Few things are more energizing to a team than a winning streak. Ten games into the season, the Hawks have a record of 8-2, including three winning streaks. Better yet, they have NO losing streaks.
Granted, ten games is not a big sample size. That’s really not even quite a tenth of the season, but short of going undefeated, there’s hardly a better start the Hawks could hope for. They’ve won at home, and they’ve won on the road. Consistently. Then again, perhaps we should revisit this after twenty games, when the season is then nearly a quarter of the way finished. Things will get tougher as the season wears on, but the optimist in us whispers that it won’t just get tougher for the Hawks. It will get tougher for every team in the League. Already, some teams have succumbed to the dreaded injury bug. While we don’t wish that on anyone (ok, we shouldn’t….if you are, then keep those unsportsmanlike thoughts to yourself), I think we can agree that our prayers are going all into one hat…the one with the screeching Hawk on it.
So far this season, it seems that the Hawks have finally begun to learn that keeping the losses spread out, and the wins strung together, is the way to go. Losing is never fun. Losing consecutive games is worse, because then guys began to lose focus. Finger-pointing, playing “out of role”, and other forms of infighting begin to take root, eating at the core of a team’s chemistry. Players don’t just have a hard time coordinating with other players, they have issues with the coaching staff as well. Hey, losing affects everybody. And even though there is much to work on, everybody goes about the job with a better attitude, when you win. Everybody is more willing to learn in a winning culture. Tweaks and adjustments are more easily made. It’s amazing what winning does. It even seems to help guys recover their energy better. I’ll never forget what an old high school coach of mine said: “You’re never as sore after a win, as you are after a loss. Everything hurts more, and for longer, when you lose.” I think he’s right.
On another note, I had a word or two with a name many of you regulars will recognize. Anybody remember Astro Joe? Aw, come on. It hasn’t been that long. Well, he has been on hiatus for a minute or two, and with good reason. The details I’ll leave to him if he wishes to divulge (no, he was not incarcerated or involved in any illegal activities, so let’s not be unnecessarily rude by speculating along those lines), but he did wish me to express the sentiment that he has missed blogging here with the Hawks faithful, and hopes to be back up and barking with the rest of us in a few weeks. In his own words, “I’m still alive and almost kickin’. ” Let’s all wish him the best, and a speedy return to Hawksville.
The Hawks fact the Portland Trailblazers on monday evening in Phillips Arena, for a rematch. I’m sure they feel like they’ve got a thing or two to prove in the Highlight Factory after having their trousers snatched, back in the Rose Garden. Look for the usual suspects (Roy, Aldridge, and Outlaw) to headling the biggest threats. At the same time, the Hawks must remember to close out better on Fernandez and Blake, who will nail those open shots. McMillan is certain to try some different things after that loss, and one of his keys has to be getting Roy free in the fourth quarter. In that game, Woodson deployed Joe Johnson on Brandon Roy in the fourth quarter, effectively helping to quell any Blazer comeback attempts. We still almost lost that one, but this time we should be better prepared. On to the next game….
HAWKS VS HEAT
What you might remember
Well, besides being invaded by the more rakish Heat Fans, the last thing you should remember about Miami is limping away from a first round playoff victory against the Heat, a series that went the full seven games. And I meant literally limping, as when the Hawks arrived in the second round against Cleveland, they were already hopping on a single foot, and holding one arm against themselves. Hawks fans were exuberant, Heat fans were enraged, and Dwyane Wade had to console himself with taped re-runs of his T-Mobile commercials. Hey, who can blame him? When you were expecting twenty-five foul calls per game to go your way, and you only get twenty-four….well, that’s just a travesty.
These Guys Might Be Trouble
Well, there’s always Wade, but that’s not my nomination for game maker/breaker. Fact is, he can be very difficult to stop, and yet the Hawks have just the right personnel to flummox him if they give the proper effort. The guys that bother me are the role players like Udonis Haslem. The guy gets sent to the bench in favor of Mike Beasley, and watches new guy Quentin Richardson grab the other starting forward spot in short order. How does Haslem respond? By averaing 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds from the bench. And that was BEFORE he dropped 28 point and 12 rebounds on the New Jersey Nets! Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has commented on Haslem’s newfound ability to guard small forwards as well as power forwards. Speaking of defensive versatility, here’s my other source of worry: Quentin Richardson. Few guys are probably happier about being traded as many times in the last year as Richardson. And even fewer guys are probably happier about his new destination than Dwyane Wade.
Richardson’s presence means less difficult defensive duties for Wade. Richardson will probably draw the assignment of guarding Joe Johnson against the Hawks. On offense, Richardson has range, and is opportunistic. While his scoring numbers (7.9 ppg) and field goal percentage (44.6) are hardly fear-inspiring, you never ignore a guy who is shooting just a hair under 40% from the arc. And while his rebounding stats aren’t that great either, Richardson is a tough/able glass worker.
Then of course, there’s the darkhorse: Mike Beasley himself. This guy is a matchup nightmare if and when he is on. He can shoot from anywhere on the court, and has good enough ball-handling skills to drive it as well. He’s another one not wowing anybody with his stats, but the talent is undeniable. Add to the fact that Beasley seems to be more motivated, a bit more mature, and more serious about the game…and you have a guy that might be trouble for the entire league when that light comes on.
From Elsewhere in the Stands
What do you think the ‘Blazers will do to gameplan differently against the Hawks, or will they stick to their formula, and hope to hit more shots at the end of the game this time around?
Will the Heat be motivated by revenge, and a burning desire to prove the legitimacy of their glowing record? Who are your nominations for game maker/breaker in these two upcoming home games?
Can the Hawks stretch there win streak to 5, or 6?
Fillin’ Up and Phillips
Of the Hawks first ten games, only four have been at home. Of those four, reported fan attendance has broken the 18,000 barrier just once. Is it the economy, the quality of the visiting teams, or the spectre of Hawks past (you know, the ghost that has kept these guys on a roller coaster for years, despite last year’s 47 win total)?