Looking for another good winning streak

Take a breath. Whew….made it back from that road trip without too many scars, and the road record stands at .500.

Maybe now the Hawks can do something they haven’t done since early/mid December. Namely, go on a winning streak that lasts more than 3 games. The Hawks have done it twice this season, but they could use another one. It comes harder down the stretch run but an actual win streak of more than 3 games breeds such confidence. And continuity. Consistence. Uh-oh, there goes that “C” word again. The one that haunts this team and leaves fans, experts, and even casual observers wondering if Atlanta can be more than just a dangerous squad that is better than the rest.

So can it be done?

Having ended a 17 year drought in Utah, the Hawks should be well on their way. Tonight, they face Minnesota, a team that is still struggling mightily. Next will be Dallas, which figures to be the toughest of the next 6 games. After that is a possible trap game against Milwaukee, which will feature rookie sensation Brandon Jennings, and talented 7 foot center Andrew Bogut. This will be the first meeting with this squad, this season. Following that is a trip to Chicago, where the Hawks face a depleted Bulls squad (Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons are gone, Joakim Noah isn’t anywhere near 100%) and a familiar face (remember Flip?), then two more home games against the Sixers and the Warriors (revenge is at hand). Do these next six games have any particular significance that sets them apart from the others?

Well, no and yes.

 No, because there are tougher stretches ahead. No, because all games in the last full month of the season are tough. No, because the Hawks have to be thinking about finishing strong in April, not the beginning of March. No, because the Hawks are playing just one road game, and they need to be more concerned about winning on the road than they are at home, where they are dominant.

Yes, because five of these games are at home, where the Hawks are a brilliant 21 and 6. Yes, because the Hawks trail the Boston Celtics by a game, and more importantly, they trail the Magic by 2 games. They really need to win this division. Yes, because after the next six games, the final nine home games include contests against the Raptors (hot on our heels and closer than comfort), Spurs, Magic, Bobcats, Lakers, and Cavaliers. In other words, six of the last nine home games are going to be tough ones. While many teams are mailing it in, come April…I don’t think two of our home game opponents will be (Cleveland and Toronto). So you see, it may be a crucial stretch. Or it may not. Either way, it’s an opportunity to up that win total, renew some confidence, and get rolling on the final stretch. Or maybe I’m just making too much out of the next six games. What say you?

 

HAWKS VS TIMBERWOLVES

The last time these two teams met, the Hawks walked all over the T-Wolves enroute to a 25-point blowout. And that was with Josh Smith playing just 20 minutes due to foul trouble. Of course, he wasn’t the only one. Zaza Pachulia took it upon himself to foul out in just under 20 minutes, and Randolph Morris showed he could top both of them by doing the same in just over 10 minutes. Still, it was an easy blowout. How? Solid games by Johnson, Williams, Horford, and Bibby, including a masterful performance off the bench by Jamal Crawford. Here’s an interesting tidbit: Four Hawks big men had at least 3 fouls in that game (Horford, Pachulia, Smith, and Morris). Minnesota went to the line 36 times. Of those total free throws, 22 were attempted by Minnesota’s guards. Seeing a pattern here? Chances are, you’ll see that pattern in several other games. Yes, the Hawks consistently have trouble guarding the opposing backcourt, and it’s our frontcourt that pays the price.

Key Matchups

Whatever happened to Al Jefferson? Poised to become an all-star on the heels of a season in which he averaged 23 and 11, the Minnesota PF-C has fallen on harder times. He has slowly worked his way back to roughly 17 points and over 9 boards per contest, but is he the same player some fans clamored for us to trade Al Horford for? Not hardly, and he seems to be having consistently trouble with his knees. In any case, he’ll have his hands full with Horford, who has been building and refining his own offensive game, and making the opposition guard him more. If the Hawks go to Horford early, he can open it up for the wing players and put all kinds of pressure on Minnesota.

Kevin Love is a frontcourt player’s dream teammate. The rebound-gobbling PF is also quick and smart with the ball and has one of the best outlet passes in the league. Nobody seems to be able to keep him off the glass, but it will be Josh Smith’s job to make it hard to do what he does best. The problem with him is that he has good shooting range, all the way out to the 3 point arc. Smith will have to deny him the ball out there, rather than chase his shot. The trap is that it keeps Smith away from the basket more, neutralizing what he tends to do best. However, Smith is also dangerous in the passing lanes on defense, and if he’s loose in the open court with the ball, only the quickest guards can catch him. Smith will have to play smart in this game to stay in it and have a positive effect. Of course, he should get help from Marvin Williams on this front. Williams can stretch the defense with his own perimeter shooting, and is a more than capable rebounder when he puts his mind (and butt) in that gear. Advantage? Hawks, as long as the frontcourt makes the effort on the boards, gets adequate touches on offense, and plays smart on defense.

In the backcourt, the Wolves shouldn’t have a chance. While Flynn and Sessions are quick penetrators, neither is a shooter by rote. In fact, the Wolves don’t have a perimeter shooter of any consequence, outside of rookie Wayne Ellington (and he’s not scaring anybody just yet). Instead, the Minnesota guards will look to get to the basket and draw fouls, something they had no problem doing in the last game. On the other side of the ball, Atlanta guards Crawford, Bibby, and Johnson can shoot the lights out of the gym on any given night. Crawford has been a bit up and down since a recent shoulder injury, and Bibby has seemed to be lacking in confidence or desire to shoot it. Johnson however, has been as good as any in the league, and hasn’t slowed down one bit since the all-star break. Advantage: Hawks by a wide margin, providing that at least two out of the Hawks three guards are shooting fairly well, and they do a decent job of denying penetration on defense.

All in all, a winnable game. In fact, it should be another blowout!

145 comments Add your comment

cole

February 24th, 2010
1:59 pm

westurd

February 24th, 2010
2:00 pm

Sautee

February 24th, 2010
2:05 pm

Nice job, Ray.

I want to see some killer instinct tonight. If we get them down, we need to step squarely on the throat. We SHOULD win this easily unless the team says “we should win this easily”. ;-)

cole

February 24th, 2010
2:07 pm

hawks have talent enough to push any team but with the coaching philosophy we’re in trouble. Marvin is really disappointing me (last year he was pretty good, however, Marvin gets his shot blocked more than any SF I’ve ever seen), bibby is not producing as much and for those who want jeff teague to run the ship…because woody will not allowing him time to play- he seems nervous and hesitant. anyways i’m a huge hawks fan, but as long as we have woodson who has no clue and no philosophy, just talent! then we will never get pass the second round.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
2:27 pm

Interesting tidbit. Check out the 82games.com pages for the Hawks, Cavs, Celts, and Magic. If you click on each player’s name and scroll down, you see a row labeled “Defense: Pts per 100 Poss.” The two numeric columns show how many points per 100 possessions the team allows when the player is on the court versus when he is off the court. Marvin has the best net rating (-9.6) for that not just on the Hawks, and not just among the SFs on those teams, but amongst ALL rotation players on those 4 teams.

Now that obviously doesn’t mean that Marvin is the best defender on the Hawks, much less among all the players in the East elite. No one stat can possibly capture that. But it means that we “lose” more points when Marvin leaves the floor than when any other player leaves the floor – ie it means that going from Marvin to his subs has been the biggest “step down” defensively in terms of points allowed. It’s true that our offense gets better when Marvin leaves, but not by nearly as much (points alw’d is -9.6; points scored is -4.0). Anyway, Marvin isn’t scoring as much, but the advanced stats pretty much all show that his defense so far this year is actually even better than last year’s. He’s not producing offensively, but really…who takes fewer shots if we want our SF to score more?

Astro Joe

February 24th, 2010
2:30 pm

Ray, good stuff. Don’t forget that Damien Wilkins usually plays quite well in front of his uncle (and his father usually attends his games at Philips). Josh sometimes cheats inside when guarding perimeter PFs, he’ll need to ensure that he stays close to Love who is both a good shooter and passer. I don’t think that Horford will need help with Jefferson but if he does I’d rather see it come from someone other than Josh.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
2:34 pm

Of course, the lesson from that particular stat might just be “we need a better defensive SF off the bench,” which many people have said. But all the advanced stats I’ve looked at on hoopdata, 82games, basketballvalue, basketball-reference, etc all indicate that Marvin has been one of the league’s best defensive SFs this year, and has shown a slight improvement from last year on that end.

The offense, of course, is another story.

Astro Joe

February 24th, 2010
2:35 pm

nire, Hoopinion has done some exhaustive analysis on those kind of stats and tend to look at the other side of that coin. Marvin usuaully is replaced in the line-up by Jamal… so instead of giving Marvin “credit” they assign “blame” to Jamal. And they also assign blame to Woody for playing Bibby and Jamal in late game situations… something they feel is a poor decision to have 2 non-defenders in crunch-time situations.

acie law scrub

February 24th, 2010
2:39 pm

don’t forget the scrub up in da club, Mr LAW the 3rd…when we face the bulls and ronald murray.

woody knew a dude couldn’t ball…..he knows the same about teague

Darren Collison was the pick

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
4:16 pm

Cole ,

Congrats!

Sautee ,

Thanks! Yes, I’m still up. An e-mail on my phone awoke me…

Nire ,

Those are VERY interesting stats indeed. It’s refreshing to see some of the nuances and details of the game presented, rather than just the same ol’ stuff about “Marvin sucks” or “just give him another year, he’ll be a superstar”, neither of which is near the mark, in my opinion. And I’m saying that with the disappointment that I’ve felt in watching his stats go down . Disappointment is one thing. Understanding is another.

O'Brien

February 24th, 2010
4:21 pm

Ray,

Plus Minnesota won a close game in Miami last night, so they should be tired. I will be watching Sessions, because he was on my list of PG to look at to replace Bibby this past offseason. But as a Hawks fan, I would love to see Sessions struggle mightily tongit.

“Four Hawks big men had at least 3 fouls in that game (Horford, Pachulia, Smith, and Morris). Minnesota went to the line 36 times. Of those total free throws, 22 were attempted by Minnesota’s guards”.

Good stuff. Defense begins at the perimter.

I look for Al and JJ to have big games tonight

Astro Joe

February 24th, 2010
4:23 pm

Spencer Haws anyone? It sounds like he may be available for pennies on the dollar:

Spencer Hawes isn’t injured. But when he showed up Tuesday evening at Arco Arena, his No. 31 jersey wasn’t hanging in his locker.

Hawes, the Kings’ third-year and sometimes-starting center was inactive for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons.

“I saw where he’s having a hard time understanding his role,” said Kings coach Paul Westphal. “He should understand it (after) tonight.”

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
4:24 pm

Astro Joe ,

Thanks, man. I think there could be a more balanced view of the Marvin and Jamal analysis. Both guys clearly bring different things to the game. Jamal hurts us on “D” more than he helps, but helps us on “O” more than he hurts. Marvin actually doesn’t hurt us on offense because we’re not relying on him to provide it. As Nire points out, increasing his shot attempts means decreasing somebody else’s. And since he plays mostly with the starting lineup, who do you take the ball from?

Marvin is more of a situational scorer, as we look for points from our 2, 4, and have increasingly from our 5. Our 1 has relegated himself to a situational shooter. Like y’all both said LOOOONG ago, we can’t expect everybody to score 20 ppg.

As for having Bibby and Jamal playing late in games, that simply gives us our best chance at scoring, particularly from the perimeter, while still maintaining ball movement. But you already knew that….

P.S. I forgot about Damien Wilkins!

Acie law scrub ,

Darren Collison came out as a senior, if I recall correctly. He’s a player. But something tells me he wouldn’t see near the playing time, or look near as good as he does, if Chris Paul hadn’t been injured for so long. He’d be the backup pg. Getting maybe 10-12 mpg. 15 if he was really lucky. He wouldn’t get anymore than that HERE, behind Bibby and Jamal, under Woody.

Astro Joe

February 24th, 2010
4:26 pm

I suspect that because Marvin plays with Bibby more than he plays with Jamal, that Bibby’s defensive numbers are probably not as bad as many other PGs. Not that it means that he is a good defender (he never has been), but I’m guessing that the sites that nire is viewing would probably not show that he is an express lane at the tollbooth.

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
4:33 pm

Astro ,

Don’t know what his cost is, or how we’d get him, but I’d rather have him on this roster than Collins and RandMo combined. The kid is big (true 7 footer), rebounds, and has shooting range. I’d take him. They can say what they want about him in Sacto, but that team is in a state of flux. Tyreke Evans is their new “it” guy, so much so that they shipped off scorer/shooter Kevin Martin. Hey, if they like Carl Landry that much and want Jason Thompson to play center for them while giving up on this kid, I’m all for it. I don’t know what Paul Westphal is talking about, personally….

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
4:38 pm

O’brien,

I hear ya. I liked the idea of Sessions as well, along with Jarret Jack, who is doing good stuff up there in Toronto.

Oh, and here’s another “my bad”. I used to think highly of Jose Calderon in favor of Mike Bibby. Well, I still don’t think that Bibby is necessarily better at this point in time, but Calderon certainly isn’t all I thought he was. Dude’s good for 11 and 6, and can hit the 3. But Jack is the one with the toughness and defense.

Astro Joe

February 24th, 2010
4:43 pm

Not a good time to be a center on a losing team. This one from Nellie:

Warriors coach Don Nelson sent one message by benching Andris Biedrins for good at the 7:23 mark of the second quarter.

Nelson sent an even louder message after the team’s 110-102 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.

“I didn’t see any life there,” Nelson said. “I’m tired of not seeing any life. I’m very disappointed.

“This isn’t the first time we haven’t seen a light on.”

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
4:43 pm

Yep, just read up on it.

Jason Thompson will be the new starting center, Carl Landry will start in his old spot at PF. I don’t consider it a bad move, really, but it may certainly lead to discontent from Hawes.

Then again, if Hawes was removed from the starting lineup, does one assume there is a reason for it? Thompson is performing better than he is, but will he continue to do so at the 5 spot? Hard to say.

And if Hawes doesn’t like being relegated to the bench THERE, how would he feel HERE, where he is not likely to crack the starting lineup unless Woody decides Josh is a 3 all the sudden (and sorry, but Horford is NOT going to the bench, and neither is Josh). Or would it feel different if he was on a winning team?

Who knows, but the trade deadline is past, so unless he gets released, I don’t see us getting him til’ this summer, even if that’s a feasible move.

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
4:45 pm

Nellie is an idiot. He is the extinguisher of life in Golden State. The lights are out because he keeps breaking the bulbs. He is ruining that franchise.

Astro Joe

February 24th, 2010
4:46 pm

Ray, I’m intrigued by the fact that Sund is seemingly interested in a jump-shooting center (as suggested by his interest in Big Z). So I will look for him to address that in the summer, if he truly thinks that would bring an added dimension to the team. And one of the obvious benefits would be allowing Horford to play against PFs, which should result in him expending less energy throughout the game.

Astro Joe

February 24th, 2010
4:48 pm

Ray, it’s one thing to be benched (Hawes) it’s another to be deactivated. I understand wanting to go with Thompson and Landry… but to have Hawes sitting in street clothes on the bench? That’s bad.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
5:11 pm

Hawes’s physical development hasn’t been what people expected. His frame definitely is big enough for him to be a more imposing physical presence, but it actually looks like he’s LOST weight since college. He just gets abused on the boards in a way that a 7′1 should not. There’s definitely potential there – he has good touch and good athleticism for a guy his size. But he clearly hasn’t put in the off-the-court work he should have during the past 18 months.

vava74

February 24th, 2010
6:15 pm

I have read somewhere that Hawes thinks very highly of himself and is very lazy. Not a good thing.

vava74

February 24th, 2010
6:18 pm

My preview for the next stretch: 4-2

losses coming from either Dallas, Chicago or Philly.

Personally, I think there is at least a 80% chance that we lose against Dallas if Bibby suddenly doesn’t start shooting 40% from 3 pt land again.

O'Brien

February 24th, 2010
6:32 pm

Speaking of bigs, what about Aaron Gray? Might he be available this offseason too? And who was it that drafted that big center from Ohio State (Mullens I think is his name, who didn’t even play very well in his one year in the Big 10)?

Its hard to find a good (young) 7 footer these days.

Ray,

Jack was my other PG of choice too. We could have gotten him for $4-$5 mil per year. Younger, tougher, and plays good defense. He is not the shooter that Bibby is, but Bibby is not the shooter that Bibby was…

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
6:38 pm

Astro Joe ,

I have to agree. Hawes getting deactivated has to be something attitude-derived. You don’t just deactivate a 7-footer who is giving you 10-12 points and 6-7 rebounds per game for nothing, even if his performance is suffering.

Also, the thing about the jump-shooting center is that it needs to be a guy who can get defensive rebounds like “Z” does. It can’t just be some dude who will stick around outside like Channing Frye does all day. Either that, or we add a Craig Smith type along with him. I love the idea from an offensive standpoint, though.

O’brien ,

Last I heard, Mullens was more raw than sushi. Dude’s been in the D-League too, I think. I couldn’t tell you if he’s seen 5 minutes of actual NBA game time.

Gray? Good head on his shoulders, but slow as molasses, and released by Chicago. Don’t know if he picked up a job elsewhere.

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
7:34 pm

Watching Teague flying around the court, Flynn can’t get away from him. Somebody please let this kid get 15-20 minutes tonight, he’s earning it…

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
7:35 pm

Oh man, I was gonna die a happy man if Zaza had gotten that 3 off.

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
7:37 pm

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
7:45 pm

WTF….Jeff Teague should have like 5 assists by now, but we can’t finish! Finally Joe Smith finishes on a wide open layup after he and Zaza are done crashing the boards (and each other).

Jamal is jacking shots and not making them, and only Mo Evans seems like he’s in a groove.

Teague looks good, though. He needs to start taking (and making) some mid-range jumpers to keep the defense honest, and to relieve some pressure on Jamal.

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
7:45 pm

Bob Rathbun : “That young man just needs playing time.”

Preach it, Bob…

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
7:47 pm

There’s this guy over in China:
http://www.asia-basket.com/player.asp?Cntry=CHN&PlayerID=107106

13 and 9 ain’t bad for a rookie. Unless you consider that he’s doing it in China, which is a low level of competition even relative to other overseas leagues.

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
7:50 pm

I hate to say this, but Zaza’s rebound totals for tonight are already misleading. Three are offensive boards, but it’s from his own fumbled misses, or have resulted in misses, then a defensive rebound for the other team. Those kinds of rebounds don’t help us. I hope he tightens it up out there. He looks like he did in most of ‘08.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
7:57 pm

Ray,

He got a nice offensive rebound off a guard’s missed shot awhile back. Not really his fault that it didn’t lead to a bucket.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
8:10 pm

Defense was good, but another zero-production half for Marv.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
8:10 pm

Oh, and thanks Josh – my fantasy team was getting killed this week before that half!

Sautee

February 24th, 2010
8:15 pm

You mean Marvin was on the court?

vava74

February 24th, 2010
8:24 pm

nire, are you using LP or a feed tonight?

can’t find a working feed anywhere…

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
8:24 pm

Shooting like crap and not defending much better. Joe is not Joe, Jamal is not Jamal, and Horford is struggling.

The good news? We’re up by 8, we can go on a run and close this out in the second half, and Josh is playing quite well.

vava74

February 24th, 2010
8:26 pm

finally got one!

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
8:30 pm

Nice look by Joe to give that ball back to Bibby.

Two in a row for Bibby from the arc and aren’t we glad to see him hitting those!

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
8:46 pm

WHEEEEEE! I love a good run.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
8:48 pm

LP, I’m afraid Vava.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
8:52 pm

Silly foul by Teague there. Why bother to try and block Kevin Love trying to take a 3??

vava74

February 24th, 2010
8:55 pm

yes, it was a stupid foul, but he will only stop making them by learning with his mistakes.

note that Love is shooting 41% from 3 point land this year

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
8:59 pm

Vava,

Yeah, I know. I’ve seen him hit a few and I’m always surprised when it goes in. Maybe I’m underestimating him still.

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
9:00 pm

Attaboy, Big Al!

niremetal

February 24th, 2010
9:20 pm

Dear T’Wolves Training Staff,

Please give Corey Brewer a burrito and a protein shake.

Sincerely,
Niremetal

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
9:20 pm

Ha! I know some of you hated to love that last play by Josh….

Big Ray

February 24th, 2010
9:23 pm

Man is it good to see Bibby playing well and hitting shots, especially with Jamal absolutely sucking out there.