That’s exactly what the Hawks are right now.
Their collective backs aren’t against the wall just yet, but they are certainly close enough to count the number of bricks or cinder blocks. It’s not panic time, but it is definitely “serious” time. The fight is on, and the Miami Heat are looking to deal the kind of blow that preceeds a knockout punch.
The Hawks have to show that they can go the distance, that they can’t be pushed up against the wall. And to do that, they have to be solid on both ends of the floor. The prevailing opinion is that the Hawks always begin winning with defense. There is a great deal of merit to this view point, and the simple fact is that the defense has been lacking in the last two games. Rotations are slow, efforts are subpart, assignments have been botched, and much of it leads back to miscommunication. Guys need to talk to each other, every single time they get back on defense. Every time the Heat run an offensive play, the Hawks have to figure out amongst themselves how they are NOT going to let that play, or any other, beat them. Perhaps every bit as much as communication, there must be a supreme effort from ALL of the players.
The defense starts at the perimeter, and there is no getting around that. Flip, Bibby, JJ, and Mo are all responsible for this area. But there’s more to it. These four guys are also the team’s veteran players, guys who should be sharing the role of leadership, rather than leaving such responsibility on the shoulders of one or two of them. The veterans must lead on defense, and the other will follow.
The easy, vanilla expression of “sharing the ball” carries with it the danger of oversimplification. Sure, the Hawks do have to share the ball to be truly effective, but they have to do more than that. Too many times, we have seen the offense bog down because players seem to think that movement requires having the ball, or being assured that they will get it every time they move. Every offensive play should involve at least one screen being set, if not two or three.
Being in the playoff is about intensity, but it’s also about adjustments. Mike Woodson is not known for dramatic changes to his lineup or his game plan. But there’s nothing wrong with throwing in a wrinkle or two, to either change the pace, or see if something new works. With Acie Law not being available, and the inestimable loss of Marvin Williams, the Hawks are already short on options. So whatever changes are made to the offense must be done with the usual suspects. However, there are a couple of ideas that might prove useful on defense. Mario West is well known for his aggressiveness (sometimes over-aggressive), but he also brings a knack for diving after loose balls and grabbing offensive rebounds. In addition, Solomon Jones can be feisty down low, and uses his long frame and leaping ability to fight for rebounds and contest shots. Both guys have seen very little time in this series, and may be just what the doctor ordered over short periods of time, and in certain situations.
The Hawks have to give themselves a fighting chance in this series. Nobody else will. They’re not up against the wall yet. But they’re close enough to smell the fresh paint.