Remember when the “Texas Triangle” was a source of consternation for us? Remember when we would talk about getting one “surprise win” out of the three contests on the road against Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas? Wait, wasn’t that just last season?
As it stands now, our Atlanta Hawks have to be feeling fairly good about Texas these days. While the visit to the Triangle didn’t come all at once this season, the Hawks are already good for two out of three, with a grind-it-out win in Dallas back on the 5th of December, and a more substantial and convincing win in Houston just two nights ago. Now all the Hawks have to do is defeat the San Antonio Spurs tonight, to make the vanquishing of the Triangle complete. Will they pull it off, or will we be singing “Two out of three ain’t bad….”? Either way, if you don’t think this is yet another sign of a team that is significantly better than it was last year, then consider the fact that the Hawks didn’t win a single one of these three daunting road games last season. How’s that for perspective?
More All-Star Noise
Everybody on every site seems to be getting their opinion in on the All-star selections, both the starters and the reserves. Ok, so that’s nothing new. What is interesting of course, is all the talk of Josh Smith and Al Horford as guys who deserve (or don’t deserve) consideration for reserve slots. The fact that they are even talked about in these circles is a testament to the growth of their games, as well as how that growth relates to the success of this team. John Schumann (did I spell that right?) of NBA.com has already stated his case, more for Horford than for Smith. Hawks Beat writer Michael Cunningham notes the opinion of YahooSports’ Kelly Dwyer on his blog. I just recently read another article on NBA.com, this one by Vince Thomas of SLAM Magazine (and also commentator for ESPN, at times). His is a different take than most I’ve seen, as Horford gets no mention, but Smith gets plenty of love. Here’s the link: http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/vince_thomas/01/26/allstar.picks/index.html?ls=iref:nbahpt1
Well, the all-star reserves will be announced tomorrow. While I’m sure we all expect to see Joe Johnson get the nod at guard, what do you think Smith’s and Horford’s chances look like? To toughen things up just a bit, which Hawks big man do you think deserves it more, and why?
HAWKS VS SPURS
It seems that we refer to each game against a quality opponent as a test, doesn’t it? Is it that we still don’t quite yet believe in our own team, or are we just recognizing the number of opportunities for the Hawks to succeed where they have inevitably and predictably failed in the past? Maybe it’s something else entirely. But, as cliched as it may have become, I have to say it again: the game against the Spurs tonight is yet another…..test.
What You Might Remember
Oh, there’s no doubt that you remember. You can’t forget, even if you wanted to. No, I’m not talking about that December 10th loss to the Spurs in San Antonio. I’m talking about the one we lost to them in OUR home on March 25th. The one where Tim Duncan didn’t even play. The one where Tony Parker hit 18 of 25 shots enroute to a 42 point outing, and a 10 point victory. In OUR Arena. Any of you out there still as unhappy about that one as I am? Let’s hope the Hawks are, too.
Speaking of unhappy, the Spurs are fresh off of three straight losses to Utah, Houston, and Chicago. Guess what? All three are home losses. It seems the Spurs are no longer as invulnerable at home as they once were, a chink showing in their armor. Though I haven’t followed the team closely enough to know for certain, I really can’t remember the last time San Antonio lost three in a row at home. It was just simply unheard of. Nevertheless, Atlanta can take nothing for granted here, as the Spurs are still 17-9 in their own castle, and always an opponent to be reckoned with.
Tim Duncan is one of the best big men in the business. You can use a variety of adjectives to describe him, but why bother? They’ve all been used enough times already. Suffice it to say that Duncan is STILL averaging essentially 20 and 10 per contest, without the fanfare or pomp and circumstance of other players. Even with more popular names in the league these days, and Duncan pretty much an elder statesman, is there a more steady/potent force down low? I really don’t think so. Drawing the dubious assignment of guarding Duncan will most likely be Al Horford. This will prove to be a good matchup, as the younger center tries to slow down the older one, ironically enough. At the same time, Horford’s burgeoning offensive game will be tested and taxed by Duncan’s STILL all-NBA level defense. Speaking of defense, Horford won’t mind a little help from cohort Josh Smith, when Duncan gets the ball.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobilli are what worry me most in this game. These two guards are penetrators extraordinaire, and the Hawks perimeter defense is suspect most days, and just plain awful on others. Joe, Bibby, and Jamal will have to dial it up several notches to keep these speed demons from shredding the Hawks defense. If they don’t, Josh and Al will be stuck cleaning up the mess, and if you ask me…..that spells foul trouble. Is San Antonio a team that Coach Mike Woodson can employ his switching defense against, or will it be a disastrous idea?
Darkhorse vs Darkhorse
My picks here are Richard Jefferson and Dajuan Blair. George Hill is a nice young player, but he’s 6′2″ and he’ll be facing Joe Johnson. That should make for a bad night for Hill.
Jefferson, on the other hand, is a guy who has taken to his role well. He’s not been the same, arguably since he’s been separated from Jason Kidd. But don’t fool yourself. He has a lot to give, and despite his recent struggles, he can still hit it from the outside, and get to the rim. Opposite him is Marvin Williams, who’s game seems to be on the rise, as he finds his niche. Marvin has the size and lateral quickness to bother Jefferson and keep him under control. On offense, Marvin need only hit the occasional open shot, and slash to the basket for easy points off of passes into the post.
Dejuan Blair is a physical chunk of humanity that excels at one thing: rebounding. He’s not a good scorer (work in progress) and is terrible from the free throw line. However, you have to keep a body on him at all times, and use whatever advantages you have to outwork him for the rebound. Most nights, that still doesn’t work, as the rookie forward is averaging nearly 7 rebounds per game, in just 18 minutes of work each night. Still, the Hawks have to find a way to keep Blair near or at his average. Anything more, and he becomes a game-changer, especially if he is doing the bulk of his damage on the offensive glass.