Testing, Testing…Two and Three

Well, the Atlanta Hawks finally made it. 42 victories guaranteed the first winning season this for this ballclub in quite some time. How sweet it is. The Hawks have passed test one, which was to prove that they are true winners, by having a winning season. Now it’s time for test two. And three….

How far can this team go? Will they reach the magical mark of 50 wins? In the minds of some, the mark of 50 wins is the difference between the good and the even-better. It’s the next level. The border between the good and the elite. Or maybe it’s 55 wins. Who’s counting? Either way, 50 wins is an accomplishment. For the Hawks to accomplish this, they must win 8 of the last 11. So, this is test two, right?  Wrong.

Test two is finishing out the season. Last year, the Hawks could have won more than 37 games. It is emminently debatable just how many they could have won, but suffice it to say that a .500 record was NOT out of the question. Would it have made a difference? Absolutely. Last year’s 7th seed was none other than the Philadelphia 76ers, who had 40 wins. Their playoff matchup? The Detroit Pistons. And the 6th seed turned out to be the Toronto Raptors, who drew the Orlando Magic as opponents. There is no denying that the Hawks matched up well with the Boston Celtics (at least at home), but a lesser team is a lesser team. Might the playoffs have been a little different for the Hawks had they been matched up with #2 or #3 seeds? Quite possibly, but we’ll never know, and there’s no sense in crying over spilled milk. So what is the point, you ask? Simple: the Hawks cannot let off the gas. They cannot cruise like they have nothing to lose. Because they do. It’s called momentum. It’s called a winner’s mentality. Slow down now, put it aside, and it will be hard to pick up for the playoffs. So test three must be getting those 50 wins, right? Wrong again. Test three is, however, linked to test two.

Test three is homecourt advantage. Much as we love them, we know the Hawks have trouble winning on the road. It’s been tough all year, and guess what? It gets harder in the playoffs. You think that crowd was loud back in January? You haven’t heard anything yet. But since last year’s trio of visits to Boston in the spring, the Hawks know about this. And they haven’t forgotten. There’s nothing like playing in your own backyard, with the home crowd cheering you on. It gives you energy. Every play good play brings a roar from the crowd, and the crowd hungers for more. That adds fuel to the fire. The fire of confidence and victory.  Retaining the 4th seed in the playoffs all but guarantees the Hawks a matchup with the Miami Heat, as long as the Heat are able to hang in at 5th. Let off the gas, and that seed slips to 5th, or maybe 6th. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather Dwayne Wade and his crew come visit Phillips a possible four times, rather than let him play four times in front of that South Beach crowd.

So there it sits. The next two steps are the last two legs of the race. Will the Hawks push on through and do what needs to be done to retain their position, and homecourt advantage? Or will they take a few games off and rest up for the playoffs? Which would you rather see? Oh and that 50-win thing? Don’t sweat that 50-win thing. It’s not a test. It’s a bonus.

42 comments Add your comment

Josh Maxwell

March 25th, 2009
4:00 am

Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.

doc

March 25th, 2009
7:44 am

excellent comments, ray.

the team has exceeded expectations of most and i congratulate them. now it is time to see how mature they are by continuing to surprise and rampage on. anything less will be a let down and undo some of what they have accomplished.

i had them at 42 wins with the upside of 44 wins. they should exceed both. are they that good? maybe, they are beginning to destroy the lessers, only like the twolves those teams are done after the first quarter and just showcasing and getting experience and wanting to earn as many lottery balls as possible. so it is deceptive. my expectations for our hawks was because of the my expectations for the whole of the east with more teams more competitive than ever. that was the expectation that came apart completely with the wiz drop off from the face of the earth and the sixers and raptors imploding for what ever reason and had early coaching changes from within which did not bring instant results. the only surprise has to be miami but with d wade he as shown with a limited supporting cast including an aging and limping shaq facsimile of his old self could win a nba championship on his own. it is no surprise there now that we know wade is healthy again.

so lets get on with the next steps not lose mo in the meantime and then sit back and conjure up all the possible next steps after the playoffs are over. many steps of import there, too.

Melvin

March 25th, 2009
10:29 am

Good post, Ray. I think we could ease off the gas a little once we secure the 4th spot. Don’t want to see Woody ride his many guys down the stretch possibly risking injuries and/or fatigue going into the playoffs. I prefer our team to be healthy once the playoffs begins. 50 wins would be nice but it could be a double edge sword for Woody. It would seal his ticket to be back at the helm next season but would he be able to improve upon 50 wins next season. If he dont, would that seal his fate for a new contract. I know I’m probably thinking 5 or 6 steps ahead but it’s worth pondering…

MannyT

March 25th, 2009
11:05 am

Nice topic Ray. It has taken a decade of Hawks effort to make this one viable. Hopefully, it won’t take another decade for a similar one to be relevant. :lol:

Last year, we finished like a baseball player making a 10 ft slide into a base that was 12 feet away. Five of those eleven remaining games are against teams with better records. Four of those tough 5 are at home. Let’s see if we can win at least 2 of those. That would be a good sign. As for the 6 easier games, four of those are on the road. Can we make a road stand against lesser teams (3 of 4)?

All that said, I’d give the Hawks a pass for test 2 if they can win most of the remaining 11 games. They have locked in at least a B for the season with me…ok B- if there was a total collapse in the last 11 games. If they get to 50, I’ll give them an A for the regular season and the finishing lap. If they win at least 7, I’d grade a B for the finish and an A- for the season.

However, test 3 and its implications are a little trickier. At this point, I’d expect them to get the 4th seed. Doing my own (Miami) Heat Check, I don’t see them making up the 3 games in the loss column unless we do very poorly. However, I’d manage my playoff opponent expectations, because the Sixers are hot on the heels of the Heat. The only saving grace might be one of the things that propelled us last season. They finish the season with Cleveland (twice), Toronto, and Boston. If they get some confidence against Boston & Cleveland, they could be a very tough out in the 1st round.

The Hawks schedule is a bit soft for the last 5 games and then there are a few days off before the start of the playoffs. All that to say, I doubt that Woody eases off the starters much unless there are routs.

I might even toss Woody a 3rd place vote for COY (after Adelman & Spolestra) :roll:

I guess it’s time for me to create my own Now You Know – WIN shirt in time for the playoffs.

BWAF

Astro Joe

March 25th, 2009
11:07 am

I think the goal needs to be to win the 1st round of the playoffs. I don’t care how many regular season wins we have. I’d love to us wrap up the 4th seed before the Heat game in April. If they look like our post-season opponent (as opposed to the hard-charging 76ers), then we would still need to play our starters like a regular game, but ideally, we would be in a position to rest Joe, Al, Josh, Bibby and crew for the last 2-3 games. Rest, as in only play them 28-30 minutes regardless of the game situation.

Andre

March 25th, 2009
12:30 pm

That was excellent Ray, you put everything out there that we have to do. The Hawks should use these three games(Spurs,Celtics,Lakers) they have coming up to get ready for the playoffs. This will be the best way to truly see how far our young team has come. To win all three games would be great, but I think 2 out of 3 should be the goal here. Either way the Hawks have come a long way and Atlanta can finally, finally say they have a basketball team

O'brien

March 25th, 2009
12:34 pm

Good post Ray. I think the Hawks will have the fourth seed wrapped up in time to rest some of our guys (especially Joe). But it also gives us a chance to give the bench (especially Solo, Acie if healthy, and Mario) more consistent PT, which will build their confidence going into the playoffs.

As far as finishing the regular season strong, last season we lost most of our remaining regular season games (we made the playoffs because Indianna kept losing), but we still took Boston to 7 games. I think it is more important for us to be healthy and rested.

jhan

March 25th, 2009
1:22 pm

Nice post Ray. The team has already matched my win projection for the season so I’m very excited about that.

50 wins would be incredible but I’ll be just as happy with a 4th place finish in the Eastern Conference.

I agree with AJ – 1st round victory is a great stepping stone for this team. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Big ray my azz!

March 25th, 2009
2:06 pm

Ray, you don’t know what you’re talking about. These guys have fought long and hard to get where they are. They will win a few more of the games they have remaining but don’t need to win them all. What they need to do is rest the starters. All this talk about the fourth seed and crap, as long as they win enough to not face the top two or three teams in the first round it will be fine. They can beat all the others. Your test 2 and 3 are the same thing, you numbskull! Test 3 should be making it to the second round of the playoffs! Who ever told you that you are a sports writer. Whoever it was they lied! You don’t know what you’re talking about.

Sautee

March 25th, 2009
2:22 pm

Ding!

Wow! Ray’s a sportswriter? That’s great Ray. Who knew?

I thought you were just one of the fan blog guys.

Good post there, bud.

Let’s see, test two was finishing the season strongly (unlike last year) and test three was securing home court advantage. Yeah, those are the same thing kinda like Coke and Pepto Bismol are the same thing.

KevinA

March 25th, 2009
3:50 pm

Lets assume we get 50 wins. That would mean we won 8/11 games and roll into the playoff chanting and singing with much flag waving.

5 wins is more doable against a very tough schedule. That would force Miami to win 9/12. Looking at their schedule this would be tough for them to do.

Even if we struggle, I believe winning 4 more games would do the job. The talk of 50 to me is very optimistic. I’ll settle for the fourth seed no matter what our record is. Kudos to the Hawks for giving themselves this cushion.

Pulling off 6/11 means we beat some good teams and sealed the deal on our terms. I don’t think the starters will get to much rest and maybe this is a good thing. We play well when were on a roll and seem to come out cold after long breaks.

Lets go out and win three , shock the world including me.

KevinA

March 25th, 2009
3:51 pm

Correction, lol, the first three

doc

March 25th, 2009
3:56 pm

sautee, okay, but maybe coke and pepsi; bet their marketing teams could point out the differences.

i say test two is maybe bagging two of the four games they have against the big boys of boston, san antoine, lakers and magic. if not that then maybe at least getting the home court advantage. maybe if he reversed it it would have been easier for some folks to follow. you would think a sportswriter would know better.

KevinA

March 25th, 2009
4:10 pm

I’d like to see a Mario start tonight. We all know Bibby will get torched by Parker. Unlike the last game, we need to defer to the front court and take it to them. While successful we went away from that last night much to my dismay. We also know how rare it is for the back court to score as good as they did last game. It’s kinda like trying to drill out our way to energy independence while having 3% of the resources. Unsustainable. Back to going low to deliver the blow please.

Tonight is the night we could have really used Marvin and Acie on defense. Is there an update on their condition? This last 11 games are going to be so much fun. And then it only gets better. Go Hawks!!

A-TownDown

March 25th, 2009
8:38 pm

Whats up there Hacks. I posted this on the other blog. Where is the other hack anyway, he could appreciate what I’m about to say. I don’t post all that much anymore these days but I figure yall could appreciate this one since the “Ray man” has been so hard up for Acie Law to play and has been hatin on bibby’s awful defense. Plus, the “Ando man” has talked up and down about trading bibby before the deadline which didn’t happen. Here is what I posted from what I read in an article. Nevermind the first part about paying bibby to stay its too much money for somebody who can’t play defense as good as the guys who almost don’t get to play and besides this guy doesnt shoot the way he used to so he doesnt score as good as we need. Forget penetration he might not even get enough of that in the bedroom. Woody woodpecker will get all kinds of good stuff said about him because the team is doing good this year but what about next year when he can’t use bibby to make him look better and Acie is the only guy who is a point guard. Better sign Flip and tell him to get ready to pass the ball cause woody woodpecker hates Acie for some reason.

“After watching this same team before Bibby and now with him, they better find a way to make it work,” a Western Conference player personnel friend told me. “I’m not sure it’s worth taking the risk to start over at such an important position. Plus, the market is going to be extremely tight this summer. Bibby’s greatest value was at the trade deadline, when a team could have used his expiring salary to facilitate other things. As a free agent, there’s going to be a limited number of teams interested in a guy that still shoots as well as Bibby does but is a defensive liability. They certainly won’t be able to find a replacement in free agency that’s already entrenched in that system and has that kind of chemistry with the rest of those guys that Bibby does. So why risk it?”

It’s a tough call either way. Had the Hawks groomed Law the way they needed to, they might have avoided this dilemma altogether. But they didn’t. And now they don’t have that luxury.

A-TownDown

March 25th, 2009
8:51 pm

I say there is no luxury because bibby cant play anyway. Who is guarding tony parker Its Al Horford. Who is guarding roger mason. Its Pachulia. That is just crazy. I thought this was a defense team and if it is then dont sign bibby back he cant even show up on that part of the game.

A-TownDown

March 25th, 2009
9:07 pm

joe johnson is making the game close as he can but the hawks are losing to the spurs with no tim duncan and bunch of scrubs. woody woodpecker cant coach he should at least use west on parker before he beats them all by himself.

A-TownDown

March 25th, 2009
9:30 pm

Okay my last post and it posted it on the other place too.

Fourty two points AND ten asissts you will never see that from a hawks point guard thanks to bibby and woody woodpecker. Too bad because joe johnson and flip murray played really good. Now where is that stupid rod guy who keeps saying that we dont need no marvin williams sure could have used him this time around, huh?

Big Ray

March 25th, 2009
10:07 pm

Dear “my azz”,

I’ve never talked to my butt before. How are things “sitting” with you? Is it true what they say about “hind”sight being 20-20? Well before we get carried away “cracking” jokes and name-calling “rears” its ugly head again, I guess I better tell ya the truth. I’m not a sports writer. Just a fan posting on a fan blog.

That was a winnable game. Too many guys just didn’t bring it tonight. Joe did. Flip did. Big Al did for the most part. Zaza did. Mario always does. Those who didn’t? Josh, Bibby, and Woody.

Mo Evans is on the fence. He had a dunk, and didn’t miss a shot. 8 points, 3 boards. That’s decent for a bench player.

Wow, Woody had ONE guy to worry about. ONE guy to adjust to. ONE. Just ONE. No Duncan, and barely any Ginobilli. Yet he still got outcoached.

Anybody miss Acie tonight while Parker was running amok? How about Marvin?

Not YOU, Rod. You and the Sam character can skip that question.

Big Ray

March 25th, 2009
10:10 pm

A town Down,

Just a bit of venom there eh? All of you “lurkers” seem to have a good bit pent up. Come on and post more often, man. It’s good. It’s blog therapy.

O'brien

March 26th, 2009
12:59 pm

I wonder if when Josh doesnt get any calls, if it goes to his head and throws him off his game.

Even if we get home court advantage, I would be worried if we have to face the Sixers. Andre Miller will post up Bibby, Dalembert will be tall in the middle, and we still have to worry about Thad Young and Iggy, and they can match our athleticism.

Sautee

March 26th, 2009
2:48 pm

Ray, LOL at talking to your azz!

Najeh Davenpoop

March 26th, 2009
3:33 pm

Getting to the 2nd round should be the Hawks’ goal, because anything less represents no progress from last year. In order to give themselves a good chance at getting to the 2nd round, they have to secure home court. More than even clinching the playoff spot itself, getting home court is the most important thing they can do in the regular season.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 26th, 2009
3:37 pm

The Sixers have two fatal flaws: they can’t stretch the floor from long range, and they don’t have anyone who can score consistently in the half court offense. That second weakness plays right into the Hawks’ hands — we all complain about how the Hawks don’t play up tempo, but having played slow all year the Hawks will have the advantage when the game slows down, which it always does in the playoffs.

jj

March 26th, 2009
3:59 pm

I think O’brien is correct.I think we will play Philly in first round and I believe because of their PG play and that matchup with that young man from GT will be a big problem without Marvin.If Woody stays with Bibby,they will kick our butts.They just beat the Lakers and Blazers on the road and that’s impressive.They have the athletes to play with us and a PG we have trouble with.Could be they are where we were last year,hungry to make a statement.I hope Woody has the answer.GO HAWKS

richbrave

March 26th, 2009
11:44 pm

42 and counting. WOW!!!! They’re in. Great.

richbrave

March 26th, 2009
11:55 pm

WIZARDS chant. “The ARENAS is here. The ARENAS is here. I’m somebody now.” Wow. Where’s STEVE MARTIN when you need him. It’s been SO-0-0 depressing being a LIZARDS fan. Be happy HAWKS fans. Its so bad I’m staying home and watching the BRAVES-NATS in D.C. instead of coming to meet you HAWKSTERS in ATLANTA. Just too embarressing to admit I root for LES BOULES face to face with you guys. Still like DRMARYB’s FAB FOUR though. Go HAWKS.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 27th, 2009
2:34 am

I can’t believe Arenas is actually coming back this season. I don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish, other than possibly reaggravating his knee injury. If I’m not mistaken he did the same thing last year — coming back at the end of the season after a long layoff — and that’s what led to him missing this season in the first place. He needs to shut it down, rest up, and come back at full strength next year, if he’s smart.

KevinA

March 27th, 2009
3:00 am

We need 4 wins at the most to get the 4th seed. Looking at the schedule it looks like that all the teams from the 4th seed on down will play at less than 50%. The Hawks pretty much have a lock.

Ray I disagree with you rarely but even though Josh shot poorly, he kept attacking. So did Al. As in football, you run a balanced offense. The reason we played so well in our run during the fourth quarter is the softening up process by banging bodies down low all night. While we may not win all games this way, I believe we will win the most this way.

Marvin is the one other guy besides Josh, Al and ZaZa that isn’t afraid of contact. We miss his driving the ball to the hoop and drawing fouls.

The most distressing trend over the last three games is were back to jacking jumpers without passing to the front court first or passing three four times to create some motion and rotation. I realize Josh and Al had a tough night but we quit going to them. When do JJ, Flip and Bibby quit shooting when they miss a few?

Whether we win or lose we need to prepare for playoff basketball. When we were kicking butt we were going down low on a consistent basis. As mentioned often we could use a few minutes from Solo and even a couple more for ZaZa in the first half and 3rd quarter. Woody just doesn’t believe in fresh legs for the end of the game.

When JJ , Flip, or Bibby take over the game for a long period of time our defense suffers. We all knew, but Woody, that Bibby he had no chance against Parker. So what was Evans doing on the bench? Or Mario, or anybody else? Why were we switching out so Parker could go one on one with centers? Look at my 25th 4:pm post. It’s not that hard to connect the dots.

Bibby is a great player in certain situations. Playing against awesome quick PG’S is not one of them.

At times we gripe about free throw percentages and one could look back and say we threw away a few games. I have a different theory, even at 60% it’s a higher shooting percentage than jacking jumpers. Let’s hope we go back to playing physical and attacking the basket. To our star back court, pass the ball.

dap01

March 27th, 2009
9:33 am

Any one:

Is there any combination of player moves that will net us Thibbett from UConn?

We need a steady PG to supplement AC. We need to resign Flip. We need veteran role players.

How does anyone suggest that Sund address our line for the future?

STRETCH

March 27th, 2009
9:50 am

Folks we are only waiting for the inevitable…an exit from the playoffs. The problem with sports fanatics is that every year we always have hope and high expectations for that championship, then reality hits and we start b*tching and the pointing of fingers follow.

This team gets beat by elite teams cause they 1) dont have a big man and 2) dont get enough rest and the fourth quarter showed that. Coach Woodson does not know how to utilize his bench. He will never get past the 2nd round they way he manages his bench!

I have a used car in my drive way, its 8 years old, but you know what? I dont just let it sit there and walk past it everyday, no, i drive it to the mall or to the store to get milk. And when things are going easy, i take it for a nice Sunday drive. You know…keep some life in it.

Now when its time to hit the freeway and i need to get someplace but keep up with the faster traffic, then i drive the vehicle thats capable of keeping up! The morale of that story? You cannot drive two vehicles at one time, but you can use them both when they are needed. Until Woody learns how to use that bench, 1st or 2nd round at OUT.

They are going to have to make some big decisions during the offseason which “should” not only be about the players but coaching was well. This team does NOT have what it takes, NOT. THIS. YEAR. Dont care how you all look at it…thats the reality of it people.

richbrave

March 27th, 2009
10:24 am

NAJEH DAVENPOOP:

I’m not sure “ARENAS and SMART” should be used in the same context. “OBSESSIVE and ARENAS,” now that’s a context that more aprpops to GILBERT. And the words being put out by blogmeister MICHAEL LEE that ARENAS generally calls the shots as to his rehab regimen, and what he does or doesn’t do on the court as well. In other words, there’s the “GILBERT” standard, and then there’s the standard for everyone else. Talk about the inmate running the asylem.

How do you think the HAWKS would be performing if JOSH SMITH had his own agenda and all other HAWKS were held to a higher standard? Such is the nature of the disaster of the 2008-2009 season that is the LIZARDS.

To allow this to occur, I must lay the blame at the feet of ownership. Simply put, its time for senility and infirmity to be gone in D.C. And you thought the ASG was bad. Whew.

richbrave

March 27th, 2009
10:40 am

I’ve been pounding the drum on the “WIZARDS INSIDER” for THABEET as we surely are in the lottery and will get at least the third pick in the upcoming draft. A small percentage of posters agree. The vast majority can only see BLAKE GRIFFIN. I say O.K. IF the WIZ are lucky and get first pick, take GRIFFIN, then trade ETAN THOMAS who nobody wants, ANDRAY BLATCHE and CARON BUTLER for the second pick. You free up cap room (THOMAS’ contract) minus the penalty for the move, the acquiring club gets a promising young PF BLATCHE whom you replace with BLAKE, and the acquiring club gets a prime age “TOUGH JUICE”, probably the only player on the WIZARDS anyone else really wants. He wants out of the GILBO circus anyway. Everybody’s happy. Of course fantasy basketball in fun too.

richbrave

March 27th, 2009
10:44 am

RAY and ANDO:

Guys, taken up enough space here with LIZARDS folderol. Thanks. Let’s see the HAWKS in the finals in JUNE O.K.?

Melvin

March 27th, 2009
11:47 am

DOC, i will see you tonite with the cash…….

Big Ray

March 27th, 2009
10:00 pm

We’re getting beaten by Glenn “Big Baby” Davis. Not Paul Pierce. Not Ray Allen. Not KG. Big Baby. Yep. With a 20 and 10 night, no less.

This is what happens when you take a guy who shouldn’t be much more than a bit player, and infuse confidence and steady playing time, effectively encouraging a strong work ethic.

Gee, I wonder what that would do for a guy like Solomon Jones?

Their bench is tearing us a new one. Again.

Big Ray

March 27th, 2009
10:27 pm

Looks like Milwaukee and New Jersey aren’t going to make the playoffs after all. Season isn’t over, but like I said before, the Bulls were making a move. Now they have tied with Detroit for the 8th seed and may yet take the 7th. Philly slid back one game tonight and will remain locked in a struggle with Miami for 5th. They won’t catch us unless they surge again and we continue to slide. Both are possible, like it or not.

Charlotte can be tough, and they just beat Philly tonight, but it’s an uphill climb.

Sautee

March 27th, 2009
11:04 pm

Another home loss that COULD have been won. Those are the most frustrating to me, as we are a young team that has not yet learned to win consistently on the road.

Ray, I think your Bulls might just make the 8 spot. I’m not sure about 7, because I don’t think Detroit is gonna stay down. Too many vets with post-season run.

Sautee

March 27th, 2009
11:06 pm

So are Melvin and doc doing some kind of drug deal? Melvin keeps sayin’ he’ll bring cash! ;-)

doc

March 28th, 2009
7:37 am

deal is done. maybe another deal on top of it but my side of it is over. no contraband for me.

sautee i said on the other blog the best move was my getting up and leaving after the third quarter. no regrets on that one. also the pretzel was as stale as the hawks looked in the falling to down by 17 going into the fourth.

glad to see no one sees the “rally” as a moral victory.

jhan

March 28th, 2009
11:10 am

Another day on the Hawks roller coaster. The team has definitely come a long way the last 5 years – still gotta ways to go.

Sorry to hear about your pretzel – I have similar thoughts about the “we don’t need Marvin” dialogue that’s been going on.

Sautee

March 28th, 2009
8:05 pm

Anybody watch UConn / Mizzou?

God, for a motion offense like Missouri.