Well, we're narcissistic enough to say that we started this yesterday, but intellectually honest enough to know that just because the Real AJC MC, ESPN's John Hollinger, and Bronn at SBAtlanta chimed in also yesterday, it doesn't mean they are copycats.
What it definitely means is that we need more Al Horford than we are getting, including last night's super-effective, sub 31 minute stint in Indianapolis.
Most of the limitation in minutes comes from the much-maligned "strategy" of benching/protecting Al Horford from foul trouble when he gets 2 fouls in the first half.
MC has asked coach Drew about this and was told it wasn't automatic, but MC notes that, oops, LD did it again:
- Al picked up his second foul early in the second quarter and L.D. again gave him the hook. Horford said he was "frustrated" by having to sit.
So let me see if I get this straight. One young star can do pretty much whatever he wants to on the floor and never get more than a head tilt/finger wag and the other young star, who never causes a problem, gets to be frustrated because of a practice that doesn't have an obvious correlation to winning games?
On the flip, the strategy worked---Horford ended last night's contest with those same two fouls. Whew!
The problem with this is not just the mountain of information that MC, Hollinger, Bronn, and also Bret LaGree from Hoopinion provides to prove Horford's wonderful effectiveness on the court, it's what happens when Horford comes out and the Josh Powell/Jason Collins tandem replace him.
Larry Drew could get away with letting his second unit oversee diminishing leads against Philadelphia or Washington but Utah proved to be a different kettle of fish. Drew may have to abandon his apparent desire to use Zaza Pachulia and Josh Powell together. The easiest solution would be to reduce Powell's minutes (the Hawks were -10 in the 11:25 he played tonight, they were outscored by 8.5 points per 100 possessions he was on the court this season entering the game) to something approaching zero. The difference between Powell and Pachulia is significant, the difference between Powell and both Horford and Smith is vast and such differences become more stark in games (such as three of Atlanta's four losses) that go down to their final possessions.
The problem has been that, while Drew has saved Horford from foul trouble in the first half, it hasn't necessarily meant any additional minutes in the second half, as the reserves had routinely played well into the fourth quarter before Horford returned. As Hollinger wrote in his piece, instead of actually fouling out, Drew virtually fouls him out himself by the extended benchings in the second quarter.
Riding your bench somewhat works as long as there isn't a nasty dropoff in production from the starters. But, as Bret shows above, there is!
There is hope on the horizon for the Free Al crowd. Last night, though Drew did invoke bench time for Al after his second foul, we saw Al back a lot earlier (before the 10 minute mark) than previous games in the fourth quarter and we saw none of the more extended bench in the second half, and the results were a nasty shutdown of the Pacers in the third, and a solid closeout late in the fourth....led by, of course, Al Horford.