Hawks 97 Cavs 92

Boxscore

Gameflow

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
CLE 83.1 1.11 44.5 23.2 31 8.4
ATL 83.1 1.17 52.4 49.2 34.4 18.1

It's much more pleasant to write these when I've nothing to get off my chest. My natural disposition and accompanying prose style may limit me when it comes to expressing simple pleasure. Thus, last night's game offers me with 1) a nice viewing experience and 2) an opportunity for personal growth.

Bob Rathbun hit the nail on the head when he mentioned how tired both teams looked in the second quarter. Both teams were listless, the players were cranky* and it colored my perception of the entire game. One low-scoring quarter in an obviously low-possession game convinced me, in the course of watching the game, that I was witnessing a defensive struggle. This despite the score being, you know, DISPLAYED ON THE TV SCREEN** AT ALL TIMES. This is another point in favor of not writing on deadline: I can sleep off my foolishness.***

*The latter characteristic did not really disappear even after the adrenaline kicked back in in the second half.

**In HD, no less. Which is just a ridiculous improvement over the picture quality on regular definition Fox Sports South.

***It's not hard to figure out: The Hawks typically have fewer than 90 possessions per game; this game appears to be played at a much slower pace than that; both teams have scored more than 90 points by game's end. This was probably not a master class in team defense. Still, I failed to connect these dots.

Cleveland's 11-game winning streak ended with an atypical win for the Hawks, fueled not by field goal defense, forcing turnovers, and making three-pointers but by out-rebounding their opponent on both ends of the court and getting to the free throw line a ton.* It was a team effort on both counts. Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson took more than half of Atlanta's field goals but Marvin Williams and Al Horford led the parade to the charity stripe as six of eight Hawks attempted at least four free throws. Similarly, five Hawks corralled between six and eight rebounds on a night when there were few rebounds to be had.

*The Hawks' free throw rate last night was greater than the Nets' free throw rate in either of those miserable games in mid-November.

A couple of the usual complaints apply to last night's game.

  • Josh Smith sat for the final 11:08 of the first half because he had two fouls. He played 20:34 of the second half and finished with four fouls.
  • Al Horford sat from 5:43 to 1:40 of the fourth quarter with five fouls. He did not foul out either.
  • Zaza Pachulia stayed in the game from 2:58 to 1:40 with five fouls. If you can make sense of any of this you're better than I.
  • Acie Law IV's reward for good play in Houston and San Antonio? Four minutes playing alongside Flip Murray in Miami and a DNP-CD last night. Murray was a dreadful backup point guard last night: -13 in 12:37, going 1-4 from the floor (0-2 3PTA), 1-2 from the the line, turning the ball over twice, and overseeing a shot clock violation.
  • On the other hand, when Murray was out there alongside Bibby, Flip couldn't do any real damage. The Hawks were +7 in 3:59 with that backcourt pairing wherein Flip missed a lone three-point attempt, made1-2 of free throws and did not turn the ball over.

Al Horford:

"This was a big, big win for us. Especially after they came back and took the lead on us in the fourth quarter. But our guys made some big shots down the stretch when we needed to. When we needed them, Mike [Bibby] and Joe [Johnson] stepped up and made the shots for us.”

Bibby concurs...

"It’s definitely a big win for us."

...before careening off the tracks:

"They’re one of the best teams in the league. We came out and just showed how good we can be when we help each other out defensively.”

Cleveland's average offensive efficiency: 113.8.

Cleveland's offensive efficiency last night: 110.8.

Missing Cavaliers: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Boobie Gibson.

Cleveland's average defensive efficiency: 99.2

Cleveland's defensive efficiency last night: 116.8

Clearly, Atlanta's defense was the key in stopping Cleveland's win streak.

Mike Woodson:

"You knew they were going to make a run. We hung right in there, and made play after play, and kind of matched them. For every great play they made, we made a great play on the other end. I’m just proud of our locker room and the fact that they defended tonight again and we rebounded the ball as a group. It was a total team effort.”

A pattern has emerged in Coach Woodson's post-game comments, one which began with the win in Chicago early in the season.

Hawks win = We played good defense.

Hawks loss = We shot too many three-pointers.

Remember this and you could be easily entertained after several of the next 59 games.

Mike Brown (sort of) refused to blame the referees for the free throw disparity and thus for Cleveland's loss:

"We didn't lose the game because of that, but I was a little shocked with the way the disparity was. You question some calls, but I'm sure when we win some games, our opponents question some calls too; so I'm OK with it.''

LeBron James, gracious in defeat:

"It was just a matter of who got more stops in the end, and the Hawks came up with more than we did. We definitely had our chances tonight, but the Hawks just made more plays.''

Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak combined to shoot 5-24 from the field last night.

Brian Windhorst provides an excellent, detailed look at Cleveland's late-game defensive adjustments:

There was some interesting pingpong going on in the fourth. Johnson was basically playing point guard a lot and after he made three shots in a row, Mike Brown put LeBron on him. So the first thing Mike Woodson does is call for a pick-and-roll with Mike Bibby and the Cavs switch and Mo Williams ends up on Johnson. He drove and hit a nice shot over Mo, which was huge in the scheme of things. So then Brown goes to "blitzing" Johnson and when the Hawks run the play again the Cavs double-team him. He backs up, jumps over two guys and finds Bibby for that long 3. Finally Brown adjusted to put Delonte West on Bibby so when there was a switch there was a better matchup with West on Johnson. This finally worked but the Cavs couldn't get a defensive rebound when they needed it.

Mike Brown, again:

"You have to give the Hawks credit. They did a nice job defending us and scoring down the stretch. I thought Joe Johnson was a monster. We tried to blitz their pick-and-rolls, and he would make the right play. You have to give Joe Johnson, Mike Woodson and the Atlanta Hawks credit. They played a heck of a ball game. This was also a great test for us, to see how our composure would be in a tough game. Starting with me, I don’t think we had good composure down the stretch. Joe Johnson made play after play towards the end of the game, so you have to give him credit for helping their team win tonight.”

In the interest of fairness, Josh Smith made a couple of jump shots last night, so I'll break out The Josh Smith Personalized Box Score again:

J. Smith FGM FGA 3PTM 3PTA FTM FTA OR DR A TO BS S Pts
jump shots 2 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 4
everything else 3 4 2 2 3 5 2 4 1 0 8

One note: the missed three-pointer resulted in a loose ball foul on Anderson Varejao and two made free throws by Zaza Pachulia. A second note: the blank squares are those categories which are not applicable to the particular breakdown.

Winding down...

No TV for Monday night's game against the Bobcats. My attendance is up in the air at the time of writing so there's potentially one more ticket floating around, waiting for someone to give it a home. Let's not just fill up Philips when the best player in the world visits.

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