Boston: 108.9 points/100 possessions (10th)
Atlanta: 112.7 points/100 possessions (2nd)
Boston: 100.6 points allowed/100 possessions (1st)
Atlanta: 105.5 points allowed/100 possessions (12th)
Probable ATL starters:
Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Marvin Williams
Every once in a while, we like to move away from our usual preview format and try something different–a Q-and-A with a blogger who writes about that night’s opponent. We’ve only done this once this season (for the first game against Orlando), and reserve this sort of thing for what passes as a “big” regular season game. Tonight qualifies. Before a four-game losing streak that was likely something of a blip, the Hawks were looking like the equal or near-equal of the Boston-Cleveland-Orlando triumvirate of East elites. And they waxed the C’s in Boston in the teams’ only meeting so far this season.
To find out a bit more about the current state of things in the A-T-L, we asked Bret LaGree, author of the always interesting Hawks blog Hoopinion, a few questions. He was kind enough to answer them. I did the same over at Hoopinion; you can read my answers to his questions here.
CelticsHub: You and other Hawks observers have been critical of the team’s late-game offense, especially its reliance on Joe Johnson isolations. Whose fault is this? Is Johnson breaking plays? Is Woodson just not calling anything?
Hoopinion: The isolations for Johnson are called by Mike Woodson. That was the entire offense two or three years ago when the Hawks (mostly) lacked better options. It’s especially disheartening to see to the team revert to the offense it ran back when it was a bad team when blowing leads built by demonstrating that this is now a good and offensively diverse team.
CH: Everyone picks on Mike Bibby for his awful defense, and he’ll be facing a very dynamic point guard tonight. How have the Hawks adjusted their defense to help (or hide?) Bibby against elite point guards?
Hoopinion: The first option is to put Bibby on an opposing wing that isn’t a big part of the offense. Obviously that won’t be an option against the Celtics. To his credit, Bibby understands his limitations and does what he can (play the passing lanes, rebound) to make up for his lack of lateral movement. He’ll only be on Rondo until someone sets a ball-screen, then the Hawks will switch assignments.
CH: The Hawks don’t really have a ton of glaring flaws, but one of them is defensive rebounding. They are a bit better this season but still below average. They’ve got some pretty athletic bigs. What gives?
Hoopinion: Those athletic bigs get switched onto opposing guards a lot, and, though they do an admirable job of staying in front of smaller, quicker players (most of the time) that takes them out of ideal defensive rebounding position while also calling on the Hawks guards to box out opposing bigs.
CH: The Hawks take a lot of short mid-range shots (from between the rim and 15 feet out) and shoot them well, according to Hoopdata. It’s an area of the court that isn’t a priority for the C’s defense. Why are the Hawks so good from here? Design? Personnel?
Hoopinion: It’s primarily Joe Johnson’s inability to beat defenders off the dribble and get all the way to the rim combined with his ability to make shots. Al Horford does a fair amount of effective work in that area as well.
CH: Does you ideal late-game line-up include Marvin Williams, Jamal Crawford or both? And do you hate Crawford yet? Probably not. But you will.
Hoopinion: I’m a Marvin Williams booster and believe there’s no benefit to having both Crawford and Bibby on the floor late in games, their strengths and weaknesses are too similar. Crawford’s fine as a lead scorer on the second unit and he’s the only Hawk who can turn the corner fast enough to make full use of Horford in screen-and-roll situations. I don’t hate him yet but that may be because I’m still fascinated by the way he shuts down, like a laptop going to sleep, between the moment an opposing player puts up a shot and the Hawks get the ball back. Watch for that tonight. Celtic partisans can take complete pleasure in the idiosyncrasy.