Suns 107 Hawks 102

Boxscore

Gameflow

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 91.5 1.11 43.8 27 33.3 8.7
PHX 91.5 1.17 58.8 27 20.6 17.5

There are a number of points of interest regarding last night's game: Flip Murray's (offensive*) excellence, Marvin Williams' health**, Acie Law IV's aggressive five minutes of play to open the second quarter, the possibility that Randolph Morris could pass Solomon Jones in the rotation, Zaza Pachulia's worthy effort against Shaquille O'Neal, Mike Bibby's strong fourth quarter, Joe Johnson's poor start, and Johnson's worse finish but there is a single defining moment.

*I do have a concern that Flip couldn't pick Leandro Barbosa out of a lineup but I'll chalk that up to Flip's standard disinterest in sound team defense rather than a specific inability to recognize that Barbosa deserved special attention last night.

**It'll be tough to get much information on this as the Hawks appear to be traveling again without an accompanying beat reporter.

Atlanta ball, down 101-98, 1:13 left in the game. The Hawks run a stagnant, slow developing* set in an effort to get the ball to Joe Johnson in the vicinity of the left block. Once Johnson gets the ball, the Phoenix double-team arrives and he (to his credit) finds the open man on the opposite wing. Phoenix not being a collection of complete imbeciles though, the open man is Josh Smith 22 feet from the basket. Smith catches the ball with four seconds left on the shot clock. He shoots with three seconds left on the shot clock. He does not appear to consider not shooting from there. I don't know whether that's because the shot clock is winding down or because he's one of two people** who don't seem to recognize his inability to make jump shots should preclude him from attempting them.

*though not atypically so

**I assume you can guess the other person.

The shot misses. Grant Hill rebounds. Phoenix heads to the other end and scores on their third consecutive possession to take a five point lead. That score doesn't kill the game off though as, on Atlanta's next possession, Josh Smith doesn't stand on the perimeter for 20 seconds before attempting to do something with less than a thirty-percent chance of succeeding. He gets to the paint and works hard to tap in Joe Johnson's missed shot. This effort doesn't end up changing the outcome of the game but, had Smith put in such a good, useful effort on the earlier, more important possession perhaps things would have played out differently in the final minute.

Again, though, the fault does not lie with Smith alone. On that possession that begins with 1:13 left in the game, I ask, which Hawks players are put in a position to succeed?

Joe Johnson? Everyone knows he's getting the ball and can probably guess where he's going to get the ball.

Mike Bibby? He's got to force the ball where the defense knows it's going because he does not appear to have a second option in that set.

Marvin Williams? He's asked to space the floor by standing in the opposite corner but because he shares the weak side of the court with Josh Smith, there's no reason for Marvin's defender to leave him. Ever.

Josh Smith? Asking Josh Smith to stand 22 feet from the basket cannot produce anything positive for an offense. Plus, I get the impression on terrible, unproductive possessions like this one that he's encouraged if not instructed not to make a hard cut into the paint when his defender leaves him to double Johnson.

Randolph Morris? I'm not entirely sure that the previous 46 minutes he'd played with the Hawks over the last ten weeks adequately prepared him to make a positive and aggressive contribution to that possession.

From a distance, Sekou Smith tackles the issue of Joe Johnson's poor shooting night:

But I’m going to say what Joe Johnson won’t. “Gimme a break.” And I don’t mean an extended stretch of days when he doesn’t have to play or practice, but more like an extended stretch of a game where he doesn’t have to be the first, second and third option for the Hawks on offense.

The Hawks made their best run against the Suns with a motley crew of characters on the floor and Johnson resting, deservedly so, on the sidelines. And it’s okay some nights for the star player to watch his supporting cast take care of things, especially when that star player averages 41 minutes a night and carries a load as large as the one the Hawks have asked Johnson to carry the past few years.

Now I also realize that a player’s pride precludes him from admitting that he’s gassed and that he might need a break from the constant pressure of toting the heaviest load.

That’s fine. We’ve all got raging pride that colors our decisions sometimes. But that doesn’t mean someone else can’t step in and notice the obvious and do something to alleviate the problem.

Sekou's a hell of a blogger.

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