The Atlanta Hawks have had the Toronto Raptors’ number since last season — Atlanta won the 2009-10 season series 3-1 but the Raptors’ win was by one point while the Hawks’ average margin of victory in their three wins was 19.7 points. So yesterday’s 18-point loss was pretty much par for the course. The Raptors got blown out when they stopped hitting their shots in the second half and the Hawks had a comfortable 20-point lead after three quarters.
Three-point shooting was the primary differentiator in this matchup as the Hawks went 8-for-18 from that range while the Raptors only made one of their 12 trey attempts. Poor outside shooting has been an ongoing problem for this team and it shows in their 29th-ranked .308 three-point percentage. It’s tough to compete in the NBA these days if you can’t hit the long ball. Maybe we need Peja Stojakovic for more than just his expiring contract.
Marvin Williams sank a critical dagger with three minutes to go in the third quarter when his three-pointer gave the Hawks an 18-point lead. I know he’s not a renowned long bomber, but that doesn’t mean that Linas Kleiza should simply ignore him on the perimeter as he did here. Credit goes to Josh Smith for setting Williams up with one of his 10 assists that give him a triple double of 12, 13 and 10 on the day.
Aside from the outside shooting, the Hawks had a noticeable advantage at center as Al Horford exhibited his typically solid defence while finishing with 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting and eight rebounds. Here’s a heady Horford play late in the first quarter that struck me as something we would be unlikely to see from Andrea Bargnani: After he missed a hook shot in the lane, he stripped the rebound away from Amir Johnson and laid it in. It’s not pretty, but it’s effective — which is a good description of Horford’s overall style of play.
Bargnani had a rougher game than his 14-point, seven-rebound stat line might lead you to believe. After finishing the first half with 12 points and five rebounds on 5-for-9 shooting, he went 1-for-8 in the second half with just two rebounds. This continued his trend of second half fades this season.
In this three-play compilation, we see Bargnani failing to help as Joe Johnson gets an easy layup right in front of him, a bricked three-pointer early in the third quarter that foreshadowed his errant shooting for the entire half, and then an airball on a layup attempt midway through the third. In contrast with Bargnani’s lacking help defence, note how Horford left his man (Amir Johnson) at just the right time to force Bargnani’s miss.
There’s been some online chatter about whether or not Bargnani deserves to make the All-Star Game as a reserve this season. His 20.6 points-per-game average ranks him second among Eastern Conference centers behind Dwight Howard, so he’s got that going for him. Then again, his rebounding and defence are arguably worse than they’ve ever been. Centers like Horford and Joakim Noah offer the complete package — they can score, defend and rebound. Bargnani is a better scorer than both of them, but he’s so far behind them in the other two categories that it’s pointless to even compare them.
The way I see it, trying to get Bargnani in the All-Star Game is like trying to get a quadruple amputee in Playboy. She might have some great qualities, but she’s missing some things that are considered pretty important for the position. I don’t think Hef would go along with that, and I hope that the Eastern Conference coaches won’t reward Bargnani for his increasingly one-dimensional skillset.
Like many of you, I expected that Amir Johnson would move into the starting lineup now that Reggie Evans is out indefinitely with a broken foot. Instead, Joey Dorsey took Reggie’s spot and I have to say he looked pretty good out there. While there may not be anyone in the NBA who grabs boards like Reggie, Joey might be in the top 10 or 20 in that discipline. He’s also not a complete non-factor on offence, as we saw with this nice fast break finish off a Calderon dish and his gentle touch on a tip-in.
I don’t really agree with the logic of continuing to play Amir Johnson off the bench, but Dorsey looked like he belonged with the starting crew for one game so I’m willing to wait and see how this plays out. Hopefully, Amir won’t feel disrespected and let it affect his game.