Hawks and Mavs, bad things in common

A tale of two scorned teams, a phrase I used yesterday in describing the Hawks and the Mavericks, is what sticks in my mind.

Both teams are loaded. Both teams have talent, depth, and versatility. Both teams are crazily inconsistent. STILL. Why? No doubt we could debate this all day (and many heated side arguments would inevitably spawn from the original topic, as always). We’ll probably do it anyway, but for now the question is which team will rebound? The Hawks just came off of a disappointing loss to the inferior-but-dangerous New York Knicks, a game in which defensive catalyst Josh Smith got himself ejected in the second quarter. The Mavericks are coming off of a loss to Western Conference doormat, Memphis. Dallas has been missing guard/forward Josh Howard, who wasn’t exactly playing thrilling basketball when he was healthy. The advantage is that Dallas is playing at home, but truthfully it may actually just come down to who wants it more tonight. Will both teams get after the win, or will both “play not to lose”, as fellow Hawks fanatic Sautee suggested to me earlier?

Pivotal Players

Many Hawks fans are frustrated by the lack of size that the team has. Well, imagine actually having that size, but not knowing from night to night if it’s going to do you any good? So it is with the Mavericks and center Erick Dampier. Dampier has all the size and strength needed to man the middle in today’s NBA game, but the desire is all too often lacking. Nobody ever calls Dampier undersized or weak, but he does not consistently affect the game the way the Mavericks would like. You can’t sniff too hard at 7.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.17 blocks per game in 25.5 minutes work per evening, but how do those numbers compare to the “undersized” Horford? All the same, Dampier can clog the middle nearly any time he chooses. But who is playing the pivot for the Mavs the other 22.5 minutes per game? Still, Dampier could be a problem. If he gets a season high in rebounds tonight, you can probably bet that things are not going well for the Hawks.

Jose Barea gives plenty of teams fits. The guy is fast, likes to go to the basket, and is really good at moving off the ball. The Mavs would be wise to put him on the court a good bit against the Hawks. Who will defend him? Bibby isn’t quite quick enough, but can Teague shadow him? The rookie Hawks guard has the quicks, but does he have enough to make up for all the savvy little tricks Barea will play on him to get free? Or will Teague find himself running into screens every time he gives chase? Of course, he would have to get on the floor for us to find out. Moving on….

Former Hawk Jason Terry is justifiably in the running for Sixth Man of the Year every year, at least these days. The only guy who scores nearly as effectively coming off the bench is some cat named Jamal. Terry hits from everywhere, be it the arc, midrange, or around the basket. Much like Rip Hamilton used to do for the Pistons, Terry is great about moving without the ball. He’ll run you around the court and off screens until the cows come home, then run you around the cows. Who is going to guard this guy?

Dirk Nowitzki is an elite scorer and good rebounder as well, despite how many times he’s been called soft. Like him or not, you have to game plan for a seven foot guy who can get his 26.5 points per game from literally anywhere on the court.

Last but not least, there is Shawn Marion. “The Matrix” is clearly not what he used to be, but make no mistake. He can still get out in transition, still rebound at a very high level, still collect steals and blocks, and still score in a variety of ways. Sleep on him, and he’ll remind you why he got that nickname.

So What of the Hawks?

Nothing may make you more nervous as a Hawks fan after last night’s debacle than the idea that Josh Smith may indeed be the main key to winning this game. Hopefully Smith has learned his lesson from last night (the first technical sets the tone, time to shut up), because he will be needed even more tonight. Unless of course the Hawks would like for somebody else to 1) Try and slow Dirk Nowitzki down by denying him the looks he wants on offense and forcing him to play hard on defense, and 2) Provide the all-too-necessary help defense that the Hawks apparently need on a nightly basis. The loss to New York proved that once you take out one of the Hawks’ low post defenders, all you have to do is constantly draw the other away from the paint. After that, it’s a layup drill waiting to happen. How much does a switching defense lend to this? We’ll explore that later, but feel free to comment on it now.

Joe Johnson has had offensive problems off and on this season. After starting out of the gate pretty hot, he has had a time of it in the last seven games. Aside from a solid game against the Raptors in which he defered at all the right times, Joe has looked uncomfortable or out of control at inopportune times during games. A statistically much better second half against the Knicks last night was not enough to overcome a dismal first half, and didn’t seem to do much for the team, though it raised his individual stats. The other disturbing thing is that lately, for Joe to reach 18 or more points, he has needed 18 or more shots. In addition, his defense has been less than notable in large stretches. On the flip side of the coin, Joe has picked up large numbers of assists in three of the last seven games. But for the Hawks to have a better shot at winning games (especially the tougher ones), Joe has to play more efficiently. And that’s just it: it’s not the number of points, assists, or any other stat. It’s the efficiency.

No one has looked as lost at times as Marvin Williams has. And while some may think it’s all over for him, Marvin has bounced right back in the last two games, showing himself to be a force on offense. WHEN INVOLVED. Another key to this game may be involving Marvin in the offense early on, then letting him be a spot up shooter and cutter throughout the remainder of the game. However, offense is not all there is to Marvin. He’s also capable of being a bothersome player on defense, not allowing opponents to get everywhere they want to on the floor. Marvin has to get back to using his size and length to both compete hard on the glass, and bother opponents that are seeking a path to the glass, or a good look at the basket.

Bottom Line

The Hawks have one losing streak this season, and that has lasted just two games. If they lose tonight, it will be their second losing streak, and it could get worse. Not only that, but it will drop them to 5-5 on the road. While that may not be totally unacceptable, it’s a step in the wrong direction from what the Hawks want to accomplish with their road record. So should they look at this as an early season must-win game, or no?

This marks the 20th game of the season for the Hawks. You KNOW there is going to be a review of this first quarter of the season, right here, if nowhere else. But what might the front office and coaching staff be thinking?

What will the Hawks do? Step up to the plate (or in this case, the rim), or fold and go back home to practice some more?

23 comments Add your comment

Harpie

December 5th, 2009
7:23 pm

The Hawks will never be truly good as long as Mike Woodson is the “coach”. It’s a waste of talent…

Sautee

December 5th, 2009
8:34 pm

Nice piece, Ray.

We went to the game last night. I was VERY disappointed in JJ’s effort on defense. If THAT was leadership, then we should hope that he doesn’t re-sign. He was lethargic, and in more than a few cases seemed disinterested in playing hard on D.

NOT what I expect from our team captain and supposed leader.

I’ll be watching for more effort from him tonight.

niremetal

December 5th, 2009
8:39 pm

Today’s the mandatory night out on the town with the girlfriend (who is about to embark on two months of residency interviews), so I’ll miss the game. I’ve given up on making predictions about these Hawks on a day-to-day basis – it depends on which version of the Hawks show up for the game. Crawford is due for a big night, though.

Big Ray

December 5th, 2009
9:15 pm

I’d say Joe is big due for a big night as well. And so far….he’s delivering…

Big Ray

December 5th, 2009
9:19 pm

That’s how you neutralize Nowitzki. Make him defend.

Big Ray

December 5th, 2009
9:37 pm

Hot damn, a Teague sighting. Will he make it beyond the 5.6 seconds that were left in the first quarter?

Doubt it.

On the flip side, Hawks playing better defense than against New York. Only problem is, Nowitzki is warming up.

Big Ray

December 5th, 2009
9:44 pm

Teague making Woody look smart. I don’t think Barea is used to having somebody this quick chasing him around.

Melvin

December 5th, 2009
9:49 pm

Oh, what do you know? Put Teague in the game and Barea can’t drive the ball into the paint.

Melvin

December 5th, 2009
10:11 pm

Dang, the Hawks went a half of court without scoring a single point… Ugly….

Melvin

December 5th, 2009
10:55 pm

Hmmm, Dallas coach decides to rest Dirk at the end of the 3rd qtr b/c he know it will be a dog fight in the 4th. What does Woody do with Joe, just leave him in the game.. He can rest during timeouts…

Melvin

December 5th, 2009
10:59 pm

Wabe, 13 at this point

Melvin

December 5th, 2009
11:09 pm

Breaking News: CJ Spiller should be the Heisman Trophy winner. Now back to regular programming…

MannyT

December 6th, 2009
1:21 am

Should I be surprised that you ended this blog with a practice reference? Now that the player who made news by saying it 20 times, but not actually doing it is unretired :-D

Hawks play a good team and step up to the challenge (mostly.) They do not run enough and many nights they shoot like a team with the runs…i.e. if they are in the right place at the right time, all is good, otherwise it is a stinking mess.

I did not see or hear the game, but it was nice to see that Marvin did what Marvin does…he finds a way to contribute from the background. He shoots poorly like everyone else, but I love the windex work–15 rebounds, a career high.

BWAF

[...] A tale of two scorned teams, a phrase I used yesterday in describing the Hawks and the Mavericks, is what sticks in my mind. Both teams are loaded. Both teams have talent, depth, and versatility. Both teams are crazily inconsistent. STILL. Why? …Read Original Story: Hawks and Mavs, bad things in common – Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Sautee

December 6th, 2009
11:36 am

Maybe we need to have JJ’s family attend ALL the games. ;-)

Big Ray

December 6th, 2009
1:50 pm

Win on the road against a good team while shooting 36% from the field and 63% from the line? Ugly though it be, I’ll take that, along with the 6-4 road record.

Joe Smith came up big, which begs the question of his absence in the game against New York, particularly after Smith was ejected. Mayhaps we can find a smidgen more playing time for him, especially in such occasions?

Have to echo MannyT in appreciating Marvin’s effort on the boards, what with him shooting as badly as anybody else. Couldn’t have won the rebounding battle or the game without him.

Nobody was bigger than JJ, who outshot anybody of consequence in the entire game, and led a team that couldn’t buy a basket otherwise, to victory.

In other news….

Greg Oden is clearly cursed. Out for the season. Again. Ouch. WWTBD? (What Will The Blazers Do)
Wonder if Kevin Pritchard ever thinks about Kevin Durant on quiet evenings, over Crown and Coke? Maybe Ron Artest isn’t the only one who drinks at halftime…

Melvin

December 6th, 2009
5:34 pm

Shaq had 1 reb against the Bucks today. My goodness, at his size and height. I think at least 2 rebs would fall in his hands without even blocking out…

Astro Joe

December 7th, 2009
1:07 pm

Since the last two posts were about other teams… let me mention something I just saw about the 76ers. Eddie Jordan is saying that Iverson may start the remainder of the season. So when Lou Williams returns from injury, he will start Iverson? When the team is on pace to win 30 games, their rookie PG (Holiday) stays on the bench? Sounds to me like Eddie Jordan is playing to the fan base, on the heels of a 9-game losing streak.

Big Ray

December 7th, 2009
2:26 pm

Good point, Joe . I wonder, does he have much else to play to, and was this his idea? Something tells me that as the new guy in town, he’s trying to stay in line with what Ed Stefanski wants him to do, as well as what works best for his Princeton offense. After all, it’s Stefanski that brought Iverson back. The Sixers need to run and score, and Iverson does both. Lou Williams was fine off the bench before, and everybody on God’s green and blue earth knows that Iverson isn’t going to act right if he doesn’t start. What do they have to lose (then again, what do they have to gain…well, besides the obvious: ticket sales)?

Truth is, Stefanski screwed this team. He’s the one who brought in Elton Brand, an 82 million dollar mistake that he would like to unload, but likely can’t. And to think, he might have had Josh Smith if he’d tried a little harder than say, $58 million. Not that this is what I wanted to happen, but still. Brand has been as good for Philly (when he’s played), as Shaq was for Phoenix.

niremetal

December 7th, 2009
8:07 pm

As a Philly resident, lemme guarantee you – no one here gives a crap about the Sixers except to say “they suck.” Philly fans are very acerbic and cynical in general, but especially about the Sixers. This just isn’t a bball town, so people generally won’t show up unless the Sixers are winning (although unlike Atlanta fans, they will keep showing up as long they keep winning).

The city (like Larry Brown) has had a love-hate relationship with Iverson. But Iverson is a reminder of the glory days, and Philly is good to its heroes from the good old days. It would be very tough to bring Iverson here and NOT start him. It just wouldn’t feel right.

Truth-Serum

December 7th, 2009
9:33 pm

I still have my Jason Terry Hawks Jersey and run in it frequently.

The question I have Ray is what does this mean?- No matter how the Hawks shot the ball, holding Dallas to 75 points in its building is an impressive feat. It’s Dallas’ season low.

Big Ray

December 8th, 2009
11:07 pm

Truth Serum,

It means we won a tough game in a city we never won in since Woody’s been the coach. I’ll take it.

Meanwhile ,

New blog up…..

California escort

December 22nd, 2009
2:12 am

It was rather interesting for me to read that article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.