Hawks look to Clip short losing streak

Swept the Boston Celtics for the season. Got swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder for the season.

Well, two games doesn’t make for a real “sweep” in my opinion, or maybe that’s the stubborn, homer-ish Hawk fan in me. Either way, the Thunder beat us both times we played them this season. After losing to them at home, was it reasonable to expect a win against them on the road? Maybe not, but winning on the road is an integral part of a very good team, and it’s also the goal set by General Manager Rick Sund and Head Coach Mike Woodson. As it stands now, the Hawks have gone 6-4 in their last ten games. However, they have also seen their road record sink below .500 (11-12) and have now lost two straight, watching themselves slip back down past Boston by a half game, dropping them to 4th in the East.  A chance to rectify some of that presents itself this very evening, with a matchup against the L.A. Clippers.

 

HAWKS VS CLIPPERS

Is there a franchise with worse luck? Some hope was restored in Clipperland when the drafted Blake Griffin, but like clockwork, he got injured before he could do a thing for them. As the Portland Trailblazers how that feels (repeatedly), but they’re a better built and coached team all the way around. As it is, the Clippers are still not necessarily an easy win. What they lack in depth and other areas, they make up for in size and a solid punch in their top 7 man rotation. Besides, the Hawks are at home, and they should know better by now than to underestimate ANY opponent. Or so one would think.

Battle of the Bigs

If the Hawks thought they had it rough against the Thunder last night, they need to check their man card status. Not only was Oklahoma City less potent through the frontcourt, they were also less athletic. The Hawks have no excuse for being outrebounded handily on both the offensive and defensive boards. Such a lack of effort and desire will be punished severely by the significantly bigger Clippers, who feature the 7′2″ Chris Kaman at center, and the lengthy 6′11″ Marcus Camby at power forward. Kaman is having a find year, leading the Clippers with roughly 20 points per game, and adding 9 boards to go with it. Kaman’s post game fundamentals are quite solid, and he’s managed to stay healthy this year. While he’s no defensive dynamo, it’s never easy to shoot anything near the rim if a 7′2″ guy with long arms happens to be in the area. Next to Kaman is a guy who complements him quite well. Camby is not near the scorer (7.9 ppg) that Kaman is, but he fills all the gaps on defense with a hair below 2 blocks per game (that’s Josh Smith territory), and leads the team in rebounding at darn near 12 per contest.

Suffice it to say that Al Horford and Josh Smith have their work cut out for them tonight. Competing, let alone winning the rebounding battle, will take more than just effort and desire. It will take a supreme determination and 100% athletic hustle on every play. For the Hawks to be successful, Horford and Smith have to hold their own down low, but they also have to find ways to score when the opportunities present themselves. If the Hawks rebound well, they can run. This will help Horford and Smith, as the Clippers bigs can’t possibly catch them in the open court. In half court sets, both guys will have to go right at the Clippers big men, but taking them off the dribble (or Horford utilizing that midrange jumper) will likely be a better bet than trying to play back-to-the-basket against them.

Guard Play

Eric Gordon is one of the better young shooting guards coming up in the league. Too bad playing for the Clippers means near total obscurity for him. Gordon’s athleticism and strength (222 lbs) helps overcome his slightly less than optimal size at the 2 guard position (6′3″), and the young fella shoots a respectable 46% from the field (36% on three pointers). However, he will have quite the challenge in store for him this evening when he faces off against the quiet but deadly Joe Johnson, who is fresh off of a 37 point torching of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Will Joe deliver another encore of sorts, or will Gordon make a name for himself?

Baron Davis is still one of the hardest guys to handle at point guard. You don’t beat him, he beats himself. While Davis isn’t quite what he once was and his shooting percentages are woeful, he is still one of the strongest point guards in the league and can hurt you in a variety of ways. He can penetrate, he can post, and Mike Bibby won’t be able to handle him. For that matter, neither can Jeff Teague or Jamal Crawford. So what to do? Find a way to keep him shooting from the outside. Davis is a streaky shooter at best, but he’s far more dangerous when he can penetrate and score over your bigs (yes, he can do that) or get HIS bigs involved with easy, rim-rattling dunks. If he’s forced to make jump shots, the chances of him not having a big impact are so much better. Can the Hawks manage to stop penetration of the perimeter, or will this continue to be a problem for them?

Wings and Unseen Things

The previously promising young Al Thornton seems to have fallen on darker days. His production is hardly impressive at 11 points and 4 rebounds per game. By the way, if you were one of those people who felt that Thornton was instantly a way better player than Marvin Williams, you might want to slow your roll just a tad. With stats like that, the only difference at this point is shooting percentage and contract status. Thornton has struggled enough to give way to Rasual Butler on many occaions. And really, that’s the guy who bothers me more. Butler is one of the more underrated role players in this league, and whether they will admit it or not, the New Orleans front office and coaching staff are missing that guy even as we speak. Butler is an opportunistic scorer, and while none of his stats jump out at you (his shooting percentages aren’t great either), he is efficient and does a number of the little things that teams need. Butler is also a guy you don’t leave wide open on the perimeter. Lay off him, and he might add two or three 3-pointers to his tally for the evening.

This is the perfect time for Marvin Williams to get rolling, especially on offense. Thornton and Butler aren’t necessarily bad defenders, but neither one can stop Marvin, either. Marvin doesn’t have to score 20 points, but a solid 14 or 15 would do the trick. And while we’re at it, the Hawks might want to think about something: If one of your bigs is on a tear in the first half, how about not forgetting him in the second half? One of the reasons Joe Johnson didn’t get a lot of help in last night’s game is because guys like Josh Smith were all but forgotten in the second half of the game. And nobody’s blaming Joe Johnson for that (hey, dude was hitting HIS shots). But somebody flubbed, right?

Darkhorses

Your pick for who the Hawks need to watch out for the most, as well as the Hawk (or Hawks) who have a chance to do the most damage to the Clippers, or who might turn in surprise performances to tip the game in our favor. Light ‘em up!

113 comments Add your comment

O'Brien

February 3rd, 2010
11:40 am

I wonder what Sund was wiling to give up for Kaman previously (I think it was Sekou who reported that Sund had interest in him).

Ray,

The difference in contract status is HUGE though. Thornton’s numbers are the same as Marvin’s, but he’s making less than $2 mil, compared to $7.5 mil for Marvin. And although he’s struggling, this is only his 3rd year, while this is Marvin’s 5th year.

Anyways, I think this is a good time for Woody to run some plays for Marvin and get him going. If we can find a way to get Marvin 10-12 pts in the first half, that will do a lot for his confidence going forward.

The darkhorse for me is the Hawks frontcourt. Last night, Josh and Al combined for 10 or 12 rebounds. Thats not going to cut it against Camby and Kaman.

The darkhorse for the Clippers to me is Davis. If Bibby is missing shots, it will be a major mismatch, and Davis can get his players involved.

The Clips are on a back to back as well, but since the Hawks are playing at home (after losing last night), I expect us to come out hungry and determined.

kwooden1

February 3rd, 2010
11:54 am

Great assessment of the game Ray but I do think the HAWKS match-up better with the Clips. Jeff Green’s ability to shoot the 3 and run the floor is a real problem for the HAWKS. I actually believe PFs that shoot the ball cause more problems for the HAWKS than quick PGs. We can at least switch against quick guards, but shooting PFs can really draw Smoove away from the basket. In Green’s case he’s very athletic also, see his dunk over Smoove in the first game!!

This is a game for Marvin to get more aggressive but I would like for him to just move to the open spot and knock down jumpers. I think he’s trying to ISO to much which should be left for JJ, Crawford, Smoove and Horford. Bibby has to do a better job of moving the ball by getting into the paint and drawing defenders. Bibby needs to keep running the pick-and-roll with JJ, because it will draw extra defenders. Getting the ball in the post hasn’t been as effective the last few games and I think one of the reasons is teams are doing a very good job of taking away Smoove’s left hook and Horford right hook. Horford has to start using a drop step and Smoove has to get alot better with his right hand. If those guys become more effective with those moves, they will start drawing doubles. At that point Marvin can just move to the open spot and wait for the ball. I believe JJ, Bibby and Crawford will get him the ball if he’s open.

GO HAWKS!!!

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
11:55 am

OB, there is a stat called PER which takes several variables into consideration.. like scoring, rebounding, shooting, assists, etc. Thornton has never been above 13 PER while Marvin was at 16 last year. This year, Thornton is below 12 Marvin is above 13. Marvin is clearly having an off year but his contract was based on a 16 PER and again Thornton has never had a 14 PER. Lastly, Thornton was born in 1983, Marvin in 1986. It’s also hard to comparte a post rookie contract to a rookie contract. Durant’s value is a whole lot more than Carmelo if you don’t account for small things like rookie contracts.

kwooden1

February 3rd, 2010
11:55 am

My guy to watch out for on the Clips is Kaman. He’s a guy that when health is an All-Star, especially if Horford is an All-Star.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
12:51 pm

O’brien ,

Hard to know what it was, but the word was that Sund really wanted him, but the deal got nixed. Can’t prove it, but I think part of the issue was that our payroll was already pretty high, what with us paying Bibby roughly $15 mil last year.

The Clippers were trying to unload salary, so they would have taken a number of things, and I believe that part of the deal involved Speedy Claxton’s contract. However, acquiring Kaman may have resulted in us crossing the luxury tax threshold, something I’m sure the ASG did NOT want to do, especially if it couldn’t guarantee a championship that season (or even the next). Without Kaman, we were already around $67 or $68 million for the year. I think the deal would have resulted in us not losing one of our “core” players.

Kwooden1 ,

Couldn’t agree more with the idea that outside shooting PFs bring Smith away from the basket, thereby limiting his ability to do what he does. If I recall correctly, Niremetal brought this concept up to us recently, before it got blown into an argument of a different flavor.

As for Bibby penetrating, I would have no problems with that, but I kinda just don’t see it happening. If anything, I’d like to see him penetrate just inside the arc and hit that 20-footer that he was so famous for back in his Sacramento days. That alone draws defenders, whereas he has no chance penetrating into the paint against Kaman and Camby. I’ll gladly eat my words if he proves you right, though!

I’d also like to see Bibby run pick and roll with Al and Josh, not so much with JJ. The only reason I say this is because JJ attracts defenders by the twos and threes, and we don’t need to put him in more difficult situations than he already has to deal with. I would really like to see us run him off of screens more, like the play where he gets the ball after curling around Al, Josh, or Zaza.

Few things are more beautiful than watching JJ get a clean look at the basket.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
12:56 pm

And I can only agree on Kaman. He’s trouble if you let him get going, especially if he gets some easy baskets off of putbacks and pg penetration.

Man, we gotta figure out how to stop penetration, because it will consistently get our bigs in foul trouble.

GAIL ADAMS

February 3rd, 2010
1:26 pm

Enter your comments here The game aganist the Thunder was lost by the selfish play of Joe Johnson. He would not even pass the ball to open players. Jamal Crawford was open for a three pointer, and he would not even look for his teammates. He is only playing for himself, he has to be the highest scorer. I HOPE the Hawks get rid of him.

Dick long

February 3rd, 2010
1:35 pm

The level of basketball wisdom is truly lacking on this site. Big Gay hasn’t got a clue. How long has this idiot been publishing. The hawks cant protect the middle. This has been well documented. Big Gay cant accept the fact that this is the issue that will keep the hawks in the pretender category. The Job of the center is to protect the rim and the low post position. 90% of all guards are capable of crossings over or taking their man 1 on 1 off the dribble to the rim….DUH?!

Fundamental basketball is that the center position is to protect against the low post baskets. Our center is not capable of protecting the rim, but he will get ten rebounds…

gee, thanks.

Your your sorry “bigs” foul out because they cant defend. What an idiotic statement you’ve made. Under your rational it is plausible to say we can defend the basket as long as it doesn’t come under attack…WTF kind of retarded thinking is that, Big Gay?

Josh gets into foul trouble because he has to cover the rim for our sorry azz center. Pachulia gets in foul trouble because he does a mans job of the dirty work. Horford gets a D-(minus) for defense, and don’t misconstrue getting a rebound with defense, Big Gay, because Al gets the rebound while Josh and Paschulia do the work that caused the rebound. The defense is in what caused the missed shot not picking up a rebound afterwords.

Big Gay.

Dick long

February 3rd, 2010
2:42 pm

* your sorry bigs

Melvin

February 3rd, 2010
2:49 pm

I was at the Clips/Hawks game last season (front row seats thanks to my account exec) and the Clips size gave us fits. Kaman was out and they had Zach/Camby/Jordan on the inside which was enough. Although the Clips don’t have a sexy record, they are no doormat. Baron is still one of the better PGs in the league when motivated (he hates Arizona guards, must be a Pac-10 thing) and Gordon is a high scoring SG. It will be interesting to see who Bibby will defend. Thornton killed us last year. So I may be in the minority but I will take Thornton over Marvin. I know Marvin is only 23yrs old. So was Darko and Swift at some point. Yep, their careers blossom as they matured….

kwooden1

February 3rd, 2010
4:18 pm

long Didn’t Al have 3 blocks last night?

kwooden1

February 3rd, 2010
4:27 pm

Ray The more defenders JJ draws the better. The problem comes when he tries to make the perfect pass out of the double-team opposed to the open pass. If he passes to the closest open person then the person that gets it needs to make a quick pass. 9 out 10 times we’ll get an open shot or an open lane to the basket. I believe all of the HAWKS are very good passers so, it’s really frustrating to me to see JJ force a pass. If he just makes a quick open pass out of the double, we’ll get an open shot almost every time. Guys have to be ready to receive the pass or ready to shoot in those situations, and many times they aren’t.

GO HAWKS!!!

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
5:12 pm

There’s nothing like having a persistent, obsessive admirer. Must have found a new public library or something….

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
5:20 pm

Melvin ,

That’s one way of looking at it. Then again, Chauncey Billups and Gerald Wallace didn’t look very good at the age of 23 either. In my opinion, the jury is still out on Thornton. He has taken a step backwards to where he is producing less now in his third year, than he did in his rookie year. How does that happen when you have had virtually no real competition at the position that would assure you earn the playing time you get? I mean, all he has to do is be better than streaky (and crazy) Ricky Davis, and career backup Rasual Butler.

Not saying that Thornton is a wash, but he doesn’t even qualify for the “he’s in the first year of a new contract” argument. He may turn out better than Marv in time, but a regression like this is not a good sign, considering that he’s playing for a historically bad team that gives anybody with a modicum of talent an opportunity to shine. He did well last year. This year, he regressed (though his shooting percentage is up). Not sure what it means, though the talent is there.

vava74

February 3rd, 2010
6:14 pm

Dick,

You obviously comment without watching games nor understanding an iota of what is our defensive strategy.

Our main and almost exclusive defensive strategy is the switching defense.

This system implies that players swap defensive assignments every time the opponents set picks.

Consequently, when an opposing big sets a pick for his PG or SG Al or Josh stay with the PG or with SG away from the basket until the are able to re-switch.

Do I need to explain more?

niremetal

February 3rd, 2010
6:28 pm

kwooden1,

I hadn’t really thought about it that way before, but you’re right re: JJ trying to pass out of the double team. He often overlooks guys who are “open” in the passing lane sense (even though they might not have an open shot). Seeing you put it that way though…yeah. I used to dismiss the idea that there’s utility in passing to a guy who doesn’t have an open shot, since that doesn’t move us closer to scoring. But kicking it back out to reset is a hell of a lot better than trying to force something and ending up with either a turnover or missed shot 65% of the time (I’m ballparking, but that sounds about right).

Of course, the ideal solution would be an offensive system that had players setting off-ball screens and moving to get “doubly open” (ie open passing lane and open look at the basket). Better yet, it would be nice to have JJ run off the ball more often. But since Woody doesn’t use a motion system like that, JJ shouldn’t be as “afraid” of the safe pass, especially early in the shot clock.

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
6:58 pm

kwooden/nire, good discussion. Josh was guilty of doing that a lot in previous seasons also. Instead of trusting the close teammate to make the right pass, they try to go for an assist themselves. I don’t know if that is a learned behavior (as in Joe passes out of the double and the guy he passes to takes a bad shot instead of rotating the ball) or some attempt to “make something happen” (which I hate). We often don’t think that some patterns are learned, like… if you switch with Zaza, he may make the wrong defensive rotation (especially this year), so you don’t switch and the team defense suffers. Or, if Joe is in iso mode, you don’t move because he won’t pass it, so now there is no pass option available for Joe (even if he does want to pass it). Again, all of that is learned behavior that ultimately hurts the team. So my question is… how do you fix those situations? Electric shock?

vava74

February 3rd, 2010
7:21 pm

Putrid effort so far

niremetal

February 3rd, 2010
7:26 pm

Damn, Josh….I think Marcus Camby is still frozen in place!

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
7:36 pm

Again, all of that is learned behavior that ultimately hurts the team. So my question is… how do you fix those situations? Electric shock?

I wonder, do front offices pay players to recognize trends, learned habits, and other nuances of the game, then try to tweak things as necessary to help teach and guide the team, in an effort to maximize results? Or does that fall under another job description?

O'Brien

February 3rd, 2010
7:36 pm

And Can somebody please tell Josh to give the ball up on the break? Thats 2 already that he’s lost going to the rim.

Hawks have no energy tonight. I know they played last night, but so did the Clips.

Hopefully our bench can give us a spark.

Wow, Thornton averages 27 ppg against the Hawks? Who’s guarding him? Marvin? I’m just kidding guys. I’ve had enough Marvin discussion for today lol.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
7:41 pm

Poor, sluggish effort on the part of the Hawks tonight. And those who aren’t playing sluggish are making one mistake after another by forcing passes (ahem…Josh).

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
7:43 pm

O’brien ,

Make that 3 turnovers. We’re seeing the Josh of old, forcing dribble penetration and passing due to the sluggish overall feel of his team. He has to know by now that it’s STILL a bad idea outside of the halfcourt line.

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
7:46 pm

Ray, that went over my head. Is learned behavior easy to resolve by management? Does that mean that my boss knows how to stop me from daydreaming everytime he puts up another Powerpoint presentation… and all I have to do is listen to a “How to Pay Attention” speech and I am cured? COOL! Who knew bosses had that kind of power?

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
7:51 pm

AJ,

You’re right, it did go over your head. I wasn’t pointing a finger at management at all. I asked if management paid players to do all of those things, or if they paid somebody else to do it.

As for what you may have put your bosses through in the category of learned behavior resolution, I have no idea. Hey, you’re the one who mentioned electric shock treatment. Hey, I heard some guy used to do that to dogs to try and get them to fight harder….can’t recall his name…

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
7:54 pm

Commentators say the Hawks need to find a way to create more energy.

Well guys, we can’t keep blaming Woody. He’s GOT to be out of things he can shave off. Well, um…that we know of.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
7:57 pm

Nice to see Josh Smith mix it up with Craig Smith. Craig is a tough customer.

O'Brien

February 3rd, 2010
7:58 pm

Why can’t the Hawks rebound the ball? You cant blame Woody for our lack of rebounding

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
8:00 pm

Nice move by Marvin, and it’s also good to see him so active on the glass.

O'Brien

February 3rd, 2010
8:00 pm

Good Move Marvin. Why dont Woody give him a chance, see if he can provide a spark?

Marvin should be chomping at the bits to score 20…

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
8:01 pm

Nope, sure can’t blame Woody. Can blame anybody wearing a jersey, not named Josh Smith or Marvin Williams, though. I’m not even satisfied with Al’s 4 boards.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
8:02 pm

O’brien,

Considering that nobody else is hitting their shots and Marvin seems to be feeling a bit aggressive, I’d go to him until they can stop him.

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
8:10 pm

Did ‘Nique call him Byron Davis?

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
8:12 pm

Thrashers (or should I say the ASG) are about to conduct their annual sell-off of their best players. More funds can be directed to the Hawks this summer. Man, I’m glad that I’m not a hockey fan.

Hey Sund, go find us a Serge Ibaka!

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
8:15 pm

Maybe he will show and prove in the playoffs, but so far, Joe Smith has been a huge waste of the summertime anxiety of “when will he sign?” His contribution has been very Solo-esque so far.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
8:26 pm

Yeah, we may have gotten him a year too late. Oh well.

By the way, how is ol’ Solo doing? Hmmm…about the same in too many ways. Guess Sund’s willingness to let him go wasn’t so rash after all.

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
8:29 pm

So far, Diaw is the one and only who “got away”.

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
8:30 pm

And given our mixed-bag with draft picks, I’d make that trade today for a 4-time All-Star.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
8:30 pm

Marvin with 8 and 8. Could he finish with a double double? Who cares, long as he’s contributing to a win!

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
8:32 pm

Can’t disagree. Even with Diaw, we’re talking about a guy who wanted to be here about as much as Ricky Rubio wanted to be in Minnesota. At least Diaw showed up for work…

O'Brien

February 3rd, 2010
8:49 pm

Did I just hear some Boo birds as they were going to the timeout?

Whats up with the Hawks? The Clips played last night too, and we’re at home.

I’m not sure what Woody can do to change things up. I would put Teague in, and run more plays for Marvin.

Marvn with 10 and 10? Good game from Marvin. Hopefully he can keep it going for the rest of this game, and for the rest of the seaosn going forward.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
9:10 pm

I realize this lineup may be our most effective, but I’d like to point out the healthy contribution we got from Marvin tonight. Of the chances he got on offense, he made good. And his rebounding helped a lot where others have failed to step up.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
9:17 pm

Hawks finally showing some energy.

Joe with three big buckets in a row, following big baskets by Crawford earlier. All the while, Josh and Al holding their own. Love it.

Hawks up by 4, and in a position to control the last two minutes or so of the game.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
9:27 pm

Sweet. Our entire starting front line has double doubles for the game, and the two Js have combined for more than 50 points.

Big Ray

February 3rd, 2010
9:31 pm

Nasty, Joe, just plain nasty. Unleashing 34 on those poor little Clippers.

I’ll take THAT win, eh folks?

Night y’all.

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
9:47 pm

‘Nique may have delivered the worse broadcast in NBA history tonight. Just awful.

And did anyone pick up on Rathbun’s sarcasm? “Now Crawford will shoot”. “OK, it’s Joes turn to shoot”. “Who will tie the game now, Joe or Jamal?” All in a dead-pan voice… as if he were tired of watching Joe and Jamal take turns scoring in the 4th quarter. I never heard Rathbun give out ‘tude before. LOL!

kwooden1

February 3rd, 2010
9:48 pm

Craig Smith was the X-factor tonight, he almost won the game for them.

Astro Joe

February 3rd, 2010
9:56 pm

kwooden, he’s a free agent next year… Craig Smith. As I have said for about 3 years now… I want one of those big-boned tweeners on our team. And the more I see of Joe Smith, the more I really want a young tweener to come in here and bowl-over the opposing team.

O'Brien

February 3rd, 2010
10:00 pm

AJ,

Craig Smith was a second round pick. I hope the Hawks can find a gem like that, especially since we’ll be picking late.

And Good game from Marvin tonight. I hope he is able to keep it going against Luol Deng.

Dick Long

February 3rd, 2010
10:34 pm

vava74

We run the switch to make up for our defensive liabilities in the post and with mike bibby. Thats why we run the switching defense. If we had a “real” center we would not run the switch.