Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hawks Barely Escape Wizards

The first words out of my mouth when the pre-season opened were "Teague looks terrible on defense." Possession after possession in this game, AJ Price got dribble penetration against defense from Jeff Teague that was barely-existent.

So that's one story. Another story is the struggles the Hawks have experienced at backup point guard. Before the season began, I opined that "the Hawks will be the deepest team in the league at point guard." In spite of this depth, I have chronicled Devin Harris' struggles to help the Hawks win games as the backup point. Harris has since been used as the starter at shooting guard, and now Lou Williams is struggling in the backup point guard role.

For the game against the Wizards, Williams was -19. He checked in for Devin Harris with 4:45 to play in the 1st quarter with the Hawks leading 17-9. By the time Harris checked back in for Williams with 6:35 to play in the 2nd, the Hawks trailed 37-32. Williams checked in for Teague with 3:46 to play in the 3rd and the Hawks sporting a 66-57 lead. By the time he checked out for the last time with 9:00 to play, the lead was down to 76-73.

Part of Williams' lack of effectiveness was his failure to attempt a free throw for only the 3rd time this season. But the biggest part was the stagnation of the offense with Williams in the game. It also didn't help that Ivan Johnson, who has been coming on as of late, had possibly his worst game of the season (-13 in 6 minutes).

Yet another story is the fact that free throws have gotten into the heads of both Josh Smith and Al Horford. Smith is shooting only 32% from the free throw line this season but made all three attempts. Al Horford came into the game shooting only 67% from the line and shot 1-for-10 on free throws.

Thus far the Hawks have lost only one game to a team not presently in playoff position (Houston). But the team was lucky to get this one after Martell Webster's layup as the clock expired in overtime was waived off. Last year the Hawks beat up on non-playoff teams on the way to the 4th-best record in the East. The team will need improvement in all the areas cited above if it is to replicate that success this season.

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