Quandary of evidence

The NBA season can be both strange and exciting. Dramatic and traumatic. Tragic and triumphant. Ok, enough with the commercial-ish adjectives and cliches, right? After all, NBA commercials capture enough of that. Hey wait, I have a commercial idea. How about we take those commercials from 2007-2008, showing the mighty Boston Celtics roaring forth like legendary green-clad warriors, as they stormed their way to the playoffs and beyond! Now splice that and show winged Hawks players swooping in and plucking them off of their feet like some great legion of vengeful, red-clothed Valkyries! 

….then cut to a scene where this legion of frequent fliers are undone and defeated by blue-cloaked Sorcerers that cast Magic stones at them…

How’s that? Wouldn’t it make a good NBA commercial? Or does it just describe, in part, the transition the Hawks seem to be in right now?

It’s said that the NBA is a game of matchups. Yeah, well there is apparently some truth to it. How else can you explain the Hawks defeating the Celtics twice this season (once at home, once in Boston), then getting smoked badly by the Orlando Magic in both meetings? What gives? Some say the Hawks just don’t match up well with the Magic, while they match up pretty good with the Celtics. That theory seems to hold water as well, as the Hawks are finally able to beat the Celtics with consistency (hey, two wins is a start, and not a fluke). But the Magic haven’t been beating the Hawks the same way every time, or even with the same people. They’ve just been plain beating them. How do we end this?

 

ONE STEP FORWARD, 1.5 TO GO

The Hawks can compete with the Celtics and defeat them, as we now know. They can compete with the Cavaliers, but don’t quite seem to know how to beat them just yet, while not being too far off from it. They apparently are incapable of doing either when it comes to the Magic. Why? Surely there is a gameplan that’s less vague and more effective that which was offered by Mike Woodson in recent quotes. We as fans of course, always have our own opinion. Hawks fan and blogger Niremetal suggests the following, with an acknowledgement to the idea that the problem of solving the is not one-dimensional:

 

“My best advice would be to take the ball right at Dwight Howard every time on offense and try to force him to get into foul trouble – and don’t stop if he blocks the first 6 shots you throw at him. JJ just seemed to give up after the second time Dwight threw his shot. On defense, I really just think we need to keep Zaza or Collins in at center, pull Josh (like Beasley, Rashard Lewis is a terrible matchup for him), put Al or Marvin on Lewis, and resist the urge to double down. But honestly, I don’t know if that would work given the fact that the Magic have a couple of guys who can penetrate very well too (Lewis, Jameer, Barnes, and Vince).”

 

PENETRATING THE PROBLEM

 

The above comments  further explain why the Hawks have so much trouble with the Magic. Facing a dominant big man is no easy task. Add in a multitude of three point shooters (a Hawks weakness on defense), and things get worse. Yet the dot in the middle that connects the other two is penetration. Penetration. The one thing that starts a chain reaction of other problems, including the theory that the Hawks’ problems all end in their inability to defend the paint.

Where is the evidence to support that theory as a stand alone problem? What would suggest that this is even the primary problem for the Hawks on defense? A renewed effort, growing maturity, and a more consistent focus on the part of Josh Smith has been added to the strong steadiness of Al Horford, making the Hawks’ frontcourt defense better than ever. Well, that is to say, when they are able to play where they are supposed to play. Penetration. It’s part of what makes the switching defense necessary sometimes. And the switch-offs often put Josh Smith and Al Horford in position to defend a player, but not an area. Yet, that style of defense is highly effective some nights and against some teams, enough to make junking it altogether a perhaps unwise decision.

Coach Mike Woodson recently talked about facing a zone defense that made it difficult to get the ball in to the low post for scoring opportunities. You can beat a zone if you can shoot, but if you miss it’s all down hill. So how do you beat it? Penetration. It’s perhaps the one thing that consistently beats a formidable Hawks defense. Maybe it really does just come down to matchups and what you have on your roster. How can the Hawks beat penetration? They have to figure it out somehow, because they’ll see more and more of it as the season wears on, and as much as they can handle in the playoffs (still a long ways off, but never too early to think about in some aspects). Penetration is where it starts. It’s how the big man gets the ball when the zone is locking everything up. It’s how the perimeter shooter gets a good look at the basket. It’s how the offense scores when nothing else is working. It’s the beginning of the end for the Hawks. Or is it? Maybe I’m wrong, and it’s just another problem. But what if it’s not?

Will this come down to a roster move? Can Woodson figure out a strategy to compensate? Is it up to the Hawks players themselves?

 

ALL STAR ASPIRATIONS

 

The latest all-star ballots can be viewed on NBA.com, but we’ll discuss the Hawks players that are up for votes. Atlanta’s only all-star for the last several years is well behind in the chase this season. Joe Johnson trails Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Ray Allen, Gilbert Arenas, and Derrick Rose. With Arenas suspended indefinitely, Johnson figures to make up some ground. Will it be enough to make the all-star bench? Let’s just say there’s a rather large gap between current 4th place occupant Ray Allen, and fifth place occupant Derrick Rose, who happens to be outpacing Johnson by a slim 50,000 votes or so. Bringing up the rear in all of the mentionable Eastern Conference guards on the all-star ballots is Mike Bibby.

Meanwhile, Al Horford seems to be faring better on his end, where he’s in third place among the centers, beating out the likes of  Brook Lopez, Andrew Bogut, Jermaine O’Neal, and Kendrick Perkins. The problem? Shaq and Dwight are the front runners, and they lead Horford by a very wide margin. Horford’s 178,000 + votes can hardly compare to Shaq’s 609,000 + votes, and Dwight’s 1.6 million + votes. Still, Horford is placing better than ever, and may have an even better shot next year.

Josh Smith is another Hawk who faces tough competition on the ballot in Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, and Paul Pierce. Here’s the kicker: Smith trails Pierce by a mere 32,000 votes, meaning that he could overtake him before the voting is over. And if a single Boston fan sees this, they’ll be falling all over themselves to make sure a member of their new rival (like it or not, here we come Beantown boys!) doesn’t get the spot over one of their beloved. So what of it, Atlanta fans? Do you care enough to try and tip the scales in the favor of one of YOUR own? Even if he doesn’t make the bench?

HOPING FOR A THREE-PEAT

Yeah, I know this sort of thing should only be used in describing championships. But I don’t care. If the Hawks beat the Celtics again tomorrow night, I’m calling it a three-peat. That’s how much I value those wins, and I’m sure all of you in Hawksville do, too. Meanwhile, I’m sure Boston is anxious to refute the idea that we are anywhere near having their number. Or that we can even become a rival THIS SEASON. But guess what? A third win does nothing but strengthen that notion. Let’s do it, Hawks. One step forward, one and-a-half to go.

87 comments Add your comment

niremetal

January 10th, 2010
3:03 pm

Good post. The more I think about it, the less sure I am about whether my suggestions would be a smart way to try and address the problem. With our switching defense, Josh doesn’t end up guarding Rashard most of the time anyway, and D-12’s quickness and athleticism makes him a whole different animal from Shaq (who Collins can cover). It is, as you said, a quandary.

Michael Dean Woodson

January 10th, 2010
3:54 pm

fudd21

January 10th, 2010
5:31 pm

Big Ray, You comment about JJ and Josh trailing in votes, but aren’t only the starters selected by the fans. The reserves are selected by the coaches. So Josh trailing Pierce by 32000 is irrelevent. Unless there has been a change in selecting reserves.

newguy

January 10th, 2010
5:45 pm

Don’t forget that Garnett didn’t play in the last Hawks-Celtics game. He probably won’t play in the next one either. The Hawks are good, but the wins against the Celtics don’t mean as much when Garnett isn’t playing. It’s hard to say there is a rivalry when arguably the best player on the Celtics was not playing.

niremetal

January 10th, 2010
7:01 pm

Garnett was playing when we beat the Celtics in Boston in November.

KevinA

January 10th, 2010
7:08 pm

Since we seem to lose by 30 anyway why not try something different. Why not make Howard and Gorat beat us at the free throw line. Take it to them on offense and defense. Play their bigs one on one and be very agressive. If we are lucky Howard will get in foul trouble or have a bad free throw night.

Why not try our quickest players against their guards. This would mean much more Teague and maybe Bibby not at all.

I wish we had Laker money, we could use some quickness and experience against those small quick guards. Just think, 24 million for 3 spots.

Astro Joe

January 10th, 2010
9:55 pm

Well, I still say tyhat we should play Dwight straight up and see if he has enough low post moves to truly put up 40+. I don’t think that he can scoe 40+ against our 3 centers. In addition, if Horford and Zaza can do any scoring whatsoever, they may get him in some foul difficulty. And if our bigs take some lessons from our resident Golden Globe winner (Mike Bibby) they may just draw some offensive fouls as well.

As for Boston, Doc Rivers said the other night that KG was well enough to play if it were a playoff game. If he suits up Monday evening, I think that will tell us if the Hawks are keeping the Celtics up at night.

Fundamentals

January 10th, 2010
10:07 pm

Playing our bigs & using Teague would’ve shown we were using our assets to the best of their ability. Everyone’s talking about breaking up a team we really haven’t tested.

KG would be stupid to play. Playing in too many games is why he was out come playoff time.

Let’s worry about our 13th man and how to continue to grow.

Big Ray

January 10th, 2010
10:07 pm

Astro Joe,

I’m cool with that idea. Dwight has yet to score 30 points in a game this season. And guess what? I don’t think he did it much last season either.

Fudd21,

I don’t know. Sorry for my irrelevant comments.

O'Brien

January 10th, 2010
10:17 pm

Ray,

I havent checked into it, but someone posted the comment that the Hawks are last in points given up in the paint. Does anyone know if that’s true?

In the meantime, I think Woody needs to change it up whenever we play the Magic. Play Dwight straight up. I would rather 2 points from Dwight, instead of the 3 points from their shooters. I wonder what Woody will do differently when we play the Magic in 3 weeks?

We have Horford, ZaZa, Collins and RandMo. Thats 24 fouls right there. Howard only shoots 59% from the free throw line, and Gortat shoots 58% from the line. We’ve heard of Hack-A-Shaq. What’s wrong with Hacking Dwight Howard? He will miss almost half his free throws, and I think that could throw him off his game, plus the shooters wont have the open looks they are used to.

“We always want to stay aggressive. We want to go in the paint and score,” said center Al Horford, who led the Hawks with 14 points. “Every chance I got, that’s what I tried to do, but I only got so many touches.”

Is that a subtle shot at Woody and the guards? Is that Al’s way of saying get me the ball?

SWAT Native

January 10th, 2010
10:23 pm

I’m hoping for a win, but it will be very difficult to beat a good team twice in four days.

niremetal

January 11th, 2010
12:16 am

O’Brien,

We’re actually among the worst teams in terms of giving up points in the paint:
http://www.teamrankings.com/nba/stat/opponent-points-in-paint-per-game

Gee Woody, ya think that switching defense might have something to do with that? Switching defenses are not a good strategy against teams that take it to the rack.

niremetal

January 11th, 2010
12:18 am

I remember someone around here once suggested that maybe the switching defense has an unintended side effect that doesn’t show up in the stats – it makes it so that players never have to fight through screens, which might put them in a less tenacious mentality overall when playing on that end. I think there might be something to that.

Furman Bisher

January 11th, 2010
2:09 am

“Gee Woody, ya think that switching defense might have something to do with that? Switching defenses are not a good strategy against teams that take it to the rack.” -homometal

Seemed to work against the Celtics, genius.

Big Daddy

January 11th, 2010
6:10 am

Good post Ray. It is amazing how the Hawks can play a good team and convincingly win and then turn around and play another good team and get blown out. One good sign is that they have beat the teams they should beat. Teams like the Nets, have not stood much of a chance and even quality teams like Boston and Dallas have fallen to our generally relentless defencse.

However, I have noticed that the teams that do beat us rarely do so with isolation plays. Not to say they don’ t use them at all, they do. But, they don’t rely on them the way the Hawks do. Instead they have their players coming off screens and getting good looks for shots. When I first noticed this, I started watching how the Hawks set screens and how the teams that beat us badly did. It was night and day difference. A good screen can free a player for a clear uncontested shot. I have to think that Joe uses a lot of energy on isolation plays trying to break down the defense. In an iso, you have to be aware of your opponent in front of you as well as those who can close in on a double team. Coming off a pick you only have to be aware of who switches or not and if the person guarding you fights through the pick you can pass off to the player who set the pick because then you should probably have two players guarding you. I don’t want to oversimplify the process but here is something that people may remember. Dominique made a living off of coming off a double screen in the low post for a short 13 -15 ft jump shot. Screens for Bibby, Joe, Jamal, Marvin and now especially Jeff may prove invaluable.

On another note, I agree with many of the posts here. When some of the players get their shot blocked once or twice they start settling for jump shots. We are not that type of team, no matter what the players want to believe. We win when we attack the baskets. The assistant coaches were all NBA players at one time and they, along with Mark Price should be coaching the players on how to get to the basket and fight off the attempted block or lure someone in to dump a pass. Mark Price made a living doing that.

Finally, I don’t know what I can say that would make the players stop giving up on attacking the basket and settling for jump shots. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but Josh is back to shooting jumpshots just inside the 3 pt line. Whoever is the coach for the bigs should concentrate on low post moves in practice. Maybe we could hire Hakeem Olajuwon or even Robert Parrish to come in and work with our bigs like we hired Mark Price to coach jumpshots. It would be money well spent.

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
6:31 am

Furman Bisher ,

That would be fine if we played the Celtics every night. But it seems there are 28 other teams in the NBA besides them. The switching defense DOES work on some nights, against some teams, and sometimes just for certains periods during games.

If the team is giving up too many points in the paint, then something is wrong. And while some would just LOVE to paint all of that on Al Horford, it’s just not true. The key to victory is often a combination of players giving effort and executing properly, and the use of the right tactics at the right time (strategy).

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
6:39 am

Big Daddy ,

Good points. I don’t understand the jumpshot mentality either, but Woody kinda hinted towards it a couple games back when he talked about the zone making it difficult to get the ball into the paint, and how the jumpshots looked “appetizing.” That bothers me, because it seems like this is a rather contagious disease.

People complain about Josh shooting jumpers, but it’s like the whole team (Horford doesn’t do it much) is doing it out there. So either the coaching staff finds these shots “appetizing” as well, or the players are ignoring the coaching staff, who is imploring them to not play this way. Heh…50 guesses which one it is…

vava74

January 11th, 2010
7:16 am

I think that we should not neglect another negative effect of the switching defense beyond the inability to defend the penetration: perimeter defense – in particular when the opposing team has good 3pt shooters (@ CHA » Bell; @ DEN JR Smith; @and ORL almost everyone including Anthony Johnson!!; vsNYK (both games) …).

We see frequently that the switch will have a taller and slower player trapped half way between his comfort zone and the shooter, unable to react to the shot (or reacting too late).

How many times have we seen Josh or Al with their arms outstretched trying to put a face on a three point shooter which is 10 feet away from them when they start their desperation jump?

Then, as the 3 pointers start to fall, the taller switchers (Josh and Al) try to venture too far out and are exposed to ball rotation followed by penetration.

Finally, coupled with the fact that the switching defense does take Josh and Al away from the paint there is also another major factor: Bibby’s inability to defend quick PG and Crawford’s general inability to defend.

Depending on the opponent, this is a really bad conjunction of factors which reaches its “caramel point” with ORL.

I also strongly believe that against quicker PGs we should limit Bibby AND Crawford’s minutes at the PG position.

A proof of Crawford’s inability to defend is the fact that it is frequent that Crawford scores 18+ points but his +- score is many times as high or even higher than his point total.

An interesting example is the first game against the CAVS: he scored 26pts but his +- stat was -22, which means that when he was on the court the CAVS had their biggest runs.

The -22 on that game was by far the highest in the team followed by Zaza’s -15 with everyone else with much better +-.

This stat does not mean everything and sometimes it may even mean almost nothing, however, I think that Crawford should be used with more criteria, specially in light of the fact that a large chunk of his minutes come at the expense of Marvin who can give us more defense and rebounding.

Overall, I think that Woody is not very efficient adjusting to particular adversaries (before the games and within the games) and that his incapacity to understand that the switching defense does not work against all teams and that we have huge problems against quick PG are his most obvious blunders.

vava74

January 11th, 2010
7:17 am

Forgot to throw in the CLE games where we gave 2 three pointers which were decisive: Ilgauskas and Varejão

O'Brien

January 11th, 2010
7:46 am

vava74,

Good points about Crawford, although I am a fan of his. It’s been mentioned that the Hawks need someone on the second unit whose main job is to play defense.

Teague can be okay in spurts, but it would be nice to have someone like Mario on the second unit where you know he is going to hound the opposing guards. Collins can be used occasionally too, because he is a legit 7 footer with experience and size (ZaZa plays soft sometimes).

Big Daddy,

I like how the Pistons run Rip Hamilton off screens, how the Pacers used to get Reggie Miller open, and even Ray Allen from the Celtics gets a lot of good looks off screens. If we could run screens more consistently for JJ, imagine how deadly he would be?

But our screens are not executed properly, and we set a lot of illegal screens. Is it coaching? I dont know, but we do have very limited offensive plays; the lob to Josh, isos, the 2 man game with Bibby and JJ, or pass to Horford on the left block. Thats our playbook right there.

Be for real?

January 11th, 2010
7:50 am

I guess this would not be an issue if Horford had a repertoire of shooting skills. His major skill is to get rebounds. He doesnt have much offensive skills, especially against bigger men. Why would we feed the ball into the post when we know that that is not going to produce results? Horford lacks offensive tools and that is the real issue here.

JSS

January 11th, 2010
7:58 am

I know this going to run afoul with some of the learned basketball purist; still, the Hawks have to come up with some form of a match-up zone for when they play Orlando! I know how hard it is to teach an old dog a new trick; but doubling down on Howard is not the answer for this team. Moreover, they have aversion to stopping penetration and attacking spot-up shooters. That is only reason I call for a hybrid form a match-up zone. I know that NBA defensive 3 seconds rule prevents a pure zone, but make Orlando work us out of it. If the wings do their job, I think you at least have a fighting chance…

Astro Joe

January 11th, 2010
8:46 am

I thought that Evans was supposed to be an outstanding defender… at least that was his reputation prior to coming to the Hawks. While he is good, I wouldn’t call him great. In fact, I’d mostly call him a “willing” defender.

Where’s Mario? Does it really take this long to take a bus to Atlanta?

niremetal

January 11th, 2010
9:08 am

“It is definitely a possibility.”

—Hawks coach Mike Woodson, on the chance of the Hawks exploring their options with former G Mario West, who is in the D-League, for their 13th and final roster spot.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/teams/atl/report#notes_quotes

Fundamentals

January 11th, 2010
9:22 am

Love the comments on running plays for Joe, Bibby & Crawford to catch and shoot off screens. It’ll maximize their ability and also give everyone else an opportunity to rebound since they’ll know who and when the shot is coming from. Reggie lived by it. Our players have the same type of catch and shoot ability.

C’s game will be interesting in terms of our effort level, but I’m ready to move on. We’ve proven we can beat them anytime we play our game. We need to move on to different challenges if we expect to grow. Too bad we can’t play CLE & ORL until we figure it out.

What’s up with Toronto’s run? Think they’ll keep it together for a playoff run? They’ve got the personnell, just not the effort.

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Astro Joe

January 11th, 2010
11:18 am

My comment was lost in the blogospehre… but I thought that Mo Evans was supposed to be our perimeter defender off the bench. He certainly had the reputation of being a strong defender but I think it is overhyped. I would suggest that he is a willing defender with good size and athleticism to defend SGs but I think his defense has been disappointing.

Rod from College Park

January 11th, 2010
12:02 pm

“pull Josh (like Beasley, Rashard Lewis is a terrible matchup for him)”

Another incorrect coment from Niremetal. Big Ray, at least if you are going to quote someone, make sure they have some validity. Is Beasley a terrible matchup for Josh, or is Josh a terrible matchup for Beasley?

2009 Playoffs
Game 1 Josh 23 points, Beasley 10 points
Game 2 Josh 17 points, Beasley 12 points
Game 3 Josh 13 points, Beasley 4 points
Game 4 Josh 13 points, Beasley 2 points
Game 5 Josh 20 points, Beasley 18 points
Game 6 Josh 7 points, Beasley 22 points
Game 7 Josh 21 points, Beasley 17 points

Yeah, Beasley sure was a bad matchup for Josh (LOL).

vava74

January 11th, 2010
12:03 pm

O’Brien,

I love Crawford too. Not only his game but what transpires about his character.

The problem is when people think that he could replace JJ when JJ is within the top10 players in the league and one of the most balanced off-def.

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
12:20 pm

Rod ,

There’s incorrect, and then there’s disagreement. I quote people’s opinions.

The point Niremetal was making is that Michael Beasley is a bad matchup for Josh Smith on defense. It’s not that Josh can’t ever stop Beasley, it’s that Beasley is a tougher matchup for him, as is Rashard Lewis. Both guys like to do their work on the perimeter. Defensively, Josh Smith does his best work (and most of his shot-blocking) near the rim.

Therefore, matching him up to a guy who is going to draw Josh away from the basket is not the best use for Josh. We need him near the rim to challenge and block shots, do we not? Or do you disagree? I myself never saw him as a perimeter defender.

At the same time, I agree that Beasley cannot stop Josh. But we’re not talking about Beasley (or Rashard Lewis) defending Josh Smith. We’re talking about how to match up on defense against certain players. And putting Smith on Beasley or Lewis isn’t usually the best option, when he’s needed in or around the paint. Speaking of incorrect, how about incomplete ?

We haven’t said a word about this season’s matchups. Beasley had 21 and 9 on 8-15 shooting against us in the first game this season. Josh shot 6-16 and ended up with 16 and 14. Beasley got most of his from the outside, once again.

In the second matchup, Josh Smith had 8 points and 5 boards. Beasley had 22 points and 8 boards, hitting 10 of 21 shots. Again, much of it came from midrange and so forth.

This is not about last season’s playoffs. This is about NOW. And it’s about a matchup problem. I’ll say it again: Beasley draws Smith away from the basket, allowing guys to challenge us down low, where Horford is over-loaded with guarding the opposing center AND trying to stop guys like Wade from driving.

So yeah, I agree that Beasley is a bad matchup, as is Lewis. Both draw Smith away from the basket, where is most dangerous on defense. Now if you disagree with that, or simply see the game differently, then fine, we all have our opinions. But “incorrect”? “Validity?” Come on, dude. LOL….

Astro Joe

January 11th, 2010
12:25 pm

I’d like to know that Crawford can average 20 points when defenses are focusing on him before I leap to the assumption that he can easily replace Joe. And I don’t think that teams really cared if he scored when he was with those losing clubs. No one cared if Harrington lit them up during our 26 and 30 win seasons because his points were not likely going to translate into a victory. I doubt that teams spend much time focused on defending Monta Ellis the way they worry about defending Brandon Roy. But Ellis scores more than Roy yet Roy’s points drive victories while Ellis’ points are mostly empty.

So, again, before we make an assumption that Crawford can handle the defensive focus (because he has been a prolific scorer in the past), I’d like to see it with a team like the Hawks.

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
12:26 pm

Not only that, but Beasley drove around Josh on more than a handful of occasions. Look, the guy is a superb help defender and very dangerous in the passing lanes. But he can’t do it all, and playing against guys who are good off the dribble is not his forte. I think Josh is good enough to be a candidate for DPOY (though he has some work to do), but there’s nothing wrong with the idea that there are some players he just can’t guard as well.

I know this will make your milk curdle, but I’d much rather have Marvin guarding those guys than Josh. Marvin is better at that than he is at getting steals or challenging/erasing shots, something he does not do well at all.

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
12:33 pm

I must have missed the part where the assumption has been made that Crawford can readily replace Johnson.

In any case, if that were to happen, I think we’d be looking at a different style of basketball. You can’t go ISO Jamal with no JJ (or other lethal scorer) in the game, and expect Jamal to shoot better than 40%, for one thing.

There is a difference to consider, though. Jamal is not going to stick around for the double team. He’ll either shoot or pass, and he will do it quickly. On the other hand, we’ve lost plenty of games by going ISO JJ, so what’s the difference? I think the difference is in application of offense. I think Crawford can replace JJ in an offense that flows more, and involves much more ball movement and personnel movement.

At that point, defenses CAN’T focus on Jamal, because they would also have to deal with the other 4 guys (that’s right, you have to give Al and Marv the ball more). Use screens.

But then, haven’t many of us been screaming for these things to happen WITH Joe Johnson here? Jamal replacing Joe doesn’t work if you ask him to play the way Joe has played. There’s a reason defenses have focused on Joe. It’s not just because he’s a damn good ball player. It’s also because our offense predictably goes to or through him, and we don’t/won’t do enough to either spring him for better looks, or get the ball to other threats.

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
12:35 pm

So really, if you ask Jamal to replace Joe, in the current offensive setup, you can expect a lot of missed shots and some turnovers from him. That won’t do it. Joe misses the shots, but he’s pretty good about hanging onto the ball. So much so, that he’s called a ball-hog at times. Design, man. It influences everything.

Daniel

January 11th, 2010
12:58 pm

Dang, I was getting so hyped for a minute there. We spanked Boston. Clevland and Orlando lose. VC gets hurt. Then….BAM! Oh, well long season right?

From my view in the seats… I think a line-up of Bibby, Crawford, Joe, Marvin and Za seems to match up better with Orlando’s starting 5. However, I think it is too early to change our entire line-up and rotations for Orlando. We should still be trying to exploit our mismatches as much as theirs. I think too radical a change in our line-up is throwing in the towel too early. Ultimately, we need Josh’s presence on the inside rebounding and blocking shots. How do we accomplish that? I am really not sure. This Orlando team is tough. It is not a fluke that they made the finals last year. How the teams get seeded is going to make a big difference on how far we go in the playoffs.

Astro Joe

January 11th, 2010
12:59 pm

I thinjk the ISO play is a red herring. We lose far more games because of poor defensive execution than we do because of a late game offensive play set. But I guess it is easier to discuss ISO Joe than it is team defense concepts.

Maybe I misinterpreted Vava’s 12:03 post.

Daniel

January 11th, 2010
1:01 pm

Offensively, I think you have to get Howard involved in defending the pick and roll. Get him away from the basket and having to move his feet. Maybe, you get him to pick up some cheap fouls that way.

Rod from College Park

January 11th, 2010
1:05 pm

Big Ray,

While you argument is valid, I understand the point, it is still not a true statement. So it is a bad matchup because of two games this year or a 7 game series in the playoffs? A bad matchup is Marvin on Lebron or Granger, or Pierce, or G. Wallace. Josh has had many better games against Beasley than Beasley has had against him. Beasley was not the reason that Miami pushed us to 7 games last year, Wade was. Josh was probably the reason we won the series. I really don’t think that Rashad Lewis is the reason we can’t beat Orlando either. I can’t remember him having many big games against us either. Usually the game is over by halftime. He used the exact words of terrible matchup. I beg to differ, and I am sure the the stats will back me up.

Sautee

January 11th, 2010
2:28 pm

Rod,

about this: “Big Ray, at least if you are going to quote someone, make sure they have some validity.”

You mean like someone who states as a fact that Marvin falls 60% of the time?

Sautee

January 11th, 2010
2:30 pm

Rod,

I meant to put a smiley face. I’m just kiddin’ you, man.

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
3:04 pm

Rod ,

It’s not really my argument, I just agree that matching Josh with combo or power forwards that like to move off the dribble, as well as do much of their damage from the perimeter, are difficult matchups for Josh. I maintain that Josh is not that kind of defender by rote, and is best not used against guys that play that way. I say this for the same two reasons:

1)When those kinds of guys are on, they give Josh trouble.

2)Defending guys like that takes Josh away from his defensive game, pulling him away from the basket, where he is most effective, and can make up for our many other defensive mistakes.

That’s what I interpreted from Niremetal’s statement. I’m guessing you interpreted it differently, seeing this as a situation where you match one guy’s stats against another’s. In that case, I can see where you’re coming from. My interpretation was from a defensive strategy standpoint. And this year’s stats back up THAT argument. Last year’s stats don’t, but do last year’s playoffs mean anything to us NOW? For the purposes of learning about past mistakes, yeah, but other than that…

Josh has had many better games against Beasley than Beasley has had against him.

I agree. Of course, I’d expect a 4th year forward to be better in the playoffs (which he’d been to, the season before) than a rookie who wasn’t able to get his head in the game all last season. But that was last season. This season, Beasley has matched or exceeded Smith in the two games we’ve played them, as the stats I quoted earlier will attest to.

As for why we beat Miami, I tend to agree. Josh was a load for them, and JJ came through in a couple games. Wade definitely was the reason they pushed it to 7 games, although we also gave them a couple games (I believe we let them impose their will too much). And I never said that Lewis is the reason why Orlando beats us. In fact, I’m not sure where you’re getting that one from, as Nire didn’t say it either. In fact, Nire actually said he didn’t know what if his idea would work, or what it really would take to beat Orlando. I’m guessing that even having a great small forward isn’t the only answer either, as the problem is chiefly a defensive one.

Maybe the terminology of “terrible matchup” is the hang-up here. Again, it’s one opinion against another. My only issue was it being labeled a matter of correct vs incorrect, true vs false. It’s an opinion. Don’t we get the same thing from the “experts” all the time?

Having said all that, we DO need Josh in the game, so we have to live with him guarding guys like that sometimes. Or, we have to find a way to adjust.

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
3:22 pm

Rod ,

Marvin vs anybody is a game to game experience. You can say he’s a bad matchup for Granger, and you’d be right. Granger torched us.

A bad matchup for Pierce? Well, the first game we played against them this season, Pierce had his way. In the second, Pierce came close to the same performance.

In the first game against Lebron, Marvin was very tough on him. In the second game, Lebron did what most superstars do.

Tell you the truth, isn’t it kinda funny that you mention those three guys as bad matchups for Marvin. Considering what they average, I think they’re bad matchups for everybody , eh?

Who you gonna blame for Lebron scoring 41 in Portland? Hmmm, I guess Outlaw or whoever it was isn’t better than Marvin after all. How about his 35 against Denver? Geez, Carmelo sucks! He put up 29 against Charlotte, so Gerald Wallace must be worthless as well. Rudy Gay got 43 dropped on him. Paul Pierce got lit up for 38….I’m just sayin’…

Rod from College Park

January 11th, 2010
3:40 pm

Sautee,

I am always mindful to post facts and stats to back up my statements based on our first encounter. It let me know that there were some true fans who understood the game. Poeple making false statements should be corrected. Marvin falls 60 percent of the time was a false statement, it’s more like 59%. Beasley is a terrible matchup for Josh is a false statement as proven above.

KevinA

January 11th, 2010
3:44 pm

Early in the game and early in the shot clock why not feed Al a few Jumpers to get Howard out if the paint. Al has been shooting these good. If Howard comes out to defend maybe he can find the guards coming off screens or with a quick pass find an open driver. If Al did well enough to create a double team it would open up the entire floor.

Big Ray

January 11th, 2010
4:01 pm

Astro Joe ,

Post recovered. It will post at the time you actually submitted it.

Truth Serum/Be for real ,

Same for you.

A couple of mine got eaten as well. Blog monster is hungry. Feed blog monster!

kwooden1

January 11th, 2010
4:19 pm

The HAWKS have several weakness and Orlando/NY have the personnel to exploit them. Orlando plays inside out against the HAWKS, and R. Lewis pulls our shot blocker away from the basket. Which forces the HAWKS to double team and recover, which is definitely a weakness. NY plays fast and their guards like to drive and dish, because of this the HAWKS have to help and recover which is a weakness. But I think the real problem is pace. When the HAWKS don’t push the ball against teams like Boston, Miami, Cleveland they end up being stagnant and going to the ISO offensive. Against teams like Orlando and NY they still don’t push the ball and end up just shooting quick jumpshots out of the ISO plays. The HAWKS have to learn their own pace and stick with it. They move the ball pretty well out of early offensive and they have better spacing and body movement.

GO HAWKS!!

niremetal

January 11th, 2010
4:28 pm

Ray, you got it.

“Terrible” was meant in relative rather than absolute terms. Terrible as in “it makes terrible use of Josh’s strengths as a defender and forces him to make greater use of his weaknesses.” The closer Josh is to the rim, the more effective he is on D. It’s been a slow trend that I first really noticed during this pre-season, the outside-in PFs and combo forwards like Lewis, Beasley, Outlaw, Murphy, and Nowitzki seem to give Josh the most trouble with his on-ball D. Josh always seems to do great against even All-Star quality low post PFs like Brand, Boozer, and West. But against perimeter-oriented guys, Josh usually fares far less well. Even more importantly, it greatly limits Josh’s ability to play help D, which is Josh’s greatest strength as a defender – and that means that even if the evidence doesn’t show up on the stat sheet of Josh’s man, it is likely to show up in the opponents’ final score.

That maybe should be expected since Josh has played virtually no minutes at SF since the 06-07 season – in fact, he has played more minutes at C than at SF in each of the past 2 seasons and again so far this year. So he has become more and more used to guarding PFs. Combine that with the fact that his body type and skill set is more naturally suited to defending the post rather than the perimeter anyway…

…and yeah, Beasley is a terrible matchup for Josh. Just like Carlos Boozer is a great matchup for Josh. The former makes almost no use of Josh’s strengths as a defender because he’s either 20 feet from the basket or else chasing Beasley off the dribble. The latter makes great use of Josh’s strenghts because he rarely has to stray more than 14 feet from the basket and never has to worry about denying penetration, which leaves him open to using his remarkable strengths as a help defender.

niremetal

January 11th, 2010
4:34 pm

Ray would have gotten that from the context of many other emails I’ve sent on the subject, but I can see how out of context it could have been interpreted as “Josh gets outplayed by Beasley and Lewis when he plays them,” which is not what I meant.

Astro Joe

January 11th, 2010
4:34 pm

nire, I agree with your point…. but it did remind me that Smith once had 9 blocks against the Mavs and as I recall, several were against Dirk. But no, they were not when Dirk was shooting any long-distance bombs. I remember that game well, because Dirk looked like he was afraid of the boogeyman throughout the game… “Mommy, make him stop”.

niremetal

January 11th, 2010
5:09 pm

As I said, AJ, it’s been a trend rather than a sudden thing, and I first noticed it big time this year. The first time I really noticed was in the last preseason game against Orlando and the opener against Indiana – Ryan Anderson and Troy Murphy were drawing him outside and draining shots. And of course, Beasley has played well both times this year (which I emailed Ray about after the most recent outing) and Dirk had a big game a few weeks ago against us (though JJ had an even bigger one).

I remember the game you’re talking about – it was actually 10 blocks, not 9. But that was in Josh’s rookie year – in fact that was the first time people realized he could be something special as a shotblocker, if memory serves. Since then, he got 6 blocks once against Dallas back in ‘07, but has just 1 block in our other 6 games against Dallas since ‘06.