Preview and Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

Kurt —  February 5, 2007

Did you see Smush play defense? The Lakers had maybe their best defensive game of the year against the Wizards on Saturday, and Gatinho sat down with a pen and paper and tracked Smush:

Well, last night was an over all good game for Smush. He used his length to bother Arenas and was savvy enough not to leave his feet on jump shots. He was blown by twice in the game, but overall he kept Arenas out of the paint by playing him for the drive but over playing his right hand to force him left. Twice Arenas had to go behind his back to go left, one resulting in a spectacular play the other ending up in a turnover.

His offensive game was positive. No early in the shot clock forced threes, which in my opinion he should never be able to take. He made his man pay for doubling off him by going to the hoop for a couple easy chippies. He clanked a couple wide-open threes early but they were within the offense. I don’t really consider unsuccessful forays to the basket negatives because it is crucial that he does this to keep the defense honest. Most of the times he was unsuccessful were due to his indecision as he got close tot the basket. He’s just not that great of a finisher.

He had only one stretch in the third where he affected the momentum of the game. He missed wide open three and then fouled Daniels for an and one, but before that he had stolen the ball from Etan Thomas.

But the defensive effort against Arenas was crucial to this win. He got a lot of help and with Jamison out the Lakers were able to focus a little more on Agent 9-29.


Marching on Atlanta.
Yes the Hawks are at the bottom of the lEastern Conference standings, but they are 5-5 in their last 10 and that includes a win at New Jersey yesterday.

Leading the way is Joe Johnson, who is averaging 27.8 in the lat 10 games shooting 53.1% (eFG%). He shoots well from both wings (the only spots his numbers are not good is straight on). When the Lakers played the Hawks back in December he had 30 points and shot 53.9%.

Also in the last 10 games the Hawks have gotten solid play out of Josh Smith (16 and 8 a night), but he is all about getting to the basket, he has no midrange game and if he lines up to take the three — let him. Then there is Josh Childress (12 a game shooting 53.2% in the last 10) but he is all threes and drives to the basket, force him into a midrange game and he crumbles.

About that last meeting. The Lakers got a team high 25 points on 10 of 13 shooting from Luke Walton, who is still expected to miss this game. They also got 13 from Kwame Brown, who is out.

On the other hand, this was one of the games Kobe missed. So it pretty much balances out.

Lotta Love. I watched a chunk of the high school basketball game on Fox Sports involving Kevin Love, and I have to say if you are a UCLA fan you should be pumped. To me, he is kind of the opposite of Andrew Bynum coming out of school — Love is very polished to go with his great natural touch and feel for the game. That, plus being 6-10, 250 makes him a force in high school, and he will do well in college. He stepped out and drained a three, could score with either hand, just seemed to have a knack for being where the ball would be for rebounds and passes very well out of the post and on outlets.

It’s a ways away, but I wonder how he’ll do in the NBA. This is not a blow-you-away athlete, and at some point he’s going to face better athletes who have touch and basketball IQ as well. I don’t know how that will go — how would a below-the-rim player ala Bill Waton fit in today’s high flying game? What about in the perimeter-based NBA? One game is not enough to make much of a projection long term (how much can he improve), and the kid will have a place at the NBA level because he can board, outlet and be solid inside. But an NBA star…..

Things to look for. Defense again. The Hawks are 29th in the league in offensive efficiency (the average 7 fewer points per 100 possessions than the Lakers, and remember there will be about 90 possessions in this game). They are the third worst shooting team in the NBA, 46.9% (eFG%), and that has not improved in the last 10 games.

The key is not letting their athletes get to the basket. This is a quick team that plays great isolation games, but outside of Johnson nobody shoots well from the outside. If the Lakers play like they did in Washington, they can really slow the Hawks and make this easier on themselves.

Run the offense. This is along the same general lines as the defensive comments — the Hawks are athletic and young. Try to make this an individual game and it will be close, play team basketball and the Lakers can win handily.

Nice to catch the Hawks in the second game of a back-to-back, with the first game going to overtime. Another reason to win this one, and even get a big lead early and rest the starters late.

Kurt

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20 responses to Preview and Chat: The Atlanta Hawks

  1. By the way, we credit Smush for slowing Arenas, but Arenas has other ideas:

    Arenas admitted that he got too caught up in the hype.

    “Yeah, of course,” Arenas said. “I was here all last night shooting, getting ready for the game. I’ve got to stop doing that serious thing before the game. I have to be my usual goofy self. That’s why I struggled early from the perimeter.”

    http://nba.aolsportsblog.com/2007/02/04/arenas-needs-goofiness-to-go-with-swag/

  2. Well in tracking Smush I was also obviously watching Arenas.

    By my count, with Smush guarding him on 13 of his 20 misses, he plain missed or turned over the ball on 4 shots, but 9 were contested by Smush. One Smush had help from Kobe off a Caron Butler hand off, one he had help from Cook as he stepped out on the pick and roll, one Bynum altered the shot sfter Arenas broke Smush of with a crossover in the paint.

    Smush and team defense= 9 misses
    Gilbert not being goofy enough= 4 misses

  3. I would love to see Kobe and Lamar play well together tonite. Also would love to see another solid, foul-free game from Andrew.

  4. Big game tonight. The Hawks always beat us in the ATL. Even when we had Shaq, we would always lose to them. I think they might be the best example of a crappy team that always gets up for the Laker game on the schedule. They play us like their lives depend on it. A little more so than other teams, I think.
    Lets hope Smush can stay consistent. Hes had a couple good ones in a row. Vlad is gettin more comfortable. Lamar is gettin some rhythm. We need to use tonight as a “rhythm” game… meaning we need to build some momentum by, hopefully, blowing them out and carrying it over to the Pistons game.

  5. Thanks for the work, Gatinho. I have only one issue: you find Smush to be a poor finisher? I think of him as one of the better finishers on the team, he’s big, athletic and has a decent touch. Or do you mean he’s not a ‘great’ finisher? I’d agree then, he’s no Kobe. Thanks.

  6. I think of Smush as being basically a pretty good finisher–part of the problem is that he puts himself in challenging positions to finish, so he *has* to be pretty good on a lot of his shots near the basket.

    That being said, I’ve noticed a falloff in his ability to finish lately, and he did it again tonight, blowing a running hook from about 5 feet that just a couple of months ago I would have said was a gimme for him.

  7. Someone tell me Smush played better than the stat line, because that line is horrrrible.

  8. Smush played pretty well tonight. Very heads up and 5 steals. The problem, AGAIN, is we all give lip service to defense, then turn around and only quote offensive stats.

    If we are going to talk defense, then we have to give credit for defense.

  9. …true hoop has a fantastic video series on Tex Winter and Phil explaining the triangle offense…i know alot of us hear about it but aren’t quite sure what it’s really about..well here’s your chance!

  10. Haven’t seen the last several games, but it appears that the Smushaholics are on the rampage. Being a “dishee” and “stealer” facing “playground” opponents is that good?

    Given that other teams are doubling Kobe and shading Lamar, the Smusher becomes a dishee extraordinaire, often far from “top of the key.” So, if the dishee play doesn’t work, who gets back on defense?

    On defense, the big guys are coming out to protect Smush from the high–well you know what! Is that why we’re not getting so many defensive rebounds? or stops?

    Don’t the steals indicate that the Smusher is still coming from behind after someone else picks up his man?

    He’s a point guard who doesn’t throw the ball away–because he’s point in name only. As a dishee, he’s a scorer now and doesn’t need to pass. Has he ever had a double double?

    We Smushaphobes think we know our man even when we don’t see the game–because we turn the TV off so many times when he comes in the game.

    When the Smusher is brought in to “close out” a game against the next “Indiana” with four minutes to go, guess what I’ll STILL do?

  11. This season’s Smush seems to be more indecisive around the rim than last season’s. I can’t remember the last time he threw one down in the half court set, and he seemed to do that every few games last year. He just doesn’t seem to be taking it strong this year.

    He’s also pulling up and taking mid range jumpers lately vs. going to the rack and we all know how awful his mid range game is.

  12. Wow, a whole comments section devoted to Smush!

    Kobe was the show in that 4th quarter. Those 4 jumpers he nailed in a row were the only thing (besides a win) that saved that game from being one of the most boring and unwatchable games of the season. We shot terribly and the Hawks really played like a minor league team that we nearly let beat us.

    The Hawks announcing team just seemed happy to have the Lakers in town. I really do like Josh Smith and Joe Johnson though. They both are tough covers. But again, nothing about the Lakers performance was dominating. I’ll say it again, can we ever blow anyone out?

  13. It wasn’t just the announcers, the Laker guys were saying that was a Kobe-friendly crowd in Atlanta. The building buzzed when he put on a show in the fourth.

  14. “I’ll say it again, can we ever blow anyone out?”

    I’m not sure what your definition of blowout is, but the Lakers have several wins by 13+. I realize that they don’t win many of their games by a ton of points, but they never do.
    @WAS +16
    @BOS +13
    DEN +19
    @ORL +13
    @MIN +17
    IND +14
    UTA +30
    In fact, when they win, they do so by an average of 9.5 points. The problem is they lose by 10.7 points on average. I also give them credit for winning close games. 2-1 in games decided by 3 or less (the loss was in OT to the Spurs) and 7-4 in games decided by 5 or less (one of the losses being to the Knicks sans Kobe).

  15. Justin at Basketball-Reference did an interesting study a couple years ago finding that the teams that won the most games by 6 or fewer points were usually not great, but the teams that won the most by 15 or more usually were the league’s elite. So those big wins start to look good.

    I don’t have time to do the research on those numbers today (who has the most 15+ this season, or most wins by 6 or less) but I may try to get to it soon.

  16. Smush is a part of why we win or lose, but lets not make him the central point of everything Lakers, I don’t think Bulls fans lived or died by how well B.J. Armstrong and Paxson looked from game to game in the regular season. The philosohpy of Phillip is to instill confidence and experience into players that will called upon to perform in the playoffs, therefore the trials and tribulations that Smush go through game to game don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters is how he plays in the playoffs and if he doesn’t perform he’s gone, until then, appreciate the man’s story and the play of the team

  17. The blowing teams out comment was made not in regards to points margin but in allowing opponents to keep the game close enough to win.

    While the final score might eventually resemble a “blow-out”, tmost of our wins haven’t played out this way. The Hawks were a perfect example last night as were the Golden State Warriors from two weeks ago. Certain moments in the 3rd and early 4th show that we are not finishing teams off like an elite team should. How many games have we watched this year that the Lakers have let teams hang around just long enough to make the game swing either way. The Hawks scored 57 points through 3 quarters, yet the game was very much in the balance.

    The games that the Lakers clearly had won going into the 4th quarter maybe count to 5 or 6 of their 30 wins. Contrast that to the Suns, Mavs, Spurs, Rockets, Pistons. Of those 5 or 6 “blow-outs”, the Jazz route was clearly an anomaly since Kobe scored 52 in 3 periods, and 2 others were the Melo-less Nuggets and the first meeting against the Hawks.

    I’m just saying that we still are lacking that killer instinct necessary to do some damage in the Western conference standings. We have the best player in the game with the greatest coach, yet we haven’t learned to impose our will for a full 48 minutes.

  18. The Transformation of Kobe Bryant

    Up at espn.com. Not too bad, but give Kwame some love, lady.

  19. just readed something, not about the lakers…

    http://www.nba.com/bulls/news/thomas_fined_070206.html

    The bulls fined Tyrus Thomas $10.000 bcuz of the comments saying he was interested in the money the Slam Dunk contest would give him.

    HEY YOUUUU!! that’t the point!!!!!!
    why do you think neither Lebron, VC, Kobe or other jumpers don’t take part dunking??
    they are tired, they want to enjoy the event, have a break and play the all-star game
    they don’t care about the money cuz they have big mounts of it.
    and if you have noticed, since 2000 featuring VC, McGrady and Francis slam dunk contests have lost importance

    if a guy says he’ll be dunking bcuz of the money FANTASTIC! if they would be offering more they would get better dunkers.

    and if Paxon is frustrated bcuz they dont have a single All-star player and their only representation in Las Vegas is Tyrus Thomas he should be glad this guy wants the money and take part of the event cuz I can think of some good dunkers (but less famous) who could dunk for free and are NOT bulls.

    BTW, if Playstation skills chalenge is about quickness, passing skills and shoot why isn’t Iverson playing?
    ask Paxon if money has something to do…

  20. Kurt,

    Just noticed your blurb about Kevin Love. He has to be the best outlet passers I’ve ever seen. The guy’s outlet passes lead to layups. That’s a very valuable tool…