Opening “The Factory” against the Pacers

 

Well, here we go at last! The regular season begins for the Atlanta Hawks in two days, and it starts with two games at home against Eastern Conference opponents, followed by a 4 game swing out west. Hawks fans couldn’t ask for a much better way to begin the season than to have the first two games at home. Well, a victory would sure be nice. Two victories would be even better. In fact, that should be the expectation, particularly because the Hawks played pretty well at home last season, and certainly finished the season better than the two teams they’ll face first this season.

Up first is the Indiana Pacers, a team that is most likely doomed to struggle this season, particularly without forward Mike Dunleavy. Danny Granger will get his points and Troy Murphy will get his rebounds. Jeff Foster will be tough and solid. Roy Hibbert showed himself to be serviceable in somewhat limited minutes last season. TJ Ford is quick and can score a little on his own. Beyond that, the Pacers are not a major threat, though taking any NBA team lightly can prove to be a mistake. Anyway, here’s a breakdown of what the Pacers bring, versus what the Hawks bring.

DEFENDING THE FACTORY

The Hawks will make more headway this season in much the same fashion as they did last season: by defending well in games. More to the point, defending home base. Defending homecourt isn’t just about winning games. It’s also about winning the fans over. Nothing makes homecourt the bane of visiting teams more than a fan base that is fully, enthusiastically, and maniacally behind their team. And to get your fans fully behind you…well, winning at home always helps. Especially on opening night!

Having said that, let’s review what the Pacers have to offer on offense, and what the Hawks should be concentrating on:

For Indiana, it’s the Danny Granger show. He gets the most shots, as most of the plays run around him. Granger is going to get his points most nights, but he isn’t the difference between winning and losing unless it’s a close score at the end of a game. The guys who can make the biggest difference are Ford, Murphy, and possibly Luther Head.

Troy Murphy doesn’t do much damage on the block, but he can and will stretch the defense with his outside shooting touch. TJ Ford’s greatest threat is penetration. Never known for his outside shooting, Ford has gotten better in recent years, and is one of the game’s fastest players. He can get less creative teammates involved with dump-off passes once he gets into the lane, and is just as adept at faking the pass and getting the layup, as 15 points per game on 45% shooting showed last season. Make him beat you from the outside, and he’s not nearly as effective.

Roy Hibbert can’t be ignored, as he’s shown himself to be better than many thought he would be. But he still plays limited minutes, producing numbers that are decent, but not overwhelming. As long as he’s not given free rein in the post, he won’t hurt you too much. On the other hand, if he has improved this facet of his game…look out. Speaking of free rein, Luther Head is not somebody you leave open. Head doesn’t shoot a high percentage from the field overall, but he the fact that he’s sitting on 39% career shooting from 3-point range would suggest that you don’t want to let him get too many good looks at the basket.

To be successful on defense, the Hawks need to improve on what plagued them last year: hound the ball and prevent easy penetration. Close out on shooters and bottle up the passing lanes.

BATTLE OF THE BOARDS

This is actually a problem that the Hawks have been having, and it needs to stop. Winning the contest on the boards helps you win the game, pure and simple. Troy Murphy is a near-prolific rebounder, but he’s not alone. Hibbert can grab a few, and if he has worked on his game at all, this is probably one area that will show. Of course, being 7′2″ and 280 lbs never hurts. Jeff Foster is as solid as they come off the bench, and between ex-Hawk Solomon Jones and Josh McRoberts, I expect there to be some hustle from these guys. The Hawks have to counter that by out-hustling. Horford established himself as a solid rebounder when he came into the league, but he’ll need help from his cohorts. Josh Smith is capable of getting 11 or 12 rebounds in any given game, but the effort and committment isn’t always there. It’ll have to be, particularly against the Pacers, who won’t have a whole lot else going for them. But it’s not just Josh. Marvin Williams has to get in on the act as well. Joe Johnson just about always helps out in this category, but if you’re depending on your star shooting guard for a meaningful rebound contribution, then you’re in trouble.

The big difference may come down to the bench. Zaza, Joe Smith, and whomever else Woodson decides to give playing time to in the frontcourt will have to man up to the task. If nothing else, bench players need to be able to rebound well. A rebound is either gaining possession of the ball, or keeping it.

OFFENSIVELY THINKING

Where the Hawks’ offense is concerned, it should be “pick your poison” for the Pacers, if all is going according to plan (uh, assuming the plan calls for something more productive and efficient than…well, you know, that same old play…). Despite “that play” being what it is, nobody on this Pacers team can stop Joe, who is of course option numero uno. Bibby is usually good for double figure points if you get him a few good looks at the basket. Foster and Hibbert can make things difficult for Horford, but that can be counteracted with Horford’s superior quickness and his ability to step out and hit the 15-17 foot jumper. In the meantime, playing a little high-low (with a lob or two passed back and forth) with Josh Smith should draw the attention away from the backcourt, and anything  that involves a fast break will be more than Indiana can handle. Marvin will respond according to the number of touches he gets. If he gets 7-9 shot attempts, one of them will be a three, and he may even go to the line once or twice, netting 13 or 14 points. If he gets more, look for something closer to 2o, or above it. Let’s see what the game plan calls for.

BENCH MOB

If I’m the Pacers, I’m hating the idea of facing the Hawks bench as much as I am the starters. Maybe even more. Why? Well, who do they have that’s going to want to, much less be able to, keep up with Teague and Crawford? Teague will go to the rim every single chance he gets, and will get to the line in the process. Oh, I almost forgot….he can pass a little bit too. Speaking of which, most teams will be keying on Jamal Crawford and expecting him to shoot, but he will probably do more damage by passing to Mo Evans, Zaza Pachulia, and Joe Smith. Gone are the days of sending out a lone hitman from the bench, accompanied by either tired starters or reserves without real assignments. This means more focus, hustle, defense, and rebounding from the reserve unit. Good for Hawks. Bad for Pacers. Look for the bench to absolutely hammer the Pacer reserves and starters alike.

So what do you think the Hawks need to do to win this game? Will we see a different offense than in years past? Who is going to be at the game on opening night?!

113 comments Add your comment

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
9:00 pm

Also…when are we going to start running JJ off the ball more (as is done with Granger, Kobe, Pierce, etc)?? I’m still trying to figure out why we’re having our best scorer being tasked with initiating the offense every other possession, which both makes our offense predictable and makes it a hell of a lot tougher for said scorer to get open looks.

If having Crawford around doesn’t help that, hopefully Woody’s apologists will come to. Something tells me not to hold my breath…

Rod from College Park

October 27th, 2009
9:01 pm

I didn’t mention him because he isn’t worth mentioning. But yall can keep on talking about him all you want. Nothing about his game is changing, no matter how much you talk your noise with me.

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
9:03 pm

Man…it’s almost painful to see how much Shaq has slowed down on D. Kendrick freaking Perkins just did an up and under move on him…

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
9:11 pm

You know, the Mavs are one dysfunctional bunch. Between that and Gilbert Arenas acutally playing point guard, the Wiz may win this game.

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
9:13 pm

Nire ,

Yep. Woody needs to be taking notes during this game. The Celtics are in control, there’s little doubt. And that’s even with ‘Sheed resorting to old habits (chucking it from the arc…but hitting..).

Ariose

October 27th, 2009
9:19 pm

Nire, Jim O’Brien runs a fast paced offense??? LMBO!!!

I’m telling ya, Grager attacks MUCH quicker than JJ……oh and we can’t just shut him down with a double team…..he’s just a beast..

CLE is getting Crushed Shelden Williams and the Celtics lol……wastch Doc put Woody to shame and make Williams look like an All-NBA benc candidate hehehe!

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
9:31 pm

Ariose,

Uh…yes. Jim O’Brien does run a fast-paced offense. I don’t know how you’re even disputing that. Their “pace factor” was 3rd in the league, and the trade for Ford made that even moreso. You can check out their SI preview from last year:
With Ford pushing the ball and another talented wing in rookie Brandon Rush from Kansas, the Pacers will play a fast-paced style that will win back fans..

USA Today mentioned it last week:
Rush, who is entering his second season, is a better all-around player, which works well in O’Brien’s up-tempo offensive system.

And if all else fails, their pace factor (possessions per 48 minutes) was behind only Golden State’s (Nellie’s) and New York’s (D’Antoni) last season (look under “Miscellaneous Statistics”).

Clearly, Granger is your boy, and you can make a good argument that he’s more aggressive offensively than JJ (although JJ quite clearly has a more complete offensive game due to his passing skills) but you’re swinging and missing more than normal on your comments in support of that argument…

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
9:41 pm

LeBron is gonna go 45 tonight…

Like I said, the difference between Mike Brown and Mike Woodson is that one has LeBron and the other has JJ. If Woody had LeBron, LeBron probably would pull a Wilt and play every minute for a whole season…

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
9:43 pm

Haha…Shelden drops a pass. Ah, shades of days past. Although it’s an ominous sign for Woody that Doc sees him fit to be part of the Celtics rotation on opening night…

TrainWreck

October 27th, 2009
9:45 pm

Granger is faster than Joe Johnson, and that has nothing to do with an offensive style. Joe Johnson is a better all around player than Granger is, and that has nothing to do with offensive style.

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
9:50 pm

Man, the Celtics’ defensive rotations are just a thing of beauty.

Ariose

October 27th, 2009
9:51 pm

Me swinging and missing is debatable. As for Indy’s “pace” i’ll give you that much….but other than granger, they didn’t seem very fast-paced to me (thats just my observation, but we did get into the 100’s when we played them so point to nire).

And just because I am pointing out one of JJ’s flaws certainly doesn’t meant that Danny Granger is my boy.

IDK whats with you defendig JJ on this but i’m sure if you asked sekou to post a poll the majority would indeed say that JJ takes too long to initate the offense (he doesn’t attack fast enough)

I was reffering to MARVIN when I was speaking about agressiveness in general. I think youre being blinded by our obvious JJ love affair lol. I love the guy but he has flaws nire. I never debated that Granger was a more “complete” player, he just attacks faster (it’s an advantage that JJ needs to utilize).

You know, in my original arguement, I also mentiond Carmelo. Instead of picking on granger why don’t you take a shot at that one ;-) Not to mention Kobe…..oh and then theres Dwayne Wade. JJ can be Mr.”complete” all he wants too but Granger has a better scoring strategy than your boy JJ. He attacks quickly…and Often.

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
9:52 pm

…unless you’re a Hawks fan…

TrainWreck ,

Yeah, that’s true. A player’s physical ability and habits aren’t created by the coach. The system he plays in however, is a different story…

Sautee

October 27th, 2009
9:53 pm

Nire,

If Big Baby were available I doubt Sheldon gets any minutes.

Also, I must co-sign Rod that Granger is MUCH quicker than JJ. I saw IND twice last year at the Highlight Factory. JJ could NOT stay with Granger AT ALL.

Not even close.

Ariose

October 27th, 2009
9:53 pm

Most of this is Woody’s fault though. That won’t change….

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
9:55 pm

Ariose ,

I’ll say this: at least JJ’s talking about becoming an elite player. If nothing else, that should serve as an admission that his game is not as complete as it could be. But I am not in the mood to get too deep into an opinion on that.

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
9:59 pm

I tire of the repeated theme of these conversations, myself.

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:03 pm

Blazers game is on. Time for Celtics-Cavs to go on mute…

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
10:05 pm

Heh. Lebron is still initiating the offense, the rest of the team is still feeding off of him, and he’s still the best scorer on the team. Sound familiar?

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
10:06 pm

Forgot to add: it’s not a winning forumla…as is evidenced by the score.

Ariose

October 27th, 2009
10:10 pm

I’m just talking about scoring the basketball though. Granger is a back hole just Like Kevin Martin as fra as assists and steals are concerned. Their FT averges are about even.

Nire, you do know that as a whole, our offense stinks right? It’s just as much to blam for JJ’s scoring woes as anything. Marvin would be a much better player if he were in an offense that utilized his skills more.

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:10 pm

Y’all love straw men sometimes. I never said JJ was quicker than Granger. Didn’t even say anything that could be plausibly read as saying that. All I disputed was the idea that JJ was passing up open looks that Granger wasn’t.

As for LeBron…he’s LeBron. He usually can get away with being the end-all and be-all of his team’s offense because he’s the best player in the known universe. But as we’re seeing, even he has trouble doing it all by himself when he plays a good enough team. Mike Brown is a freaking idiot.

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:19 pm

McMillan still knows what’s up. Feeding it to Aldridge on every play, which is already opening up the floor for everyone else. *sigh(

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:21 pm

The Rockets are playing traditional Adelman-ball now that Yao is gone for the year. Rockets are REALLY pushing the pace.

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
10:21 pm

Nire ,

I think it’s fairly clear what you were disputing. But I’m having a bit of difficulty finding the post where somebody accused you of saying that Granger isn’t faster than JJ. So if you’re seeing straw…

As for LeBron…he’s LeBron. He usually can get away with being the end-all and be-all of his team’s offense because he’s the best player in the known universe. But as we’re seeing, even he has trouble doing it all by himself when he plays a good enough team. Mike Brown is a freaking idiot.

My point here being that if this doesn’t work for Lebron, then it’s an even worse idea for JJ and the Hawks. Not sure where the straw in THAT one was, but I know how you can be when you’re in “that MODE”…

Somebody call JJ and tell him he doesn’t need ADT, he’s got NIRE…

Ariose

October 27th, 2009
10:21 pm

Ray, yup! DOesn’t look like LeBrick will get a title lol. Delonte would’ve helped but….If you thought they couldn’t stop Orlando last season…

I’m also ready for the season to start so we can have something else to talk about. Caniblogging is more stale than an old hunk of cheese hehehe! This topic is going to contnue to be relevant until Woody makes a change….or Rick makes one for him.

1) Teague

2) Crawford

3) Johnson

4) Horford

5) Collins

That’s a nasty lineup right there. It will do wonders for us. Collins his finals experience and is a proven starter on a campionchip contending squad. If he can stay healthy and stay in shpe, he will be huge for us….

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
10:23 pm

Ariose ,

Ditch the olive branch and just wait for his flamethrower to run out of fuel. :lol: His other half is a Blazer fan, cut the man some slack, he’s in pain right now. :lol:

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:29 pm

Ray,

Oh, I wasn’t saying you were doing straw with LeBron. I was expanding on your point, not disputing it or viewing it as an attack or even a criticism.

3 people posted on Granger being quicker than JJ after my initial blast of posts. In retrospect, they were responses to me but not necessarily a misread of what I was saying.

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:31 pm

Ariza is just playing idiotic defense on Roy tonight – he plays help D when Roy doesn’t have the ball and goes for the steal when he does. Why Adelman isn’t putting Battier on Roy is beyond me…

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
10:31 pm

Nire ,

Gotcha…

Big Ray

October 27th, 2009
10:33 pm

Nire ,

Adelman has to learn Ariza’s limits first, I guess. It’s only game one. He’ll find out soon enough, as Ariza will either get the job done, or expose himself.

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:35 pm

And here comes the man I was waiting for – Andersen.

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:40 pm

Andersen commits his first foul 20 seconds after entering the game and misses his first shot 16 seconds later. Welcome to the NBA!

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
10:41 pm

Foul #2 a minute and a half later. Andersen to the bench…

niremetal

October 27th, 2009
11:02 pm

Always amazes me how much Woody needs to take a cue from McMillan. Blake runs a traditional half-court offense, and then Andre Miller comes off the bench to push the pace. But either way, there is TONS of off-ball motion. Off-ball screens, back door cuts, flashes to the high post…the Rockets have to spend so much energy chasing guys away from the ball that they’re straining to create good shots on offense.

Don!

October 28th, 2009
8:16 am

Man, my first post of the new season. And, the tenor of the conversation is much, much different than those of years past.

I’m not enamored of this year’s opening quarter/third of the Hawks’ schedule. There’s too many trap games and odd breaks in the first three months to the new year. As much as anything, this team HAS to get off to a good start. And in past years, we would have been giddy with a .500 record at the Christmas break, this year we all expect more.

Ray is right about the need to defend the home floor. Especially when you have two winnable games to start with. If we can win those two games, and then split the four out west — we’ll be 4-2 when we come home for our next home stand. That will be key.

This team has the potential to win 50-60 games this season, and even take the division crown. Unfortunately, this team also has the potential to crash and burn with a few missteps — especially early in the season. Between the contract issues with Joe and Woody, the addition of some key new players, and the ongoing love/hate relationship between this team and its fans, the opening stretch of this season may well determine the future of the franchise for years to come.

If things go well, Woody and Joe stay, Phillips Arena becomes the Thunderdome II, and the Hawks roll into the post season. However, if things go poorly, everyone will have a chance to pick on the Hawks’ flaws, Phillips becomes a morgue, and we might have to rebuild from scratch after the season.

Personally, I see this team winning 50 games. That might be enough to win the division if Orlando takes a step back. For a finalist last season, that team has as many if not more flaws than our Hawks. The one thing they have is Dwight, and as I’ve always said — Big comes to play every night, Small plays from day to day, especially over an 82-game schedule. Orlando is big, and we tend to be more Small.

Anyway, it’s time to get it on. If this franchise can survive the last three years of the Atlanta Spirit battle, it can survive this season.

Lets go Hawks!

Later,

Don!

vava74

October 28th, 2009
1:45 pm

Charlie Rosen @foxsports.com:

“Shelden Williams was absolutely awful at both ends of the floor.” :-)

Big Ray

October 28th, 2009
4:11 pm

Don! ,

Man, it’s been a while. Good to see you’re still with us! Great comments/observations.

Vava74 ,

We aren’t too surprised, are we? ;)

Maxx

October 28th, 2009
4:28 pm

Smoove will have his best year this year. The Magic look downright scary. Lane Kiffin is my 2nd most hated person in sports behind Bobby Petrino. Keith Brooking acted like an A$$HOLE last Sunday. With Mike Bibby out there, it’s like the Hawks are playing 4 against 5 defensively. Now that we have the offensive personell, Woody better draw up some better half-court offense or we’re not going to go much farther this year. Justy had to get all that off my chest! I feel much better now…

Big Ray

October 28th, 2009
4:38 pm

Maxx ,

You’re not the only one with that on your chest, trust me. And Keith Brooking? Don’t miss him, and I truly hope that’s the very highlight of his and the Cowboy’s season. So funny to see him woofing on the sideline all game long with his two little tackles.

Melvin

October 28th, 2009
4:52 pm

Nire,

I notice that you didn’t post Andersen stats for the game. Any reason why not?

Melvin

October 28th, 2009
4:58 pm

David Andersen stats from his 1st NBA game. Don’t look bad to me.

Min FG 3Pt FT +/- Off Reb Ast TO Stl BS BA PF Pts
19:05 4-8 1-1 2-2 +8 1 5 1 0 0 0 1 4 11

MannyT

October 28th, 2009
5:01 pm

Who will be at the game tonight?

BWAF

Melvin

October 28th, 2009
5:04 pm

Manny T,

Are u going to the CIAA tourney this year?

MannyT

October 28th, 2009
5:10 pm

Melvin,

CIAA unlikely–about a 5% chance. I’ll fill you in the next time I see you.

Line looks good for Andersen’s first NBA game. He tied for most rebounds with 5 even though he played less than 20 minutes. He will have to make more adjustments on defense, but I think he’s a keeper. Good for Houston.

BWAF

niremetal

October 28th, 2009
6:53 pm

Melvin,

Uh…I went to sleep. Sorry about that.

cp

October 28th, 2009
6:57 pm

I want to see some energy tonight. The Hawks are known to sleep on teams that they are better than. I want them to put the Pacers away early and convincingly.

niremetal

October 28th, 2009
7:13 pm

I only watched the first half before I went to sleep, and so I didn’t see Andersen’s second half performance. Looks like he did well in the 4th quarter, but color me underwhelmed. He’s also even skinnier than I thought…Przybilla looked like he could snap him in half.

As I said, he’s perfect for Adelman’s offense with his passing and shooting skills. And considering that he’s the only person 6′10 or taller on the team, he’ll get plenty of minutes. But his defense is abysmal, and at his age I don’t expect he’ll peak at a much higher level than he’s already at. So MannyT – I think he’s “good for Houston.” Just not so sure he’d be more than a bit player anywhere else.

Big Ray

October 28th, 2009
7:46 pm

Not looking wonderful so far, though all I can see at the moment is the box score. Josh and Al seem to have had good first quarters, at least statistically.

On the flip side, Granger and Murphy are abusing us early, and Hibbert is doing well on the glass.

Big Ray

October 28th, 2009
7:58 pm

Joe sets up Teague for the three. VERY nice….