Fighting Fire With Fire

So here we are, all evened up at 1-1. Not precisely where the Hawks wanted to be, going into Miami, but that’s the way it stands now.

Miami, and largely the rest of Florida, is known more for a football passion than basketball, the lone exception being the success of Billy Donovan’s program. But rest assured. The crowds in Miami’s arena will not be thin, the will not be quiet, and they will not be visitor-friendly. And it should not be a shock, with the Hawks having faced rowdy crowds in Boston, in last year’s playoffs. Still, the task ahead will be no cake walk. You never want to face a superstar on his own turf, for one thing. For another, even the lowliest of role players can shine in a home game. And all of them will feed off of the energy of a rowdy home crowd.

Winning on the road is not easy. Winning on the road in the playoffs is less so. Yet the Miami Heat have already come to Phillips and proven that they can do it. Now the Hawks must do the same. That’s right: MUST. Having given up homecourt advantage by losing in game 2, the Hawks have put themselves in a “must win on the road” situation. The good news is that mathematically, they only have to win ONE road game in this series, assuming that they can come back home and win both games at home. But that would assume that the series will go 7 games, something the Hawks would be better off not letting happen (with Cleveland waiting in the wings, most likely well-rested). So, winning TWO games on the road is better.

How to do it? First, there’s Dwyane Wade himself.  Forget about stopping Wade entirely. It’s not going to happen. But the worst thing the Hawks could do is let him get into a rhythm early on, as they did in game 2. The gameplan to keep him out of the paint worked great. But Wade did not lead the league in scoring by being one-dimensional on offense. Allowing him to hit jumpers early will get him into a rhythm that will make him nearly impossible to guard. If he’s a threat from the perimeter, players will try to close out on him, allowing him to use his often superior speed to get around them. This inevitably draws another defender (assuming they can rotate on time). Now you’re almost certainly looking at one of several situations: a Wade score, a foul, a Wade score with a foul, or the ball passed to a wide-open Heat teammate for an easy scoring opportunity. That’s the approach on Wade. Make him work hard for any scoring opportunities early on, and DO NOT let him get his teammates involved early. Allowing the latter to happen only builds confidence in guys that are not normally good enough to beat you.

…Which leads right into the assessment of the aforementioned teammates, or at least the ones most likely to cause the Hawks trouble. Jermaine O’Neal may be a shadow of his former self, but he’s no slouch when he wants to play. 19 points and 6 rebounds are not eye-popping numbers, but they are adequate if his teammates are producing somewhat decently as well. Next is Michael Beasley. He doesn’t have the typical drive of a young, hungry star in waiting, but there is no mistaking his talent. The kid can shoot from anywhere on the floor, and can create for himself while he’s at it. Let him get going, and you have a guy who is a matchup nightmare, especially with the underappreciated Marvin Williams spending more time on the bench, than on the floor. Fortunately, neither Beasley’s heart, nor his head seem to be in the game for long stretches of time. That may change on the home floor. Then there’s Daquean Cook. You need only know two things about him. One, he has the green light to shoot whenever. Two, this guy handily won the 3-point shooting contest during the all-star break. Not impressed, you say? Neither were the Hawks, until game 2 showed what a streaky, but talented long distance shooter can do when given the opportunity. Expect to see him get more looks as the series wears on.

The rest of the Heat team pretty much consists of guys who can be solid, which is all that is necessary for them to win, assuming the others mentioned above are producing as described. Most notable are Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Jamario Moon, and Jamal Magloire. Chalmers need only handle the ball turnover-free, hit open shots, and not let the opposing guard get by him. Haslem will provide good rebounding and the occasional layup/dunk, and 15-foot jumper on his way to a double-double (or near it). Moon will not score much, but he can defend. Magloire’s job is the simplest: take up space, grab a few boards, and lay some hard fouls.

Now. What do the Hawks need to do on offense? Well, I’m sure several theories abound here, but let’s keep it simple. Set screens. I know what you’re thinking: “Is that ALL?” Yes. Why? Well, there are things we already know. One, the Heat don’t have anybody who can handle Josh Smith. He is going to be able to score when he wants to, more often than not. But that does not mean he has to do the bulk of the scoring. Al Horford can share this load as well, and the two of them produce a good number of assists passing out of the paint. Again, we know this. And Marvin Williams has proven to be hot as anybody could hope for when he’s on the floor. Unfortunately, concerns about his health have limited his minutes, cutting into the number of offensive options the Hawks have.

And so the Hawks have to fight fire WITH fire. That’s right, SET SCREENS. The Heat have been able to spring Wade and other scorers for better looks at the basket by doing just that. And this is what the Hawks need to do as well. Designated scorers/shooters Joe Johnson and Flip Murray have not been able to contribute as well as usual, and the best way to get them going is to simply set screens for them. Do it early, do it often, do it until the defense HAS to adjust to it, which will then open up the paint again. No better way to get your scorers going than to give them open looks.

So. What do you think the Hawks need to do to win in Miami? Is setting screens enough of an adjustment on offense? Will we finally see Joe Johnson play like the star he is? Should Marvin be cut loose, or is his health a legitimate enough concern to keep him on the bench? Will Woody and the Hawks make the correct adjustments during the game? How many games will the Hawks win in Miami?

Fire away…..

26 comments Add your comment

Wabe

April 25th, 2009
7:05 pm

Typical start for blowout.

Woody decides to start Evans over Williams – defense for offense clearly – and the Hawks again looked stifled in their halfcourt sets.

Too much one on one basketball. 3 mins left in the first and the Hawks have 6 points…

Hot Hot Heat

April 25th, 2009
7:23 pm

In Flip We Trust!!!

HB Ando

April 25th, 2009
8:02 pm

Wow, my baby girl, Keira, is finally down for the night (thanks, Erin). Have the Heat already put the Hawks to bed, at halftime??!!

The numbers are not pretty: down 50-29, Wade has 19 points, 4 boards, 2 dimes, 2 blocks, 2 3’s and a steal. Meanwhile, the Hawks version of Wade, JJ, has 8 points on 4-13 from the field.

Bibby is a minus-25, in the FIRST HALF! Josh Smith is 0-6 from the floor, with ZERO’s across the stat line, minus one block.

The Hawks are shooting 31%, and are down 6 rebounds to the Heat.

J. O’Neal has 10-5-2, which extrapolates to 20-10-4 blocks for a full game.

Barkley is currently dismissing the general quality of NBA basketball, apparently at the expense of the Hawks poor first-half. Now they’re pointing out just how bad the Hawks half-court offense really is.

This is not pretty, and it’s exactly what I feared when I had the audacity to predict a Heat first-round upset

My wife has one “go to” quote when it comes to a sporting event that she’s, as always, disinterested by: “There’s a lot of time left in this game (now, typically she pulls this out when we’re watching a Georgia Bulldogs football game, who she actually roots for, as an alum)”.

Everyone knows that a 21-point deficit is manageable, when there’s still 24 minutes left to play. But the fact that the Hawks have only 29 points, look completely lost, lack Marvin Williams, and were soundly beaten, at home, by this same Heat team in Game 2, does not embolden confidence at this moment.

The things the Hawks need to do, that they have failed to do over the last six quarters, seem a bit out of their grasp right now.

That being said, and not unlike the Heat’s Game 1 road loss, it’s not how you lose, but if the Hawks can take back home court advantage while down in Miami.

If they mail the second half in, like the Heat did in Game 1, and still come back and win Game 4, the net result will be home court advantage in a best-of-3 series.

Got to be pragmatic here, but serious concern is well founded, and certainly no longer the province of historic pessimism.

HB Ando

April 25th, 2009
8:20 pm

Got the ball and a 17-point deficit with just under 4 in the 3rd. Do it now….

HB Ando

April 25th, 2009
8:20 pm

Evans from downtown! Bang!!!

Melvin

April 25th, 2009
8:53 pm

Please tell me what adjustments did Woodson make for Game 3?

young amadeus

April 25th, 2009
9:17 pm

did you write this for your high school English class? The sentence structure needs some work, you don’t need to spell out every single detail either.

Big Ray

April 25th, 2009
9:28 pm

Young Amadeus,

This is a fan blog for Hawks basketball. The blog for Future English Teachers of America is elsewhere. But before you go there, you may want to read up on proper comma placement. After that, you should remember to capitalize the first letter of the first word, in your first sentence. Good luck, youngster! ;)

Big Ray

April 25th, 2009
9:43 pm

Well, it appears that the Hawks did everything they shouldn’t do, and the Heat did exactly what I was worried they’d do.

Jermaine O’Neal suddenly doesn’t look as washed-up as some of our smug bloggers suggested he would. Hmmmm, shall we continue to think along the lines of “oh, guys like him won’t be able to step up every game?” Haslem did precisely what I said he would: double-double.

Our starting backcourt shot a smokin’ 10-30 from the field, and nobody scored more than 13 points. Everybody who played significant minutes shot badly from the field with the exception of Horford and Evans, who really didn’t take all that many shots comparatively.

Who was it again that was telling me our offense isn’t a problem? Right.

Of course, our defense was awful, and we didn’t rebound worth a crap. In fact, we sucked at EVERYTHING except free throw shooting.

No adjustments were made, whatsoever, and our guys could not get it going anywhere on the court, while listening to a Miami crowd that would not let up. Wade got his teammates involved quickly.

The Heat got it all done with their front five. Now we’re down 2-1, with two more games to go in Miami.

Carlos

April 25th, 2009
10:30 pm

Atlanta need a real star

stendec

April 26th, 2009
1:07 am

Another totally gutless mail-in job from a completely heartless bunch of quitters. Same old uncaring Hawks! Now and forevermore. This from a watcher since the first tip of inaugrial game. So damn sick of it all!

calico

April 26th, 2009
3:24 am

Total Bullsh*t from the Hawks 2day but we have 2 win the next game or we will be going home early and if we dont get out the 1st round Mr. Sund you have to give woody his walking papers and hire Avery Johnson and any player that doesnt like that you ship them out as well.

Lets Go Hawks

Native Son

April 26th, 2009
5:37 am

Young Amadeus! That was a “GAUNTLET SMACK”. From Ray. Good Stuff.

Melvin

April 26th, 2009
1:01 pm

Couldn’t help but noticed that Sekou didn’t write the article on Joe struggles better yet how Joe didn’t have any post game quotes in Sekou’s recap article. At least DWade went on record after game 1 to admit his poor play and vow to play better in the next game. And the Heat (rookie) Coach also said that he would make adjustments and they did. Now only if the Hawks best player and coach could show some intestinal fortitude to do the same…

Melvin

April 26th, 2009
1:13 pm

“The bottom line,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said, “is they’re outworking us.”

What about “They are out coaching us” as well…

MannyT

April 26th, 2009
3:42 pm

I hope…

…Sund is paying more attention this season now that he is the GM for the Hawks.

…Woody and the coaching staff have another trick or two up their sleeves.

…Marvin’s sprain is very minor and he can play again in this series.

…there is some offense to be found for game 4.

…the grammar police do not get school credit for diagramming sentences on blogs ;-)

…our best option is not a secret trip by some Heat staffer to Mexico about a week or two ago to party with the swine flu.

That game was plain ugly.

Michael Gearon, Jr.

April 26th, 2009
4:44 pm

My butt hurts…

Wabe

April 26th, 2009
5:55 pm

The Hawks don’t have the personel to play halfcourt basketball.

This holds especially true if Joe and Bibby aren’t on point.

I wasn’t expecting much from the Hawks in game 3, and I honestly don’t expect them to get back into this series. But, IF THEY HAVE ANY CHANCE, THEY MUST WIN GAME 4.

Let Wade get his. He’s going to anyways. Step up and shut down his supporting cast. Let Wade go off for 40+ – but you can’t have Wade putting 40 and then have O’Neal and those 3 point threats complimenting him.

Either shut WADE DOWN and let the others beat you – or shut the others down and let wade get his.

Pick your poison.

Wabe

April 26th, 2009
6:00 pm

And Woody – PLEASE MAKE SOME ADJUSTMENTS!

JSMOOVE + HORFORD must beat out HASLEM + O’NEAL on the INSIDE!

Must play inside out. Get into the paint! And JSMOOVE – PLEASE SHOW US YOU CAN DO SOMETHING OTHER THAN DUNK! PLAY WITH SOME SELF CONTROL – and GET INTO THE PAINT FOR EASY BUCKETS! WE ALL KNOW YOU DONT HAVE THE RANGE TO BE STEPPING OUT AND TAKING 3 POINT SHOTS – even if they’re wide open – YOU RARELY KNOCK EM DOWN!

PLAY WITHIN YOURSELF!

Melvin

April 26th, 2009
10:03 pm

“I’ve seen every defense, I believe,” Wade said. “I can be prepared for everything…

Can our best player show that type of confidence in himself. If he does, maybe that would rub off on the rest of his teammates…

Big Ray

April 26th, 2009
10:53 pm

Good question, Melvin.

And as bad as he has played, I’m not inclined to blame it all on him anymore than I’d blame everything on Woody.

But the fact remains: Joe is not showing himself to be the kind of star who rises above adversity. Does that say more about Joe the player, or the problems/adversity he must fight through? Stay tuned. Game 4 isn’t far away.

Melvin

April 27th, 2009
11:27 am

Astro, I didn’t know you was this much of a Josh basher. Why is he the only player you are calling out? Did you not see his game 1 performance where he carried the team? Now which game has Woody, Bibby or Joe carry us to victory? You keep referencing to Josh 0 pts and rebs in game 3 1st half (in which he played limited mins in the 2qtr b/c of fouls) but you fell to mention he finished the game with 13 pts and 8 rebs (although in a losing effort). As far as I see it, the whole team suck in game 2 and 3. Like Sekou said, where is the leader of this team? You reference Josh salary but wasn’t it Joe we paid 20 mil in season where we won 20 something games. Doesn’t Bibby and Joe (playing on max contracts) make more than Josh right now. Last I check, Josh is the one getting his season avg in pts and rebs for this series. Are we going to dismissed the stats? Can we at least have our two (highly paid) vets get there season avg. And I won’t even start on Woody. Just get him out of here…. Astro, I understand you are frustrated with the results so am I, but signaling out one guy for the team failures is not right. As much as you dislike him, he can’t do it by himself…

BrutusWilson

April 27th, 2009
11:28 am

Mike Bibby needs to assert himself more and play a good game at the point. The Hawks need to play with a SENSE OF URGENCY. The have the players to win big in the playoffs. It starts with Joe Johnsen, Mike Bibby, then Josh Smith, Flip Murray and ends with Zsa Zsa Pachula (the walking turnover). Pachula has been a turnover waiting to happen. It seems Zsa Zsa turns the ball over the second he touches it. Pachula should get a towel and wipe the butter off his hands. He is a complete butter fingers. However in spite of all that and with the absence of Marvin Williams, the Hawks can still get past the Heat, but first they must tie the series tonight. Then worry about closing out the Heat. The Heat will lose this series since they are simply a one-man band.

Wabe

April 27th, 2009
6:06 pm

BOYYY I HAVEEE A FEELING FOR TONITEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!

LETS GO HAWKS – WIN TONITE AND WE’RE BACK IN CONTROL!!!!!!!!

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
7:34 pm

Melvin,

At the risk of re-kindling an old argument with Joe (and not intending to), I have to say I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Wabe,

I sincerely hope your feeling about this game was as accurate as Astro Joe’s was prior to game 1.

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
8:33 pm

New blog up.