Hawks 109 Nuggets 91

Boxscore

Gameflow

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
DEN 84.3 1.08 48.7 20.8 23.7 8.3
ATL 84.3 1.29 56.4 26.9 45.5 15.4

7-1 on the homestand.

14-2 at home on the year.

20-10 on the year.

The final win that made those records above true testaments to the quality basketball typically played by the Atlanta Hawks in the Fall and Winter of 2008 was driven by two atypical factors: 1) a dominant rebounding performance from a team that ranks 9th in the league in OR% and 22nd un DR% and 2) a great shooting night from Flip Murray.

Atlanta's overall offensive performance wasn't far off the stratospheric standard* they set Saturday against Chicago, and, for one half, the paucity of defensive resistance the Hawks provided was also reminiscent of Saturday night. Things turned around in the second half, mostly due to preventing Carmelo Anthony from making a field goal in the final two quarters.

*A Marvin Williams shutout in the assist column prevented all five Hawks starters from again recording at least four assists in the game. And Al Horford would have had a fifth assist but for a blown layup by Zaza Pachulia in the first half.

DENVER OFFENSE BY HALF

Half Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
1st 42.4 1.27 56.8 6.8 38.9 9.6
2nd 41.8 0.91 37.9 39.4 22.2 7.2

I think the degree of improvement in the second half is indicative of a team-wide effort to contest shots and grab rebounds but the seeds of the defensive renaissance were sown when, in the first quarter, Josh Smith stopped and Marvin Williams started guarding Carmelo Anthony. Both of Anthony's first quarter baskets came when Smith was his primary defender. Once Williams took over* Anthony was limited to two free throws the rest of the first quarter and made just 2 of 13 field goals over the final three quarters.

*This change occurred so early in the game that I wonder if Smith was even supposed to be checking Anthony from the tip.

Now, Williams, like the rest of his teammates, didn't cover himself in glory during the second quarter when the Denver bench scored most of the Nuggets' 29 points. Nor did Mike Bibby, despite another outstanding offensive performance, dispel doubts about the wisdom of re-signing him as we witnessed that the list of NBA players who can beat Bibby off the dribble extends all the way down to Dahntay Jones*. But, hey, if you're going to have a two game stretch where your offense is 20% more efficient than the snazziest of the Showtime Lakers teams, there's significant room for defensive error. Neither of these games has been all that close.

*Dahntay Jones, the rich man's Mario West?

Al Horford, taking things one step at a time:

"It feels great, but we've got to stay focused and take care of business."

See also:

"I still don’t feel like we’re playing our best basketball. We need to continue to defend and rebound and hit our shots on the offensive end.”

Marvin Williams is more enthusiastic:

"I've never been on a 50-win team. The guys are really looking for it.''

But he's humble when it comes to his defensive performance against Anthony:

"I didn't frustrate him. He's a superstar. He's a scorer. I was just trying to make it tough on him.''

Per usual, I can't really follow Coach Woodson's logic here, but I think the goal is a reasonable one:

"The point we've been talking about is trying to win 50 games. That's been the goal for our basketball team. It's 13 games off the pace we finished last year, so it's not unrealistic. I say to these guys all the time, 'If you can take Boston to seven and win three games, there's not a team you can't beat.'"

George Karl on the Nuggets inability to keep up offensively in the second half:

"We simply ran out of gas. We didn't do enough fundamental things well, and we fell apart in the fourth quarter.''

84 possessions, coach. That's about 90% percent of a typical Nuggets game.

Chauncey Billups:

"They were running around, scrambling and he was getting a lot of open shots. When somebody's got it going like that, you just have to contest. He played great. Even when we made plays, Bibby played a little bit better.''

Kenyon Martin did not ghostwrite today's recap:

"Aside from their 3-point shooting, their offensive rebounding was tremendous."

Sekou Smith on the secret of the Hawks' success:

Bigger than any one player, because it’s been all of them collectively, it’s been the way they’ve played for each other that’s made the difference.

From Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby’s continued offensive prowess to Al Horford continued improvement on both ends to Josh Smith’s ability to play effectively through obvious pain to Zaza Pachulia thriving in his role as the super sub inside to Flip Murray and Mo Evans finding a way to make plays whenever they’re pressed into service to Marvin Williams accepting the challenge every night to guard some of the most explosive and dynamic players the NBA has to offer (he’s seen LeBron and Carmelo at the start and finish of the home stand with Paul Pierce in the middle and more than held his own every time), these Hawks seems to get it.

Jeremy at Pickaxe and Roll found Denver's defensive performance last night all too familiar:

There you have it.  The Atlanta Hawks are good, especially when they are making threes from the parking lot with the shot clock winding down.  The Nuggets defense is not as good as it was early in the season.  In fact, the Nuggets have had eight straight games with a defensive efficiency of over 100 and over their previous 20 their defensive efficiency has been over 100 in 16 of them. 

During that 20 game stretch Denver’s defensive efficiency has been 109.1 which would place them in the bottom third of the league for the season.

That is not the team we put our faith in early in the season.  It is frighteningly similar to what they did last season.

Amidst several good notes from last night's game, Hardwood Paroxysm asks a question I'd never previously considered:

Is Marvin Williams human or is he dancer?

Deeper in the Daily Dime than the quote linked above, John Hollinger gave Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson special credit for the defensive performances last night:

Meanwhile, the 6-9 Williams used his length to hound Carmelo Anthony into 4-for-17 shooting and did it with relatively little double-team help. Both of Denver's stars were frustrated enough to earn fourth quarter technicals as the game got out of hand, in what's rapidly becoming a Nuggets tradition in Atlanta.

Johnson's defense on Billups was particularly notable -- most star players take on relatively light defensive assignments so they can focus on their offensive role, but Johnson was a focal point at both ends given how prominent Billups is in Denver's attack.

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