Finally got to unleash the new toy to get a survey of how the Hawks fared this season defending Dwight Howard with Al as the primary defender, with and without help.
It’s a limited analysis because it only includes those times Howard posted against Horford and attempted a shot. That means it’s missing those plays when Howard posted up other Hawks defenders, his shot attempts on other play types, and also how he influenced the offense when he got the ball but didn’t shoot or even when he had an effect without touching the ball. (Hey, the new toy is dope, but I had to cut myself off at some point.)
Well, I decided to look at one element of Howard’s offensive influence when he doesn’t take a shot: the Magic’s 3-point attempts when the Hawks double-teamed him. So I booted up all 103 of the Magic’s 3-point attempts in four games against the Hawks and looked to see how they got them. Again, this is a limited analysis of Dwight’s influence when he doesn’t shoot because it doesn’t include the 2-pointers he helps create for teammates with passes or just his presence. The breakdown (holla if my math is jacked up):
Nov. 26 (93-76 Hawks loss)
10/31 3FG total
Jan. 9 (113-81 Hawks loss)
12/28 3FG total
Jan. 30 (104-86 Hawks loss)
7/23 3FG total
March 24 (W 86-84)
6/21 3FG total
Total 3-pointers: 35/103
3-point attempts created by Dwight doubles: 6/13
3-point attempts created in other ways: 29/90
It’s that last line that got my attention. It was crazy to see how many different ways the Magic got open 3-pointers . They used ball screens, pin-down screens, hand-offs, drive-and-kicks, pick-and-pops, and simple (but fast) ball reversals. There’s no hesitation. The Magic are always looking for 3. They are ready to fire when they get space and it doesn’t seem to matter if they are cold or hot for the game. The Magic don’t even need to involve Dwight in all that action because they are so good at moving the ball. It’s not just the guards, either–forwards Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson get in on it, too. When Jameer Nelson came back to play in the last game against the Hawks he added yet another element with his quickness and savvy.
Before the Hawks even begin to think about defending Dwight, they have to deal with all that going on at the 3-point line. It takes great awareness to do it and, well, I don’t have to tell you that’s not always been a strong suit for the Hawks.
“It is sort of like ‘pick your poison’ as far as defending them,” Woody said. “We’ve tried all kinds of ways.”
The Magic got hot a few times against the Hawks. In the November victory they made 4 of their last 8 to stymie any Hawks comeback attempt. The Magic made five in a row during the Jan. 9 beatdown of the Hawks. Even thought their overall 3-point percentage was poor in the third game, the Magic had a key spurt when they made 4 of 5.
No wonder when Smoove was asked what stood out in his mind about the regular-season series, he said: “It seems like they make all their shots against us.”
Not quite–the Magic missed a handful of good looks in the final meeting. But I know what Smoove means. It’s got to be physically taxing chasing around all those shooters–I got tired just watching it. And then when you do all that work and the Magic is moving the ball and they get an open 3 and make it, it’s got to be hard on the psyche, too.
“We can’t get discouraged if they make some threes,” Woody said. “I’ve watched teams that play them, and they start bombing threes and then you get away from your original gameplan. Yeah, we are going to have to make adjustments on the fly. But I don’t want our guys to get discouraged because they make threes. We make threes [too]. It goes both ways.”