I have now watched the fourth quarter four times. It was painful. I threw up twice. So you're welcome. One thing that is fundamentally clear is that Tim Legler is a complete idiot and ESPN does not care about informing its viewers on what is happening outside the small box the cameras works. As a rule, actual NBA fans care about more than the highlights. Without DVR, it is safe to say I would only know the Hawks sucked in the fourth quarter beyond what most scales of suck say are possible. Which I guess is all you really need to know.
The other day I caddied for the Dali Lama and at the end of the round I said, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will know what the worst fourth quarter in the history of basketball looks like." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.
Still, I went back and recorded the number of passes per possession by the Hawks (I counted offensive rebounds as a new possession) in the fourth quarter after the ball crossed half court. Out of the sample size of 26 that I recorded, Atlanta had more than two passes four times. That is, for the most part, including the Bibby pass to Josh Smith on the perimeter immediately after bringing the ball over. I was not looking to make a point. The point was made. Most of these possession had one real pass. Of the four 3 pass or more possessions, two ended with Zaza Pachulia getting good shots of which he missed both. They all ended with good looks.
Isolation Joe was not the problem. Ball movement was the problem. It just stopped, but when your MVP and go to guy enjoys that mode of offense best, it is hard for him to initiate out of it. The two worst examples did involve Joe though. Josh Smith got an offensive rebound and Joe Johnson never passed the ball again. Josh Smith got another offensive rebound and Joe Johnson never passed the ball again. After the third miss of the possession, the Warriors had a run out.
No can deny the isolations led to low energy. Plain and simple. How do you pick up the energy out of that? The Hawks answer last night was more isolations. Yet everyone held on to the ball. It was not just a Johnson problem. In the end, the question is simple. if Joe is going to get the ball in the fourth, he is going to isolate. Even when other guys get the ball, that fact kills ball movement. Why pass out of it? If it goes to Joe, the dribbling will begin until a shot goes up. Can you remember the last time in the fourth quarter, a ball went to the post, left, and then returned? Or how about the last time, Joe kicked it around the perimeter in the fourth quarter? I know sometimes Joe Johnson kills in the fourth quarter, but I know it is never leadership when he does.
Also of note, there were two semi drives to the basket the entire fourth quarter. Crawford dished to Horford and was blocked and Josh Smith split a double team and was fouled. Neither driver got within five feet of the basket.There were no real pick and rolls. And the one time Marvin touched the ball the entire fourth quarter was one of the three pass possessions. And yep, I just threw up again.
I guess everyone is not in to Davidson basketball, just one more reason to dislike Woodson
No one expects the Hawks to watch game tape after game tape on Stephen Curry, but it just so happens I have. Probably seen fifty games in his career and ten or so live. You just can't let him dribble around. You just can't. I understand not game planning for him. Monta might freeze him out, his shot might be off, he is a rookie, etc, etc, but if you have seen one game, just one, you have to know that letting him move freely is a terrible idea. In college, Curry struggled the most when a long, quick, athletic guy was focused on shutting him down and random double teams came on top of that. He could not handle the pressure defense and often could not pass over the tall double team. What did the Hawks do? They switched screens. They gave him four feet to think about what he wanted to do. They treated him like he was Derrick Fisher. No adjustments were made, and Stephen Curry played like he was in the Southern Conference. But don't worry Woody, Curry is a class act. I am sure a thank you note is in the mail.
- Don't let anyone tell you different. Josh Smith had a horrible fourth quarter on both ends of the floor.
- Watching the Jamal Crawford technical a few times, it was clear he got pushed or flopped pretty convincingly, but Crawford demonstratively ran toward the refs. He deserved the T. It would have been only idiotic if the Warriors actually got the ball as a result. They didn't. So it is something worse than idiotic, but I am struggling to come up with the word. We will stick with beyond idiotic right now.
- There is something worse than iso Joe. It is iso Josh. Pick and roll for the love of all that is holy!
Mike Bibby took no fourth quarter shots. If he had any assists, they were cheap ones. Why is Mike Bibby in instead of Marvin Williams?
- One fourth quarter possession I especially enjoyed was Joe Johnson dribbling it up and immediately posting himself up, then passing out to Crawford. Al Horford came up on the other side to set a pick for Crawford with the defense all over rotated to Joe's side, and Crawford just passed back into Joe before Al even got there. Joe put up an airball floater.
- Josh Smith played help defense at least twice when he didn't need to and didn't get the block. It led to two easy baskets.
- Run outs layups and dunks might become the bain of existence every night. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford get beat down the floor a combined six times a game. That is 12 points if you are keeping track.
- Where was Mo Evans?
- On that note, Teague had a run out "and 1" last night. The Hawks never have run outs. If we have no interest in starting the break unless Horford or Josh will it, why are the guards not attacking the glass. Outside of Horford and Smith, the Hawks had 15 rebounds in 156 total minutes. There are words for this, and they are not nice words.
- Something positive you say? The third quarter, thinking this game was in the bag, allowed me turn to USA/Canada for the final goal. I also liked Jeff Teague's four assists and Al Horford's alley oop dunk. There you go. Glass half full.
Final Long Thought
Bloggers run the the thin (or maybe not so thin but we make it thin) line of giving analysis of a game, of wanting something to say, and over stating things. We like accurate statements first, but we like our accurate statements to have punch. Sometimes that leads to overstepping. There are 82 games in this season. The only must win or defining game is the one that keeps you in or out of the playoffs. To give up on the team or the system for this year after this game would be as silly as to guarantee a sweep of Boston in the playoffs based on the regular season results. It says something, but far from everything.There are low points in the season. In every season. Let's hope this is a low point and not a trend.
And yet I cannot help but mention two things. Knowing every single player has something brought something to that horrendous fourth quarter. Shoot, I am fine if you want to blame Mario West's four minutes stint for part of the debacle. Everyone can shoulder some blame.
Still, still people. Our best player self admittedly plays the game with his number one motivation to not be embarrassed. You see it on fast breaks where he gives up instead of taking a charge or committing a hard foul or shows a willingness to get posterized. You see it in stat lines like 31-5-3 on over 50% shooting. You see it on help defense and rebounding effort compared to one on one defense. And you see it in a continually willingness to allow the team to go into isolation basketball. Isolation basketball is not embarrassing for Joe Johnson. Losing and only scoring 8 points is embarrassing. Heck, winning and only scoring 8 points is embarrassing. I don't call out Joe Johnson because he deserves it more than another guy on the team. I call him out because he wants to get paid and have the responsibility more than anyone on the team.
On the other side of things is Mike Woodson. He called a timeout with about six minutes left. The lead was gone. It was a new ball game, and the Hawks came out and played the exact same ball game. On both ends of the court. This is two games in a row where Woody has gone to the press conference and directly criticized something he is directly in charge of as a coach. I give Woody a lot of credit for persevering through some pretty horrible line ups, for improving as a coach, but if anyone thinks he is going to out coach someone deep in the playoffs, that person is crazy. That is not being mean. That is not being overly harsh. That is not overreacting to a game. That is fact. Mike Woodson has a ceiling. It is coach of a playoff team. Anything after that is on the players. Personally, I don't want a coach that's top end speed is met by 15 other guys every year.