Hawks vs Warriors: The return of Jamal

Okay, that’s more of a “get well soon” wish than it is a dramatic headline.

Not that the Hawks can’t win a game against an inferior opponent without their super sub, but I think we’d all like to see Jamal back to full health, wouldn’t we? But that’s not the only return. Jamal gets to face his old squad tomorrow night, a bunch of guys whom he probably has no ill will for. His old coach? That’s likely another matter altogether. And yet, there is a very low chance that there will be any drama, as Jamal has been nothing but a class act in Atlanta. If anything, he is happy to be winning finally, and would probably like to forget about where he has been and what he has been through.

What You Might Remember

The last time the Hawks marched into Golden State, they slunk back out with a five point loss in a shootout. While Al Horford was out, Zaza Pachulia came up with a serviceable 14 points and 8 rebounds. Marvin Williams played an effective 13 minutes, but never returned to the game. I honestly can’t remember if he got hurt or what, but Mo Evans sure took advantage of the 38 minutes he got, with 21 points and 7 rebounds, before fouling out. Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby dominated the ball, but it just wasn’t enough as the Hawks couldn’t contain Jamal Crawford, Corey Maggette, or Stephen Jackson.

Change of Pace…Or Not

The Warriors no longer have Crawford (as we well know), nor do they have Jackson. What they do have is two younger, shorter, softer guards. Neither guy is what I’d call tough, but there is no underestimating them. Monta Ellis has experienced some injury issues, but unless he comes up lame at game time, the Hawks will have to deal with his wicked first step (not to mention 25 ppg and 5 apg). Meanwhile, rookie pg Stephen Curry is looking better than some of the guys drafted ahead of him, and CJ Watson has been a real boost off the bench. All in all, and despite their record, the Warriors still have something the Hawks tend to struggle with: quick guys who can penetrate, and shooters who not only have no conscience, but the skill level to go with it. They have so many guys who just can’t be left wide open, and they like to run.

Counterpunch

One thing the Warriors are lacking, is beef. Andris Biedrins has been the best thing going for Golden State down low for some time. But this year, he is clearly struggling. Once one of the league’s top rebounders and a sure-fire double double guy, Biedrins has faced injury issues early in the season, and then seen his role and minutes diminish as the season wore on. How does a guy go from averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds per game, down to 5 points and less than 8 boards per? It could be a slow recovery from injury. Or, it could be the Don Nelson effect. Ask Jamal Crawford what that disease can do to you.

At any rate, the Warriors have to depend on their guards and wings to “group rebound” in order to survive. This is one area where the Hawks can take advantage. Nobody short of Ronny Turiaf should have a chance at boxing out Horford, and Josh Smith has produced big rebounding figures against bigger/stronger front lines. Both guys should hit double figures in this category. Let me put that another way: they should be DOMINATING Golden State on the boards. There will be no excuse for losing the battle on the glass to a team who has almost no low post options and averages a paltry 38.7 rebounds per contest. However, one of the keys to this is our guards blocking out. Since the Warriors have to rely on their perimeter personnel to get rebounds, those guys will be looking to sneak into the paint to fight for them. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, 5 on 2 or 5 on 3 is never a good proposition, and the Hawks shouldn’t let it happen that way.

At the same time, Atlanta should be able to take advantage in the post on offense. Who’s going to stop Horford? The Clippers couldn’t, and they have a solid starting center. By the same vein, who guards Josh Smith? Anthony Randolph is out with injury, and while guarding him might have presented a challenge, Smith figures to have a field day on both ends of the court (not that Randolph is/was a defensive threat).

Getting a Handle On Things

As always, there is a reason why a team has a losing record, let alone a plain bad one. Having the second highest rated offense is great, but it never is enough to overcome having the absolute worst defense. The Warriors lose the battle of the boards by roughly 8 per game. They routinely score upwards of 107, but also give up nearly 111. But here is where the Hawks truly shine in comparison. The Warriors turn the ball over roughly 16 times per game, an average that wins them the dubious honor of third most in the League. Monta Ellis himself gift wraps over 4 per game to opposing teams. Maggette and Curry are upwards of 2.5 “oopsies” each contest. The Hawks? Fewest turnovers per game with a hair under 12. A stat to be proud of for sure, and something that can determine the outcome of a game all by itself. But a word of caution here: Having fewer turnovers is not a comforting stat if you let the opposing backcourt torch you to the tune of 40 or 50 something points. All the same, if the Hawks can force as many or more turnovers as the Warriors normally commit, then they can exploit them in the form of fast break points.

 

Pick Your poison

With a team like this, it’s never easy to decide on who is most dangerous. Is it the rookie point guard who is apparently a better overall ball-handler than his more experienced backcourt mate? Is it Ellis? How about sniper Anthony Morrow? CJ Watson lit up the LA Lakers for 20 points, the Kings for 40, and the red-hot Utah Jazz for 22, so he’s on a roll. Will he have it against the Hawks, too? Could Andris Biedrins go for a “rare for this season” ridiculously high rebound total, like he did against the Thunder (18) and the Bulls (19)?

Hawks are the REAL Warriors

There won’t be any sideline drama, but I’m sure Jamal wouldn’t mind sticking his former team (and coach) with a 25-30+ point performance, just to remind them what they lost. Then there’s Joe, who is looking as good as ever, and could explode for 30 anytime and against anybody (just ask the Spurs, Cavs, Thunder, Bulls, Celtics, Heat, Blazers, Thunder, Mavs…).

Or will it be Josh Smith, adding a handful of dimes, steals, and blocks to a double double (or close to it)? Will Horford go off like he did against the Clippers? Anybody think Marvin has another 20+ point game left in him for a West Coast opponent?

How much of the bench will we see? Could depend on just how well the starters do.

 

Rook’s Roost

Jeff Teague will probably see more of fellow draft mate Stephen Curry from the sideline, but if Crawford is still ailing and Bibby plays badly, the Hawks’ rookie point guard might get to see him up close and personal. If so, how will Teague do against a fellow rookie who is getting far more game time experience? Does Curry’s experience make him a better player, or is his skill level superior? Will Teague be able to effectively defend him, or will he learn yet another lesson? How will Woodson react? How about his teammates?

One thing is for certain. Teague is getting far less up front experience on a team that is planning on going deep into the postseason. Curry is getting far more experience on a team that is going nowhere, fast. While the two guys would undoubtedly envy parts of each other’s situations….would they want to trade places?

176 comments Add your comment

The Grapes of RATHBUN

February 21st, 2010
2:20 am

Teague definitely should see more minutes in this game, especially because Bibby hasn’t been hitting his shots lately, and Golden State’s quick guards will blow by Bibby on the Defensive end or pop shots in his eye. I have to disagree, MC Blog-A-Lot, when you say the Hawks have trouble defending the quicker penetrating guards. Al Horford and Particularly Josh Smith defend the rim extremely well. Most guards get their shot thrown trying to come in the paint with The Human Eraser II (The sequel to Marvin Webster), Josh Smith, and Al “The Beast” Horford patrolling the lane. Maybe Marvin Williams could step up for once in his career and take over the game, but that seems highly unlikely, as he never has stepped up and it seems like he never will

The Grapes of RATHBUN

February 21st, 2010
2:48 am

Oh damn I meant Big Ray! My Fault!

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
5:04 am

Grapes of RATHBUN ,

Ha! I have to say, that’s one of the best blog names I’ve seen in a while. And no worries on the mistaken identity. ;) I see you disagree with the idea of the Hawks having trouble with quick, penetrating guards. But right before that, you mention that Golden State’s guards will blow right by Bibby or shoot jumpers in his face. Well…that was pretty much what I meant when I said the Hawks had trouble guarding the quick, penetrating types.

Here’s the irony of it: the switching defense all too often employs Horford and Smith on guards at the top of the key. With the exception of Joe Johnson (as long as he’s not taking a possession off), the Hawks main guards haven’t been doing so well when it comes to containing the opposing team’s guards if they have any inclination to dribble-drive.

Horford and Smith do quite well at the top of the key, but that does keep them from defending the rim, something I think they do well when they’re actually down there. So yes, I think we do have issues containing penetration, and they do start with Mike Bibby.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
5:11 am

Con & Ham (Truth Serum) ,

While your “Bubba Crew” agenda was kind of funny the first 150 times you posted it, I’d say it’s about run it’s course. However, that is NOT why your comment was removed. Posting links and photos of hate groups is not going to fly, and neither is depicting others as members of hate groups. Your opinions of other bloggers and their respective opinions are well noted and you have a right to them. But this is taking it too far.

As stated in a previous blog, dart throwing is the norm, but let’s keep the poison tips out of the equation.

niremetal

February 21st, 2010
10:07 am

The strategy against the Warriors should be simple: Foul Andris Biedrins.

13% from the line, people. 13%.

richbrave

February 21st, 2010
10:14 am

Hack a BIEDRINS, eh?

Sautee

February 21st, 2010
11:20 am

Nice blog, Ray,

I’m still not over this:

Mike Woodson: “I had to see something for myself,” Woody said. “I condensed things last night almost like it was a playoff game, when your backs are against the wall and you have to have one.”

Funny but in the Finals, Game 5 when ORL “had to have one” SVG played TEN players. And I’m no SVG fan, by any means.

In fact, for the 5 games of the Finals, NEITHER team played fewer than 9 players in ANY game.

tjhook

February 21st, 2010
3:15 pm

Big Ray, there has been some speculation that Larry Hughes will have his contract brought out by the Sacramento Kings. I believe he would be a welcome addition to our team because we do need additional scoring punch against the elite teams. Some people think he is not a team player. What say you?

DMike

February 21st, 2010
4:37 pm

ok forget everything else… Jeff teague has a lot talent that needs to be put on display. Yes hes a rook an has great guards in front of him but that does not mean burn them out. You draft him to play not to sit on the bench. he will make mistakes jus like everyone else. this is one reason y woodson wont be here next year. he dont know how to coach. an of course his team has got better every year they should after a 13 win season.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
6:43 pm

Sautee ,

I have no idea what it was that Woody “had to see for himself.”

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
6:51 pm

tjhook ,

I think we got what you describe in Larry Hughes, when we got Jamal Crawford. Hughes is a better on-ball defender. Crawford hadn’t played for a winning team prior to coming here, but I think that his reputation as a troubled player is not only overblown, but dang near outright lies. Hughes is a different matter. He is mentioned as a locker room problem and an on the floor problem for every team he’s played for. Is it possible that he is miscast? Yes, but while I believed in Jamal, I don’t believe in Larry. Is it worth the risk (and the amount of money we’d have to pay him)? I think not. Even though he is a better on-ball defender than any of our guards, except Joe Johnson.

Jamal is a more potent scorer, as it is. I’d rather pay less for a on-ball defender who can also pass, than pay more for a guy who can’t score as well as Crawford, doesn’t pass enough to be a good point guard, and has had issues with every team he’s played.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
6:52 pm

Looks like the Magic can still put the Cavs down.

Denver is looking better and better out West.

Boston is coming closer to the end.

Sautee

February 21st, 2010
7:49 pm

Let’s go inside to Al and Josh over and over and………

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
8:04 pm

Amen to that…

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
8:47 pm

I knew we were going to have problems with Curry…that kid is THE TRUTH.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
8:48 pm

Meanwhile, Crawford has returned to form. Wow! He and JJ are going to go for 25+. As long as we win, that’s cool with me…

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
9:13 pm

The bad news so far:

1) We’re dead even on the boards. We should be ahead. This isn’t really bad news, but all the same…

2) We are operating the exact same way they are: going with a very guard-heavy offense and all but ignoring the frontcourt.

3) We seem to be playing their style of ball. Can we win that way?

4) Our defense lacks. They’re shooting over 52% from the field.

5) Our bench isn’t producing much, beyond Jamal Crawford.

The good news so far:

1) Our guard-heavy offense is working..for now. Both Joe and Jamal are shooting pretty well.

2)We have a 1 point lead. Wait, we also had that in Phoenix a couple nights ago.

3)Josh and Al have decent rebounding figures at the half.

4)We’re getting to the line more than twice as much as the opposing team (how about that?) and we’re taking advantage of it.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
9:24 pm

Check out this little snipit. Does it mean anything? I haven’t the foggiest, but in light of recent talks, here’s more “noise” to add to the hubub…

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AvGexzJL_WMHys9bKHpf0ac5nYcB?slug=ys-ilgauskasbuyout022110&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
9:34 pm

Going back to our front line. And surprise, surprise…it’s working.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
9:37 pm

Funniest damn thing I’ve heard in a long time:

Sautee says Devean George looks like a cross between a Neanderthal and Reggie Theus. I can hear it now…”so easy, a cave man could do it…”

:)

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
9:44 pm

BS call by the refs. I’m beginning to buy into the conspiracy against the Hawks..

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
9:46 pm

That’s what I wanna see from my rookie backup pg. Assist, defensive takeaway, assist. Let the kid play.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
9:48 pm

Josh Smith!!!

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:11 pm

Somebody’s gotta get Josh some help with those free throws. It’s killing him and us.

Nice timeout by Woody…about 4 trips TOO LATE.

Hawks breaking down, and now it’s a two point game. I see we’ve gone back to some bad habits. Joe trying to lead the team in 4th quarter scoring, Josh taking a jumper, the frontcourt largely being ignored again…

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:14 pm

Bibby’s back in the game. Is this going to pay off?

MannyT

February 21st, 2010
10:14 pm

Is this snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

BWAF

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:14 pm

Another horrible call as Josh gets his fifth foul for knocking the ball loose and making it go off an opponent’s leg. Great.

niremetal

February 21st, 2010
10:15 pm

I literally went to change my laundry with the Hawks up 12, and got back with them down 2.

niremetal

February 21st, 2010
10:15 pm

That was definitely a foul, Ray.

MannyT

February 21st, 2010
10:16 pm

No red unis & no laundry changes ;-)

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:17 pm

Joe to the rescue?

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:18 pm

niremetal

February 21st, 2010
10:18 pm

Lol…but so was that. Refs selectively calling the reach-in, I see.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:18 pm

ISO JOE. Turnover…

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:20 pm

Gee, am I sensing a pattern here with the foul calls? Oh, I think so.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:21 pm

Shouldn’t be coming down to this, though. Shouldn’t be coming down to anything. If we lose a nice lead to a dangerous-but-clearly-inferior team, then shame on us.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:22 pm

We’ve missed as many free throws as they’ve made…

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:23 pm

There is the rescue from Joe. Something told me he’d go for 30 again tonight.

niremetal

February 21st, 2010
10:26 pm

My GOODNESS, how was that not a foul????

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:27 pm

Conspiracy, I tell ya…

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:28 pm

We need to go 2 for 1, but Woody won’t do that. Will he?

niremetal

February 21st, 2010
10:29 pm

That was the type of move that JJ needs to do more – pump fake, get his man in the air, draw contact. The refs aren’t going to give it to him unless there’s lots of obvious contact because he’s so thick. But that time the contact WAS obvious, and there was no call.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:29 pm

ISO…trap…missed shot. Predictable and pathetic. Ellis will hit free throws, we will lose unless we get a heck of a good shot at the other end. This is why I never place bets…

niremetal

February 21st, 2010
10:29 pm

Not to defend Woody, Ray, but you don’t go 2-for-1 when you’re down 1. You look for a good shot, not a quick one.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:32 pm

Whatever shall we do when we come out of this timeout, I wonder?

Legler says, “They’ll give it to Joe on this, because he will make the right decision.”

Josh takes the shot? Who’s idea was THAT?

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:36 pm

I’m disgusted. Disgusted at how we truly lost that game in the earlier and middle parts of the fourth.

Disgusted at the final play(s). Disgusted by a lot of stuff.

Big Ray

February 21st, 2010
10:38 pm

I’d start levying criticism at certain targets, but it’s pointless. People will pick their favorites as it is. Heh…

On to the Jazz tomorrow night, and I hope the Hawks learned something and BRING IT for four quarters, or they’ll watch this road record sink further away from .500 for certain. The Jazz are beating everybody right now.

niremetal

February 21st, 2010
10:40 pm

Team loss. No two ways about it. Total, inexcusable collapse. It seems like everyone on (and off) the floor lost focus down the stretch.

Zach

February 21st, 2010
10:41 pm

Big Ray, Was that game played on the streets of California with no refs on the hawks side of the court?

Zach

February 21st, 2010
10:42 pm

Joe and Jamal were getting fouled more than I’ve ever seen without a call. Josh got three touch fouls and they don’t call one on the warriors. What in the world was that?