Hawks look to avoid northern exposure

After dispatching a tired Denver Nuggets team in fine fashion, the Atlanta Hawks head north for a couple more road games against Boston and New York.

Both teams present different challenges, despite what their altogether different records might indicate. But before we explore that idea, let’s quickly review the game against Denver. First of all, winning by 25 points is great. But as team captain Joe Johnson noted, that’s not the whole story. In a way, the Hawks did precisely what they were supposed to do (win the game), and nothing more. If you want to solidify the idea that you are a good team, then you are supposed to beat up on another team that is more road weary than you, and missing two starters to boot. The offense looked good for the most part, but there are still issues on defense. Giving up 100 points to a team that was missing 10 ppg from one guy, and potentially 19 ppg from another (J.R. Smith’s scoring average from last year)? Not good.

Moving on to New York and Boston. As stated earlier, both teams present a challenge to the Hawks. Now before you start snickering to yourself about the Knicks and their abysmal 1-8 record, you might want to remember a “weak” Sacramento squad that did not finally get put down until late in the fourth quarter. Then there was that Bobcats squad that stopped sniffling about their losing ways just long enough to hand us a beating similar to the one we gave Denver. Much as we may hate it, the Hawks have a way of playing down to opponents that they should be beating with ease. Why is that? Everybody has their own theories on the matter, but it’s the Hawks themselves who have to figure it out.

HAWKS vs. KNICKS

The Challenge

The Knicks like to run and shoot. Big surprise, with Mike D’Antoni at the reins. Outside of David Lee and Wilson Chandler, almost nobody is anywhere near serious about rebounding. And the defense? Did I mention Mike D’Antoni coaches this team? Suffice it to say that the Knicks are handing out about 10 more points per game than they are scoring. Of course, it’s kind of hard to outscore your opponent when you’re shooting 42% from the field for the season.

And that’s just it. A team can shoot horribly for several games, but all it takes is that one game where another team takes them lightly (at home, no less), and WHOOSH! They catch fire.

What you might remember

Nate Robinson coming off the bench to score 24 points in 24 minutes, in an eight point victory over the Hawks at “The Garden” on January 28th, 2009. Or Danilo Gallinari, Larry Hughes, Al Harrington, and Wilson Chandler each scoring 17 points or more in a four point victory over the Hawks on March 4th, 2009. Same place…Madison Square Garden. That’s right. The awful Knicks took us out both times, on their own homecourt. We need to change that tomorrow night.

These guys could be a problem

My nominations for game maker/breaker ended up in a three-way tie.  I had a hard time not picking Wilson Chandler, even though his shooting percentage stinks right now. But the fact is, if that guy has to face a determined Joe Johnson or Marvin Williams, his shooting woes are only going to continue. So, I’m going with Nate Robinson, Danilo Gallinari, and Toney Douglas.

Why Gallinari? Simple. The Hawks have had trouble closing out on perimeter shooters. Gallinari lives on the perimeter, and right now he’s shooting a nicer percentage from beyond the arc (45.9%) than he is from the field overall (44.1%). He’s already taken 61 3s, and made 28 of them. Hey, that’s awful close to half of his 3 point attempts made. If we don’t close out on this guy, it’s going to hurt.

Nate Robinson? He’s a bit of an X-factor. Here’s another guy who is shooting horribly right now, but he has shown how explosive he can be in the past. If the Hawks aren’t playing with a high energy level, and Robinson begins to hit shots, watch out!

Toney Douglas? Now I know you’re shaking your head at this one. But once again, I have to point out the Hawks’ tendencies to not take a newer player in the league seriously enough until it’s too late. I’m glad we didn’t let Tyreke Evans beat us up (ask the Utah Jazz how it feels, he dropped 32 on them), but Toney Douglas is heating up right now. The Hawks can cool the athletic combo guard off with some stingy defense. Or, they can watch him continue to shoot over 50% from the field (and a dangerous 43.8% from the arc) and wonder what happened as he and Gallinari rains 3s all over the court.

I’ll say it one more time: The Knicks are a bad team. But they’re also a dangerous one.

HAWKS VS CELTICS

The Challenge

Just playing these guys is a challenge in and of itself. You’ll find out as a team just how tough you are, both physically and mentally, as well as how disciplined you are. Or how disciplined you’re not.

For the Hawks, it’s a challenge of finding out just how close or far they are from a member of the “Big Three”.

What you might remember

The 2007-2008 playoffs. And every game the Hawks have played against the Celtics since then. After the Hawks pushed them to 7 games in their first playoff series in over a decade, the Celtics have made sure the Hawks knew their place by beating them in every game since. That’s right. The Hawks have not beaten the Celtics since that playoff series. They brush off the Hawks (even when they need a last second shot to win the game) as “pretenders” or something other than a credible opponent. Ask Paul Pierce (grrrrrr…don’t get me started). The Hawks can’t have forgotten any of this. I know we as fans haven’t. Can the Hawks win a game against Boston? It may not even up the current tally, but it’s a step in the right direction, especially when we’re talking about improving the road record.

And scratch everything I ever said about the Celtics being the possible weakest link of the Big Three, allowing the Hawks to challenge for eastern conference top billing. Right now? They look like the strongest of the triumvirate.

These guys might be trouble

Take your pick. That’s the nasty thing about good teams, the Celtics in particular. There is not a guy in the starting five that you can slack off of. So instead of talking about who is the most dangerous, we’ll have to settle for which players present scenarios that could be the most trouble.

Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace. These two guys play with plenty of passion, skills, and smarts. Both can hit a jumper, though ‘Sheed is much more well known for drifting out to the arc for a few attempts. The problem is, he can hit them, even if his percentage isn’t pretty (34%). But that’s not really the issue. The issue here is that both guys will do what they can to get into the heads of Josh Smith and Al Horford.  They’ll try to get both guys into foul trouble, and frustrate them on the offensive end as well. Horford is steadier in this area, but Josh is more mercurial.

And really, it all hinges on Josh. Horford will hold his own as long as he’s not in foul trouble, but he really needs Josh’s help. If Josh doesn’t play well, the Hawks will struggle mightily against the Celtics. In fact, it may not even be a struggle. That comprises the frontcourt angle, in my mind.

In the backcourt, it’s still a “pick your poison” situation. Ray Allen is doing decently, and we’ll need Joe Johnson to pick him up….leaving Rondo for Bibby. While the Hawks usually dial it up a couple notches for the Celtics, Rondo is doing as well as ever, playing his role better than some expected. Bibby isn’t the only one who will be tasked with guarding him. So will Jamal Crawford, and Jeff Teague, assuming he gets to take the floor in what should be a hotly contested game.

So there you have it. Two road games up north, and the Hawks need to avoid exposing themselves in both.

What do you think? Will Joe Smith be able to help the Hawks (and his younger frontcourt mates) deal with the Celtics’ vaunted front line? Will Jason Collins get to play? Do you expect the Hawks to split the road games, win one, or lose both?

155 comments Add your comment

i_am_soulstar

November 10th, 2009
11:36 pm

i_am_soulstar

November 10th, 2009
11:37 pm

oh and FIRST!

cp

November 10th, 2009
11:40 pm

I think Nate is still out due to injury. Ive watched the last few Knicks games and most of the players really don’t seem to care. They have been down at least 20 points in I think 6 of they games they have played so far. They rarely attack the basket, play no defense, and settle for jumpers all game. I think we can put them away early only if we don’t look past them in anticipation for Boston.

DJ

November 10th, 2009
11:47 pm

2nd! :D I think they beat the knicks by 8. Jamal Crawford with 21. Al Horford with a big game, 17 and 16?

Against the Celtics, I think its going to be close but they beat us by 4. Paul Pierce is going to have a good game, as ususal against the hawks.

P.S: Maybe Paul is going to get his 10k ;)

DJ

November 10th, 2009
11:48 pm

3rd >.< and * Al gets his 10k

Big Ray

November 10th, 2009
11:53 pm

DJ ,

Now why’d you have to go and say that? I am going to be grinding my teeth something fierce if that happens! : (

JSS

November 11th, 2009
12:04 am

Good luck to the Hawks on their sojourn… While I was away, did anyone mention that Hawks summer invitee Siler was the 1st pick by the D-League’s Utah team? http://www.sltrib.com/sports/ci_13725339

Have a great week!

Ramon

November 11th, 2009
12:53 am

I think they’ll beat the Knicks by 16 points. I see them being up by as many as 31 in the first half. And I think they will beat Boston by 6 in Boston. In Boston, expect Joe Smith to get 20 minutes of playing time. His shooting range will force Garnett/Sheed to have to come out of the paint and open the lane more for Crawford. Don’t be surprised to see a line up of Crawford/JJ/Smoove/Joe Smith/Horford for an extended amount of time.

Big Ray, in the Boston game, I see Perkins and House being the key to that game. If you can get Perkins into foul trouble, and close good on House, you take away the two most underrated factors of Boston’s team. The big three you expect to play well, but its Perkins and the bench who is normally the ones to be impacted the most by a high energy game at home. I’m sure you remember how Cassell made Mike Woodson look like Milton Bradley, when he finished playing with his backups.

KevinA

November 11th, 2009
2:08 am

The season is young and the sample set is still small but the Hawks seem better than last year and have more potential. We are certainly more versatile and deeper giving Woody more options.

ISO ego and jacking jumpers from the back court was my biggest concern when we signed Crawford. In my view Bibby and JJ had taken way to many shots last year. I didn’t see how signing Crawford would change that. Of course I was wrong about the impact that Jamal has made. He has been great and a welcome addition.

But my concern of balance still remains. We still take to many jumpers that come from one on one plays.

JJ and Crawford are off to a great start. Are we due for a crash? Career highs are just that. They are having career highs in FG%. Will ISO ego reign in the end with our back court? Or will we play balanced team ball and to a bigger extent get the rest of the team more involved.

Lets not forget Marvin, Evans, ZaZa and Joe Smith who are just as important over a long season. They need their touches and shot attempts in the scheme of unselfish ball movement. Being close to 30 assists is a good barometer.

We don’t win if Josh doesn’t defend. Interesting how we seem to get better ball rotation when Josh is scoring and defending. Interesting how Al and Josh have become assist machines with few turnovers. Interesting how JT and Jamal make everybody else look so slow.

We have the ability to win against anybody if egos are put aside. Look maybe egos is to tough a word, maybe style of play is better. Teams like the Nicks may allow the Hawks to make a few mistakes or at least more so than Boston but for the first time in years the Hawks control much of their destiny themselves against any team.

We still have yet to see the Hawks put it all together, and I understand these things take time. I had thought it might take till the end of next year or the year after. Adding Jamal and JT put my hopes on the fast track for this year. We have kinks and wrinkles to work out and 70 something games to do it. An exciting year, lets get-er-done.

i_am_soulstar

November 11th, 2009
2:33 am

Boston’s backcourt can’t guard Atlanta’s backcourt, and it certainly won’t get any easier with Crawford in the mix (most teams’ backcourts pale in comparison). But the opposite goes for their superior front court, which gives Atlanta problems in every single Hawks-Celtics game i can remember in recent history.

Al will likely be good ol’ dependable Al. Whether we get a W or not depends on whether good Josh or bad Josh shows up (God I just wish bad Josh would disappear into the abyss), and on Marvin showing up and doing a respectable job guarding Paul Pierce. I’m gonna break out the spell books and wish bad Josh away.

Plus my girl is a huge Celtics fan and she’s been talking trash about the Hawks since pre-season, so I need the bragging rights from this one!

i_am_soulstar

November 11th, 2009
2:36 am

And even if its an L (knock on wood), it’ll be a victory for me if Al gets his 10K (Pay up Pierce!!!!!)

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
4:22 am

Okay, please indulge a dummy. What is “10K”?

JSS

November 11th, 2009
5:18 am

Are they still talking about that “side bet” (wink wink) from the 2007 playoffs between Horford and Pierce?

Marcus

November 11th, 2009
6:52 am

This will be our test to see if we changed vs NYK. Those 2 losses last year to the Knicks (if I recall we had 2 similar lethargic losses @ a down CHA team last year and this year) were not good for a team looking to elevate itself. BOS, whole ‘nother story. Need to make a statement even if it is in a losing effort.

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
9:26 am

I would expect a crazy shoot out with NY, with the outcome anywhere from a big win for either team, with most highlights derived from the offensive/transition end of the game. But Boston could put a result on us that surpasses the Charlotte outcome,exposing our “out from nowhere” indifference for half-court defense, with Boston’s recently established nightly commitment to forcing their opponent to beg and claw for any offensive success, leaving the other squad exhausted, bruised, and maybe feeling lucky for whatever small victories they wish to take credit for, along the way to a 20-loss.

This Boston game, unless it staunchly contradicts my concerns for a negativeoutcome, in the form of a low-scoring brawl, will instead validate that Atlanta’s early-season offensive production and concurrently unprecedentedly high PPG given to just about any opponent willing to engage in a fast-paced, 48-minute offensive battle-royal, is merely a pre-cursor for, at worst, the need for massive adjustments in defensive priority and the need to control an increasingly out-of-control offense pace, and, at best, the recognition that even if the Hawks are executing this historically “Western Conference” offensive style, they are doing so to middling success, and failing to accurately mimic the designated teams they would seek to copycat.

Get into a D’Antoni-style pace, against NY, then to be viewed as successful, you have to come away with a 20+ point win. Take on the Celtics, then you have to force their defense into a performance where they give up15-20 points more than a typical defensive night, AND the Hawks defense turns in a reciprocal performance, holding the Celtics well below their nightly offensive average. Have one without the other, and a double-digit loss will be the result. Have both, and the loss could cross the 20-point margin. Somehow over-perform, based on early season results, on both ends, and Atlanta could eak out a tight win.

MannyT

November 11th, 2009
9:33 am

Nate Robinson is not the X-factor. He sprained his ankle 6 games ago vs. Philly. He has not played since. As for the dangerous team thing, you are very correct. In the game where Robinson got hurt, they were getting blown out early in the 4th quarter (down 17). Gallinari & Harrington kept knocking down shots while Chandler & Hughes did most of the defensive work and brought them back. They made it to overtime and ran out of gas. The Knicks can get on a roll and make things difficult.

As for the Celtics, they look strong now because it is early in the season. Let’s see if you say the same thing in April. Age matters.

However, they do have our number. Hopefully the new look Hawks can make something happen. Crawford should be a problem for their backcourt. We need to show some creativity, like Marvin on Wallace to contest that 3 point shot. (Josh needs to stick closer to the basket on defense.)

We could win both which would make a great statement to the league, but we have to win the NY game unless you want all the teams below us to have too much hope when we go into their arenas.

BWAF

[...] Warriors anxious to part ways with Jackson SL Trib  Jazz: D-Will, Price sidelined? – AJC    Hawks look to avoid northern exposure Deseret News   Jazz have a problem at point Utah Jazz notes: Zone D giving shooterless Jazz [...]

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
9:45 am

Actually, that 9:26 post was HB Ando’s post, one that he sent me via e-mail.

Consider those his words…because they are.

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
9:46 am

Ok, so Nate Robinson is hurt. That’s what I get for not paying attention to the Knicks. Which is normal for me…I can’t stand ‘em….

MannyT

November 11th, 2009
10:47 am

Ray, I was only on top of this because Nate’s on my Sekou’s Bloggers Fantasy Hoops team. I just hope the Hawks don’t get overwhelmed by NY distractions. I’m guessing that the team was up there last night.

While I would not encourage getting into the Knicks, low defense, all offense game, the Hawks should be able to handle them. Charlotte is always a tough game for us, but NY is just not that good. Marvin should abuse Gallinari. His defense is bad. Watch his feet, they are as uninspired on defense as they are active on offense.

Have you put Ando on a word limit? Post was brief for him :-)

BWAF

vava74

November 11th, 2009
10:58 am

I think we should pace ourselves against the Knicks, grinding them on defense and not enter into a running game with them.

If we run too much against the Knicks we would, by default, lose focus on defense and on offense we could stop executing and sharing the rock as we should.

Also, we should save our running legs to play the Celtics in order to try to get their aging skeletons tired early trying to stop our explosiveness.

If we play too slow with the Celtics we will run into their web… Obviously, this does not mean that we should launch quick shots, merely that we should try to be very tight on defense and get good outlet passes and get some points on the break.

vava74

November 11th, 2009
10:59 am

would » will

Dawg

November 11th, 2009
11:11 am

The most difficult this with playing Boston (or Cleveland or LA) is the FACT that if the game is close, those NBA refs are going to give those team every call down the stretch. The NBA refs have no credibility to me. Lebron took 5 steps is a close game the other day and there was no call. He looked clumsy as heck yet no walking call. Pierce get similar calls.

We need to let JT and JC run those old Celtics and wear them down.

BBgenie

November 11th, 2009
12:44 pm

Hawks will be 8-2 by Monday morning.

KevinA

November 11th, 2009
1:47 pm

Crawford with the starters should be able to out defend and run with any Nick rotation. Josh plays his best defense in a helter skelter game. We just need to attack the basket and make the Nicks defend. No need to let their defense off the hook by taking a bunch of jump shots.

Wink

November 11th, 2009
2:37 pm

Ray

Game one against the Knicks, will play out as usual. I agree the Hawks will play down to the competition. They will see that record 1-8, mentally accept that they have to take this team seriously. The end result will be our starters will put us in an early hole in the first few minutes of the opening quarter. Then we will start playing catchup the rest of the way. Pull with in range going into half & did the hole again in the early part of 3rd quarter. We will find ourselves in another game like the Kings game, which we will win, but does not show the killer instinct we put on the Nuggets…go figure…that’s our team.

The second game against the C’s will be competitive, but this one will get blown by Woody. As Rondo will be the torch bearer & Woody want deploy Teague to get in front of this guy. Woody also will not play Collins & limited minutes for Joe Smith. This game with the C’s is why these guys are on the roster. This is the game where they should make a difference, or else we should have kept Siler & Sims as projects to develope. He will depend to much on Crawford to make the difference…the effort will be there, end result…another one in the loss column.

The record will be 1 & 1 on this trip, but we will be exposed for the “Wanna Be’s” against Knicks and the “Pre-Tenders” against Boston.

Alien in ATL

November 11th, 2009
3:26 pm

I am following the different blogs here for quite a while now and some of you are realy freeky! So loosing to a red hot Boston team would be a disgrace? Oh please! I agree that the least we should expect is to see a game, an over-the-normal team effort and preferably no 3rd quarter meltdown like we had against LA. But we are playing one of the top NBA teams, people! Let’s be real. How many teams have already been blown away by these Celtics? And be assured they still haven’t forgotten the ‘07/08 play-offs neither! And stop blaming Woodson for every single mistake his players make. They are the “actors on the scene”! If they screw up, all he can do is talk / yell at them during and after the game. But if they are thinking more about their bank account than about the game…

Alien in ATL

November 11th, 2009
3:31 pm

I wish we could win both games (and who knows?), but a 1-1 road trip result is the more realistic expectation and should not be taken in shame.

Alien in ATL

November 11th, 2009
3:51 pm

A lot will depend on how much the refereeing will favor the C’s. If the Hawks have to play against 8 instead of 5, as usually happens when we play against those teams, our wings will quickly be cut very short!

Melvin

November 11th, 2009
4:08 pm

These next two games present two totally different challenges. Against the Knicks, the Hawks will have to choose their running opportunities and play inside/out basketball to avoid a track meet. The quicker the pace the better chance for the Knicks (which is the lesser team) to be competitive.
As for the Celtics, we definitely have to pick up the tempo. We need to run at all cost, to limit the Celtics the opportunity to set up their half court defense. There’s not a team better than the Celtics in the league when it comes to playing defense. If the Hawks could dictate the style of play in both games then they should have a good chance at winning each.

The Hawksta

November 11th, 2009
4:37 pm

Ha! Ha! An HB Ando siting! Now that I finally figured out where this blog was I’m anxious to be a part of the group once again. I ask Big Ray in a previous Sekou blog whether he was still in the blog game no answer. Yet I read post later on in the same blog where you mention you were still tapping the keys!
May the force be with the Hawks tonight! By the way Ray, I gave the new Ken S a warm welcome for you(lol)!

i_am_soulstar

November 11th, 2009
4:42 pm

Big Ray,

The $10,000 Pierce supposedly owes Horford from their side bet in 2007-2008 playoffs. (According to Al, Pierce bet him the Hawks wouldn’t win one game in that series, and Al still hasn’t seen a dime of that money)

i_am_soulstar

November 11th, 2009
5:00 pm

just a thought.. Stephen Jackson for Marvin Williams and Jason Collins anyone?

KevinA

November 11th, 2009
5:13 pm

Marvin for David Lee – maybe – Jackson – no way

MitchC

November 11th, 2009
5:56 pm

Tonight’s game will tell what kind of team the Hawks may be this season. While the Knicks are one of the worst teams in the NBA so far this year, this is still “The Garden”, the biggest stage in the NBA. The bloggers, and the writers, have talked about the Hawks needing to be a 500 team on the road, to be considered serious contenders this year. Tonight’s game is a very winnable game, and the Hawks can’t use “tired” as an excuse, as they havent played since Saturday.

Boston is still Boston, 7-1. That game will probably be very, very tough.

What I’m hoping: A win over the Knicks tonight, and, at least a good game in Boston on Friday, whatever happens.

Tonight is an early season test for us. A win would go a long way toward showing we can win the games we are supposed to on the road, to achieve the 500 road record we need to become serious title contenders.

The Hawksta

November 11th, 2009
7:11 pm

I was very impressed with the Hawks back to back road wins on consecutive nights. I’d love the see the stats on the last time we accomplished that? Don’t remember seeing any post on it

The Hawksta

November 11th, 2009
7:13 pm

Also I expect Josh to have is best point total of the season. He kills smaller line ups. Plus with the Knicks run and gun style he should be able to raise the roof in the Garden.

KevinA

November 11th, 2009
7:23 pm

The Hawksta,

Thats how I look at it.

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
7:36 pm

MannyT ,

I welcome any corrections or added info that I didn’t include. I had to laugh at myself on that one though, because in a prior blog, I knew that Denver’s JR Smith wouldn’t be playing, because he was still serving a suspension. You can tell who I’m paying attention to, and who I’m not, LOL. Also, I think you’re correct about the Knicks. The only thing I don’t like is that we allowed them to handle us both times at MSG last year. Not acceptable.

Dawg ,

I hate to get into conspiracy theory type stuff, but you are right about the refs. And it really bites.

Soulstar ,

Thanks for the info. I really was lost on that one. :)

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
7:52 pm

Now see, here we go already …didn’t I say Gallinari and Douglas could be a problem? How many good looks will they get before we put a stop to it?

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
7:57 pm

Guess it’s the Mike & Josh show for now. Nobody else is scoring.

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
7:57 pm

Spoke too soon, Joe with two free throws.

Wabe

November 11th, 2009
8:06 pm

Again, the switching defense is giving the Knicks some easy buckets inside.

Jefferies gets a layup with Joe on him.
Harrington gets a bucket and 1 with Crawford on him.

Wabe

November 11th, 2009
8:18 pm

Wow.

What is up with the Hawks tonite?

Coming off a 4 day break, rust?

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
8:26 pm

Don’t know, Wabe .

What’s with Joe? Player of the Week, now this: 1-7 shooting and three turnovers. Dude isn’t getting anything done.

Don’t get me started on the switching defense….

O'Brien

November 11th, 2009
8:39 pm

When will Woody learn that for whatever reason, the switching defense is not working like he thinks it will.

We already lost 1 road game to Charlotte (maybe we were tired), so I hope we dont lose to the 1-8 Knicks (we’ve been off for 4 days).

If the Hawks lose this game, I wonder what Joe Johnson will say to the media…

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
8:40 pm

Don’t know what’s happened to Marvin. He was consistently a guy who could get you 12-14 points and 5 boards a game, along with some decent defense.

Here lately, he’s stunk it up, and Mo Evans has done better than him on both ends of the court.

Questions: Where was Teague, and WHY didn’t Crawford get more minutes?

Wabe

November 11th, 2009
8:40 pm

As bad as this half was, I guess I’m happy with a 7 point deficit at halftime.

Whoever mentioned that the Hawks would play down to the Knicks level, props on the prediction.

Big Ray

November 11th, 2009
8:40 pm

O’brien ,

I think you just said what many of us were thinking… ;)

Wabe

November 11th, 2009
8:41 pm

Don’t get me wrong, we should be stomping this 1 win team. But, with the way this half was going, you’ve got to be happy that the Hawks deficit is only at 7 and not at 15.