I had been planning this post since about half time of game three. While assembling it, Bret over at Hoopinion put up a post outlining the first 31 possessions of Game three with the contention that it was more about lack of execution than lack of effort. While rethinking this post Bret may in fact be on to something, but in my mind effort and execution are tied together. Or more simply put you are not going to have great execution without great effort. Game three felt like the Hawks were focused about half a quarter. Once the Bucks got off to a hot start, the Hawks abandoned everything that had worked in this series.
The first clip is the first three pointer made by Brandon Jennings in the first quarter. It is made in transition and you see Joe Johnson get caught behind a Kurt Thomas (moving?) screen. After Jennings game one explosion the Hawks made it a priority in game two to get to him and pressure him early. Here Johnson should have picked him up out higher. Because it is in transition Al Horford is back in the lane and away from Thomas so he is not available to provide help off of the screen.
Next is Jennings’ second three pointer of the quarter and also comes in transition. Much like the first clip, Al Horford is back in the lane and hasn’t come out to get Thomas and Joe Johnson gets caught behind the Thomas screen. The one thing different in this sequence is Josh Smith is in position to take Jennings off of the screen but isn’t watching the ball. He is instead looking for his man and actually moves away from Jennings with his back to the ball.
The second part of this clip shows both Jennings three pointers from the baseline camera. It is from this angle that you can get the best view of Smith.
This is the third of Jennings three point makes in the first quarter. Here Jerry Stackhouse is backing Jamal Crawford down into the post. Joe Johnson is guarding Brandon Jennings and Marvin Williams is guarding John Salmons. Both Hawks defenders are in the lane area. Johnson goes for a less than aggressive double team and because of the indecision Marvin is slow rotating out to Jennings which leads to another three point make. I don’t know what Coach Woodson wanted on this play, but if it was to double team then it needed to be a lot more aggressive than this. The more I watch this I can’t tell if Marvin was trying to figure out if he should go double or if he was just waiting on Johnson to go. At any rate the rotation out to the shooter was slow and it burned the defense.
All of these could be chalked up to a lack of execution but as a coach I would be hot about not recognizing what was going on and failing to react to it. The second Jennings three pointer was a carbon copy of the first, it is just made worse by having Smith in the area and the Bucks still coming out with the advantage.
This last clip shows where no effort was made. Maybe by this point frustration had set in. In the first part of the clip Josh Smith is guarding Erson Ilyasova in the post area, and Al Horford switches off on John Salmons. Salmos drives and Ilyasova pops out to the three point line. Now it looks like Horford is beat and Josh Smith stays in to help. I haven’t got a problem with that. The problem lies from where Salmons kicks the ball out to Ilyasova. While seeing Ilyasova with the ball Smith doesn’t sprint out to contest the shot, he in turn puts his head down and jogs by him without putting a hand up as Ilyasova buries the three. By this point Smith has checked out completely.
The second part of this clip is from the second half late in the third quarter. It has John Salmons guarded by Jamal Crawford, catching the ball at the three point line. Upon Salmons catching the ball Crawford backs off of him into his defensive stance looking for the drive. Salmons seeing this simply rises up and makes the three. Crawford even puts a hand up. Now Salmons scored 22 points in this game and was 9-11 from the field. At the time this shot went in he was 8-9. Wouldn’t that warrant at least putting a hand up?
Picking these clips out was worse than watching the game live. It wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been such a sharp contrast from games one and two. What I have learned from this is that the Hawks clearly have to be the aggressor in the remaining games of these playoffs. They have not shown that they can take an opponents best shot and come back from it. As they move to game four tonight a good start will be paramount. If not then we probably are looking at a seven game series.
It would be my opinion that effort hurt the execution in game three. There is going to be times where you play the hardest you can with the perfect game plan and the opponent will still make the shot. This is the NBA and these are the greatest players anywhere. However, in the playoffs especially you can’t let that effect you. You can’t let your offensive struggles effect the other parts of your game particularly defense. This is a trend that the Hawks have shown on the road especially in the playoffs. A 1-9 in your last ten road playoff games with the average margin of defeat being at around 20 points is not competing. It is giving up. You don’t get to the Eastern Conference Finals without competing.