Missing Joe and the Triple P II

If there is anything you can count on about a Hawks loss, it’s the diverse, yet very predictable reasons offered by us fans. Many will blame their favorite whipping boy players (how does this not get old?). Some will blame the coach. Same stuff every time. But in all of this, one much maligned guy gets a break: Joe Johnson. So how much do the Hawks miss him?

 

With or Without You

First off, a sample size of two games is not even remotely enough to begin forecasting what the Hawks will be like if Joe Johnson is gone from Atlanta come summertime. Let’s be honest, most of us are thinking about exactly that. Rather than how many games down this, the final stretch, that Joe will miss, and the impact it could have on this team in its bid for the #3 playoff seeding. Rather than whether or not Joe will be fully healthy (and rested) for the playoffs and how that can affect this team’s performance in the playoffs. Seriously, do we want to go into the postseason for the third year in a row with a less-than-100% Joe Johnson? I know I don’t. The Hawks don’t, either. But that’s just not where the drama is. Skip all that other stuff that has to happen first. We want to know what this team could be like without Joe. So what the heck, let’s discuss a few points and/or ideas. Also, let’s remember what many of you have already stated: No team goes on without missing its best player, and the Hawks are clearly a better team with Joe Johnson, than they are without.

_ Let’s look at the two games the Hawks just played without Joe. Do they really prove anything? The Nets were easily vanquished once the Hawks got rolling. There wasn’t really much difference between that game and the other two victories. With or without Joe, the Nets currently do not have what it takes to compete with the Hawks (unless the Hawks allow it), much less beat them. That’s the most simple conclusion to come to. Not much to learn here about what the Hawks look like without Joe.

_The Raptors game, however, provided a little bit more data to work with. What does Joe bring to a game against a more sturdy opponent. You could say offense, but with Jamal Crawford around and doing his thing, Joe’s offense isn’t missed nearly as much.  Really, you’re looking more at offensive substitution. Joe’s 20+ ppg are easily offset by Jamal exploding for 30+ and Bibby scoring in the teens. However, if both guys are off, Johnson is missed noticeably and sorely.

_The one thing that simply cannot be accounted for is defense. Joe Johnson is on a totally different plane defensively, when he is putting forth the effort. Jamal Crawford is trying to overcome the better part of a decade of bad defensive habits and performance. Mike Bibby is past the point of being physically able to overcome his defensive deficiencies. Jeff Teague is a rookie who shows effort, but lacks sound fundamentals on defense. Mo Evans is decent-to-good, mostly when he is allowed to guard his natural position (shooting guard).  Here is where Johnson stands alone, head and shoulders above his backcourt teammates. Joe can guard the 1, 2, and 3 spots better than the rest of them. Better than starting SF Marvin Williams. Joe doesn’t play lock down defense all game, but when he gets on you, things are going to get real tough, real quick. As some of you have pointed out already, Joe’s defense against Hedo Turkoglu or DeMar Derozan could have made a difference in the game against the Raptors.

The Hawks are going to learn even more about themselves against the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday, if Johnson is in street clothes again. If nothing else, it will give us another game against a historically tough opponent, to judge what the Hawks can do and be without Joe around.

_One last thing, and maybe it should be the first thing mentioned. For all the hype and drama surrounding Joe Johnson’s free agency (and it has yet to reach its zenith by a long shot, I assure you), we cannot reasonably get a fix on what the Hawks will look or operate like without Joe Johnson. Not right now. Why? Well, is there any reason to believe that Sund will leave the team looking exactly like this? I say NO WAY. While the options are likely to be anything but appetizing, if ownership and management are in any way serious about competing at more than just a middle level, they will be making moves to recover from something they may not be able to avoid. There could be a new coach, and that impact alone could be momentous (though in which direction is the question). Al Horford could find himself at PF. There could be a new SF in town. The bench mob isn’t likely to stay the same. You just never know. So let’s save that forecast for later, and maybe try to concentrate on what’s happening now, and in the nearer future.

 

Josh and the Jumper

Okay, so he promised no 3-pointers, and aside from a half dozen…cough, coughaccidents…Josh has kept his promise. But what about all these 20 and 21 footers? Smith makes some, but when he misses it usually looks bad. How many of these are coming during key points in the game? How many do you feel are losing us games? Some are of the belief that Josh needs to stick with scoring at the rim, or at least very close to it. I disagree (hey, is that news or what? ), as I feel that his game has room for growth into this area. I think the problem rests in more than one category.

First of all,  it’s hard to find fault with his work ethic based on how the rest of his game has come along this season. But I can’t seem to shake the idea that he is working on his jumper either with the wrong methods, wrong people, or at the wrong time. Marvin expanded his range to 3-point territory during the summer. I think Josh should work on his jumper then as well. Why? Because there is more room for distraction during the season. There are other things to work on, and perhaps building on something you’ve started in the summer is better than trying to start something during the season. Some players have the capability to do both, but I don’t think Josh Smith is one of them. But what do I know? Maybe he has been working on his jumpshot during the summer as well. I kind of doubt it, though.

Second, Smith’s athletic ability is incredible. While he’s not impossible to stop when he’s going to the basket, most teams have difficulty doing so. The problem is that when you’re playing the better teams in the league, accompanied by the better coaches….you don’t get to play the way you want to. At least not all game long. Good coaches will let you have your way, then shock you with a change in defensive scheme in the fourth quarter. Or, they may take you out of your element right off the bat, putting the pressure on another player to perform. No matter how it happens, and with the offensive sets that the Hawks tend to run, Smith will find himself in a position to take a jump shot. Most of the time it will be open, for reasons that are obvious. What better way to make a defense pay than being able to hit the mid-range jumper when you’re left open?

Third, Smith’s passing ability has finally come to the forefront, as we’ve seen this season. Becoming a credible threat when left open on the perimeter can only enhance this skill of his. If teams are forced to run out on Josh, he can then flash past the defender to the basket, or he can pass it off to a teammate who is in position to score. What’s wrong with that? Here’s another thought: If Joe isn’t in town after summer, and the Hawks get a bigger guy to log some serious minutes at Center, where does that put Josh? You guessed it….on the perimeter.

So what do you think…should Josh Smith really just leave all jump-shooting alone? What about his free throws, are his struggles there linked somehow? What’s the best way for Smith to improve his outside shooting?

 

TRIPLE P (Possible Playoff Preview) Part II

Another possible first round opponent for the Hawks is the Charlotte Bobcats, a team who has played the Hawks tough nearly every time for the last few years. With the Hawks sinking back into 4th place, and the Bobcats only a game and a half out of 5th, the possibility of such a first round matchup becomes closer to reality than is comfortable. The season series stands at 1 and 1, with both teams having beaten the other at home. Two games are left. Friday’s contest is in Phillips Arena, while the last one will be played in Charlotte. The Bobcats probably feel like they smell blood, and will want to make a statement by taking one on the road. However, Atlanta has jealously guarded homecourt with a record that is fifth best in the League. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for this game.

HAWKS VS. BOBCATS

The Joe Factor

Like it or not, we just can’t get away from talking about the team’s best player. However, there is some bad news that might actually turn out to be good…in a twisted sort of way. Fact is, Joe hasn’t played his best against the Bobcats this season. Maybe it’s the defensive concepts employed by Charlotte head coach Larry Brown, or simply the matchups against the players themselves. Either way, Joe has averaged less than 17 ppg on 12 for 29 shooting, along with about 4 assists and 2 rebounds per game. Now before you take that and run, consider that one contest was a 20 point loss to the ‘Cats and the other was a 14 point win for the Hawks. 17 points is 17 points, people. On the flip side of the coin, Joe also had most of his misses down the stretch of both games, when he was trying to make something happen on the offensive end of the court. At the same time, who now gets to defend Stephen Jackson?

Back On The Glass

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Hawks won’t likely win this game if they lose the battle on the boards by a differential of more than 4 or 5. When they lost to the ‘Cats by 20, they were outrebounded by 21. While foul trouble limited Josh Smith, there is no other reason for this to have happened, and the Hawks can’t continuously lean on Joe Johnson to help pick up the slack in this department. Of course, they may not even have that option in Friday’s game. In the home win, the Hawks were still outrebounded, but only by 2. Atlanta can win games like that, especially if they have a hot player on offense, a couple of support scorers, and make some defensive plays when they have to. But to win against the ‘Cats, getting busted on the boards simply can’t happen. It’s asking for a loss. To avoid this, Marvin Williams has to step up and stop lurking in the shadows, Josh Smith has to give his usual effort and stay out of foul trouble, and Al Horford needs to spend less time guarding the perimeter, while maintaining his focus in the paint. But if I had to pick just one guy who may be the main key to this, it’s Marvin Williams.

Share the Ball….Please!

This team has proven to be pretty capable with the ball, being one of the lowest turnover teams in the league. But that doesn’t seem to help as much as you’d think it would. Low turnovers don’t automatically equal high assists, and this team THRIVES on assists. You may or may not think the Hawks execute too many ISO plays, but we’ve proven we can move the ball around. The difference between doing so and not, is absolute night and day. Case in point, the loss to Charlotte included just 7 turnovers from the Hawks. Unfortunately, the assist total only came to 10. How about in the win? Well, the turnovers did more than double, increasing to 12. But the assists more than tripled, totaling 32. Could it be a mere coincidence that the Hawks also shot over 51 percent in the win, as opposed to less than 40 percent in the loss? We can argue this one all day, probably, but the fact remains that the more that ball is shared, the better the chances are that someone is getting a good scoring opportunity.

 

The Hawks follow this game up with another home game against the Spurs, so they could use the momentum of a good home win, especially after another road loss. Can they get this thing done, or will the surging Bobcats prove to be too much? How bad will the Hawks miss Joe if he can’t play in this game? Can Jamal Crawford continue to lead the way on offense, or will he go cold after four straight good shooting performances? Is Marvin going to show up? You know we were one trade away from seeing the uber-exciting matchup of Law vs. Teague, right?

87 comments Add your comment

niremetal

March 19th, 2010
10:43 pm

Vava,

We won. The most important play call of the game worked. Enjoy it :)

niremetal

March 19th, 2010
10:47 pm

JJ in the first three quarters: 0-9

JJ in fourth Q and OT: 7-12

I guess he didn’t like the Lt. Dan crack :D

Big Ray

March 20th, 2010
1:28 am

That was a play call at the end? Man please, that was all Joe.

vava74

March 20th, 2010
5:36 am

nire,

you know as well as I do that we did not win the game, it was Jax who lost it with those stupid 3 consecutive shots from outside.

he bailed Woody big time who was horrendous in the bench to close game.

One of the most stupid time outs EVER.

Joe mama

March 20th, 2010
7:44 am

Rebounding was not great. I was surprised to see the Hawks actually had more rebounds, 51-49. ”

“Charlotte is top 10 in the NBA in rebounding differential. If you can out-rebound them you are doing well on the boards. Especially for a team like the Hawks, which is near the bottom of the league in rebounding differential,”

Please excuse the fact that a RETIREE THEO RATLIFF and his helper match and bet us in the paint were we have the youthful hore. 52-46. We should have dominated this team in the paint and this would have been a blow out if we had a “real” center.

Astro Joe

March 20th, 2010
9:47 am

Ray, Mike Fratello dissected the play at the end on NBA TV last night. There were actually 3 options according to Fratello. Jamal was the first option, he came off of 2 screens set by Al and Joe. If he is covered then Bibby is supposed to go to Joe who would likely be defended by a smaller player because of the screen set for Jamal. And guess what? Felton switched off on Joe and he shot over Felton. The 3rd option was Bibby, who threw the ball inbounds but was available for a return pass and shot. Again, this is the way Fratello diagrammed the play on NBATV when he does his segment where he breaks plays down. I know, some will find it hard to believe. I will look for video evdience.

vava74

March 20th, 2010
1:31 pm

Astro,

That final play “worked” but I think it was sheer luck.

Mike Fratello has Woody in high regard (I watched the NJ game on a feed with his commentary).

vava74

March 20th, 2010
1:33 pm

So I think there was a degree of “goodwill” associated with his analysis of the play.

Melvin

March 20th, 2010
1:58 pm

Manny T,
Always good to see you.

Doc,
You missed a good one. The crowd was going crazy.

Astro,
From the expensive seats, Joe shot didn’t look like it had a chance.

Big Ray,
As for the last shot by Josh in regulation, I thought he should have ran the baseline for a layup/dunk b/c Joe had drew his defender on the drive.

Astro Joe

March 20th, 2010
2:38 pm

Less than 4 seconds left on the clock, man, you guys act like there are a few dozen decent options. I guess you;d perfer a blocked dunk attempt to a made jumper, huh?

Vava, others have agendas, why not Fratello?

O'Brien

March 20th, 2010
3:34 pm

Lots for me to get to.

First of all, good win for the Hawks tonight. Our players hung in there, and battled back in the fourth when it would have been easy to give up.

Great game by Marvin, 12 pts, 14 rebounds. I just wish we could get these kinds of games from him more often.

Great job by the bench, and props to Woody for only playing Bibby 15 minutes.

Joe was Joe. He struggled, but came through in the end. And to think, some people think the Hawks should let him go. We need JJ more than he needs us.

Hawks had 2 plays in the Sportscenter top 10. Dunk by Josh, and JJ’s game winner.

My (constructive) criticism is:

Woody has to realize that there are certain teams against who the switching defense has not been effective. Charlotte is one of them, so why do we continue to switch? Especially at the end of the game. And I wish Woody would make better use of his timeouts.

Some bad turnovers by Josh trying to make the Jason Kidd passes. Fortunately, they didnt cost us.

However, Charlotte helped us out too. If Jackson makes both FT, we’re down 4, and in trouble. Also, Felton went too quickly on that last possession, so that gave the Hawks 4 seconds to score.

But overall, great job winning this game, and we made enough plays to win. Bring on the Spurs.

Astro Joe

March 20th, 2010
4:35 pm

One more thing ion Fratello’s analysis. he didn;t qualify it as a good/bad play… just a designed play. And when he illustrated it (think John Madden on the telestrator), it was clearly a defined play to either get Jamal open or Joe switched onto a smaller defender. And the contingency appeared to be Bibby. Now, if you are suggesting that the play was the wrong one to call, have at it. But it wasn’t some hap-hazard playground, turn right at the crack-on-the-pavement kind of play.

Lastly, against a team playing really good defense (like the Bobcats), virtually any and every play with 4 seconds left onthe clock would require a portion of luck. And guess what, the same was true the other night in Toronto.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
6:16 pm

Astro Joe ,

Actually, I was just being a smart alec about the game-winner. I believe it was a designed play as you describe, and I saw the game. But I’m also so happy that Joe took the shot and hit it. I wasn’t being a smart alec about THAT PART at all.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
6:18 pm

Vava ,

You’ve really reversed your view on the Hawks. It’s almost disconcerting. But, everybody does have a right to the way they feel and think, so it is what it is. Let’s see how they do against the Spurs, with clinching a playoff spot at stake.

vava74

March 21st, 2010
7:45 pm

Ray,

i did not reverse my view. It’s the Hawks – in particular Woody – who did not lived up to my expectations.

the play worked, but was far from being something to write home about. JJ made a difficult and contested shot.

yes, the play did produce the switch allowing JJ to hit the shot over Felton but it was a good match up pretty far for the basket.

I am happy, but I am not pleased. Fortunatelly Jax gave us the game with the 3 stupid three pointers and with the two missed FT.

Sautee

March 21st, 2010
7:49 pm

I hate it for Tony Parker, who I enjoy watching. But it certainly helps our cause.

Sautee

March 21st, 2010
8:25 pm

Well, I take it back. They apparently don’t miss Parker, at all.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
9:13 pm

Somebody send EMS to Rod’s house. Marvin has shown up for this game.

vava74

March 21st, 2010
9:14 pm

I’m new around here. who’s that guy playing with the #24 for the Hawks? ;-)

vava74

March 21st, 2010
9:28 pm

Anyhow, brace yourself for what is coming:

Shorter rotation in the second half and… we will fade in the 4th…

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
9:30 pm

Vava,

We gonna have to get you some anti-pessimism juice, lol!

Seriously, I know precisely why you’re worried. Hope for better, my man, hope for better.

vava74

March 21st, 2010
9:37 pm

why Al doesn’t finish like this all the time?

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
9:51 pm

ESPN dunk by Horford.

Somebody must have said something to him at half-time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Woody said he was out there playing like a b**ch. In which case, that’s one of the best coaching jobs by Woody I’ve ever seen.

Maybe he’s gone to the Phil Jackson school of “Insult your players so they respond and play better”. He already called Bibby out…

vava74

March 21st, 2010
10:04 pm

I hope JJ doesn’t feel tempted to “take over the game” and start to launch contested jumpers…

vava74

March 21st, 2010
10:05 pm

maybe Al is just too nice… he will now go home and feel bad because he dunked on such a nice guy like Duncan…

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
10:06 pm

Spurs will try to go on a couple of runs, and we need to be ready for that.

In the meantime, we need to go on a run of our own. I don’t want to play down to the very wire against these guys.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
10:12 pm

Crawford heating up, Joe taking some shots. We’ll need both to be on to finish this game off.

Hopefully we don’t forget about Horford.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
10:12 pm

Is Joe passing that ball or what?

If this is what y’all call ball-hoggin’, I want some MORE of it!

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
10:26 pm

This is exactly why I don’t like playing teams like this down to the wire.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
10:29 pm

Perhaps I should have braced myself, Vava…

vava74

March 21st, 2010
10:44 pm

close call Ray… but I could still be right.

why didn’t Woody called a timeout?

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
10:56 pm

Al Horford is a straight monster. I don’t want to hear one word about his performance tonight being because of this or that, or “it was only against this sucky team.”

20 and 18 against Tim Duncan. WOW.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
11:00 pm

Ball game. SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!

vava74

March 21st, 2010
11:00 pm

great win.

SA were undermanned so I am still not excessively happy since without Parker they are a 5-8 seed in the west, at best.

Duncan had a great game but Al responded well with a lot of grit.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
11:10 pm

No tears in my beer on this win. I’m ecstatic.

Two of our highest offensively productive players shot like CRAP, and we still beat one of the most highly disciplined and focused teams in the league.

Last season, we couldn’t beat them when they had Parker, but no Duncan. Hawks played through some adversity of their own making and came out on top. I have absolutely no problems with that whatsoever.

Big Ray

March 21st, 2010
11:12 pm

Make that our THREE top offensive players.

Jamal: 7-18

Joe: 8-23

Josh: 5-16

And we still won. In overtime.

Sautee

March 22nd, 2010
2:02 pm

JeJe posted this on MC’s blog. Thought it was interesting enough to repost here:

JeJe

March 22nd, 2010
1:48 pm

“Had a group meeting with Bruce Levenson before the game and he pretty much said we will NOT overpay for JJ this offseason because he’d be 35 in the 6th year of his contract. He referenced to KG, who is 34, and has 40M left over 2 years, as someone who has regressed tremendously and may mess up Boston’s payroll.”

I hope that is the case.