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Rockets 92 Hawks 84

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Boxscore

Gameflow

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 89.2 0.94 43.7 9.2 19.2 9.0
HOU 89.2 1.03 46.9 19.8 33.3 17.9

I think we're officially well into an NBA season. We've seen the dominant, wonderful Josh Smith and allowed ourselves to believe he might be ready to assume the responsibilities of being a franchise player. Now we've also seen the wasteful, self-negating Josh Smith leave us with the same nagging, unpleasant doubts that have plagued the thoughts of those who care each of the past two seasons.

Is Josh Smith unable to play basketball in a manner that maximizes the Hawks' chances of winning?

or

Is Josh Smith unwilling to play basketball in a manner that maximizes the Hawks' chances of winning?

This morning, it certainly seems to me that the answer to one of those questions is "yes" and that does not provide comfort.

Not that we didn't witness the full gamut of frustrating Hawks issues last night.

  • Al Horford (one of 3 Hawks, the others being Bibby and Marvin Williams, to demonstrate some ability to create and convert good shots last night) sat on the bench for two-thirds of 1st Half because he picked up two fouls while guarding Yao Ming. Horford finished the game with just four personal fouls, played just 31 minutes and had just 10 FGA (he made 7 of those).
  • Joe Johnson is certainly capable of (limited to?) taking and making difficult shots but it's not sustainable as an offensive system. Especially when the Rockets are just waiting to put a rested Ron Artest back in the game to shut Johnson down.
  • Artest re-entered the game with 7:57 left in the fourth quarter. At that point Joe Johnson had scored 10 of Atlanta's last 17 points to bring the Hawks from 59-60 down to 76-68 up. Over the next six-and-a-half minutes, with Artest guarding Johnson, the Hawks scored 2 points. Joe went 0-4 (0-2 3PTA) from the floor. The Hawks committed a shot clock violation and called three timeouts. Houston scored 22 points before Johnson finally scored again with 1:17 left to pull the Hawks within 10, 80-90. 30 seconds later he'd be on the bench watching Mario West mop up.
  • To be fair to Johnson, that 22-2 Rockets run in the heart of the fourth quarter did not just expose him as a very good complementary player forced into a role beyond his abilities but also contained a full and total Josh Smith meltdown consisting of two missed jump shots, two personal fouls, and a terrible turnover that eliminated a potential game-tying fast break bucket for Atlanta.
  • The Hawks were, as a team, dreadful on the glass despite Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, and Josh Smith all putting in credible performances. Credit to Yao Ming, Luis Scola, and Ron Artest for sure but when Von Wafer is getting as many offensive rebounds in 20 minutes as the other six Hawks players combine to grab in the entire game that's not an indication that rebounding is any more of a priority for the team than creating good shots.
  • On the defensive glass, the Hawks were merely typically poor.
  • Due in no small part to Houston's 17-2 run to start the game, Acie Law IV made an early appearance at point guard. He didn't play great. He didn't play poorly. He didn't play at all in the second half as Flip Murray played the 6:51 Bibby rested at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter. Murray wasn't bad last night taking just 4 shots (making 2) in 18 minutes while accumulating two assists and just one turnover. Still, something to keep in mind the next time Mike Woodson claims to want to develop Law as an NBA point guard.

On the subject of Woodson and as prelude to the Josh Smith Jump Shot Log, that Smith is ever in position to catch the ball twenty or more feet from the basket as the shot clock expires is an embarrassment to coach as well as player. Five of Smith's ten jump shots came as the shot clock wound down. This is testament both to Smith's disinterest in putting himself in a position to succeed and the team's tendency toward treating standing and watching a teammate dribble as a strategic offensive choice.

THE JOSH SMITH JUMP SHOT LOG

Quarter Time Shot Clock Distance Result
1 11:01 :12 3pt MISS

8:38 :01 2pt
MISS

8:00 :01 2pt MISS
2
0:45 :09 3pt MISS
3
10:57 :03 2pt MISS

3:28 :10 2pt MISS

1:36 :02 2pt MISS
4
7:58 :18 3pt MAKE!!

6:54 :03 3pt MISS

5:54 :08 2pt MISS

Sekou leads off his game story with a different accounting of quality work than do I:

Three-and-half quarters of quality work won’t get the job done in the NBA.

Houston was up 25-9 (their biggest lead of the game) with 1:50 left in the first quarter. That's more than half a quarter right there. As mentioned above, the 22-2 Houston run in the fourth quarter lasted about 6-and-a-half minutes. That's also more than half a quarter by itself. I guess "Two-and-three-quarters of quality work..." doesn't have the same impact despite possessing the virtue of being true.

Joe Johnson:

"We should have closed them out in the fourth quarter, and we didn’t get the job done. When Yao came in we didn’t have an answer. Then the game turned real ugly.”

Atlanta didn't have an answer for Yao Ming. That's true. Houston had an answer for Joe Johnson. That's something with which the Atlanta Hawks franchise has to come to terms.

More bizarre blame for a loss is placed on three-point shooting:

Unlike in Dallas, though, the Hawks had this game in hand midway through the fourth quarter and simply couldn’t finish.

While the Hawks were busy firing away from deep, they shot just 8-for-21 from beyond the 3-point line and didn’t shoot a single free throw after halftime, ruining any chance they had of stretching their lead late.

8-for-21 is 38%. Making 38% of your three-point attempts is a good thing. The Hawks are 3rd in the league in three-point shooting this season and everyone associated with the team seems irritated with that rather than treating it as the wonderful surprise it is.

The problem last night lay in a certain left-hander dragging the team's three-point percentage below 40 rather than attacking the basket. The problem was not that the Hawks in general shot too many three-pointers. Of course, if Joe Johnson complained to the referees more often all this would be solved but he's far too wonderful to sink to the level of being a more useful basketball player.

This general, insidious disinclination to deal with reality extends to the notes column wherein Sekou writes:

Woodson watched the Rockets struggle in a loss in Memphis Monday night but knew not to put too much stock in that.

The Rockets played without Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and Shane Battier against the Grizzlies, three of their top five players. Both Artest and Battier returned for Tuesday’s game, giving the Rockets a totally different look alongside All-Star center Yao Ming.

What a tough break for the Hawks. Except that Shane Battier started and played almost 26 minutes against the Grizzlies. Woodson can't even effectively design an excuse.

While I'm pissily holding people accountable, I present: Why advance scouts should be fact-checked.

An advance scout for a team the Hawks play later this week is sitting next to me right now schooling me on why a huge early lead never holds against these Hawks.

“They turn you over and get out and run,” he said as the Hawks were in the midst of three straight turnovers and conversions on the other end to start the second half. “It’s the Larry Brown, North Carolina way. George Karl does it, too. They’re going to turn you over, take off running and prove that they’re better than you.”

Last night's game featured 89 possessions, one less than the 24th-ranked pace typical of the Hawks. The 28th-ranked Charlotte Bobcats average 87.6 possessions per game under the direction of Larry Brown.

The game did not leave CoCo in a good mood either:

I have no idea what to make of this team right now. All I know is if they are going to be bad, I want them to be all the way bad. Don't be middle of the lottery bad. Be number one pick bad. I know its waaaaay too early for this talk, but I'm seeing some of the same things this season that I've seen in the previous four seasons. That's not good.

It's always a relief on the rare occassions I learn I'm not the most pessimisstic person watching.