Nuggets present golden opportunity

When the Denver Nuggets visit Phillips Arena this evening, they’ll present yet another “first” this season for the Hawks. The first real challenge at home, that is. Having thrown in their card as a legit contender for the Western crown last year, the Nuggets are assumed a contender again this season. No doubt a 5-1 start has done nothing to dissuade such a notion, despite a mild hiccup in Miami last night. Meanwhile, the Hawks would like to become part of the conversation when it comes to talking about legit contenders. Winning more on the road is the next step to winning 50 or more games, but winning games at home against tough opponents is also something the Hawks have to learn to do. Why? Because what you learn to do now is what you will repeat in the postseason. If the Hawks want to meet with better success in the postseason, this is where it starts. A win against the Nuggets would be the first step on that path, making this a golden opportunity. Anyway, let’s look at some details surrounding this game, and how it can be won.

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT REMEMBER

The two teams met twice last year, with the Hawks winning handily at home, and the Nuggets pulling out a one point victory back at their place. Player performances were mostly inconsistent, which comes as no surprise. However, there was a common denominator that I feel is noteworthy. Marvin Williams went to the line quite a few times against Denver in both contests (9 attempts in the first game, 10 attempts in the second). You can say it’s nothing big, but there is something about Marvin when he plays against certain teams. Maybe it was Carmelo Anthony’s lack of defense, maybe not. Whatever it is, the Hawks would do well to remember this and try to exploit it against Denver again.

BATTLING BIGS

Al Horford blitzed the Nuggets both times he played against them last season, averaging 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. While that was certainly nice, the Nuggets also didn’t have Nene. At 6′11 and 250 pounds, Denver’s starting center is strong, fairly mobile, and has a smooth game, making him a tough opponent for Al Horford. I have to say that out of all the matchups in this game, this one probably excites me the most. Here’s the trick: Nene is foul prone, averaging a nasty 4.3 infractions per game. The Hawks need force the issue and try to exploit this by going to Horford and Smith early and often in the game. Speaking of fouls, Josh Smith will have to be doubly careful not to let himself get a quick hook, which he has done too often already this season. It hurts the Hawks because Smith is a source/threat of points, rebounds, assists, and help defense. While it’s true that his play on both ends of the floor has been inconsistent, the simple fact is that he can’t contribute if he’s not in the game. On the other side of the ball, there is Kenyon Martin and reserve Chris Anderson. Martin is no top power forward, but he’s enough of a potential threat on either side of the floor, making him a guy you don’t want to ignore. Fortunately, he’s also rather foul prone, and can be taken out of games in this fashion. As for Anderson, he brings energy, rebounding and defense, with the occasional thunderous dunk. Best not to let him have a good game either.

WINGS AND THINGS

Sounds like an appetizer at the Taco Mac or one of the other eateries at/around Phillips Arena, does it not? I’m getting hungry just thinking about it, and it’s not even 10 a.m. yet, as I write this. Ah yes, some nice ranch dressing on the side, give the celery to my wife….okay, back on topic. If you’ve heard any rumblings for MVP coming out of the west, there’s a second name along with the usual Kobe Bryant chants. That would be Mr. Anthony, aka ‘Melo. The Denver small forward has one of the most complete games in the league and he is on a tear. Leading the league in scoring at 31.7 points per game, ‘Melo is also shooting a healthy 47.7% from the field, to include 41.2% from beyond the arc. So who wants to guard him? Uh, Marvin….that would be you. ‘Melo looks like he can’t be stopped (even in last night’s loss to Miami), and we may see Joe Johnson on his hip sometime during the 4th quarter. But until then, Marvin will have the job of trying to keep Anthony from posting his third 40 point night of the season.

MAYHEM IN THE BACKCOURT

Here’s another place that things can get sticky. The good news is that the Hawks don’t have to face the athletic and sweet-shooting J.R. Smith. He’ll be riding the pine and finishing out his suspension. The bad news is Chauncey Billups is playing as well as ever. This guy runs a team as well as any, and better than most, and can take over a game by putting up his own 30 points on any given night. Opposite him is probably going to be Arron Affalo. The kid is still finding his way in his third year in the league, but he is energetic and can shoot it. Off the bench comes speedy rookie Ty Lawson, who is already proving to be an effective player (he’s the fourth leading scorer on the team, to put that into perspective).  The Hawks of course, counter with two 20 point threats in Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, and point guards Mike Bibby and Jeff Teague. If Crawford bounces back from the debacle in Charlotte (shared by everybody on the team) and continues his high scoring ways, then the Nuggets will likely be in for a very long evening. At the same time, how the Hawks handle the upstart Lawson and how many minutes Teague gets to play may be bigger factors than we think.

THE DEFENSE RESTS

We’ve talked many times already about how the Hawks won’t be able to get away with lazy defense for two or more quarters agains the better teams in the League. Well, this is one of those teams. One quarter of lazy or inconsistent defense is bad enough. Add to that the fact that the Nuggets themselves are capable of clamping down on teams, and you have a recipe for disaster if the Hawks don’t get out of the gate early on defense, and maintain it for the bulk of the game. On another note, there is the matter of this phenomenon (or perhaps you prefer the term “plague”) known as the “switching defense” that the Hawks play. Perhaps 6 games into the season is a bit too soon to render a total condemnation of a gameplan or scheme, but we’re Hawks fans, and patience is not a strong suit. All the same, I’m going to wait on this one for a few more games. But trust me….there is a blog post (read: rant) on this subject just waiting to be born.

FATIGUE FACTOR

The first excuse that Hawks fans might think of in the beating served up by the Bobcats is that our guys are tired. Well, they probably are, especially after a coast to coast flight to Charlotte, where they ended a four-game road trip. But are they any worse off than the Nuggets, who come into Atlanta on their fourth game of a six-game road trip? If anything, the Nuggets will be just as worn out, and unlike they Hawks, they won’t have the comfort of playing at home. Either way, these are professionals, so it comes with the territory. Legs might or might not be sore, but nobody is going to get a free pass.

GRAB THE MIC AND TELL US…..

…Who you think will be the game maker/breaker for either team.

…Which rookie will get more minutes: Lawson or Teague?

… Whether or not Marvin will help slow Carmelo down on one end and cause the Denver defense fits on the other. 

…How good you think the chances are that  Joe and Jamal have the Nuggets seeing 20/20 (points, that is).

…If Josh and Al can stay out of serious foul trouble.

The game is on tonight at 7 p.m. Don’t be late, and show your Hawks some support!

222 comments Add your comment

Ariose

November 7th, 2009
11:30 am

Ariose

November 7th, 2009
12:00 pm

Great post ray.

Our bigs MUST stay out of foul trouble. Last night it was obvioust to me that the bobcats were targeting Josh smith. They baisically attacked him until he picked up two fouls, woodson stupidly took him out. I on the other hand, wouldn’t have given the bobcats what they wanted and kept him on the floor until we had a firm grasp on the game (once he went to the bench, it was over, they destroyed us.)

It will be interesting to see the Nene vs. Horford battle….It may be the deciding factor in the game.

I doubt teague will get any significant minutes, but if Woosaon is smart HE WILL PLAY JEFF TEAGUE!!! Teague ABUSED Lawsoin in college and is just as fast….neither one (it’s a rokie thing I guess) are great shooters so that shouldn’t be a problem (Like DJ Augistin was). Speaking of DJ, some of ou were complaining about teagues defense? Thats halarious, he’s already our best guard defender. Just because he got caught under ONE screen? Like that doesnt happen to Mr. Bibby ALL THE TIME, Like Crawford isn’t on skates defensively ALL THE TIME (compared to Mr. Mrurray at least whose defense last night brought back some fond memories…..anyhoo)

When we lost to the Nuggest in denver by one point, that was WITHOUT Josh Smith (Newborn) and Mike Bibby (Flu), and with our very talented bench, added depth/scoring upgrades, the organic growth of our youngsters, their growth in experience, and the energy from the home crowd (you know Philips will be rocking on a Saturday night) I have no doubt that we will win this game.

Going back to the Denver game last season. (without Bibby and Smoove) We lost by ONE POINT to a team that had Chauncey Billups pour in 36 pts and Carmelo go for 33pts and we STILL only lost by ONE POINT in DENVER. I also beleive that THAT denver team from last season (with Klezia, Dahntay Jones,…and I guess J.R since he’s not playing tonight) is/was far more talented than their roster this season.

My Prediction?

Total team Effort:

Smackdown by A-Town, Birds by 15. We will turn up the heat to make sure we put them away.

There’s no way Jamal et.al let us loose two in a row, and certainly NOT at Phillips where we obviously play like a different team than the one on the road…..at least in the past.

It looks like being humbled by the champs wasn’t enough, but being humbled by the lowly bobcats(who I predicted WILL make the playoffs…they just won’t beat us again this season heh!) should really have woken this team up and given them a reality check. We haven’t proven anything, and nothing is guarenteed. We have to come out and dominate with playoff intensity EVERY night.

One more thing. We are obviously better than the Miami Heat who handed denver a beatdown last night. Nuff said. We are also both on or were on long road trips.

GO HAWKS!!!!

vava74

November 7th, 2009
12:34 pm

I couldn’t catch yesterday’s game, however, just by looking at the highlights on NBA.com, analysing the date (play by play, the shot chart, boxscore) and reading what the guys here said it is easy to conclude that the switching defense was killing us leaving Charlotte’s back court with favorable match ups and comfortably shooting from outside.

I think the switching defense has two main problems: it is not effective against all types of teams and the guys out there must be working at 100%.

Just out of my hat, I think we were out coached and out hustled in another showing of immaturity by both Woody and the team.

Not to despair, however, it is very disappointing since we could have been standing at the top of the NBA last night with the few others which have only 1 loss.

I am really concerned about tonight since our guys are tired and the nuggets are a very tough match up for us with Billups (who had a very bad day yesterday) and Lawson who seems to be very comfortable at the pro level already. Obviously, the Nuggets are also tired after a long trip here in the East, however, I think they are stronger mentally and had quite a few good results.

Melo has been on fire and we will need to step up defensively in order to pull this one through.

In general, in spite of our 4-1 record, in my view we have been living in borrowed time: the defense has been very lax, we only rebounded well against Portland and we benefited from the “good Crawford” for two games in a row to bail us out.

Also, we should be very aware of the fact that Sac, Ind and Was are inferior teams and these wins were achieved with too much “pain”. Not a good sign.

niremetal

November 7th, 2009
12:39 pm

Ariose,

You get my message on Twitter?

niremetal

November 7th, 2009
12:49 pm

GRAB THE MIC AND TELL US…..

…Who you think will be the game maker/breaker for either team.

The obvious: Carmelo. The less-obvious: K-Mart. With the quick release he has on his jumper, the Nuggets could kill us with pick-and-pops if they run some with him.

…Which rookie will get more minutes: Lawson or Teague?

Lawson.

… Whether or not Marvin will help slow Carmelo down on one end and cause the Denver defense fits on the other.

If George Karl thinks like Larry Brown, Carmelo will be run off so many screens that we won’t see Marvin guarding him too much. But he was playing great D last night while he was out there. On the other end, Marvin is getting so few touches that it’s hard to see him being a factor. Even if he does get more touches, it’s tough to imagine him finding his rhythm right off the bat. Either way, I don’t see him making a dent offensively.

…How good you think the chances are that Joe and Jamal have the Nuggets seeing 20/20 (points, that is).

Very good, unless they put someone other than JR Smith on them. JR is just a bad defender, no two ways about it. I’d be more worried about JR shooting lights-out at the other end like Bell did last night. With the switching defense, he could be getting a lot more open looks if Melo and Chauncey take it to the hole.

…If Josh and Al can stay out of serious foul trouble.

Horford, yes. Josh, only if Karl doesn’t exploit the switching defense so that Josh has to chase around perimeter players and start from a bad position on the floor to help.

O'Brien

November 7th, 2009
12:57 pm

I think we should double Carmelo (the way teams double JJ). Force him to give the ball up. We should also run plays for Marvin, which if Marvin can remain upright (and hang on to the ball) Melo will have to work on defense.

Woody needs to pick and choose when (and which teams) to use the switching defense on. Unfortunately, once Woody has a plan, he sticks with it no matter what.

Vava74 – “In general, in spite of our 4-1 record, in my view we have been living in borrowed time”.

JJ agrees with you. saw this on espn.com. “Coach Mike Woodson called the performance “unacceptable” and was unwilling to blame it on the travel. Johnson added he’s been seeing signs of trouble despite recent victories”.

For the game tonight, Denver is tired, and we are playing at home. I think Hawks win, and Crawford has a big game.

KevinA

November 7th, 2009
1:29 pm

Ray,

Great post,

Losses are tough, even for basketball players. A win will solve all problems. I hope we take out our frustrations on defense. We don’t have to score so many points if we get some stops.

After the JJ comments I like the idea of Marvin driving a focal point of our offense. A true team player. If asked, he would rise to the occasion.

Ariose

November 7th, 2009
2:17 pm

Nire, sorry lol. I just read it. I’ve been M.I.A lateley with exams n’ such. I just sent you the reply.

MannyT

November 7th, 2009
3:18 pm

From the Bobcats game…they cannot score against anyone else. They blow the Hawks out. To get to the next level, we need to be more consistent. All that said, the most consistent thing about the team in the past has been inconsistency. :-x

Moving forward…I am 99% sure that Lawson gets more minutes than Teague. It won’t be close. Lawson gets about 10 minutes more than Teague.

As for the difference maker…I’ll go with Marvin. If he plays well we can easily win. If he stinks, someone will have to have a monster game for us to win. Marvin doesn’t have to stop Carmelo, just make him work hard for his points. Even if ‘Melo drops 40, we will be fine if he does it in an Iverson-like 35 shots!

Don’t be surpised if we get 3 guys in the 20s tonight. I’ll call it the Ruby Sneaker effect…there’s no place like home.

I thought the Hawks crowd credo was how I can be fashionable unless I am late ;-)

BWAF

mike

November 7th, 2009
3:52 pm

who is sekou’s replacement? you?

niremetal

November 7th, 2009
5:02 pm

Ray’s got a more important job to do been an interim beat writer :)

niremetal

November 7th, 2009
5:02 pm

*than be an interim

MannyT

November 7th, 2009
5:57 pm

Sekou said there was a national search for the replacement. Seems like it’s a tricky job to fill. Newspapers are not the best business of late. Notice how many ex-AJCers work for somewhere.com

Gotta find a rising star and pull him or her along. Remember they got Sekou from that hotbed of NBA hoops (Mississippi) ;-)

Gotta get to the game before Ray gives me grief for trying to be fashionable :roll:

BWAF

niremetal

November 7th, 2009
6:07 pm

Ha – I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the AJC let the position lay fallow for a few months. Between the increasing dominance of internet news and the continued recession, it’s a tough time to be a newspaper.

niremetal

November 7th, 2009
6:22 pm

Game on NBATV –> no League Pass –> I have to scramble for a feed online. *sigh*

Big Ray

November 7th, 2009
6:24 pm

Nire ,

Actually, we’re in luck. JR Smith won’t be playing, as I said above. He’s on suspension ’til November 10th.

Mike ,

No sir, I’m no journalist or writer. Just a fan with a computer, some primitive skills, and an opportunity. :)

niremetal

November 7th, 2009
6:40 pm

I thought it was just a 5-game suspension…totally missed that in your post. My bad.

Well, we should definitely be posting JJ up against Carter or Billups, then. And if it’s Afflalo, JJ/Jamal should be taking it to the rack every time.

niremetal

November 7th, 2009
6:43 pm

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
6:50 pm

Ray,

Good blog.

Not sure if anyone posted this info already but I will cut this from NBA.com

“If Karl is going to pick up his 939th career victory Saturday and move past Red Auerbach for eighth place on the all-time coaching wins list, he likely won’t have forward Kenyon Martin, who left Friday’s game in the second quarter with a leg injury.”

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
6:53 pm

I said last year that I thought Denver was the team that we were similiar to out west. We’re almost identical in size and I think their style of play (uptempo) would suit the talent we have better than Woody’s halfcourt (or lack there of) offense.

vava74

November 7th, 2009
6:53 pm

Sekou followed these guys around, day in, day out and he said it:

In a nutshell:

“JJ is envious and is not understanding that the team has to be involved and that not all revolves around him and that he has to realise that and accept Jamal”

vava74

November 7th, 2009
6:55 pm

Frankly, I have no reason to doubt Sekou and I am very disappointed…

Ariose

November 7th, 2009
6:55 pm

Whoo!!!! Sekou spittin’ hot fire over on NBA TV GameTime. JJ has some questions to answer lol…

vava74

November 7th, 2009
6:56 pm

This was on nbaTV just a few moments ago…

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
6:59 pm

Vava and Aroise,

Wow. Sekou said a mouthful right there.

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:21 pm

Hawks off to a good start

vava74

November 7th, 2009
7:30 pm

I don’t know if it is suggestion, but I am not liking JJ’s body language…

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:35 pm

vava,

could it be after Sekou’s comments, it makes you see Joe in a different light? that may be the case for me…

vava74

November 7th, 2009
7:38 pm

Nice first quarter… not taking rushed jump shots early, good defense and rebounding…

Ariose

November 7th, 2009
7:39 pm

it shouldn’t. JJ has made comments like this before. Remeber Sekou didn’t ask JJ what he meant by those statemnts. NBATV asked SEKOU to interpret what JJ meant. I’m sure if JJ is asked what he mens up front….we won’t be so in the dark about hus frequnt “mysterious” comments lol.

Wabe

November 7th, 2009
7:40 pm

Solid first quarter. Marvin + Josh had a good first quarter. Guys like Crawford and Evans came off the bench and made good contributions.

Must sustain.

vava74

November 7th, 2009
7:40 pm

Yes, hence reference to “suggestion”… I may be seeing JJ on a completely different light…

I think this might lead us to the debate: the Hawks outgrown “JJ, me the saviour” and need him to revert back to something more like his Suns’ self…

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:40 pm

33pt 1st qtr. I will take it…

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:41 pm

good point Ariose.

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:42 pm

good point Vava…

vava74

November 7th, 2009
7:42 pm

whooooooaaaaaaa….. JT0!!!!

Wabe

November 7th, 2009
7:44 pm

How bout that. JT0 with two great plays. Penetrate and dish into the corner to JCrawford for the 3 and then the beautiful fake on the fast break for a bucket of his own.

Lets go!!

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:47 pm

My goodness Teague is quick…

Wabe

November 7th, 2009
7:48 pm

Evans having himself a pretty good quarter here.

vava74

November 7th, 2009
7:48 pm

now he is forcing it… but he is soooo quick… it’s a blurr

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:50 pm

Ok, why did we sign Joe Smith again???? DNP 2nd half against the Bobcats and in the 1st half tonight…

Wabe

November 7th, 2009
7:50 pm

Good minutes JT0.

vava74

November 7th, 2009
7:51 pm

the nuggets are clearly tired

vava74

November 7th, 2009
7:54 pm

Melvin, Joe Smith could have a physical problem (age=tired). I am sure Woody is just saving his legs.

Ariose

November 7th, 2009
7:55 pm

He better get a grip though. I know he’s not going to leave another good situatuon (04-05 suns) because he wants MORE responsibility lol…..he hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion with ALL of the dutues (leader) that are on his plate.

oh yeah and…..JEFF TEAGUE!!!! 8-O

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:57 pm

Vava,
I hope Woody doesnt killed everyone else legs in doing so…:)

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
7:59 pm

Josh got pretty with that alley oop…

vava74

November 7th, 2009
8:02 pm

we need to get the ball to Al

Melvin

November 7th, 2009
8:03 pm

A Joe Smith sighting…

Ariose

November 7th, 2009
8:07 pm

Mo is getting torched tonight….I think it’s time for a REAl backup SF…..just sayin’…