Close To The Wall

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.

41 comments Add your comment

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
8:44 pm

Hey, where’s my doppleganger? At least then I wouldn’t be alone…

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
8:59 pm

There you go, Josh. Quit your b!tchin’ and block the shot.

Nice fast break, though the Heat were right there with us.

HB Ando

April 27th, 2009
9:00 pm

Ray’s right: no real margin for error at this stage. Great first quarter for the Hawks.

So, as I mentioned during Saturday’s loss, while the losses in Games 2 and 3 were ugly, there is no additional value for margin of victory. Again, a win tonight resets home court advantage and turns this deal into best-of-three series, with the Hawks regaining home court advantage.

At the end of the day (or at the end of these last three games), the Hawks are suffering from the same, maddening, inconsistency of overall performance that has dogged them all season, despite the decade-best win-loss and fourth-seed finish.

If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear this season, and during the last three games, it’s that you never know which Hawks squad is going to show up from night to night. There continues to be a broad range of opinions on why this is true. But given Woody’s well-founded reputation for a limited ability to make in-game, or, for that matter, short-term adjustments, aren’t those opinions somewhat unlikely to impact the outcome for the first-round?

It’s really on the players, their collective resolve and pride, to fight their way into the second-round slaughter that awaits the winner of this series. After that it will be on the organization and the front-office to determine what types of off-season changes will best address the opportunity to either build on the success of this past regular season, or regress (not unlike the Bulls of a few years ago).

There is no help on the way, on the court or off, over the coming days.

Actually a great time to see what both these players, and the coaching staff, are made of. As I wrap this post up, the Hawks are up 33-19. Nothing left to do but sit back and watch…..

Wabe

April 27th, 2009
9:06 pm

I TOLD YALLL I HAD A FEELING!!!!!! LETS GOOOO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
9:09 pm

Can’t say enough about Pachulia tonight.

He showed what you’re supposed to do after you get smacked and the ref doesn’t call it: get back down the court and make the defensive play. He gets the game ball already, in my opinion. Nobody is more fired up on both ends of the floor, and nobody is giving as much effort.

Wabe

April 27th, 2009
9:18 pm

Wrap that SH!T up…

way to whistle happy…

Wabe

April 27th, 2009
9:22 pm

How many times do you see a 4 point play in a season?

We just saw one in back to back plays..

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
9:57 pm

I see somebody has come out from under the BLEACHERS

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
10:00 pm

Great. Looks like ol’ “washed up” O’Neal isn’t so washed up anymore.

Nice turnover by Joe. Wonder who will blame Josh for it?

Wabe

April 27th, 2009
10:02 pm

What you’re seeing tonite is the NBA saying, “Hey, we want Wade vs Lebron in the next round…for ratings.”

These refs are WAYYYYYYYYYYY TOOOOOOOOOO WHISTLEEEEEE HAPPPYYYYYY TONITEEEEE!!!!!!!!

HB Ando

April 27th, 2009
10:03 pm

As I was wondering, out loud, would O’Neal decide this playoff stage was sufficient to set up his next contract? Starting to look that way………

Wabe

April 27th, 2009
10:08 pm

BIG RAY CALLED IT EARLY – -

ZAZA IS HUSTLING OUT THERE TODAY!

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
10:15 pm

Joe’s playing better. NICE pass from Josh.

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
10:16 pm

Wabe,

I’m not sure what we’d do without the European Hurricane tonight, bro’…

Harry Hawk

April 27th, 2009
10:41 pm

I didn’t know what to make of this team in November.

I still don’t.

Great defense effort. Great win. Nevertheless, Bob Rathbun can shove it up his ***. I’m tired of all that positive homer BS. He’s like a damn used car salesman.

“How ’bout it, Atlanta?”

How ’bout you shut the hell up, Rathbun.

Wabe

April 27th, 2009
10:45 pm

YezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzziRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Good stuff Hawks. 2-2 going into game 5 at home -

Advantage Hawks!

MannyT

April 27th, 2009
10:48 pm

Looks like we are on the good side of the bipolar baller roller coaster tonight…with large kudos to Zaza & Josh for doing the grunt work that we needed.

Now that this win locks in my Friday night plans…way to go Hawks.

Did y’all notice the coach cut in in the first half where Woody basically took Drew’s advice and went with it. I think that is a good thing.

It just goes to show, we can win if Joe is off. The Heat turn to ice if Wade has an off night.

BWAF

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
11:20 pm

Ugly as sin, but I’ll take that win.

What would we have done without Zaza?

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
11:24 pm

MannyT,

Excellent point. Woody can only succeed by listening to his assistants, especially when his plethora (ha ha ha) of ideas is three bricks shy of a four brick load. Oh no wait, I forget, it’s the players who not listening…

Either way, that’s what assistants are for. The “sideline assist.” Of course, I’m assuming that what they have to offer is worth something. Wouldn’t know, as we never hear from them.

Big Ray

April 27th, 2009
11:25 pm

Now all we need is a big turnout at Phillips Arena…. fans and PLAYERS alike…

HB Ando

April 28th, 2009
12:10 am

Midnight: Charles Barkley, “Atlanta tried like hell to give this game away tonight”.

Does anyone else have a sense that these games have been more decided by the poor play of the losers than great play by the winners?

For future consideration: Will this be the series nobody wanted to win? How exciting could it be to struggle your way through what now looks like a 7-game series, only to catch a ‘red eye’ to Cleveland and ‘getcha some of that Lebron stuff’???!!!!!

Credit to the home team for showing pride on the road, when public sentiment had rapidly tilted against their recent showing. And in fairness to many Hawks fans, it’s not so much that they turned out against their squad, at least on this blog, rather than they just got extremely quiet in the shadow of 2 straight losses.

But, as I said on Saturday, and again earlier tonight: style points and margin-of-victory have no value in the playoffs.

It’s 2-2, and the Hawks have home-court advantage, once again, in what is now simply a three-game series.

Tonight sure made Wednesday’s game a heck of a lot more interesting (for those who hold tickets, or simply can’t get enough of the NBA on TNT)……….

doc

April 28th, 2009
12:37 am

yeah it wont be last rights on wednesday.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 28th, 2009
12:37 am

Interesting to read this blog after tonight’s win. Serious question: I wonder which team feels like its back is more to the wall now. Obviously the Hawks have home court advantage back, but the Heat have to feel pretty confident going into Game 5 that they can win in Philips, having done it once already and knowing that they didn’t play as well as they could in Game 4 and were still able to hang around. Obviously the loser of Game 5 faces elimination, but at least the Heat will get a chance to even the series at home if they lose.

I think it will say a lot about how much the Hawks have grown up in this series to see what kind of attitude they bring to start off Game 5. Sure, the crowd will be behind them, but will they continue out-muscling the Heat inside and asserting themselves physically, or will they lay down and allow the Heat to jump off to an early lead like they did in Game 2?

And relating to that topic, knowing that Zaza is the guy who brought most of that physicality and toughness while Horford was largely a non-factor in this game and has been a defensive liability throughout this series, should Woody make a lineup switch and give Zaza the start? I think it deserves some consideration at least… that Josh Smith-Zaza combination inside was really stifling the Heat tonight, and there’s no question Zaza is playing some of the best ball of his career right now.

calico

April 28th, 2009
12:43 am

Good Job Zaza & Josh Smith but what happened with Joe 2night he looked very uncomfortable for most of the game

Downtown

April 28th, 2009
10:41 am

I believe I heard that Joe twisted his ankle at some point during the game and had it iced up soon after the game.

MannyT

April 28th, 2009
11:15 am

Najeh, it’s not Woody’s style to pull Horford out of the starting line up. Zaza might get in sooner, but he won’t start. The good thing was that Woody kept Zaza in the game to be the bull in the china shop.

Many of the early substitutions were pushed due to foul trouble. I hope we can make substitutions on Wednesday because the Hawks are forcing the action instead of reacting to every move that the Heat make.

Let’s get some extra faces in the place on Wednesday to make the place loud and rowdy.

Go Hawks.

BWAF

KevinA

April 28th, 2009
3:15 pm

Woody doesn’t change rotations much unless forced. This team may not be the best but the Hawks show more balance than we give then credit for. Woody gets Kudos’ for defense. Barkley was right. JJ can’t be the superstar. We just have to play good D and team ball on offense. Team ball will find the players who are on. In many games during the season JJ would take 25 attempts and we would have lost. Slowly but surely team ball is catching on.

KevinA

April 28th, 2009
3:18 pm

JJ not playing his best is not our demise. It used to be. Were better now. If he gets hot, were just better.

Wabe

April 28th, 2009
3:36 pm

It’s tough for JJ to be on point when he’s fighting off double/triple teams.

What was nice to see last night was JJ finding some open perimeter shooters when the double came. I remember off the top of my head once where he saw the double team coming, and ran straight to the middle of the floor and found Flip Murray wide open in the corner for 3.

That’s what he needs to keep doing – facilitate if he can’t find his shot.

He will be seeing double teams as long as the Hawks are in the playoffs. He has to fight through them and look to drive to the whole.

Sal

April 28th, 2009
3:56 pm

Eh, isn’t about time for the PLAYOFFS to start? If so, why are we still talkin’ about the Hawks and Heat? If you want real b-ball, check out the Western Conference, you hillbillies!!

BrutusWilson

April 28th, 2009
4:18 pm

I knew the Hawks would even the series against Miami at 2-2. I realized that if the Hawks had lost yesterdays game and were down in the series 3-1 there is no way on earth the Hawks could come back from the brink of elimination and beat the Heat 3 straight games. D-Wade is too good to spot him and his team 3-1 and expect to beat them. You would have the lost the series. Now the Hawks have wrestled back the homecourt advantage and if they win Wednesdays game at Philips Arena in Atlanta, the Hawks will take a 3-2 series advantage and would put the Heat on their heels and essentially on the brink of elimination. Wednesdays game will be another must-win game for the Hawks. Its exciting to see the Hawks grow up right before your very eyes and learn how to play tough, playoff winning basketball on the road, which is what the Hawks did last night. The Hawks can win the series and beat the Heat, but it wont be easy since D-Wade is a special player and great players know how to rise to the occasion when the chips are on the table. In addition, Wade has already led Miami to a title, so he has experience in doing that. I believe that the Hawks-Heat series is a perfect tuneup for the Cleveland Caviliers. If you beat the Heat, its possible to beat Cleveland and advance to the conference finals against possibly Orlando or Boston. I dont ever remember the Eastern Conference having so many great championship calibre teams. If you do manage to get out of the east and make it to the finals, then you will stare at the purple and gold (Lakers) and that will be a supreme test. I think the Hawks are as good as all of those teams and I believe the Hawks are in the process of their championship run which will finally conclude in winning the NBA championship this season. I am confident the Hawks can pull it off. The only team that would have stopped the Hawks would have been Boston and Boston is banged up and short handed (Poe and Garnett are out) and the Celtics dont have enough firepower to keep up with the Hawks. Yes, indeed. The Hawks are in the middle of their championship run and I do expect Mike Woodsons team to be crowned champions sometime in June. Go Hawks!

butter bean

April 28th, 2009
4:29 pm

Prediction: Orlando in the Conference Finals.

G Money

April 28th, 2009
4:30 pm

The Hawks won last night because they were tougher and wanted it more. They will have to show the same toughness and tenacity tomorrow if they want to win this series. The Heat won’t lay down. Spoelstra is a good coach and will come out with something special. We need to come with our lunch pails, hard hats and brass knuckles. This is what playoff basketball is all about. Didn’t you know?

Big Ray

April 28th, 2009
4:42 pm

Butter Bean,

Congratulations on the first half-serious basketball related comment you’ve made here. Maybe you should stick with that screen name, and tell your other personalities (Penis, Sal, and Hot Hot Heat) to chill out. Why? Because even the system recognizes most of what you have to say as SPAM. That’s why many of your comments just didn’t make it. Catch ya later…

GoldenRichards

April 28th, 2009
4:48 pm

Zsa Zsa Pachula has saved the Hawks season with a hallmark effort(18 boards and 12 points). Pachula was grabbing rebounds like an angry bull last night. We need Zsa Zsa to play like that in order to give us our toughness and swagger against heavy teams that are stacked with power. What I like about the Hawks and I dont remember this since the Fratello years is that if you add up the collective talents of ALL of the players on the Hawks current roster, it can compete with anyone in the league but all the parts have to be available including Marvin Williams. When you have all the pieces there the Hawks are truly Americas Team and the best blue collar team in the NBA. They will prove it in the NBA Finals this year. The Hawks will light up the scoreboard on Wednesday and advance to the next round after disposing of the heat. Next up, King James!!! All Hail to the King; Bring on the King!

G Money

April 28th, 2009
5:05 pm

Goldie,
I’m not so quick to pronounce this series over. I love the Hawks like everyone else on this blog (almost everyone). If they aren’t Jekyll and Hyde, they are the new millennium’s closest impersonator. If the defensively minded, scrappy, high tolerance for pain Hawks show up – I’m confident. If the other guys show up…yikes.

doc

April 28th, 2009
5:34 pm

g money agree, those dings they have are nothing more than what you might see in a good flag football game in college between good rivals like i said in the other blog. it should be what makes the post season so much more fun.

guys, marvin better show up fast or his nad factor is pretty small unless he has a wrist about to fall off. does anyone think he couldnt do something for a few minutes with one arm that rio cant with two? get off the bench marvin, like your enthusiasm from there but cheerleaders we got in solo and rio.

Sautee

April 28th, 2009
6:39 pm

Najeh, and Manny T,

Regarding a lineup change, I’d like to see Zaza at 5, Horford at 4, Josh at 3, Mo at 2, and Flip at 1.

Of course, it’ll never happen, and on offense you’d have to bring Horford out to a wing and trust his 17 footer, but it would surely clog the lane on D and give a lot of help to whomever was guarding JO.

Wabe

April 28th, 2009
9:33 pm

Sal,

I too think the West is better than the East.

But, up to this point, the best series are all in the Eastern Conference.

Going into tonite – you have 3 series tied at 2-2.
Bulls/Celtics – been the best series in the postseason.
Magic/Sixers – another great series
Hawks/Heat – been some lopsided wins but the series is still at 2-2.

The games in the West are MEANINGLESS..
Houston/Portland – 3-1
Mavs/Spurs – 3-1
Nuggets/Hornets – 3-1

Anothers classic in Boston as i type..

Sal, Hot Hot Heat, and Butter Bean

April 28th, 2009
10:29 pm

hehehe, Let’s Go Hawks!!

Penis

April 28th, 2009
10:31 pm

Let’s Go Sonics!!!

Suckers.