L.D. slept on it and came to the same conclusion as he did after he game: Sitting his best all-around best player for the final 21:50 of the first half in an attempt to avoid foul trouble was the right move.
Asked today after practice if he had any second thoughts on the decision, Drew provided a similar explanation as last night:
“When he picked up the early two fouls it put it us in a bit of a bind. You don’t anticipate your starters picking up two early fouls like that. When he went to the bench, had we hit a bad stretch at the start of the second quarter to the middle of the second quarter, I would have put him back in. We actually had a really good stretch in the middle of second quarter. With three minutes left we hit a bump in the road and I didn’t want to jeopardize him picking up his third when we were going good.”
By the middle of the second quarter, Atlanta’s 32-22 lead was down to 34-33 because Marvin, Jamal, Hinrich and Joe all missed jumpers; Hinrich lost the ball on a careless turnover; and Dwight went to work against Powell and then Armstrong.
After Al went to the bench, the Hawks gave up 15 offensive rebounds in the rest of the first half. They missed 26 of 41 shots and scored just 38 points on 49 possessions. If L.D. thought the Hawks were having a really good stretch then playing Horford, their best rebounder and most efficient scorer, might have made for an even better stretch.
Also note that Al averaged just 2.6 fouls per 36 minutes this season, the lowest rate of his career. I guess that number would be perhaps three if he were allowed to play regularly with two first-half fouls. Al has fouled out of four of his 335 career games, including playoffs. Among centers who played at least 1,000 minutes this season, Al has the fewest fouls per 36 minutes.
So it’s not like Al is prone to picking up fouls or has to check any Magic players who are particularly good at drawing them. Al doesn’t play a physical defensive style, instead relying on his quick feet to get good position. In other words, he’s not like Zaza, whom L.D. also left on the bench with two fouls. That made more sense because Zaza fouls a lot and is the last decent line of defense against Dwight.
Speaking of which . . .
The Magic were -21.3 points per 48 minutes with Twin on the court during the regular season. After two playoff games, they are . . . . -21.3 per 48 minutes with Twin on the court.
With Zaza on the court, the Magic were +9.8 per 48 minutes during the regular season and are +8.6 in the playoffs. The numbers vs. Etan are +31.1 and +27.4, vs. Powell -4.4 and +9.0. Armstrong didn’t play against Orlando during the regular season with the Hawks; the Magic were +61.7 per 48 vs. him in Game 2.
(All numbers are from NBA.com’s dope new StatsCube feature.)
The Hawks don’t really have anyone other than Twin who can provide much resistance against Dwight but the numbers suggest Zaza should be first in line (though he wasn’t last night). After those two the Hawks are simply hoping that any of the other bigs can somehow hang on.
“It’s always been like that,” L.D. said. “That’s nothing different. We go with Twin and Zaza and then we start using other big bodies and their jobs are to try to make him earn everything. They are battling him; there is a lot of banging going on. We are getting what we want out of those guys in those cases. We have to buy Twin and Zaza time.
“I’m not discouraged by that not one bit. In putting together this team one thing we knew we had to do was get big bodies in here in the event of playing Orlando in the playoffs. Hilton, Etan, Josh Powell–they are big bodies and their jobs are to force Dwight to work for everything. They are going to create fouls and force the issue. I am not discouraged by that.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat