Hawks take first swing at old foe

Today, the Hawks get a shot at an old foe, an old adversary that’s been around for as long as anyone can remember. One they’ve never been able to best, at least in more recent years.

Are we talking about the Lakers? Not precisely. We’re talking about….THE ROAD.

While this year’s early west coast swing isn’t quite as daunting as last year’s visit to the Texas Triangle (which was actually almost 20 games into the season), it’s still….THE ROAD.

Rick Sund and Mike Woodson talk about the Hawks winning 50 games or more, and how doing better on the road is the second, and perhaps more pivotal key to doing just that. Well, if the Hawks want to change their fortunes away from home, now is the time to do it. Most teams are not quite in fine form this early in the season, and have some inconsistency issues. Mighty San Antonio proved that by avering 113 points in near-20 point wins over Sacramento and New Orleans, contrasted with a 92-85 loss to Chicago. While entirely explainable, consider that Chicago beat a top Western team, then got blown out by the Celtics. And the Lakers? Well, after getting an unimpressive win against their ugly stepsisters, they went and lost to a Mavericks squad that couldn’t beat the Washington Wizards…who lost to…you know…the Hawks.

Bottom line here? The Lakers are the reigning champs, but they are beatable this early in the season for certain. And, if the Hawks want  to up that road win total this season, then starting right here, right now, is as good an idea as any.  Momentum means so much, and a win against the Lakers could lead to more against the next few opponents.

But enough of that, let’s get into a bit of game breakdown. To do that, we’re going to take a  walk down memory lane , and then talk about which opposing player may cause the most problems for the Hawks in each west coast game. We’ll leave the Charlotte Bobcats for later.

HAWKS VS. LAKERS

What you might remember

Lamar Odom getting 20 rebounds, and Josh Smith getting none. Sure, Smith came back and played much better in the last meeting of the two teams last year, but it’s arguable that the Lakers were on cruise control by then, and that was in Atlanta. The embarrassing performance came at the Staples Center. Let’s not also forget Joe Johnson shooting 6-17 because he was basically by himself out there, and not getting ANY help from ANYBODY. These two guys are arguably the most pivotal players on this team right now, for both similar and different reasons. You better believe the Lakers know it, too.

Game maker/breaker nomination

Ron Artest is my pick here. Everybody knows who Kobe Bryant is, and what he can do. Gasol and Odom are familiar as well. Artest is the new guy in town, and he is one tough customer. In a way, he’s very often what we want Josh Smith to be: a tough defender who is also a consistent enough scorer at a high enough level to be a second or third option every single night. At any rate, Artest will be a tougher, if not THE toughest swing forward that Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Joe Johnson may face all season. Make no mistake, all three aforementioned guys will see some Artest action during this game. And Artest is capable of disrupting each of those guys’ games….on either end of the court, at that.

HAWKS VS. BLAZERS

What you might remember

Brandon Roy taking over the game with his one-on-one plays late in the fourth quarter. It was nothing, if not embarrassing. Brandon Roy is one of the best in the game right now, but what he did to us in Portland was just plain nasty. And that tall guy they call “soft”? Well he (Lamarcus Aldridge) helped set Roy up by being more than a credible threat (24 points, 11 rebounds on 11-20 shooting) himself. Yes, I know. Joe Johnson destroyed those guys with a 35 point outburst when we got back home. But we’re not talking about what happens on home court.

Game maker/breaker nomination

If he were healthy, I’d might be tempted to go out on a limb and maaaaybe pick Nick Batum. I’ll explain somewhere other than this blog post if you’re interested. But Batum is out, so I’m stuck between more popular and sensible options like Travis Outlaw and Lamarcus Aldridge. Why Outlaw? Because his shooting range and size make him dangerous, and McMillan knows just how to use him against us. Outlaw can put up 20 against you without pause, and he can do it from the bench. Why Aldridge? Easy. He’s the Yin to Roy’s Yang. Or perhaps vice versa, I don’t know. Either way, he’s a near 7-footer who, while lacking the range of a Troy Murphy, is a superior athlete with a better midrange and inside game. Why NOT Roy? Same reason why NOT Kobe: we already know what he can and will most likely do.

HAWKS VS. KINGS

What you might remember

I don’t know about y’all, but outside of Al Horford’s 18 and 18 performance, and Mike Bibby’s torrid shooting…I don’t remember much about this game. Kevin Martin’s 32 point, 11 rebound performance was certainly nothing to sneeze at, of course. Oh wait, I do remember something. Something about Sacramento fans saying that Bibby was trash, and he only had about 1 good game in every 5  games. Huh. I guess they figured out which game was his good one….

Game maker/breaker nomination

It would be easy to go with Kevin Martin, seeing as how he’s far and away the team’s most productive player and leading scorer. But…his input is more or less expected (especially considering he’ll take every shot he can), and so I’ll go with Tyreke Evans as my darkhorse. Why Evans? Well, he’s a very talented lead guard at 6′6″, and well…the Hawks have had a history of not taking a rookie, first year, or second year  player seriously enough. Remember Corey Brewer’s 18 rebounds? More notably, there was Al Thornton’s 31 point performance against us. Evans probably won’t be a franchise savior for the Kings this season, but sooner or later he will break out. We’d prefer it not be against the Hawks.

ON THE FLIP SIDE

So, we’ve talked about the opposition. But what about the Hawks themselves? That’s where YOU, my fellow Hawks fans, come in! Which Hawks players do you see as the keys to victory in these next three road games? Oh, and don’t hesitate to take a crack (or several) at the analysis above, or anything else on your mind where these games are concerned.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

I don’t know whether to be jealous or not. I didn’t get to the first two home games of the season, but the snacks were plentiful, the seating comfortable, and the conversation amicable (thanks go to Sautee for doing enough whooping and hollering for us both during the Wizards game…I had a standing order from the sleeping wife to not holler at the top of my lungs every time the Hawks made a good play, or the refs a bad call).

But for those of you who made it to Phillips Arena, how nice was  it to be back in the “Highlight Factory?” I can’t wait to get back there and take a stroll to the  Pretzel Stand, or chat some of you up at the Taco Mac. Good times are ahead, of that I’m sure.

268 comments Add your comment

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
10:37 pm

From the last blog (because it’s too good to miss):

You can’t make this stuff up. Manu Ginobili hit a bat out of midair that flew from the rafters onto the court during a game. On Halloween.

Here’s the picture. And here’s the story.

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
10:43 pm

Lakers key: Bynum/Odom
Blazers key: Aldridge (if Josh can keep him under wraps, the Blazers will have a tough time establishing an inside game on offense – and that, in turn, depends on Woody not stubbornly sticking to the switching D)
Kings key: I agree – Evans

kirkinga

November 1st, 2009
10:48 pm

Too much jump shooting so far for the Hawks. Somebody needs to drive to the basket.

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

November 1st, 2009
10:48 pm

Joe looks good tonight. He’s got a little fire.

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

November 1st, 2009
10:56 pm

He’s feeling it!

Reggie (The Bird and Indian)

November 1st, 2009
10:57 pm

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
10:58 pm

Holy sh!t…

doc

November 1st, 2009
10:59 pm

nire thanks for the bat show. quite a sight.

no taking up for jj tonight. he is on fire. already made phil make a change to put artest on him. this is what i remember about jj when he got here, want to see it some more.

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
11:04 pm

JJ was looking great, but LOTS of credit has to go to the other 4 guys on the floor, all of whom were making Kobe fight through multiple screens to stay with JJ. In the long haul, I don’t want to see JJ in a shootout with Kobe…but damn….

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
11:07 pm

Always ticks me off when I saw what Jamal did there – didn’t get a call on one end, and complained to the ref instead of running back on D. And Josh was stuck guarding Kobe as a result…

Wabe

November 1st, 2009
11:10 pm

JJ pretty much put his signature on that first quarter. But someone else on the Hawks needs to step up. Can’t go back to the old ways of putting it all on JJ’s shoulders.

Also must limit TO’s. Too many TO’s in that first quarter.

Wabe

November 1st, 2009
11:12 pm

The TO’s…

Gotta take care of that rock.

Big Ray

November 1st, 2009
11:13 pm

Good gracious. Joe is on FIRE. Love to see him get a 40-point game, with two exceptions: 1)Not if the Hawks lose, and 2) Not if he has to play 40-some odd minutes to get it.

I agree with Wabe , somebody has to step up as well, rather than tempt Woody…

Big Ray

November 1st, 2009
11:14 pm

Nire ,

I caught that on NBA.com. Too funny. Ol’ boy’s got a mean left hook, eh?

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
11:16 pm

Why has been JJ been off the floor for so long after the start he had? I want to see JJ get fewer minutes, but I want those minutes to be taken when he’s NOT scoring 18 points in 9 minutes…

Wabe

November 1st, 2009
11:21 pm

Just a thought, I understand Luke Walton has size on Crawford, but why double? Not good basketball IQ to me…

niremetal

November 1st, 2009
11:25 pm

I can see it now. Woody will cite this as why he should neverrest JJ instead of figuring out that he needs to make better decisions on when to rest JJ.

Big Ray

November 1st, 2009
11:38 pm

The good news: We’re not losing the battle on the glass, we’re hitting free throws, and JJ looks nastier than Kobe does.

The bad news: We’re losing the battle of turnovers, and the Lakers are shooting better from the field, and the arc.

Big Ray

November 1st, 2009
11:40 pm

Nire ,

Don’t say that out loud!

Big Ray

November 1st, 2009
11:43 pm

Ick. Second quarter a little less competitive than the first.

Backcourt doing all the heavy lifting.

Frontcourt reserves playing as well or better than the starters, and that isn’t saying much.

Wabe

November 1st, 2009
11:45 pm

Didn’t like the way we finished that half. Some really bad shots and then struggled to transition back on defense giving the Lakers some easy buckets.

Gotta tighten up the defense in the second half and limit the TO’s. I know they’ve got size inside, but we really need to attack the basket and continue to draw some fouls. That should keep this thing tight going into the 4th.

Big Ray

November 1st, 2009
11:52 pm

Amen, Wabe ….

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2009
12:07 am

Wow. Bibby is serious. Love to see it.

Al and Josh playing the assist-to-turnover game. Not good, fellas…

Wabe

November 2nd, 2009
12:09 am

That’s not what I meant when I said tighten up the DEF.

And common REF, there was definately contact down there with Horford.

niremetal

November 2nd, 2009
12:10 am

It was a slow downhill progression from the moment Woody pulled JJ when he was at the hottest he’s been in a long, long time. Incredible.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2009
12:12 am

Al working the boards, but if it wasn’t for JJ, he wouldn’t have any help.

Wabe

November 2nd, 2009
12:13 am

2 big offensive boards for Odom already…

Gotta clean up on the glass.

Wabe

November 2nd, 2009
12:13 am

Another one…

niremetal

November 2nd, 2009
12:17 am

It’s remarkable. I will never understand this. Woody pulls starters when they’re hot and leaves them in when they’re ice cold.

Wabe

November 2nd, 2009
12:20 am

Man, after keeping it pretty tight for 2 1/2 quarters, the Hawks have lost their composure. Too many easy buckets for LA, and too many turnovers for our Hawks.

It seems every bucket LA has gotten are easy uncontested fastbreaks or right there in the paint.

It’s getting so ugly it’s hard to watch. The turnovers are really pathetic. You’d think Woody would’ve stressed that at halftime.

Wabe

November 2nd, 2009
12:22 am

On top of that, they’ve settled for too many jumpers. I understand the REFS aren’t blowing the whistle, but you’ve got to continue to attack the basket. This holds especially true when the perimeter game is as ice cold as it is.

niremetal

November 2nd, 2009
12:23 am

They swarmed JJ and Crawford, and once again, the Hawks had no Plan B for when the isolation plays weren’t working.

Wabe

November 2nd, 2009
12:24 am

Joe Smith played some good minutes in that first half. Really surprised we haven’t seen him here in the 2nd half.

Wabe

November 2nd, 2009
12:25 am

Disregard that last post. He finally checked in here with less than a minute left here in the third.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2009
12:26 am

I’d sit JJ right about now. Let him rest, we are NOT going to win this game, Woody, and the man need not work his butt of for no reason. Let the reserves get some time, tinker with a different lineup (perhaps letting Collins or somebody else play would help, Marvin and Josh aren’t getting a damn thing done), etc.

niremetal

November 2nd, 2009
12:28 am

Wabe

November 2nd, 2009
12:29 am

This is the 2nd game in a row that the Hawks have come out and put together a poor 3rd quarter effort. We saw it at home vs. Washington and it happened again tonite. Tonites 3rd quarter really killed any chance of our Hawks pulling one out in LA.

niremetal

November 2nd, 2009
12:32 am

We’ve only forced the Lakers into 8 turnovers. Al and Josh have committed 9 by themselves – and at least 3 of those that I’ve seen were them trying to force the ball to JJ. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When will Woody make adjustments?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

niremetal

November 2nd, 2009
12:42 am

Um…WHY is JJ back out there? Night folks…time to get ready for work.

MannyT

November 2nd, 2009
12:47 am

4th quarter gut check–Is our 2nd unit good enough to turn a blowout into something competitive?

BWAF

MannyT

November 2nd, 2009
12:50 am

So much for that 2nd unit thing…and the 1st team did so well that they have earned their 4th quarter time? hmmm

It is getting closer. WWWD–What will Woody do?

BWAF

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2009
1:02 am

Joe outrebounded everybody but Lamar Odom, and matched Al Horford in that category. He also shot 50% from the field and dished out 4 assists, with just one turnover.

His approach to this game is one of the few things that DIDN’T hurt us tonight.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2009
1:28 am

Ugh.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Joe was nearly the only bright spot. After a blazing hot first quarter, Woody yanked him and things got a bit out of hand entering the half. After that, Joe just tried to help, for all the good it did us. He played great, no doubt about it. 50% shooting, 9 boards, 4 assists, 1 turnover.

Josh played crappy. 7 assists and 2 steals aren’t going to make up for not attacking the rim, 5 measley rebounds, and 5 turnovers. Going to the jumper when you never tried hard enough at attacking is very stupid.

Marvin. I don’t want to talk about it. All I’m going to say is he justified Woody’s decision to play Crawford 30 minutes.

Al did some decent work on the boards, but he also was less than pleasing elsewhere. Instead of being a big contributor to the team’s assist totals, he was a big contributor to the turnover totals. Ouch. Never got into a rhythm offensively, due to a variety of factors. Foul trouble didn’t help, either.

Bibby actually played well, at least offensively. I wasn’t enamored of his defense, but he tried to help Joe with the counterpunching. Lord knows nobody else was, aside from Jamal Crawford.

Speaking of which, Jamal was anemic on “D”, but I also don’t expect a cat to change it’s stripes overnight. On offense, he got his buckets, and a few trips to the line helped to make up for some ill-advised 3-point attempts. But he also contributed to the big plate of turnovers that we served up to the Lakers, adding 4 of his own to the total.

Joe Smith was a bit of help from the bench, and Jeff Teague looked good in mop-up minutes. Beyond that? Not much to be happy about.

We only lost by 8, so it wasn’t a total blowout like the Orlando preseason game, even though we were down by 20 or so for a while.

There’s a saying: “when faced with adversity, people often do not rise to the occasion, but are reduced to their level of training.” I would contend that the very best rise to the occasion, while the rest are reduced, but the bulk of this is all too true for the Hawks. You can guess where I’m going with that one….

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2009
1:30 am

MannyT ,

If you ask me, the bench made the final score look more competitive, if nothing else. I’ll hand them that, and most of that credit will go to Mr. Teague, with an added dose coming from Mr. Crawford.

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2009
1:30 am

Nire ,

Your guess is as good as mine….

kirkinga

November 2nd, 2009
2:10 am

The Hawks lost because their frontline was outplayed by the Laker’s bigger more physical frontline. This is not news. There were also too many jumpers taken (and missed) by the bigs at the start of the game. This set an ominous tone for the game. No way our starting bigs should only have gotten 5 freethrow attempts for the entire game. There were opportunities to drive that were not taken even when the basket was just a few feet away.

Second, Kobe played only 2 minutes more than JJ but got twice the number of shots. He made almost as many as JJ took. JJ shot a tick better. If everyone is serious about JJ playing decreased minutes then there are some nights were others must fill the scoring void.

Add these two up and you get a loss. On the bright side, those worried about minutes played should be pleased. The Laker’s starters played heavier minutes, they played the number of minutes that would make some howl had the Hawk’s starters played as long.

Oh well, let’s see how the team responds to a loss.

Go Hawks!

Big Ray

November 2nd, 2009
5:56 am

Well said, Kirk .

vava74

November 2nd, 2009
9:25 am

My take on yesterday’s game:

I think that this time everyone around here missed the focal point of the problem, including – this is a surprise – niremetal.

Everyone contributed with bits n’ bobs which have to be, in my opinion, nit picked with care in order to determine the root of the problem and eliminate what is irrelevant.

Woody’s role:

I will start by analyzing JJ’s hot hand and Woody’s decision to take him out of the game.

In my opinion Woody was spot on with his decision: Phil Jackson is a genius who knows that when the Hawks fall in love with the jump shot, they are very easy to beat once you “turn on” the defense on JJ.

So, Phil “invited” us to shoot from outside, playing JJ (who got hot early) and Bibby (who did not get hot early) soft, but keeping the paint protected.

Consequences? The team entered into jump shooting mode and people, let us be frank, this was not Woody’s fault.

So, why Woody took out JJ?

He understood that if we continued to ride JJ, he would get tired and SOONER OR LATER the Lakers would change their strategy and would tighten the defense on him completely putting us out of the game.

Any team depending so badly from just one hot hand seldom wins the game, in particular away from home and with the refereeing that we see in the NBA.

So, by taking JJ out of the game, Woody tried to, and succeeded to some extent, keep us in the game involving other players and breaking our JJ dependency.

In particular, I think Woody was trying to get the game back to the front court and to get Crawford hot so we could, later in the game, have two threats instead of just one.

Where I concede that Woody is/was wrong is on the switching defense: we cannot use this all the time, specially when we are facing a team like the Lakers who have a slow PG which Bibby should be able to defend at least moderately well.

So, what happened??? Same old sh*t, that is what happened…

In particular: J-Smoove

What happened was what typically happens to the Hawks: J-Smoove reverted back to his childish and egotistical mode, envious of JJ’s hot hand, he started breaking plays, not entering the paint and shooting brick after brick.

J-Smoove was the main culprit that we did not have any inside game and was making shots that should have been reserved to Marvin (another sleep walking night).

How can you have any degree of success when you only have one player in the paint and everyone else in the perimeter??? Is this Woody’s fault? I can guarantee you that Woody’s instructions do not preview shooting from the outside after 1 pass, not hitting the boards, not driving, …

People around here gave little importance to J-Smoove’s voicing his opinions in the huddle during the media day questioning a play Woody designed. Well, that was a sample of Josh’s disruptive behavior.

The problem lies precisely on the fact that J-Smoove could be the cornerstone for our success if he realized what he can do and what he cannot do.

When we suffered those 18-0 in the 3rd period, there was (amongst other mistakes by other players) J-Smoove with 2 TOs, one by taking the ball up court as if he was “the man” and with a lazy pass to JJ.

Yes, other players underachieved (Marvin, Al, …) and JJ went 1-8 in the second half, however, this all comes as consequence to the above.

Let us imagine that we did not have those 2 TO: 18-0 could immediately go down to 14-4 (quite different) and eventually the Lakers’ momentum would have been broken… maybe the 18-0 would have been 10-6 or 10-8…

We know that Zaza will have his 1 or 2 dum TO’s, however, we should expect that Josh diminishes/eliminates his, specially in light of the fact that we all want him to become an All-Star.

More J-Smoove In retrospective:

If we look back to the Indy game, J-Smoove had an APPARENTLY good game.

However, as I had already pointed out, during the first half, whilst he was “hot”, Troy Murphy almost matched his points (only -2) and assists (only -1) whilst having a huge advantage in rebounding (+6 or 7) and the result was that we were up by only 1 at the break.

It was only when J-Smoove started to work down low defensively and stopped trying to be the center of the attention that we pulled away and secured the win.

Against the Wiz he had a very good overall game, however, with that game his mind set reverted back to the childish self he typically is, which is to think that he is the man.

JJ’s words after the game were, in my opinion, correct and mainly directed to J-Smoove and to Zaza (I would not have voiced them publicly though).

Marvin:

People complain – justifiably – about Marvin, however, we have to realize that there was no ball movement and no inside-outside game without which Marvin does not get the open looks he needs to shoot the rock or to drive and get to the line.

I strongly believe that J-Smoove is to blame for some of Marvin’s lack of involvement since he was breaking plays, stepping into his areas and was taking the shots which should have been reserved to Marvin (whilst neglecting to hit the boards and working down low).

Notwithstanding the above, let us all hope that J-Smoove learned his lesson and that we can put this in perspective: we played badly but we fought back to make it “a palatable defeat”. Now, let us focus on Portland.

Final notes:

Props to JT0!!! Let him run circles around Andre Miller on Wednesday.

If I were Woody, I would talk to Josh and if he did not acknowledged his responsibility, I would bench him and play Joe Smith against Portland.

vava74

November 2nd, 2009
9:37 am

The front court collapsed because Josh refused to play down low and keep up with the tasks assigned to his role as a PF.

He basically left Al alone and occupied the zones assigned to Marvin.

He broke plays, launched stupid jump shots, made bad passes and tried to carry the ball up court as if he were man.

All these things completely foiled whatever game plan we had.

Like this, it is easy to hate Josh with the exact same intensity as we love him sometimes. Yesterday was hate night.

Anyone thinking he is the man who will lead us anywhere, look again please.

Yes, he is spectacular and can change a game in our favor, however, he does the opposite as well.

People have to realize that BBall, like any team sport, involves a high degree of coordination between players and “creativity” only plays a limited role.

Look at the triangle offense and how orchestrated it is (and how successful).

Phil Jackson would never get along with Josh, he would trade him in no time.

If Josh does not change his mind set, I say: trade him.

niremetal

November 2nd, 2009
10:16 am

The Hawks are running more and more sets that place Marvin on the weakside, which makes it very difficult for him to get touches. I don’t see that changing, so Marvin’s stats might turn out to be even more anemic this year than in years past. I hope I’m wrong…