Hawks forward Smith reacts after a shot in the first half during their game against the Celtics in Game One of their NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs basketball game in Atlanta

Possessions and You: The Atlanta Hawks

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From time to time, we’ll take a look at what teams looked like on offense last year using some basic but nifty charts. Today the Atlanta Hawks.

 

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I’ve done these before with overlays of production, but it’s difficult to get a real indication relative to usage. Points per minute? Still impacted by too many factors. Field goal percentage? Doesn’t cover the impact of drawing fouls. Points per possession is really the best way to go, but even that is rife with complications and relies on a separate definition of possession (which I won’t go into here). So instead, let’s just take a look at how the usage is mapped out, and rely on our own estimations of players and their production.

Usage is great in this context specifically because it doesn’t factor for minutes. It shows you when a player is on the floor, how many possessions he’s absorbing.

Some surprising notes:

  • Josh Smith with a higher usage rate than Joe Johnson. It shows how the team really did start to shift towards more of a Smith-centric approach last season, which is a good thing, and could help them with the transition from Joe Johnson to a more even distribution on the perimeter. Smith had more FGA and FTA last season in roughly 200 more minutes.
  • Woah there, Ivan Johnson! Johnson had an equal usage rate as Lou Williams, their primary bench scorer. Thing is, though, he was efficient, shooting 51 percent from the field. He averaged as many points per 36 minutes as starting point guard, Jeff Teague, for crying out loud. Johnson’s personal issues and locker room concerns are evident, but they still shouldn’t outweigh his production on the floor.
  • Jeff Teague has got to get more assertive. Teague has been criticized for being too passive in his approach, and this very much shows it. With Joe Johnson gone, he’s going to have to take on a bigger role. Yes, he can distribute to the shooters on the floor, but he’s got to contribute with his ability to get to the rim as well.
  • Once a Pargo, always a Pargo.
  • Don’t really care what Al Horford’s minutes are or how many games he appeared in, he’s got to have a bigger role. In 11 games last season, he had a usage rate lower than Tracy McGrady. That just cannot happen. He’s going to be the best or second-best player on the floor at all times next season and the ball has to go through him more.
  • Marvin Williams has a lot of problems, but at least he’s not a gunner. With as many opportunities as he gets, to have that kind of usage shows a level of restraint. How he does in Utah will be interesting in that regard.
  • Hinrich was beat up all last year with a lot of different injuries, so take that into consideration. But he also had one of the lowest usage rates, and is going to a team (Chicago) where he’s filling in for one of the highest usage rate guys in the league. The Bulls have Deng, Boozer, and Noah who can shoot, but there’s still going to be a lot of questions about where the actual shots are going to come from.

Gasol, Douglas lead Grizzlies past Trail Blazers, 88-86

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AP
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game’s final six points to seal Memphis’ fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Portland held a 79-68 lead after Al-Farouq Aminu scored inside with 5:28 left. But Memphis clicked off a 14-2 rally and it settled into a one-possession contest.

Tony Allen had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis.

Shooting issues that plagued both teams in the first half, spread past intermission as each started 4 of 14 from the field. That helped Portland maintain its lead after carrying a 50-43 advantage into halftime.

Despite converting only 5 of 20 shots in the third, Portland actually extended its lead, entering the fourth with a 69-61 advantage.

The Portland lead would reach 13 again in the fourth and was still at 11 when Memphis started its rally behind Gasol, who had nine straight points for the Grizzlies.

Portland had a previous 13-point lead in the second quarter as every Grizzly but Gasol was suffering shooting woes.

Gasol managed 19 points in the half, while Portland got 15 points each from McCollum and Lillard.

TIP-INS

Blazers: F Evan Turner started his first game of the season due to an injury to Maurice Harkless. …McCollum entered the game averaging 24 points. … G Allen Crabbe finished with seven points after scoring at least 14 in four straight games. …C Mason Plumlee had four points, ending his streak of seven straight games in double figures.

Grizzlies: Memphis coach David Fizdale finally said enough about calls and no-calls late in the first half to earn a technical courtesy of official J. T. Orr. Lillard missed the free throw to open the third. …Gasol also got a tech in the third quarter for arguing a call. … F JaMychal Green had a career-high 18 rebounds. His previous best was 17 this week in a win at New Orleans.

EXTENSIONS

Earlier Thursday, the Grizzlies announced that they have agreed to multi-year extensions with general manager Chris Wallace, John Hollinger, executive vice president of basketball operations, and Ed Stefanski, vice president of player personnel. Terms were not disclosed.

HARKLESS HURT

Portland forward Maurice Harkless did not play because of a left ankle sprain suffered in the latter stages of the Portland’s 115-107 loss at Milwaukee on Wednesday night. “I remember him wincing. He was on the free throw line,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “It was late in the game, like the last 2 minutes.”

NOTHING FREE

Both teams struggled from the free throw line. Portland made 29 of 40 in the game while Memphis was 20 of 30.

UP NEXT

Trail Blazers: Portland hits the middle game of a five-game trip, landing in Indiana on Saturday to face the Pacers.

Grizzlies: Memphis continues its homestand Saturday against the Gold State Warriors.

Stephen Curry gets fouled, hits crazy rainbow circus shot vs. Jazz (VIDEO)

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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is a wizard when it comes to shots you don’t think can ever reach the iron. Each time he does something like this, he surprises you even though you should be used to it by now.

But I’m not. The Utah Jazz aren’t. Heck, maybe even Steph isn’t used to it by now.

As Curry was driving down the left side of the floor on Thursday, Shelvin Mack got out of position and wound up trailing the Warriors star. With Curry rounding the pick, Mack reached and earned a foul.

Thinking quickly, Curry then hoisted up a rainbow of a shot that gently kissed the net on the way down.

Curry would go on to make the free throw for the 3-point play.

Watch Karl-Anthony Towns blow by two defenders, posterize Jonas Valanciunas

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We’re 21 games into Minnesota Timberwolves C Karl-Anthony Towns‘ sophomore season and it already seems cliche to say that he has guard skills

But, like, he does have guard skills.

There was more evidence of that on Thursday night as the Timberwolves matched up with the Toronto Raptors in Canada.

With the ball near the top of the arc and with the Raptors defense collapsing on the Minnesota guards, Towns saw an opportunity to split the defense and run to the rim with the ball.

Toronto C Jonas Valanciunas slid over to meet Towns at the rim, but there wasn’t much anyone could do.

https://streamable.com/sixp

Spurs’ Pau Gasol goofs, heads toward Bulls locker room in return to Chicago (VIDEO)

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AP
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Pau Gasol spent two seasons at the United Center with the Chicago Bulls, so it made sense that when he returned as a member of the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, he would know his way around. In fact, Gasol knows the bowels of Chicago’s home arena so well that he wound up walking toward the wrong locker room as a force of habit.

During the NBA on TNT’s coverage of the game, reporter Allie LaForce showed cameras following Gasol after he said hello to some folks in the tunnel.

Unfortunately, Gasol walked about 15 feet before realizing he was heading to the wrong side.

Maybe it was something of an indicator for the night, as the first few quarters of play between the Spurs and the Bulls were extremely sloppy.