It was only one game, or so you tell yourself. Just one game in eighty-two. No doubt the Hawks are telling themselves the same thing, and just as likely, they’re not buying it either. Why? Because it was THE game, against THE team. Perhaps in some way, there is a bond created between a team that gets its first taste of the playoffs, and the team that punches that taste out of their mouths (although it sure took seven games to deliver that punch). Either way, there’s little doubt that the Hawks and Celtics feel something for each other, as it is evident in the absolutely electric atmosphere of each matchup.
Buuuuuut, as Ando says, the season is 82 games long, not 25! He also says that now is definitely not the time to trudge through the mired recent past of a very close defeat, what with the fleet-footed Warriorts coming to town. Slog around too long and these 48-minute sprint specialists will run right past you, and leave you trying to catch your breath.
Indeed, up next is the Golden State warriors, a team that has been no stranger to adversity this season. First there was the loss of Baron Davis, then the failed pitch for Elton Brand (though after watching Philadelphia’s plight, perhaps it stings none too badly just now). And then came the very unfortunate and foolish injury incurred by the most exciting player left on the squad: Monta Ellis. Signing Corey Maggette was a decent tourniquet on a bad wound. The only problem is that a tourniquet is usually only good for one leg….and that’s not much good when the tourniquet itself fails on you (Maggette is currently injured). The swap-out with New York wasn’t too bad: Al Harrington for Jamal Crawford. That gives the Warriors another scoring guard who can handle the ball some and has no problems creating for himself. In short, the Warriors remain what they’ve always been: a shoot-happy team that will run up and and down the floor all night long.
With Maggette out, Crawford and Stephen Jackson are the main guys in the attack. However, Don Nelson’s offense is not based on ISOs, but rather ball movement and sharing. Azubuike is a work in progress, but his athleticism is unquestioned. Marco Belinelli is coming around, now that he is getting very good minutes. This kid is not unlike the Trail Blazers’ Rudy Fernandez in that he LOVES to shoot it, and will score in bunches. His minutes have gone up in each of the last three games, and he has responded beautifully. Anthony Morrow has also seen some productive playing time recently. As far as the frontcourt goes, only Biedrins and Turiaf are steady contributors. Biedrins is a walking double-double, and Turiaf is an energy guy who gives you boards, blocks, fouls, and skinned knees/elbows every night. The rest of the Golden State “bigs” can’t tell when they are coming and going lately….
So what are the keys to the game against the Warriors? First, don’t try to play the Warriors’s style. This only plays into their hands, as few teams can just run and shoot with them all night, and Nellie is one of the masters of small-ball tactics. Second, all of the Warrior regulars hit the boards, and hit them well. Put a body on everyone with a lightning bolt on their jersey, these guys will kill you with second chances (remember, a bunch of shoot-happy scorers with a constant green light….giving them second chances is BAD ju-ju). These guys like to run, but they are not overall better athletes than the Hawks. Third, contest shots and HELP OUT on defense, especially on the perimeter. Bibby may be the usual whipping boy on perimeter defense, but he’s been playing better lately. Having said that, do you want him guarding the larger/faster Crawford, Jackson, or Azubuike one-on-one? Fourth, no lay-up drills. And on the other end, let’s see more post game. The Warriors aren’t very big OR strong. Biedrins and Turiaf are both good for about 2 blocked shots per game, but neither is a heavily disciplined defender. Biedrins himself averages nearly 4 fouls a game. Funneling the ball into Horford at high or low post, along with cuts to the basket (for dunks) by Josh and Marvin should cause plenty of trouble for the Warrior front line, putting all the pressure on their guards.
So what are YOUR thoughts on how we win this game?