in which the two and the three came off screens to the top of the key. This demonstrates the issue with Smith at the three offensively in Drew’s system because it flushes him out to the perimeter where he can jack in-rhythm or out-of-rhythm jumpers. Even though his 18-footer was in-rhythm on Monday night, you knew it was a bad shot. Still– is anyone complaining about Smith? He went 7-10 from the field. 8/10

Al Horford: At this point we’re all so used to 20-10 games from Al that anything less seems disappointing. It seems as if Hibbert’s defense had an effect on Horford early, and that effect perpetuated itself throughout the game. Hibbert contested six of Horford’s 13 shots, and of those six Horford only made one. He had much more success backing down/working against Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Pendergraph. The Hawks have recently used a crossing screen with a guard on one block and Horford on the other to allow Al an easy seal-and-post right next to the hoop. They ran that twice against Indiana, once with Jones setting the screen, the other time with Korver. It works. 6/10

Johan Petro: He’s usually ineffective offensively because he’s not great with setting picks/scoring off picks due to his mobility (or lack thereof). His midrange shooting is somewhere between poor and inconsistent. He can be a spatial liability at times, but on occasion his hustle and defensive activity make up for that. That wasn’t the case on Monday as he failed to establish any sort of interior defensive presence. He did, however, have 4 offensive rebounds that all required a whole bunch of tipping and tapping. 4/10

Dahntay Jones: He kicked things off for Atlanta with a three-pointer in the opening minutes, but he didn’t score the rest of the night. He only played 12 minutes, so not too much to discuss here. 3/10

Jeff Teague: The Indiana defense did an exceptional job on Teague, but he missed his fair share of open looks. His outside shot was off the mark, but all 5 of his attempted layups were challenged by Hibbert, and as we know, that generally has a distinct correlation with low field goal percentages. On the other hand, his penetration didn’t seem to open the offense up as much as it usually does. That probably has something to do with Indiana’s number one ranked defense. 4/10

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FINAL

MIL (34-33) 90 – 98 (38-30) ATL

Key Performers:
A. Horford (ATL): 26 pts, 15 reb, 1ast, 2 stl, 2 blk
L. Sanders (MIL): 19 pts, 14 reb, 2 ast, 4 blk
[FULL BOX SCORE]

If you look at the box score of this game, the first thing that stands out is how many players had seven or more rebounds– there were seven (three of which who had 14 or over), and one who had six in 11 minutes of play. The reason, mainly, is that there were a lot of missed shots, especially by Milwaukee. The interesting thing about this game, however, was that, defensively, it was the complete opposite of Monday night’s effort against Dallas, where the Hawks seemingly hit a wall and allowed a barrage of perimeter scoring. Wednesday night was different: Milwaukee shot 37% from the field as opposed to Dallas’s 60+%, they shot 42% from beyond the arc as opposed to 59%, and they were out-rebounded by the Hawks 47-46 as opposed to out-rebounding them by 13. In short, the Hawks took note of their recent shortcomings, and made a concerted, whether conscious or not, effort to turn them around.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: The field goal percentage was ugly. It’s always ugly. Whatever, I’m going to move past that. You could probably guess the kind of shots he took without even watching the game, anyway. And, just like almost every game, I start out with some negative comment on shot selection or something or another, but then I move on to say that he did his part in other areas. And boy did he on Wednesday. He hauled in 16 rebounds over Milwaukee’s super-lengthy front court and also dished out six assists. But because this is Josh Smith, something had to offset those positive markings, so just to troll everyone, he also had six turnovers. 5/10

Al Horford: There’s so much to be said about how well Horford understands the spacing in the Hawks’ offense. He flashes to the right spots every time Teague penetrates the lane, whether that be to the top of the key or out to the wing, and it really opens things up when he’s connecting on his jumper. He was doing so tonight, and was once again a man amongst boys. He scored 26 points on 11-20 shooting and hauled in 14 rebounds. 10/10

Kyle Korver: He was 3-6 from beyond the arc and kept the streak of games with a made three-pointer alive. He’s only 25 or so games away from breaking the record. His streak is clearly more impressive than the other streak that continued Wednesday night (pshhhh 24 wins is supposed to be good or something?). Anyways, Korver wasn’t exactly a defensive stopper as he struggled to stay with both Redick and Dunleavy most of the night. 4/10

Devin Harris: He was the first quarter offense, scoring 10 points early to keep the Bucks from building any sort of lead when the Hawks just seemed out of sorts offensively. He was the only one attacking the lane and getting to the line at the start of the game, and he also had an awesome fake pass that opened up him for a made three-pointer. He finished the night with 15 points and was active on defense, even if he was beaten off the dribble a few times.  6/10

Jeff Teague: That’s another 20-10 game for Teague, who now has eight of those by my unofficial count, and 12 double-doubles on the season. He also has six games where he’s been either one or two assists away from having a 20-10 game. So, in essence, he finds himself with this sort of stat line a lot, which is clearly good for the Hawks. He was a lightning rod Wednesday night, getting into the lane with ease and finishing on some floaters and runners. He was one point away from his career high and tallied 11 assists to go along with those 27 points.   10/10

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FINAL

DAL(32-35) 117 – 103 (37-30) ATL

Key Performers:
J. Teague (ATL): 19 pts, 2 reb, 7 asts, 2 stl
D. Collison (DAL): 24 pts, 5 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

Larry Drew’s overriding theme for the Hawks is energy. Whether that be energy on offense, energy on defense, or just a non-stop stream of movement on both ends of the floor that induces a controlled chaos, the Hawks had none of it to begin the game. Defensively, the effort was nearly nonexistent: rotations were poor, the pick-and-roll coverage was weak, and the lack of defensive rebounding opened up Dallas’s perimeter shooting even more. In short, 103 points should be enough to win any game or at least be competitive in any game, but it wasn’t for this game. The Mavericks scored 117 points and at least 30 in each of the first three quarters as they blitzed a lifeless Hawks team, clinging to the second night of a back-to-back, in what was a blowout or at least thoroughly controlled game from the beginning.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Statistically, Smith had a solid game. He scored 13 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and passed for 6 assists– those are good numbers, but sometimes those stat lines are empty.The emptiest category in that stat line is rebounding, which is not-so-coincidentally the same category the Hawks were destroyed in on Monday night. Dallas had 8 more rebounds on the night and doubled Atlanta in offensive boards. Smith, who was playing the four almost the entire night, was not an active participant on the glass, and that truly had a significant impact. Furthermore, it’s nights like these when the jumpers don’t fly. Settling, pulling up– you name it, he did it. He did make some nice plays in transition and also had a few buckets in the paint, but the areas in which he usually ameliorates his shortcomings are the ones in which he struggled: rebounding and defensive intensity. 4.5/10

Al Horford: Bob Rathbun tossed a stat on the screen last night that said Horford is the only player in the NBA who has averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds since the all-star break– that should provide everyone with a decent understanding of his constant production. On Monday night, that production was once again prevalent, but offset by a lackluster and lackadaisical team defensive performance. (It’s worth noting that the Hawks offense actually played pretty well last night. They got most of the looks they wanted, they just couldn’t string together a few stops in a row to pull the game within 10 points.) Anyway, Horford’s pick-and-pop jumpers seemed a little short, which might be a product of fatigue. This was the second of a back-to-back, but Horford still gave it a solid go and had a strong night rebounding (the only Hawk to do so); he finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists. 7.5/10

Kyle Korver: Defensively, Korver was lost like a needle in a haystack in pick-and-roll coverage. I believe Larry Drew mentioned before the game that Dallas loves to run pick-and-rolls, and they sure do. Vince Carter showed up Korver early and often with a bevy of drives and open jumpers. On offense, Korver gave his usual production: two three-pointers, over 50% shooting, 11 points. 4/10

Devin Harris: Nothing spectacular from Devin on Monday night– 10 points, 2 assists, and some mediocre defense. There really isn’t much more to it than that. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Teague’s offensive performance was the only real positive for the Hawks on Monday night. Aggressive Teague showed up as he attacked the basket and was relentless in transition. Dallas tried to slow him by icing his pick-and-rolls a few times– they experienced minor success, but on the whole Teague’s ability to get to the hoop was a major reason Atlanta was able to keep the game from being a full-fledged blowout. For all the good he brought offensively, however, he brought almost as much bad defensively. He, like Korver, struggled in covering Dallas’s pick-and-roll as Darren Collison broke down Atlanta’s defense seemingly play after play in the first half. Jeff couldn’t stay in front of him, and the help was ineffective. 6.5/10 Continue Reading…

FINAL

MIA (48-14) 98 – 81 (34-29)  ATL

Key Performers:

D. Wade (MIA): 23 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast, 5 stl
J. Smith (ATL): 15 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

The Hawks kept sinking and the Heat kept rolling; that sums up Tuesday night’s loss rather well, as Atlanta put forth another uninspired effort against an inspired Miami team. It’s weird with the Heat– they are some paradoxical combination of inspiring, incredible basketball with a when-do-the-playoffs-get-here? mindset. They seem bored, but yet still remarkably dominant. Even on a night when LeBron James shot 3-11, they absolutely trounced the Hawks. It’s disappointing to see Atlanta continue to struggle, but it’s a delight to watch the Heat. They’re on the verge of breaking the record for longest modern winning streak, and you can tell why. They are a phenomenal team, and with a team as beat up as Atlanta is, they probably should have won by 17.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: Smith had mild success in the paint, but he missed all six of his jumpers and wasn’t as aggressive as the Hawks needed him to be. Part of the reason the free throw disparity was so significantly in Miami’s favor was because the Hawks could not get anything going at the rim; they settled for jumpers and did not attack the basket– Smith was one of the main culprits here. His defense was alright, but his rebounding was subpar. Still, despite all of this, he was the Hawks’ most active offensive player, especially in transition. 6/10

Al Horford: Miami’s team defense is fantastic, but Horford seemed lethargic on offense on Tuesday night. Maybe it’s because he was tired, maybe something else, but his jumper in the pick-and-pop was off and he wasn’t aggressive down low either. He started off playing pretty well, but then hit a cold streak while the Heat pulled away. From then on out, he wasn’t too effective. 5/10

Anthony Tolliver: He had 0 points in 25 minutes, so…. I guess this wasn’t his night? 1/10

Jeff Teague: The Hawks made a little bit of a run when aggressive Teague reared his vicious head in the third quarter, but that was short-lived because Teague tweaked his ankle and had to go back to the locker room. Hopefully Teague recovers and is ready for the next game, because the Hawks cannot afford another injury to this already depleted roster. 6/10

DeShawn Stevenson: Well, look at this way: Neither Wade nor LeBron really torched the Heat. They were, relatively at least, contained. Stevenson played solid defense all night and he scored five points more than Anthony Tolliver. 5/10 Continue Reading…

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As discussed last week, the Hawks run two high-low sets in order to free Al Horford for some easy baskets: the elbow pick-and-roll and the pin-down-and-slip. These two sets work remarkably well and are usually reserved for late game situations– they are the Hawks’ go to plays, if you will.

But what happens when opposing defenses figure it out? What happens when those defenses crack the code and stop Horford on the role or contain him off the pin-down? How do the Hawks respond and/or use other sets with similar starting patterns to deceive the opposition?

Well, clearly, there are a lot of questions and, as you might imagine, there are also a lot of answers. When the Hawks run these plays, there are actually a bevy of offensive options at their disposal; it just so happens that the preferred option is usually available. But as you’ll see in the video below, when that primary target is unavailable, there are other ways to beat the defense.

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FINAL

  PHI(23-37) 96 – 107 (34-26)ATL

Key Performers:

J. Teague (ATL): 27 pts, 2 reb, 11 asts
D. Wright (PHI): 20 pts, 9 reb
[FULL BOX SCORE]

There’s no better way to bounce back from a three game road losing streak than to come home, play a crappy team, and kick them around for 48 minutes. The Hawks overcame a sluggish start to blitz the 76ers and get back to their winning ways, which was a welcomed change of pace for John Jenkins, who turned 22 on Wednesday– no one wants to lose on their birthday. So happy birthday day, John. You’re lucky you played the 76ers and not the Heat or the Clippers or something.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: He played only 30 minutes, which is less than usual, but he scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds, so no one’s complaining. His stat line was marred by the 4 turnovers, 3 of which came early during Atlanta’s putrid start, but he cleaned things up and worked his way into the paint for some buckets. He seemed to be comfortable converting that left-handed hook from the middle of the lane Wednesday night, but while his shooting was passable, his free throw shooting was once again pathetic. 1 of 6 from the stripe is just not going to get it done. 6/10

Al Horford: Another game, another double-double. Horford bossed his way to 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists. He shot 10 of 17 from the field, good for 58%, and continued to connect on those pick-and-pop jumpers. Quite simply, at the moment, Al Horford cannot be stopped. He’s playing like one of the best players in the NBA.  10/10

Devin Harris: Harris arguably had the highlight of the night when he took the Sixer defense on a ride, penetrating the lane and curling out on the other side to hit a forgotten Horford under the hoop for a slam. The pass was beautiful. Other than that, Harris’ game was mediocre. There isn’t much to talk about, really. 6 points on 3 of 8 shooting and 2 assists. 5/10

DeShawn Stevenson: No one knows DeShawn for any sort of offensive prowess, but on Wednesday night he played a very smart game. He made more than a few nice passes and spaced the offense enough for four open three point attempts. He only made one, but that’s besides the point. His impact wasn’t too palpable or anything, but he came on the court and made the right plays. Although having him start likely didn’t help the Hawks’ godawful, scoreless opening 5 minutes. 5/10

Jeff Teague: Aggressive Teague is the best Teague. He broke down Philly’s defense with relative ease and looked like he was partaking in a pre-game layup drill– literally he drove into the paint for three straight uncontested layups at one point; and then Devin Harris got one on the next possession. The Sixers were playing matador defense for sure, but Teague exploited the heck out of it. He shot 10 of 15 from the field and was excellent with Horford in the pick-and-pop. The correlation between those two playing well together and the Hawks winning is definitely a positive one. 10/10 Continue Reading…

Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks

Josh Smith and Al Horford have developed an incredible on-court synergy that has produced some of the most well-executed plays of the NBA season. Their coupled understanding of each other’s tendencies paired with coach Larry Drew’s knack for yielding nearly flawless plays out of timeouts has created possibly the most unstoppable pair of sets in the NBA: the Josh Smith-Al Horford high-lows.

The way in which the Hawks initiate these high-lows is brilliant: one is simply an elbow pick-and-roll, while the other uses Kyle Korver or another three-point shooting threat as a decoy coming off a pin-down screen.

The reason the first of those mentioned sets works so well (Smith-Horford elbow p-n-r), as you’ll see in some subsequent videos, is that it forces the defense to hedge on the screen for a split second. It starts with both Horford and Smith in the high post, and Horford goes to set a screen on Smith’s defender. Horford knows the hedge is coming and that it’s essential to any sort of defensive rotation, so instead of setting a firm pick and rolling, he sets the pick, lets the defender hedge a little early, and then slips before anyone is really prepared for him to do so; essentially, it’s more of a pick-and-slip than a pick-and-roll.

Mike Prada, founder of SBNation blog Bullets Forever, noted that “the Smith/Horford elbow pick and roll is one of the league’s five most unstoppable plays” Sunday night via twitter. While that tweet may have been a bit reactionary, it’s probably equally as true. In all of the following clips you’ll notice that this play is almost exclusively run in the final five minutes of winnable games, mainly because Drew wants to save his best stuff for the right and most opportune moments. He keeps this play in his back pocket throughout the game and signals for it on the possession when the Hawks most need a bucket. As you’ll see, they get what they want just about every time. Continue Reading…

RECAP: Hawks 102, Jazz 91

Daniel Christian —  February 28, 2013 — 4 Comments

FINAL

   UTA(31-27) 91 – 102 (33-23) ATL

Key Performers:

A. Horford (ATL): 34 pts, 15 reb, 3 asts, 5 blk
A. Jefferson (UTA): 26 pts, 11 reb
[FULL BOX SCORE]

Two Hawks players came into this game on particular hot streaks. Al Horford was hoping to round out his already stellar February (62% shooting) on a high note, while Jeff Teague was looking to continue his high assist output. Add a third name to the list. Josh Smith didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (what’s new?), but he definitely qualified as “in the zone.” The Hawks have everyone on the same page right now, and the team is clicking as a result: the offense is smooth, the defense is (mostly) tenacious, and the execution has been exceptional.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Josh Smith: As I said, add Smith’s name to the list of Hawks on a hot streak. Smith torched the Jazz for 24 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. He struggled on defense against the bigger, and stronger Jazz front line, but he certainly made up for it with activity on the boards and impressive orchestration of the offense down the stretch. Again, the Hawks went to their killer set when they needed a basket most: that Smith-Horford high-low is almost unstoppable, and it put the nail in the coffin tonight in the midst of a Jazz comeback. 9/10

Al Horford: Horford has been playing out of his mind all month, but his performance tonight might have been the culminating outburst of a month full of unrecognized greatness. He scored 34 points (14-22 shooting), grabbed 15 rebounds, and blocked 5 shots. He struggled at times guarding Jefferson, but for the most part he held his ground. And that 34 points? It’s a career high. Horford was unquestionably the second best player in the entire Eastern Conference in the month of February. If he can perform with this sort of efficiency on a consistent basis, he’s a top-15 player in this league. 10/10

Kyle Korver: The main thing we have going for us here is that Korver extended his streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer made. He’s at 50 now! But in 37 minutes of play he scored 4 points on 1-4 shooting. 3/10

Devin Harris: Harris seems to have mastered the concept of a revenge game (Marvin Williams has not). He’s played well against the Mavericks, the Nets, and twice now against the Jazz (also against the Bucks, which sort of counts because he’s from Wisconsin). He loves making a statement, putting on a show for the places with which he was once so familiar. He wasn’t a world-beater tonight like he was the last time Atlanta played Utah, but he was an offensive sparkplug and he ignited Atlanta’s offense early. One thing I’m starting to appreciate about Harris’ transition game is that he really does a great job of reading the defensive gaps– it’s almost like he’s a running back searching for a hole. He just explodes through whatever seem there is and kisses the ball off the glass. He had 12 points on the night. 6/10

Jeff Teague: I’ve opined that a good portion of Horford’s recent dominance can be attributed to the almost equally as recently dominant Teague. He’s been a killer ball handler in the pick-and-pop, finding Horford at the top of the key almost without even looking– he just knows where he’s going to be now, and it’s beautiful basketball. Teague also seems to be finishing better around the rim as of late (I have not statistically confirmed this, but you guys are seeing it too, right?) and that’s been making him more of a threat (if being more of a threat was possible) coming off a screen. He started off slow tonight, but he finished the last 3 quarters playing great basketball. Another great game from Teague with 19 points and 7 assists.   7.5/10 Continue Reading…