Stoppable Forces and Moveable Objects

Defeating the Miami Heat was considered a big test. Could the Hawks shake off a rough road trip out west and defend their homecourt against a playoff contender, and possible playoff opponent? The Hawks answered with a somewhat quiet but firm “yes.”

This Sunday night however, a bigger test awaits. Lebron James and the Cavaliers have been running roughshod over most of the league, with Lebron scoring at absolute will. And yet, his supporting cast cannot be ignored. Mo Williams is an explosive point guard who has no issues creating for himself when he needs to (as 17ppg will attest to). West, Gibson, and Szczerbiak will all shoot the lights out if you leave them even partially open. West is shooting nearly 42% from 3-point range and is perhaps finally getting back to full health (we’ll see). Meanwhile things don’t get any easier down low as big Z is still a load in the lane, where he is joined by  rookie J.J. Hickson, FlopZilla, and the former Popcorn Bandit of Atlanta. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, just look at the Cavs roster and you’ll figure it out. The thing about the Cavs is that they’re not just one-dimensional anymore, despite their explosive megastar. Meaning, these guys are good on defense as well as offense, allowing their opponents an average of 90 points a game, while they score over 100 per. Add in a 19-11 road record, and you have a tough matchup.

Still, the Cavs are not unbeatable, as they found out in Indiana, and more recently at Houston. This game will determine just how serious the Hawks are about defending home court. It is another opportunity to gain and retain homecourt advantage in the playoffs. The victory over Miami was a step along the path to maintaining the right direction. But Dwayne Wade and his crew have already made up for that loss by thrashing New York on Saturday night. The Hawks need to keep pace, if nothing else. Opportunity knocks, but to get this win, all hands will need to be on deck and stay there. Can’t count on another bad shooting night by a worthy opponent…

Speaking of worthy opponents, I see that some people took notice of Miami’s heralded rookie, Michael Beasley. This kid is a “tweener” forward with the kind of skills that will make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses for YEARS. Instead of asking whether or not he’s a 3 or a 4, you end up asking yourself do you guard him with a 3 or a 4? And there it is: another guy for whom opposing teams will have to design a defensive scheme, even if a defensive specialist is on board. The NBA is full of guys who can’t be stopped one-one-one. That’s why it’s the NBA. And if you were disappointed at the fact that Beasley was able to take Horford off the dribble at will….don’t be. Horford is a forward/center who got the onerous task of guarding a special hybrid SF/PF who is lighter on his feet. And in case you missed it, Horford ended the game with 21 points and 22 rebounds. Hardly a disappointment, if you ask most people.

Horford’s performance against Miami embodies everything that this Atlanta front line is capable of, but does not consistently do. Sure, height cannot be taught. But then again, neither can length. And the starting front line has an average wingspan of over 7 feet. So what’s the problem? Inconsistency in hustle and determination. The Hawks forwards  absolutely must put forth the effort night in and night out. Al Horford can hardly ever be knocked for his effort. The same cannot be said as often about Marvin Williams or Josh Smith. But that’s not the point, and none of these guys would throw each other under the bus.

But the truth is, none of them have any excuse on any given night. They’re young, long, athletic, and energetic….when they want to be. And it’s not the offensive side of the ball (which is another story altogether) as it is the defense. These guys have to be hard at it on defense or good teams will eventually wear them down or blow them out. They need to dive on the floor, fight for rebounds, and try to outhustle the competition EVERY game. It’s their way of life, their survival. And they need to do this TOGETHER, all the time. They should be able to count on each other. Sliding over to help on defense. Leaping after the rebound when the others are blocking out. Moveable objects instead of fixtures, watching teammates try to do it all.

There is no 7-foot plus monster in the background, waiting to devour all that come into the lane. This is a machine backed by a three cylinder engine, and all cylinders need to be firing.

Bring on the Cavs. And a chance to keep what has been earned.

85 comments Add your comment

jhan

March 1st, 2009
2:04 pm

Nice article Ray. You are absolutely correct – this team must hustle & scrap every minute of every game. They’re not good enough to turn it on whenever they feel the need.

Let’s kick some Cavalier butt this evening. I’ll be just as happy with a single point victory in reality.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 1st, 2009
2:34 pm

Great post… I had completely forgotten that Lorenzen Wright plays for the Cavs.

doc

March 1st, 2009
7:41 pm

good stuff ray.

i am a bit disappointed that we have had a couple of breakout games by horford but no follow up. dont know if it is because he isnt given the ball often enough or just what we see is what we get, hustle and close to double double avgs with an occasional eruption. would like to see him more involved in the offense.

how about shaq today?

for what it is worth KJ will not be coming here as coach as he stated quite loudly that horford is a power forward.

gave up my tix to get some rest as i am fighting a cold. shame i cant be there to see rens in his suit next to his teammates looking sharp in his diamond chandelier earrings. i would have sent him a box of manny t’s favorite popcorn to munch on during the game. maybe he will be on kiss cam as well.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
8:25 pm

Doc,

Shaq did his thing and the Lakers had to lose sometime.

Horford does whatever the team needs him to do, as best as he can. Look at the number of shots he normally gets (the least of anybody in the starting lineup, usually). He’s not involved enough. Meanwhile he toils down low, undersized and unthanked, with no real beef to help him out.

Marvin suffers from the same thing: lackofballitis. Give him the ball and he scores.

Meanwhile, great plays by Josh Smith on both ends of the floor. He came to play tonight. I can see that.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
8:30 pm

**Interesting comments by the ESPN commentators.**

After watching an insane block, a sick follow-up dunk, a turnover, then a great assist to Bibby for the 3-point play, the commentators talk about how **Josh Smith has been in the league for 5 years, but has never had a veteran playing in front of him to teach or show him anything (or come in while he gets set down on the bench to learn and cool his heels).**

They also said that for this team to take it to the next level, Josh has to play at a higher level than he is now….

KevinA

March 1st, 2009
9:06 pm

You keep thinking the Hawks are poised to make a run and then it never quite happons. If the Cavs get the run first you wonder if the Hawks can come back. This is a dangerous time in the game.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
9:31 pm

We have to dig deeper for this one. Clamp down harder on defense, go for all loose balls, don’t worry about the bogus foul calls that the refs give Lebron.

And we need better contributions from everybody. Josh is playing like he’s on a mission. Horford is uncomfortable against the 7′3 Ilgauskas, but he’s quicker and can score from the perimeter.

JJ is showing me nothing, and Bibby isn’t himself yet (maybe next game or so). Marvin has all but disappeared. But as usual, he defers…

I seem to remember a young, energetic pg who the Cavs couldn’t stop last time. I wonder if he’ll get to play any tonight, what with Bibby not being himself by a long stretch…

KevinA

March 1st, 2009
10:03 pm

We got the run we needed. Our defense has picked it up. If we could make free throws I’d feel better.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
10:04 pm

Wow! The guys have won back their crowd (shame on y’all for cheering more for Lebron and his crew) and made this back into a competition.

Kudos to Zaza Pachulia for hustling like crazy on both ends of the floor.

Kudos to Josh Smith for making the right plays out of the post (y’all don’t see this on the stat sheet, but you watch the game so give it up).

Somebody sign Flip to an extension NOW…

KevinA

March 1st, 2009
10:10 pm

ZaZa the man tonight.

KevinA

March 1st, 2009
10:11 pm

Dito
Dito
Dito
Dito …..on your four points.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
10:15 pm

KevinA,

Zaza is definitely the man tonight. He’s been fighting on defense, and on the glass on both ends. We need to make some more stops then score a few inside buckets. We have this in hand, but you know how we can be at the end of games….

Somebody pass me another towel, I’ve chewed through this one too early.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
10:16 pm

Given the way these guys are shooting free throws, you could say Fire Mark Price. But since the trend around here is to give a guy 5 years of not winning, then Mark has 4 more left.

Who knows, maybe the team free throw percentage will go up a few percentage points every year, and then we can say “See, they’re making progress because of him!”

KevinA

March 1st, 2009
10:21 pm

If we pull this out. ZaZagets the game ball. JJ looking like his o’l self. Playing with more energy tonight.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
10:29 pm

I’m about sick of Flopzilla. That call was bullsh!t.

Now where is Josh?

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
10:30 pm

Looks like it’s just me and you, Kevin. Want a beer? :)

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
10:41 pm

Man, this is tight. Giving up the 2nd chance points is a killer for us once again.

Why Josh Smith has been on the bench is a mystery to me. I guess Woody wanted to go with more height. That being said, Zaza has done a man’s job down in the post. But Josh would be a big help, too…

KevinA

March 1st, 2009
10:49 pm

We had three tries to seal the deal and missed all three. Over all great game though. If we can play like this the rest of the season we will get our share of wins.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
10:53 pm

**WTF**!!! Why would you go ISO Joe when the entire opposing team knows EXACTLY what you’re going to do??!!! Then used up all the clock and gave them the last 24 seconds to score??!!!

And you KNOW that Lebron was going to drive and draw the foul, even if it wasn’t a foul!

Stupid play call by Woody. Bad execution by Joe (the entire Cleveland team converged on him). Lost game.

Great up until that point. I’m out. Hopefully, so is Woody at the end of the season.

Great effort by these guys, particularly in the second half. Need to take our revenge on the Wiz…

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
10:54 pm

KevinA, playing like that for most of the game would give us 45 wins, no problem.

niremetal

March 1st, 2009
11:00 pm

Bad clock management at the end of the game. Free throws killed us. Good luck for JJ, and he’s hit similar shots before (remember the buzzer beater against the Wolves last year?). Tough way to end it.

Marvin played phenomenal D on LeBron. Seriously.

niremetal

March 1st, 2009
11:03 pm

Clearly, I meant *bad* luck. Heh.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2009
11:07 pm

I don’t really blame JJ for those last two attempts. I think the play call was awful. The last shot…it goes in some games, and not in others. At least we got to see some of the old JJ.

Marvin played well for sure. Hit a big 3 near the end.

I’ll take Doris Burke over ‘Nique on the headphones…

niremetal

March 2nd, 2009
12:12 am

I don’t know…I love JJ like a brother, but he knows how much time is on the clock. Unless Woodson specifically *asked* him to run the clock all the way down (and I can’t imagine Woody is that dumb), it’s up to JJ to take that shot earlier. Even an extra 3 seconds makes a HUGE difference in terms of what you can do (a pass, a few dribbles to get in rhythm, etc).

It was a dual failure – bad play call by Woodson, and poor decision by JJ in not making the best of said bad play call.

niremetal

March 2nd, 2009
12:17 am

This got bounced from Sekou’s blog, so I’m trying it here

At least we only have 1-2 morons going around yelling “JOE CHOKED!!!” First off, even the greatest ones missed more gamewinners than they made – they just don’t show the misses on the evening news. MJ missed a potential game-winning 3 against the Jazz in the ‘98 Finals. The next game, Stockton’s potential game-winner went around the rim and out. Does anyone ever talk about those? Nope. What they remember is the shot that MJ hit (albeit after shoving Bryon Russell) to seal Game 6, not the one Stockton missed just seconds later or the one Jordan missed 48 hours before.

JJ is not MJ, but he hit a [buzzer-beater against Minnesota](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVQOO7L03T4) last year in almost the exact same situation as we faced tonight – but tonight JJ didn’t have the extra half-second that was needed to make sure he had his balance. And before you dismiss that MIN game as irrelevant, that win sparked an 8-2 run for the Hawks that kept our heads just enough above water to justify trading for Bibby – honest to god, we would not have made the playoffs that year if we had lost at home against Minnesota at that point in the season.

And in any case, we all remember [Joe going Nova](http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2008/04/29/joe-johnson-goes-nova/) against the Celtics in Game 4. He knows how to bring it when it counts.

In fact, I’d love it if Sekou or someone could track down JJ’s scoring by quarter this season. It always seems like his points come mostly in the 2nd half, and especially in the 4th quarter. Heh…maybe he just paces himself early because he knows Woody won’t rest him. In any case, I’ll take that kind of look for JJ every time.

Mike B.

March 2nd, 2009
9:55 am

Tough loss. First off, BOOOOOOO to the fans in the arena. It was like being in a library for the first three quarters. You could actually hear Lebron thinking. Second, clock management was key (better yet clock mismanagement). The second to last posession, we should have gotten up a shot with around 32 on the clock so we could potentially have plenty of time on the last posession. Why did we stop having Flip post Mo Williams? They had no answer for him. Where was Josh in the late stages of the game? Marvin and the rest of the Hawks played great D in the second half. Once again, a free throw here or there makes the difference. Lastly, I’m tired of Lebron getting phantom calls. There were at least 3 foul calls where if his name was not Lebron, he would not have gotten those calls.

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
5:39 pm

Mike B,

Some things won’t change. Lebron will get the calls. Some things are perplexing. Perhaps Woody thought Josh was too volatile after the “foul” incidents with Lebron, and that Zaza would provide better defense and rebounding (one I can believe, the other…NOT!). And some things SHOULD change….but may not. Our clock management is awful. Either a jumper gets shot early in the shot clock, or we hold it until the end for a shot that will be very heavily contested. Aggravating, is it not?

Niremetal,

Agreed. I’ll take that last second shot attempt from JJ (even with the large Lebron running at him). What I’m tired of is the play JJ ran prior to that.

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
7:21 pm

Okay, I expect a RICHBRAVE sighting tonight (unless he’s at the game, that is).

Hawks need to relentlessly go inside against the Wiz. I don’t necessarily mean just pass the ball into the post, either. I mean, go to the hole every chance you get. These guys are soft in the middle.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
7:29 pm

Josh off to a fast start. Front court playing with energy. Lets hope last nights hustle will carry through the whole game. Thats the change were looking for.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
7:34 pm

You would think we would go a little deeper in the bench tonight. We need to stay fresh. Good night for Solo and Acie to get some PT.

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
7:37 pm

How many of you were leaning towards Horford being an offensive liability? He looks good, full of confidence. Told ya he had a jumper…

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
7:47 pm

When JJ, Flip and Bibby feed Marvin, Josh and Al on a more consistant basis I think the Hawks can finally go to another level we have been waiting for for so long. Bibby and JJ will get better looks off of passes instead of just jacking up jumpers.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
7:53 pm

I will admit they are very good at jacking up jumpers but it’s like a false positive. The only problem with going low first and attacking the bucket is our continued poor free throw shooting. This may be the biggest chink in our armour come play off time. Cost us 3-4 games already.

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
8:12 pm

Right you are, Kevin.

But Woody’s alibi will be that no young bench guys get PT because our starters failed to get a good lead…

Speaking of which…Woody more or less admits that he managed the game badly at the end. Two things: it’s year 5. Have we not learned anything (after all, isn’t that what people say about Josh?). And, how much you want to bet Woody runs the same failed plays AGAIN?

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
8:14 pm

We’ve let them back into this when we should be up by double digits. These guys really have nothing to lose, and will run us off the court if we let them.

Time to turn it on, I tell ya!

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
8:36 pm

Thank goodness Joe knows how to play pg for us once again…dude’s got like 10 assists..

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
8:41 pm

You know, when Arenas comes back, he is going to take away SO MUCH from this team. Their chemistry, the chances these young guys have to hone their offensive skills and score…all of that. What a supreme waste of money…

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
8:42 pm

Kevin, exactly.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
8:47 pm

Nice finish to this quarter. If you look at the box score, Marvin,Josh and Al have about the same number of shot attempts as JJ and Bibby. A much better balance that I have longed for.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
8:58 pm

Good time for a Solo sighting. Game ball goes to Marvin with another good game by Al. While I would not say it was pretty it ended up a comfortable win.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
9:23 pm

JJ handled the double team much better than normal. He hit the open man and Marvin Cashed in. Barring injury and the play of Flip do you see running an 8 man rotation for the rest of the year and thats just that? Woody dosen’t seem to want to do it any other way.

Big Ray

March 2nd, 2009
9:31 pm

Good win. Great games by Marvin and JJ, as well as Al Horford. It was so nice to see the Hawks getting it done without a big offensive game from Joe. We’ve come a good way with that. Kudos to Woody and the guys for recognizing that Marvin was on. I think we can expect more out of him like that. He has the skills, and has finally turned that corner people talked about for a couple of years.

The next step is going to him more, opening up the game for JJ, and Bibby when he gets his legs back. It’s also on Marvin to prove that he can be consistent. Big decisions this summer, considering what Marvin shows he can now do.

Josh looked a little energized, but I want to see more production out of him on the boards. Still, it can’t be easy fighting the longer Blatche and McGhee for boards.

I do not see what the point was in playing Mike Bibby for 36 and a half minutes. The guy clearly is not himself, and he could use the rest. I’d rather see Flip play 25 or 30 minutes again than see Mike over-extended, particularly after the lack of rest they had to have after their flight… After all, I know those are the only two guards on the roster….

Look, we can hammer Al Horford all we want for not having a plethora of solid back-to the basket moves, but the fact is he was getting all of his points last year off of putbacks and dunks. The man has shown he can hit a jumper and some other shots if he just gets the ball. He’s turning into a legit scoring threat. I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to have a complete offensive game (yes, I know, not even one drop dead, super reliable back to the basket move) when that was clearly not part of the offensive game plan from the get go.

Al has been having good games recently because people have been getting him the ball, and he’s grown in confidence. I expect to see a couple of solid post moves from him next season, not this one. We’ve spent way too much time, and way too many games ignoring him and running through mostly the backcourt to expect that much from him. There has been no low post scoring presence because that was never a focal point of the offense.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
9:50 pm

Ray I agree 100%. JJ having 13 assists keyed Marvins big night. If we can get Marvin the ball and feature him a little more it will be tough to double JJ. I has to come from JJ first and the willingness to Look for Marvin more and earlier. Tonights game is a good recipie for preparing for the play offs. Bibby could look to feed the ball to the front court a little more to. Gerat win.

Lets hope the Cavs beat Miami. 76ers lost. Tomorrow Detroit plays Denver. Be nice to get a little seperation.

I would say trading Solo, draft pick and the rights to Childress for McGee sounds interesting but Woody would just leave him on the bench.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
9:57 pm

I think we need to keep ZaZa though. Bigger body for the bigger centers. I prefer not to trash any of our talent, I prefer to improve our system. Which by the way was great tonight other than a few more minutes for our bench.

Looking ahead I would like your input on the idea of Flip being our back up PG and after the season is over looking for a younger replacement for Bibby. Or would Bibby be willing to sign for a one year contract while we look for another PG or develope Acie. I think a big 4 year contract for 14 mil is to big of a commitment. Just thinking.

KevinA

March 2nd, 2009
10:01 pm

Yes Yes Yes – Clev wins

niremetal

March 2nd, 2009
11:04 pm

I was live at the game. GREAT effort, especially by the frontcourt. This is what we can do if we get our frontcourt more involved – it opens up the whole floor for us. Sure, the Wiz are a bad team, but this was a blueprint for how we can compete with much better teams.

Mike B.

March 3rd, 2009
2:33 pm

I wonder if the Hawks staff have reviewed the 4th quarter of the Cleveland – Miami game? Not a bad strategy to send a big wing at D-Wade to get the ball out of his hands and make everyone else beat you. Just thoughts with a possible postseason matchup looming. We have a strong schedule coming up over the rest of the season, but nothing we can’t handle. This should prepare us for the postseason.

Big Ray

March 3rd, 2009
7:51 pm

Kevin,

I don’t see Flip as our back-up pg, even if Woody insists on using him as such. Flip is a gunner who should be allowed to do just that: gun away. His midrange game is nice, and he can post some guys up, while also hitting the open 3 on occasion. That, and he’s good for driving to the hole.

I don’t know what it would cost to keep Bibby, and am not convinced that keeping him is the best option. Of course, I also don’t know what options exist, either. I wouldn’t mind us going a cheaper route (Bibby is looking for one more good-sized contract). Of course, if we’re going to spend the money anyway, I’d rather go younger (Bibby cannot keep up this year’s pace for the next 3 or 4 years, I don’t care what anybody says…he’s playing in a contract year right now). It might be an idea to either get another young pg with some experience (Sergio Rodriguez or somebody like that) and let him and Law duke it out…or get another veteran like Earl Watson and see if Acie can win the job in training camp/preseason.

Either way, keep and extend Flip with the idea of having him be the backup 2, only playing backup pg in a pinch. He’s really both a gunner and an insurance policy. I’d rather take my chances with him as that safety plug behind two younger pgs who will fight it out to determine who the starter is going forward.

I, too want to hear other ideas on this as well, though. Mine are just that…two cents worth…

Big Ray

March 3rd, 2009
10:10 pm

Ah hell.

I just read Sekou’s article on Marvin Williams.

Somebody hide it from Ando and Rod….

MannyT

March 3rd, 2009
11:18 pm

Ray,

He must have picked that title just to poke at some folks you know.

I’ll tell you what I tell the guys in my row at Philips. Same thing about Marvin & Zaza…you will miss them once they are gone.

Zaza’s gone this summer and then the only big body left is RandMo, who I believe is getting his documentation in order for the witness protection program.

Marvin will probably be here on that $7 mil one year tender offer. After that I expect him to leave for some of that left over cap money everyone is saving for Lebron.

As for Flip at PG—it works in my world. That is because your true position nowdays is based on where you play defense, not offense. When you have the ball, you can put your center at the 3 pt line if it works (Wallace, Okur, Bargnani). However, these guys play the 5 because they defend centers.

As much as JJ dribbles, he is the backup PG. I know the BK haters do not want to admit it, but it’s the truth. Look at the assist numbers. When Bibby is out, we play 2 combo guards.

AC is on Woody’s wrong side. Claxton is buried under Woody’s wrong side. Mario might be the emergency PG. If he would work on that shot he might become the backup PG.

I don’t have a problem putting a multi year deal on the table for Flip, but recognize that we probably need to move AC if Murray and Bibby are here next season.

BWAF