The Hinrich Effect

Sunday, April 17, 2011
By Jon Newberry

The Hawks’ trade for Kirk Hinrich wasn’t nearly as big of news as the pair of blockbuster trade’s that Orlando made earlier in the season to acquire Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas, but it was the one that had the biggest impact during Game 1.

Hinrich transition into the Hawks’ offensive flow hasn’t been seamless since he joined the team in February, but on Saturday night he was a key factor in Atlanta’s offensive outburst. Kirk scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half to help offset Howard’s dominance inside and give the Hawks a 55-48 lead.

Still, with a backcourt already featuring high-volume scorers in Johnson and Crawford, the Hawks traded for Hinrich to upgrade the perimeter defense.

A quick glance at the box score and you might not fully appreciate the job that Kirk did on Jameer Nelson in Game 1, but if you watched the game live you couldn’t help but be impressed.

Nelson finished with 27 points in just under 36 minutes for the Magic, as he and Howard dominated the ball on offense. However, if you break down his stats and look only at the minutes that he played with Hinrich on the floor his production is greatly reduced.

–> Nelson’s Total Numbers:
—-Minutes – 35:47
—-Points – 27 (10-of-18 FGs, 4-of-7 3FGs)

–> Nelson with Hinrich on the Floor:
—-Minutes – 27:39
—-Points – 12 (4-of-10 FGs, 1-of-3 3FGs)

That means that Jameer scored 15 of his 27 points in the 8 minutes that he had on the floor with Kirk on the bench.

It will not get near as much media attention during this series, but Kirk’s on-the-ball defense against Jameer is just as important in this series as the team’s defensive strategy against Howard. If the Hawks can’t prevent deep penetration from Jameer, then they will be forced to help from the weakside and rotate defenders around the perimeter. Something they are doing everything in their power to avoid.

Al Horford made sure to give his teammate a shout-out when talking to the media this morning. He credited the big men for their effort against Howard and then acknowledged the job Hinrich did against Nelson.

“I think that’s something that went under the radar a little bit,” Horford said.

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