ORLANDO–A reminder that J.J. is considered to be among the best players in the league, at least by media types: He was named to the All-NBA Third Team, the league announced today. It’s the first time for J.J. and the first time the Hawks have had a player selected since Dikembe in 97-98.
The timing is interesting since J.J. is slumping in the playoffs. He’s not the only one, of course, but he’s the lead dog. Before the playoffs opened, J.J. said he knew that as the Hawks’ veteran star he would take the heat if they don’t meet expectations or get the glory if they make a breakthrough. He said he embraced that role. Now, though, both J.J. and Woody seem to want to avoid putting the onus on him to deliver a big game when the Hawks need it most.
Looking at the other guys on the All-NBA teams, all of them except maybe Bogut would be looked at to be The Man for their team in trying times. J.J. needs help–more from fellow All-Star Horford, second-team All-Defense Smoove, Sixth Man of the Year Jamal and Woody. But if the Hawks’ All-NBA star doesn’t come through it’s hard to see them making this a series. It also could end up costing him in free agency.
– You have to be an Insider to read it, but ESPN.com’s John Hollinger makes a case that Iso-heavy offenses like the Hawks and Blazers run are good for the regular season, not so good for the playoffs.
Atlanta, as the league’s third-best offense, should at least be able to battle these defenses [Milwaukee and Orlando] to a draw. But even before Tuesday’s Game 1 implosion against Orlando, they were struggling. The Hawks can’t make shots, ranking just 14th out of 16 teams in postseason TS percentage. While they’ve still been able to generate second shots (they lead all teams in playoff Offensive Rebound Rate) and have been somewhat successful at avoiding turnovers, the net result put the Hawks 11th among the 16 playoff teams in postseason Offensive Efficiency.
So what is it? Perhaps the Hawks and Blazers have just had some bad games against some pretty good defenses. But between the two, we’ve built up a 31-game sample showing that something more nefarious might be at work.
Obviously, this has important implications for Atlanta’s Game 2 in Orlando on Thursday. Iso-Joe has had its moments; Game 4 of the 2008 Boston series, for instance, when Johnson single-handedly tore apart one of the best defensive teams in history. But in the aggregate, its failures have been far greater than its successes, and it’s notable that the most similar offensive team has faced similar troubles.
Is there something about iso-heavy offenses that makes them vulnerable in the playoffs? We can’t say it with certainty yet, but the case is building rapidly. The Hawks have three games left to show that Iso-Joe can be as effective in May as it is between November and April.
– In Game 1, the Hawks ran two isolation plays in the first quarter, one for Bibby (miss) and one for J.J. (a make, but it came just after a steal and Orlando’s defense hadn’t yet set). They ran four isos in that awful second quarter: Marvin (miss), Zaza (miss), J.J. (miss) and Jamal (miss). Of those six plays, all but two were long, challenged jump shots: Marvin got his layup blocked by Dwight Howard and Jamal missed on a runner near the end of the half.
– I covered Stan Van Gundy so this doesn’t surprise me. The guy is fanatical about not letting his team slip. And the Magic are aware of what happened against ‘Nique’s Celtics in ‘95. Still, I keep wondering what lesson there is to learn from a series they ended up winning, anyway.
– Slam Online ranks the Euroleague players and puts Childress at No. 5.