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

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:12 pm

This is bad. How will we adjust/respond?

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:15 pm

Some of the old Bibby back. GREAT to see!

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:19 pm

Hah! Would love to see Woody put the chrome dome on kid, Zaza style. :lol:

Take it home, Hawks. Leave Jason Terry feeling like a punk.

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:22 pm

Somebody please tell me we are not done in by an illegal screen and a Jason Kidd 3-pointer. Not like this….not like this…

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:23 pm

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:24 pm

Do we have enough gas for overtime, assuming the Mavs don’t make the last shot? Am I talking only to myself again?

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:27 pm

Overtime it is. We rarely get to this point. Do we know what to do, and how to do it?

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:28 pm

Mavs may be hot, but we shouldn’t have lost that lead. Another blown 4th quarter lead. Why are we reverting to old habits?

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:42 pm

Well, there goes that game. If this is a preview of playoff basketball, I’m worried.

I’m not surprised that we don’t know how to beat a good team in overtime. We rarely play a game into overtime, and I have no idea if we practice for such things. Couple that with very heavy minutes for the top six guys, and you have a formula for failure.

The good news :

Good efforts by Joe and Mike. Nice to see Mike getting his shooting stroke/confidence back.

Good all-around effort by Smith. Incredible stats.

This was an important game that we needed to win. We didn’t get it done. Not much else to say.

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:43 pm

Nobody listening anyway….:lol:

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:44 pm

Figured we wouldn’t have enough gas for overtime. Not surprised at all.

“I had to see something for myself.”

Well, you got to see it again.

Big Ray

February 26th, 2010
9:48 pm

Really disappointed in Al Horford’s performance.

Disappointed in a lack of adjustments to a zone (a zone???) defense.

First round flop if we play a tough team that has paid attention to what stalls us on offense.

Astro Joe

February 26th, 2010
9:58 pm

Yeah, Ray, I was saying over on MC’s blog how bad we looked against the zone… like we had never seen that defense before. All the blame needs to go to Woody and the backcourt for that poor showing. I am disappointed in Jamal because he does all of that tricky dribbling stuff during against a normal defense to get in the lane but against the zone, he didn’t even try to penetrate. WTF was that about? And Woody obviously didn’t do much to help them adjust. Just a bad showing by Woody and his vet guards.

But it was good to see Bibby make a few clutch 3s. That’s two solid performances by Mike.

9-32 from Jamal and Al.

BONE

February 26th, 2010
10:04 pm

Woodson is coming out with a new book everybody it’s called “HOW TO LOSE WINNABLE GAMES” with a foreword by Marvin and Bibby

O'Brien

February 26th, 2010
10:06 pm

It was the same thing that happens when we play Magic. Somebody leaves to double Dwight, and the ball rotates to the shooters who make us pay. Hawks have not learned when to double-team, and how quick (or slow) to double team.

We leave to double, Dirk ends up open because we dont recover in time.

We have also seen this zone before. i dont remember which game it was, but that was the game when Woody said “the jump shots looked appetizing to us”, but they weren’t falling.

And on a night when Al was clearly struggling, he still played 50 minutes, going 4-16.

And ZaZa only played 2 minutes. Was ZaZa hurt?

Astro Joe

February 26th, 2010
11:14 pm

This feels like that 2nd Cavs game… instead of our fine columnists focusing on the late game collapse they got wrapped up in the shot-clock issue. Now, they are abuzz about Woody’s blocking foul on Kidd and not our inability to defeat a simple zone defense.

Geez, yet another reason why I personally can’t get too upset about this team, because there is no one in the media to hold them accountable so why should I continue to yell at the rain? I will only lose my voice. The ones who have some clout to do the yelling tend to focus on the stupid stuff.

richbrave

February 26th, 2010
11:35 pm

Richbrave ,

It’s not Nellie-ball that bugs me. It’s Nellie-player relations. Schizing out on your guys is no good. Say anything we want about Woody, he is a straight up guy, no BS games. Either he likes you, or he doesn’t. No 180s in the middle of the season.

Back in the day, I think that was a problem he had on the CELTICS also. Been a while though. Maybe I don’t remember too well after what….40 years more or less.

niremetal

February 27th, 2010
12:07 am

Missed most of the game. I’ll just let people pick their favored scapegoats…

Big Ray

February 27th, 2010
7:58 am

Nire ,

That’s going to happen anyway, but if you DVR’ed it then you’ll see what has everyone so pissed. We seriously had those guys beaten in every sense of the word until the last 5-6 minutes. Disgusting.

Astro Joe ,

Hearing that from Jamal ticked me off as well. Badly. The problem is that I don’t think he’s learned any better about it since he came here, and I had really hoped that he would.

Yes, the adjustments (or lack thereof) really killed us in this game, but as you say, our veteran guards didn’t step up at all. Well, Bibby was easily the best of the three, with the coolest head.

You know what’s aggravating about Jamal’s tricky dribble? It’s not just that he doesn’t use it enough to get to the basket. It’s that he’s nothing more than a faster version of the same damn thing that JJ does (jab steps and dribble displays, culminating in a jumpshot), with less separation from his defender.

If nothing else, use all that stuff to get CLOSER for a higher percentage shot, if not a drive to the rim. They both used to do it more. Lately, they’ve been doing it less.

Lest I sound too hypocritical, I love to watch them do it when the jumpers are falling. Hate to see it when they’re not. That’s the honest truth.

O’brien ,

See my comments this morning on MC’s blog about the “appetizing jump shots.”

Despite how it looks, I’m not trying to take pot shots at Woody. I seriously think this is a flawed philosophy that he has, that his veteran guards are following up. It’s going to get us in worse trouble in the postseason if they don’t figure this out.

O'Brien

February 27th, 2010
12:07 pm

Ray,

Although Bibby stepped up, lets not forget that the opposing PG had 32 points, 16 rebounds, and 17 assists.

And although Josh had a great game, the opposing PF had 37 points, 9 rebs and 4 assists.

But Woody has to learn how to adjust the switching defense, and he has to come up with an offensive that relies less on jumpshots at times. And he has to get it through these guys heads to share the ball.

I posted this question on the other blog. At the end of the season, does Sund blame Woody for not developing his bench, or does Woody blame Sund for not giving him better bench players?

vava,

where you at? If the Golden State loss really ticked you off, what do you think about this loss?

doc

February 27th, 2010
12:33 pm

now teams are beginning to know that you dont even have to be good or stay close to win against this hawks’ team that metamorphs into something despicable in the last ten minutes of a game. gee the only team that works hard against us and puts us away early is orlando.

i have also heard word resiliency use about this team. i dont see comeback wins only front runners that arent finishing games anymore. comebacks during games is true resiliency.

ray, i put the bulls eye right where it belongs as woody is slumping worse than crawford, zaza and marvin are.

doc

February 27th, 2010
4:24 pm

my comments are missing here, blog closed for repair?

Sautee

February 27th, 2010
4:29 pm

O’Brien,

That’s an excellent question and I would guess that either side would tend to blame the other. For Woody’s sake he’d best make a stronger argument, since Sund has the final say on the head coach.

Big Ray

February 27th, 2010
7:33 pm

O’brien ,

The point about Bibby was only that he was finally back to hitting shots. The fact that he gave up more than he produced is a long-standing issue.

That PF opposite Josh is one of the best in the game and also one of the worst matchups for Josh. Despite perhaps popular opinion, Josh routinely struggles against perimeter-oriented PFs, plain and simple. Inject one of the best in the game and you have a compounded problem.

While we’re not forgetting what the other side was able to produce, let us also not forget that despite all of this, we were up by 13 with 6 minutes left, and the score was STILL tied at the end of regulation.

Not making excuses for anybody, Bibby failed to contain Kidd, and Josh failed to contain Dirk. But the reasons why are nothing new. This requires adjustment. I don’t think I need to say anymore…

Big Ray

February 27th, 2010
7:33 pm

Doc ,

Searching for your comments now. They should be up in a minute or two….they’ll post at whatever time you typed them…

Astro Joe

February 28th, 2010
9:54 am

Dirk and Kidd are eventual HOFers, I’m not sure why anyone would expect much different from those two. Execute against the zone and the play of the HOFers is immaterial.

vava74

February 28th, 2010
9:55 am

Hi everyone
I travelled Friday afternoon to visit my “in-laws” over the weekend since they don’t get to see their grand daughter as often as my folks and it’s her second birthday today.

Since there isn’t any internet at my girlfriend’s former apartment I couldn’t get to watch the game so I slept over it. I did wake up spontenously at around 4am to check the result and to see if my prediction was correct.

I must say that I was not surprised at anything that I read.

The reason why I have been saying that our record is deceiving is that we initially built a good record by surprising a lot of people who had rulled us out as contenders amassing wins mostly against medium and low teams.

Now our game plan has become known around the league and predictable. Opposing teams adjust and we don’t counter adjust.

Another telling factor indicating that our record is deceiving is our record against playoff teams. We got some interesting wins against Boston, but only two of them came with their roster at full strenght.

Our home wins against Denver, Utah and Portland came with out oponents playing at the back end of a long east coast trip or undermanned or a combination of both. And of our west coast wins, only Dallas and Portland are relevant.

As I said previously, yes there is merit in our record, but it smells at the same time to under and over achievement.

If we look at our roster it smells to underachievement if we look at Woody’s meager playbook and game plan it smells to overachievement.

To me, the hard fact is that Woody has been bailed out by individual spurts by either JJ, Crawford or in particular Josh with his game changing heroics.

Finally, Woody’s lack of offensive game plan and orchestrated plays implies that our success is linked to the individual ability that each player can bring.

This is why our bench looms so dreadful. Having less talent and no set plays to generate easy baskets the bench players are always testing the limit of their offensive ability instead of collectively inserted in plays where they can contribute within their limited ability.

vava74

February 28th, 2010
9:59 am

Looks so dreadful. There are several other minor typos or grammatical errors since I’m typing on my iPhone but I think you can get the sense of what I am saying.

Big Ray

February 28th, 2010
1:00 pm

iphones. I like my HTC Touch Pro 2.

A.HORFORD

February 28th, 2010
1:59 pm

FREE BASKETS, FREE BASKETS, STEP RIGHT UP AND GET YOUR FREE BASKETS….TAKE A PICTURE DUNKING ON ME….FREE BASKETS, FREE BASKETS, HOW BOUT YOU BIG RAY? THROW ONE DOWN ON ME…. FREE BASKETS FREE BASKETS! DO LIKE MICHAEL JORDAN AND STICK YOUR TONGUE OUT AS YOU DUNK ON ME….

O'Brien

February 28th, 2010
2:15 pm

How about them Celtics? Losing at home to the Nets yesterday. Wow. Based on how badly the Celtics have played, I hope we dont put too much value into our 4 game sweep (except for confidence).

vava,

On the outside, our record looks really good, but if you dig deeper, you realize that there are cracks. And if not fixed, those cracks will get bigger and bigger. We have not had any kind of injuries this year (Marvin missed 1 game with the flu, and ZaZa and Crawford missed 1 game). But after being 19-6, we are 17-15 over our last 32 games. Thats a long stretch to be playing .500 ball

Although Milwaukee is playing well (8-2 in their last 10), we are playing at home, and I hope the bitter taste from the Dallas game is still in the Hawks’ mouth. I would like to see us come out and put a beatdown on the Bucks.

Ray,

I can’t help but wonder how things might have been if the Hawks had let Bibby go and gone after Jarrett Jack as some of us (me and you included) had suggested.

Season averages;

Bibby: 9 pts, 4 assts, 37% from 3 (82 makes), 54 FT made, horrible defense in 28 mpg.
Jack: 11pts, 5 assts, 41% from 3 (58 makes), 136 FT made, and better defense in 29 mpg

Not to mention Jack is younger and cheaper. Oh well, water under the bridge.

That being said, I hope Bibby is able to continue his current stretch where at least he is making shots.

Speaking of phones, any feedback on the Motorola Droid from Verizon?

Astro Joe

February 28th, 2010
5:24 pm

Considering that our deceptive record is within 2-3 games of other Eastern Conference powers, are there records also deceptive? Considering that we have played more winning teams than Boston and Orlando, are there records even MORE deceptive? And who, exactly, is being deceived?

niremetal

February 28th, 2010
8:32 pm

Last play of the game: ISO-Joe. No screens, no movement.

Wish I could say I was surprised.

O'Brien

February 28th, 2010
9:25 pm

AJ,

How many games have Boston players missed due to injury? What about Orlando’s players? Not to mention that Orlando had a bunch of new players this season, so there is always Chemistry issues.

The Hawks have been injury free this season, and we have the same starting 5 that we had last year.

I’m just saying, that there are cracks, and we need to get it fixed. Once again tonight, 18 points in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, our 4th quarter defense was good.

That being said, Hawks pulled it out, and I’m happy for the victory.

If Hawks finish as the #3 seed, Chicago might be our first round opponent, so I hope we find a way (and the energy) to win tomorrow night.

niremetal

February 28th, 2010
9:45 pm

Gotta love the main blog. Confirmation bias galore.

O’Brien,

Watching my two fav teams, it’s remarkable how drastically different their luck with injuries have been. I think the Hawks must have stolen some of the Blazers’ karma or something…

O'Brien

February 28th, 2010
9:52 pm

nire,

I enjoy this blog so much more, although there is not much activity on the Nest tonight.

Hawks have been very fortunate when it comes to injuries. Even the Bucks have been bit by the injury bug. They lost Redd for the year, and I think even Bogut missed some time. Miami has been playing without Wade, Bosh has missed time for Toronto, and the list goes on.

I just hope it doesnt come back to bite the Hawks, because imagine if one of our players gets hurt the last couple games of the season, or the first game in the playoffs.

We would not know what to do, because we haven’t faced that kind of adversity all year.

doc

February 28th, 2010
10:10 pm

nire, i was there and the last play included no movement by jj who ended up with a terrible shot and no effort to try and draw a foul. josh would have made more of the chance.

glad to get out of this game with a win. they are a tenaciuos well coached team.

o’b some sanity here, kind of.

niremetal

February 28th, 2010
10:17 pm

Yeah O’B, I’ve actually said a couple times that it almost would be better if we lost a starter for a week or two right now just so we have more of an idea of what to do in case it happens at a more critical date later in the year.

niremetal

February 28th, 2010
10:25 pm

Doc,

Yeah, but drawing up a play is the coach’s job. No one was moving to get open, no one was trying to set a screen. In other words, the play call from the bench was “give the ball to JJ, everyone else get the hell out of the way.” Everyone in the building knew it was coming. The Bucks defended it well. JJ took a tough shot and missed. Could he have driven and tried to draw the foul? Maybe that’s a good idea at the end of the half, but at the end of the game the refs swallow their whistles. You have to be mugged in order for the refs to blow the whistle with less than 5 seconds left in a tie game.

The one thing I definitely wish he HAD done was take the shot sooner so that there’d be a chance for an o-reb (assuming the Bucks were out of timeouts). But there isn’t a coach in the league who calls for a drive on the last play of the game. End-of-game plays are designed to create an open look. As good as JJ is at creating separation, a predictable ISO play call was not a good way to accomplish that.

Also, considering that Josh heaved an off-balance, contested 3 with 9 seconds left in a clutch situation less than 2 weeks ago, I don’t see how you can say with any certainty that he would have done better. ISO plays are not exactly his strong suit. The better play call wouldn’t have been to give the ball to anyone else necessarily. But it would have involved getting more than the guy with the ball involved in the play. That, however, is too much to ask for with this coach.

Astro Joe

February 28th, 2010
10:58 pm

OB, kind of a double-edged sword. Players are good enough to get playing time but aren’t developed enough if someone gets hurt. I guess that means that they are good enough for 12-15 minutes now but nothing beyond that. Well, that may be true for Teague but every other bench player has been around long enough to know what to do. Joe Smith, Zaza and Mo better know what to do if there is an injury… they have all started previously and are not wet behind the ears. The question becomes, are they GOOD enough to keep the ship afloat, not “are they developed”. If Terrapin Joe, Mo and Zaza aren’t developed by now, well…

Back to the “these teams have been hurt” argument… what do you think extra roster expense buys you if not quality depth? Let’s put it this way… if you could simulate a bench vs. bench tournament on NBA Live or NBA 2K or some other video game, who would finish in last place across the Hawks, Celtics, Magic and Cavs (again, bench players only)?

I applaud anyone who thinks that our roster is so good that with the right strategy and right line-up at various points in a game, that they could win a 7 games series against the Magic or Cavs. I ain’t buying it.

Every component of this team is lacking in comparison to the teams ahead of us. Is our best player better than any player on the other 3 teams? Is Woody a better coach? Do we have a higher payroll? Do we have a deeper bench? Old schoolers say it’s a big man’s game… do we have the best big man? New schoolers say it’s a PG’s game, do we have the best PG? I have no delusions of grandeur here. I’m just enjoying a team that is above average, relevant and generally very exciting. I’d be much too frustrated if my expectations were any higher.

Astro Joe

February 28th, 2010
11:06 pm

nire, Bucks had 2 20 second TOs at the end of regulation… at best, he could have shot the ball with 2 seconds left in case there was an offensive rebound to grab. But they definitely had a TO to call and move the ball to half-court and possibly win the game.

I think in those kind of situations, the ISO play is the right call because it gives you the best chance to manage the game clock. And with the oppsoing team having TOs, that is as important as the quality of the shot. That, and of course, fewer passes should mean a less likely chance for a turnover, which would also be harmful in that situation.

Big Ray

March 1st, 2010
1:52 am

Big Ray

March 1st, 2010
1:52 am

Not sure why I announced that at 2 a.m…..silly me….

vava74

March 1st, 2010
4:15 am

Astro,

ISO with no movement as decoy or screen?

dr.maryb

March 6th, 2010
4:11 pm

Blue-Ray

No-Man c*an mearsure another Man’s HEART.
If so, The DRAFT would not be a Lottery.

Down the Stretch? Losers become Spoilers. Why? Because: “This is the NBA Man!”
-Joe Johnson-

Plain & Simple … The Hawks MUST impose their WILL upon All future opponents!