Sunday, January 08, 2006
The Thrashers and Hawks were a perfect 4-0 this weekend. That was a sentence that I never thought I'd be typing when I started this blog 11 months ago, so forgive my sense of glee, even though the Thrashers were playing a home-and-home against the worst team in the Eastern Conference and the Hawks were playing the bad Celtics and then the NO/OKC Hornets without Chris Paul. Anyway, the wife and I were personal witnesses to the goings on at Philips last night, so here are my observations:
1. I honestly can't tell what the Hawks are doing on offense most of the time. They occasionally run some screen and roll, but they must be the worst team in the league at making that basic set-up work, probably because they don't have a big man who can shoot or move. Otherwise, they seem to concentrate on making individual moves and ensuring that their spacing is good enough that if the ballhandler forces a double team, they can create open shots. Despite my moaning about the offensive scheme, they were shooting 56% until the final possessions when they were bleeding clock and taking bad shots.
2. The complete inability to defend an opposing point guard continued, as Speedy Fucking Claxton (as I referred to him over and over again) lit the team up for 29 points. Neither Tyronne Lue, not Salim Stoudemire were able to keep him in front of them. That said, Lue and Stoudemire both had good offensive games, so they were able to make up for their defensive shortcomings to a degree. Still, a healthy Chris Paul would have gone for 35 and 10, not that we could use a point guard or anything. (It bothers me that the Hawks could sign Al Harrington to a long-term deal if they would have taken Paul and he's a genuinely rootable player, but now, they either trade him or he'll block the development of Marvin Williams and Josh Smith. Harrington had another very good offensive game last night.)
3. Tyronne Lue remains the barometer for the team. When he plays well offensively, as he did this weekend, the team is pretty competent. When he doesn't, they lose.
4. The Hawks are leading the NBA in three-point percentage by a full .010 over the second place Bulls, although only six teams are taking fewer threes per game, so the skill doesn't translate that well for the team. It's hard for me to explain how a team without a natural ball distributor or a post threat to force double teams can be so good from behind the arc, but I think I have two explanations. First, the Hawks have a lot of good shooters on the team. When Johnson, Harrington, and Lue are on the court, they have three very good shooters from behind the arc. Second, the primary ballhandlers are all good passers, so when Harrington or Johnson beat their men, they're good at kicking the ball out for open looks. I'll be interested to see if the team looks to emphasize three-point shooting more in the coming weeks.
5. Josh Smith and Marvin Williams combined for 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting and added 12 rebounds. Not bad from the power forward spot. If Harrington is indeed traded, their minutes will go up and it'll be interesting to see how they mesh with one another at the three and four spots.