Hawks Soaring, Prepare to Feel the Heat!

Ladies and Gentlemen, YOUR Atlanta Hawks!!!!

Going in to tonight’s tilt against D. Wade and the Heat, the Hawks are 9-2 and a mere half-game behind Phoenix for the best record (the BEST record!) in the NBA!  I’d ask “who’d a thunk it?”, but I know there are a lot of true believers/blog regulars who are ready to step forward and take credit for such foresight.  Additionally, a few folks on the national hoops’ media scene have added to the excitement by placing the Hawks at the top of their “power” rankings.

Heady stuff, indeed!

So now we are at the place where folks start to  draw conclusions about just what such a hot start means for the Hawks, and their potential for this NBA season.  Truth is that no one knows how the following 71 games will turn out.

No one.

The coaches and players would be the first to say that the literal value of such a tremendous start is that we’re 7 games over .500 and that their confidence is sky high, which IS important to any team on the way up.  So should our fans take the same approach, avoiding over-confidence, and acknowledging that the only thing that counts is the next game on the schedule?

Probably, but what fun is that?!

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS START?

Almost everything.  The Hawks have nine wins on the books and nobody can take that away from them.  The offense is more versatile than in any season in recent memory.  Their firepower is such that they can overcome 3 quarters of so-so execution, against a very talented, playoff-bound Portland team, and still pull off an overtime victory.  That simply wouldn’t have happened in years past, even last year.  When the Hawks are pushing the tempo and attacking the basket, good things continue to occur.

Josh Smith and Al Horford both are taking their individual games to another level.  And for all the concerns that exist (I’m a member of the group that is “concerned”, over the course of the full season) about how our front line is undersized, on the Defensive end, the facts are that, to date, their quickness and athleticism, on the Offensive end, are creating more match up problems for our opponents than they are for the Hawks.

Tonight they play a Heat team that doesn’t present the same kind of “size” challenges, for the front line, that a team like Portland did Monday night.  And, having attended that game, I know that our guys won not only the game, but the statistical battle inside.  But watching the game, and having a pretty lengthy historical knowledge of the NBA game, I couldn’t help but look ahead, over the course of the grueling, 82-game NBA schedule, and think about how a front line like ours tends to get worn down over the course of a season, by pounding with bigger players on a nightly basis.  At this stage of the season, everyone is fresh.  But, as I used an NFL analogy regarding the 6-0 start of the Denver Bronco’s last night (now 6-3), in an attempt to highlight that a fast start never guarantees that a team can maintain the pace that the Hawks have set so far, there’s another football analogy that bears consideration:

Football teams with a distinct size advantage, on the offensive and defensive lines, often trade the first three quarters of the interior line battle to a smaller, more athletic team, knowing that by the time the fourth quarter starts, they’ll have worn the other team down.  And most games (seasons) are won in the fourth quarter.

So while the Hawks have added depth to their front line this season, so far Woody has largely neglected expanding his rotation and utilizing players like Joe Smith and Collins.

Let’s hear from you guys on whether you’re concerned about Horford and Smith wearing down over the season, against the front lines of teams like the Celtics, Magic and Cavaliers!

Clearly, we’re emerging as one of the top  teams in the East.  But with that acknowledgment, there should come the need to ask the tough questions about what it will take for this team to climb to the top of the East.  If you’re a fan who just wants to enjoy the ride, and let the season and playoffs be what they will be, then I can understand your disinterest in getting too deep about things like “roster balance” and “bench utilization”.

But if you believe this team has the potential to play of all of the marbles, the NBA Championship, as early as THIS season, then looking to identify what, if any, changes are necessary to reach that goal, seems like a fair topic for conversation.  And it’s never too early, in my opinion, for an organization to look for ways to improve their immediate opportunity, especially when your team, the Atlanta Hawks, are off to an East-leading 9-2 start!

I’ll leave that general issue for anyone to pick up, should any of you like to discuss it.

TONIGHT, WE FEEL THE HEAT!

This is a team, the Miami Heat, that we know about as well as any team in the league.  We beat them in 7 games last spring, to win the first-round of the playoffs.  There are no mysteries in how we match up.

D. Wade (with apologies to Joe Johnson and his most ardent fans) will be the best player on the court tonight.  One early season issue that continues to create questions is how many points the Hawks have been giving up (while also significantly increasing their offensive production on a nightly basis).  While our multi-headed group of back court gunners continues to apply constant pressure to opposing defenses, they haven’t exactly been stoppers on the defensive end.  And with Wade and the lightning quick Chalmers, complemented by their own crew of “gunners”, in Q Rich and D Cook, the Heat will put major pressure on our perimeter defense (and if the perimeter guys don’t truly commit to staying in front of these guys, Horford, Marvin and Josh will be forced to work that much harder to defend the paint, causing them to rotate off of guys like O’Neal and a guy who showed during last years’ playoffs that he was a real match-up problem for the Hawks:  Micheal Beasley).

This looks like it will be a real shootout, which will make for a seriously FUN game to watch.  But the Hawks have to make sure that while they’re having FUN, and are providing us with a FUN experience, that they’re still taking care of the “W’s”.  This is a conference match up, and losing a shootout, at home, to the Heat, would not only be a set back, but might really start to create a foundation for the way upcoming opponents prepare for playing the Hawks.

The sooner the Hawks return to making defense a priority, and this would be a great night to make such a statement to the league, the easier it will be to develop ongoing faith that this team’s start is more than a good, early season, run.  The offense is there, unlike any Woody-coached team we’ve ever seen.  But we need to see some of that defense that Woody has been known for, to really see that the potential for this years’ Hawks is truly unlimited!

Should be a great game tonight!

Let us know what you think about all this and GO HAWKS!

145 comments Add your comment

mountain_jim

November 18th, 2009
5:54 pm

I think I wish I had the NBA Pass and could see the game… :(

KevinA

November 18th, 2009
6:23 pm

Ando you have put my concerns in a nut shell. How ever we have the potential to blow teams out and maybe relieve some of the concerns. We still have 5 tough games left and then on paper have games that look like less defense and more offense. We seem to do well in these types of games. Weaker teams will allow Woody to use more bench and break time for starters. We can only hope.

Looking at the schedule at the beginning of the year I felt we would be close to 10-10. The next 20 look easier. I felt that then we would make our move. Lets get through this next 5 and hope I’m right about the next 20. This is why I have not gotten to excited about our burn of the starters. In fact I think we are ahead of schedule on “burn” win or lose.

Ali

November 18th, 2009
6:27 pm

Hawks rule! for all of the phoenix fans out there i have a message:Suns will drop the next two games and Nash will get injured(I’m basically saying they’re not making the playoffs) Hawks will go all the way to win the finals against Portland. Celtics,Cavaliers,Magic, Suns, Lakers, and Portland suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

niremetal

November 18th, 2009
7:32 pm

Gotta say, I LOVE the defensive strategy Woody has used so far against Wade. Marvin and JJ seemed to be guarding him, switching off every possession or two. That both conserves energy (since Wade is constantly on the move) and keeps Wade off balance by giving him different looks.

Now that Crawford is in for Marvin, JJ seems to be guarding Wade every possession. But Wade still has no rhythm. Solid.

niremetal

November 18th, 2009
7:33 pm

vava74

November 18th, 2009
7:35 pm

Great move by Josh!

Wabe

November 18th, 2009
7:43 pm

Finally, Marvin making some buckets. Hopefully that builds the guys confidence a bit.

Wabe

November 18th, 2009
7:51 pm

Arroyo doesn’t look too bad.

niremetal

November 18th, 2009
7:56 pm

Oh man, that oop pass by Bibby was a thing of beauty

vava74

November 18th, 2009
7:59 pm

soooo simple coming of a screen!

Melvin

November 18th, 2009
8:01 pm

Great defense by the Hawks. The Heat look like a deer in headlights and don’t know what to do…

Wabe

November 18th, 2009
8:03 pm

Josh Smith having another good game.

vava74

November 18th, 2009
8:04 pm

that’s Josh!!!

Melvin

November 18th, 2009
8:07 pm

Miami look discombobulated. They are struggling in every facet of the game…

Melvin

November 18th, 2009
8:09 pm

Uh oh, Josh took his first 3pt shot of the year to end the half….lol

vava74

November 18th, 2009
8:09 pm

Gentlemen….

We have something in hour hands….

vava74

November 18th, 2009
8:10 pm

niremetal

November 18th, 2009
8:11 pm

Josh blew the doors off in the second quarter. My heart stopped when he came down on Crawford on that last play, though…

Wabe

November 18th, 2009
8:14 pm

Defense really stepped it up in that 2nd quarter. J Smoove is a monster.

All Star 2009-2010

vava74

November 18th, 2009
8:18 pm

I think we now have a legitimate 1-2 punch… and the rest is not that bad either…

Wabe

November 18th, 2009
8:36 pm

Pretty poor start to this half. Wade hasn’t really done much the entire night and they’re still right there.

Lead down from 17 to 6.

Wabe

November 18th, 2009
8:51 pm

Gotta play a better 4th quarter. Seems like we turned off the switch coming out of halftime.

Melvin

November 18th, 2009
9:12 pm

Nice to see Marvin hit some shots and play with a smile on his face…

Wabe

November 18th, 2009
9:23 pm

Another great win.

JJ gave his usual effort. Smoove and Horford had great games. Good to see Marvin getting some good looks and draining them.

6 in a row.

10-2.

I’m lovin this!!!

Melvin

November 18th, 2009
9:28 pm

Yes sir, I like the way we beat up on the Heat. Send them a message that they are not on our level…..

Wabe

November 18th, 2009
9:32 pm

Cleveland getting blown out by the Wizards in Washington.

103-85 with 3:00 minutes left…

Melvin

November 18th, 2009
9:44 pm

Another DNP-CD for Javale McGee in the Wiz win tonight. Hmmm, I wouldnt mine seeing that young big in a Hawks uni if the Wiz is going to let him rot on their bench…

niremetal

November 18th, 2009
9:49 pm

There’s a reason he’s rotting on their bench, Melvin. He sucks.

niremetal

November 18th, 2009
9:58 pm

Or put another way, if he’s not getting minutes there, he sure as hell wouldn’t get minutes here. Joe Smith and Zaza are far, far better than he is. He’d be fighting it out with Collins and RandMo for garbage time minutes, and I frankly don’t think he’d win. He’s weak, foul-prone, and a poor rebounder.

HB Ando

November 18th, 2009
10:26 pm

Simply a rock solid performance by the Hawks. They played the defense you want to see, holding the Heat to 90, without giving up the up-tempo offense that has emerged early this season. With each successive outcome, like this, it is becoming increasingly clear that the sky is the limit for this team.

Josh Smith is starting to put up rebounding numbers that recall Marion in his prime. Horford’s output increasingly begs the question, “why is this guy only getting 10 attempts/game?”. If these two can maintain this level of performance throughout the first half of the season, then there’s no reason the Hawks can’t similarly maintain one of the best records in the league. And it will be hard to argue against the idea that the Hawks should have 3 players on this years’ All-Star team, in JJ, Josh and Horford.

Nice, nice win……..

KevinA

November 18th, 2009
11:47 pm

HB Ando.,

Two games in a row JJ has come through in the end. The stat for the night was 5-11 3 pt shots. 11 for 21 overall.

Here is what bothers me
Bibby 3-10
Jamal 3-10

Look I think players have to feel unencumbered emotionally as they look for their shots. But as Wade shows us – it only lasts for so long. Somewhere between the guards they need to sacrifice and give Al another 4-5 shots. Maybe Josh a couple more and ZaZa the same. Nire has pointed out to me how historically the top teams rely on a couple top players, I say lets rewrite history and go for more balance. Feed the ball to the big’s more.

When Joe is slow we hope Bibby and Jamal come through. And as in the past the bench has come through. This post is about Al and Josh. Give them a couple more attempts a night. For stat looking fans, how could you argue.

doc

November 18th, 2009
11:55 pm

i’ve been saying for a while i like these guys. i think i can change it to i am loving these guys.

j smash for mayor baby! the guy has become the three headed monster we knew he could. his sat sheet makes the best of the fantasy leaguers proud while staying within the concept of team and winning. bow down you doubters!

Melvin

November 18th, 2009
11:58 pm

I posted on Monday that this two game stretch with Portland and Miami would decide who’s the 2nd best 2-guard in the league behind Kobe and it showed did. With Joe lighting the Blazers up for 35 and then the Heat for 30 and his team winning both games. I think he secure his spot of the being the 2nd best 2-guard in the league. All this with his team tied for having the best record in the league. Handsdown, Joe is the man (behind Kobe)…

KevinA

November 19th, 2009
12:01 am

. nire,

we haven’t even had a chance to unleash the ZAZA

Ramon

November 19th, 2009
12:20 am

Melvin, you are saying you think Joe is a better 2-guard than Wade? I’m loving Joe recent contributions. But trade him with Wade, and Wade would produce better, without affecting the total number of wins.

[...] Going in to tonight’s tilt against D. Wade and the Heat, the Hawks are 9-2 and a mere half-game behind Phoenix for the best record (the BEST record!) in the NBA! I’d ask “who’da thunk it?”, but I know there are a lot of true believers/blog regulars who …Read Original Story: Hawks Soaring, Prepare to Feel the Heat! – Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

HB Ando

November 19th, 2009
1:07 am

Kevin, I don’t think the Hawks have to “rewrite history” to go the balanced route. Detroit’s success, over the last 5 years, was predicated on that type of balance. I think the teams that Nire is highlighting have been led by some of the best individual players in the history of the league (Jordan and Kobe come to mind). For this Hawks team to compete for a championship, they really don’t have a choice but to be more “Detroit” than “Lakers/Bulls”.

Melvin, I don’t know that you’re going to get much support for the position that JJ is better than Wade, unless it’s from Rick Sund, on a call to Pat Riley….

Back to the point Kevin highlights, and that will continue to find its way into daily conversations about this Hawks team: this offense is extremely guard-oriented right now, and historically, those who live by the perimeter shot die by the perimeter shot. The production out of the front court is tremendously efficient right now, and increasingly begs the question why aren’t Horford and Smith, as well as Marvin, who seems to be the odd man out (it was obvious that someone wasn’t going to get the touches they thought they deserved, going into this season, based on the guard-heavy roster construction), getting a few more looks. Winning tends to ease the ever-present struggle, on all good teams, regarding a fair distribution of shots across the players. But when a team hits a slow spot, as far as winning, it’s equally likely that those players who have patiently subjugated their individual offensive games, for the better of the team, start to demand their perceived fair share of the offensive load, when things take a turn for the worse.

As this scenario covers no fresh ground, it is up to the individual teammates to resolve a sense of balance to the ongoing approach on the floor, to ensure that a common ground is established between a direction that seems to optimize the efficiency of the teams’ offensive productivity, while placating certain individuals who may not want to acknowledge that what best for the teams’ success, moving immediately forward may require the individual sacrifices of certain key players and the role each of them play in contributing to the offense.

At this juncture, Coaches MUST establish a firm, defensible pecking order for the hierarchy of touches/shots on the offensive end, while making sure that those players who might feel left out, or minimized by the evolving game plan, are still engaged by the value and importance of their role, as well as their opportunity to “get theirs” in far less traditional ways, such as on the defensive end, through steals and blocks, and in pushing themselves hard to get out in front of the break, for easy transition baskets.

NO matter whether a team is hopeless, or threatening the top of the food chain of their sport, there is stilll a very real necessity that the coaching staff effectively communicate specific roles and expectations to all the rotational players, if they want to minimize the potential for chemistry breakdowns and individual player dissatisfaction.

IT’s not easy keeping 12+ guys happy with their roles, especially when ten of them think they would be the answer to all the teams problems if they were just handed the ball and given the power to run the show.

This is a battle that is many decades old, and not new to the Hawks, or any other NBA teams this season. But the depth of the Hawks lineup, combined with their tremendous 10-2 start, bring this historical challenge to the forefront of the franchise. And the earlier it can be eliminated, or outright discounted as a non-issue, the sooner the Hawks can settle in to a groove and shoot for a long run of winning most every night.

Chemistry and focus, with solid guidance from the coaching staff and organization, will determine whether this compelling Hawks team marches forward in a direct and focused fashion, or whether they’ll be prone to being taken off course by nit-picking and individual agendas.

Hoping for a cohesive squad that places the opportunity for greatness ahead of most, if not all, personal agenda. If so, this could be a special season. If not, well the truth will be hard to mistake.

The eyes of the Atlanta fans are watching, and I think the folks who know their basketball will be able to tell what’s what.

So here we go……..

Go Hawks!

Ed

November 19th, 2009
2:50 am

Another good win for the Hawks and Josh Smith has become a monster. His rebounding has been the most impressive to me as that shows how intensely he’s playing. Al is playing temendously and of course needs more touches. I still cannot understand why JT0 can’t get more burn as he will never improve at this rate.

Ed

November 19th, 2009
2:55 am

Ed

November 19th, 2009
2:59 am

Saw some highlights of Eric Maynor with the Jazz tonight and he’s going to be a special player. He looked as if he was very prepared for the NBA and had some highlight moments against the Raptors.

vava74

November 19th, 2009
6:10 am

niremetal

November 19th, 2009
7:25 am

KevinA/Melvin,

I think KevinA conflated two different things that I’ve said in the past: 1) That every title-winning team has at least 2 guys who are a near-lock to score 20ppg in every game; and 2) that on the vast majority of teams (title-winning or not), the perimeter players take more shots than the post players. That was definitely true, for instance, with the Detroit teams that Ando mentioned.

On a related note – if Bibby and Crawford were shooting 30% every game, I’d agree that they should be taking fewer shots. But they obviously aren’t. It ain’t broke now. Please don’t fix it.

niremetal

November 19th, 2009
7:25 am

Whoops, that was meant to be directed at KevinA and Ando, not Melvin.

niremetal

November 19th, 2009
7:29 am

And to clarify – Detroit is the only exception I can think of with regard to #1, but they fit the mold I described in #2. Actually, Detroit isn’t even an exception to #1 if you look at how much Hamilton and Billups scored on a per-possession basis. If the Pistons played at the same pace as most other teams in the league, Hamilton and Billups would have been averaging 20ppg. But since the team won with lockdown defense and by playing at one of the slowest tempos in recent NBA history, they averaged “only” 18ppg and 17ppg. Anyway…

Daniel

November 19th, 2009
8:29 am

OK, It is officially on. Josh is a rebounder!!!!! He is clearly playing at an All Star level. I would even submit that Horford is as well. Three Hawks in the All-Star game? Could it be?

doc

November 19th, 2009
8:44 am

ando …… For this Hawks team to compete for a championship, they really don’t have a choice but to be more “Detroit” than “Lakers/Bulls”.

amen to that bro.

also perimeter needing to balance interior another amen. we didnt do it for 3 quarters against portland and watched jj and jamal clang away then rush down court to defend to a double digit deficit. only when they went interior again did they eat away at the lead.

problem with jamal right now is he is shooting the three at a poorer rate than josh did last year. he may be the type of perimeter guy that has to score inside and get going that way rather than to sit and shoot.

nice stuff ando, concur.

E.J. a.k.a HomeGrown

November 19th, 2009
9:20 am

I hear the comparisons to the Detroit teams that won. Didn’t they have a half court offense that worked during the playoffs. If your main vechicle for scoring is to defend and rebound for the fast-break, in the playoffs doesn’t the game slow down to a half court game? The offense that we show in the half-court setting is not stellar to me. What do you think?

vava74

November 19th, 2009
9:36 am

E.J,,

We will get there. We are growing and improving in all facets of the game, including our half court sets where Al and J-Smoove are working in the paint and getting touches.

Melvin

November 19th, 2009
9:38 am

Only Ando can write a blog within a blog…This guy is “The Most Interesting Man in the World”…. ha,ha..

Sautee

November 19th, 2009
11:08 am

Great game to be in Philips (thanks again, doc). That second quarter was something to see.

Ando,

About this:

“But watching the game, and having a pretty lengthy historical knowledge of the NBA game, I couldn’t help but look ahead, over the course of the grueling, 82-game NBA schedule, and think about how a front line like ours tends to get worn down over the course of a season, by pounding with bigger players on a nightly basis.”

That’s a logical thought. BUT, last year Horford was third in the league among centers in double-doubles (Howard, Yao) AFTER the All-Star break. So how does THAT equate to “being worn down”?