Hawks show toughness again

If you think the win against Charlotte was something, then I hope you saw the game against San Antonio. While the Bobcats are certainly a tough team to play against (they’ve competed well against some of the best teams in the league), the Spurs are a different animal. Mentally and physically tough, disciplined, this team executes well and never seems to be out of control. That’s not something that the Hawks have been known for in recent years. But they may have just turned a corner, and found a new “toughness resource” in the process.

Call Me Al….

Much like the Paul Simon song (featuring a funny cameo performance by Chevy Chase in the music video), the source of Atlanta’s newfound toughness has a name. That name is Al Horford. Often maligned as undersized and offensively deficient, Horford has taken his game to new heights. Was that the intention all along? Perhaps not, as Horford approached the game and his duties in a very workman-like fashion, doing exactly what was asked of him and nothing more: rebound, defend, get the dunk or layup if the ball is handed off to you. In his first year, Al narrowly missed a season average double double in points and rebounds. He followed that up with a second season that saw him miss 15 games, and played hurt during the playoffs (when he was able to play, that is). Averaging just under a point-and-a-half more, and almost half a rebound less than his rookie year, it looked like Horford might not be more than just a hard-working power forward who could adequately fill in at center. Historically, he has struggled with larger, more traditional centers, and it seemed that this would always be a problem.

Fast forward to the ‘09-’10 season where the problem didn’t go away, but a budding solution was coming into view. Horford’s quickness and work ethic began to show a way to combat his weaknesses and turn them into strengths. The Hawks started giving him the ball more, and he started producing with it. Still, the criticisms remain. Destroying teams without a very strong post presence isn’t and wasn’t garnering much respect (but isn’t that what the premiere big men do?) Averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds against the Golden State Warriors isn’t exactly something to sniff at. But it wasn’t enough. Perhaps not until Horford was named by the NBA coaches as a reserve player on the ‘09-’10 All-star team, did he get some measure of proper respect, even amongst the greater Atlanta Hawks fan base. Perhaps not until Horford began doing more than just holding his own against “true centers” like Andrew Bogut, Kendrick Perkins, Chris Kaman, Nene Hilario, and Brook Lopez. Yet all of those performances pale in comparison to Al’s second half resurgence against San Antonio’s Tim Ducan, late Sunday night. After a miserable first half that saw him outworked, outmuscled, and outplayed in general, Horford led the Hawks to victory in overtime by posting 22 points and 18 rebounds, making one good decision after another as time ran down.

It’s not that Horford has grown into a world-beater at center. Perhaps he should still be moved to power forward if the Hawks can find a way to throw in a bigger, effective and rugged defender/rebounder into the mix. But he has learned to be tougher. He has struggled in games, and there have been times where the Hawks needed him, and he didn’t get it done. He has learned to be more reliable on offense, to the point of where the Hawks are well-served to go to him late in games. How badly have the Hawks been needing something like that? Someone who can get the job done down low, via score or pass, rather than hanging it all on the guards? How badly have the Hawks needed toughness in the post, on both ends of the court, and not had it? Horford is still a work in progress, but that work is paying dividends even as we watch, and he will NOT stop working.

A new toughness has come to the Hawks’ squad. And it’s name is Al Horford.

 

Pump Those Brakes !

On second thought, does two tough wins at home mean a better, tougher team? Or does it mean that the Hawks simply still have glaring problems that cause them to have to play games down to the wire? Maybe we should be more concerned about how many points we win a game by.  Are good teams defined by margin of victory? Perhaps good teams are defined by how they win, despite adversity. Atlanta has had trouble with this, of course. Are we really seeing the Hawks turn a corner now? Or are we making too much of a two-game winning streak? Speaking of which, the wins against Charlotte and San Antonio has the Hawks at 7 and 3 in their last 10 games.  

The Hawks have had trouble finishing off games in the past, even recently. But they are also owners of a 28 and 7 home record that is good enough for a 2nd place tie in the East with the Orlando Magic. Might these last two tough overtime wins at home be an indicator of how this team might perform in the playoffs. Or are we just…again…making too much of  two games?

 

Pick Your Favorites

I don’t know what’s more entertaining sometimes: how we fans want to call the game, or how the media wants to call it.

 

Here’s Scenario One:  I read the official site of the Atlanta Hawks, and there is a picture of Joe Johnson going strong to the basket (looks like he’s going to dunk it), and it reads that he had 20 points and 13 assists. Meanwhile, Al Horford’s 22 points and 18 rebounds gets the “sidekick” treatment. Before you go there, I have no issues with Joe Johnson, nor am I even suggesting that his contribution wasn’t absolutely crucial to this last win. But come on, man. How does Horford get the “sidekick” treatment in this one? Where is Marvin’s contribution? Wins are literally on a game-by-game basis. So do you as a fan think this was unfair in any way? Do I sound like I’m picking a favorite (and if you know me, you know I don’t have much to say about one of my “favorites”, he stunk it up too much last night)? Is there anything to being the front runner on a headline or the first person mentioned in a win?

Here’s Scenario Two: I’m reading the main page of NBA.com, and the headline reads thusly-  ”Working Overtime: It takes five quarters for the Hawks to beat the Spurs for the first time in eight games.” Aaaaarrrgghhhh!

What gives??  The accompanying picture shows Josh Smith looking like he’s laying up a finger roll as he flies past Tim Duncan. Now y’all know I love my boy, but….it’s not like he beat the Spurs up. In fact, his stat line was pedestrian by his own standards. Again, Horford gets the sidekick treatment, and the Hawks really got no respect at all. I mean, “It takes the Hawks five quarters to finally beat the Spurs for the first time in eight games” ??

Couldn’t we roll with “Williams has brilliant first half, Horford dominating second half, as Hawks beat Spurs for first time” ?

Okay, maybe I’m just grousing for no reason. Maybe even whining. Just a little bit. What do you think? Don’t be gentle…..

 

HAWKS VS. BUCKS….and then “You know Who”

No time for celebration for the Hawks as they travel to Milwaukee (a potential first round playoff opponent) Monday night. Chances are, there will be some tired legs coming off that flight, but this is the nature of the NBA. The Hawks will have to dig deep against yet another tough squad that is looking to solidify its own playoff spot in the East.

 

Focus…Focus…

The Hawks need to have two things on their minds as they prepare for this game, and one of them is NOT Orlando.

One - Atlanta has another chance to up that road record that stands at 17 and 17. The Hawks want to send two messages here, one to themselves, and one to a team that they may be facing in the first round of the postseason. Half of the message was sent to Milwaukee back on Feb. 28th when the Bucks came to town: “we won’t let you take one in our house.” Time to send the second half of that message. In the meantime, the Hawks need to leave a note for themselves: “establish a way to win on the road against playoff teams, especially those that play well at home.” No time like the present for learning that mentality.

Two – As has been mentioned here before (and I had to be corrected on this), there is no tie-breaker between Boston and Atlanta unless the Hawks can catch and pass the Magic for the division win. And since Boston is practically guaranteed to win their division, there is no such thing as a tie-breaker in the Hawks favor if they end up in a tied record with the Celtics, despite the season sweep. Catching the Magic is not impossible, but will prove to be quite the difficulty, especially if the Hawks keep losing to them. So right now, the Hawks may be best served by trying to have a better record than the Celtics.

Beating the Bucks in Milwaukee is not going to be easy, but it has to be done. Especially while the Celtics are facing the Jazz in Utah, where the Jazz are 27 and 8.

Keys to the Game

1) The Bucks are going to play tough on defense all game, but they are liable to go zone towards the end, as seems to be the trend these days for Hawks opponents. Atlanta will have to remember to get the ball in to Al Horford, who will make good decisions with the ball. Marvin Williams will need to make open shots, as he is most likely to be open. Atlanta will also need a good effort from Josh Smith, who helped will the Hawks to a win in the last game against Milwaukee with 22 points and 15 rebounds. However, Smith also has to be careful not to force passes into the defense, where Bucks defenders will be lying in wait. His 5 turnovers in that game also nearly helped lose the game, which would have effectively rendered moot his other good deeds. The tigher the game gets, the more the ball should go to Horford, who can get it to Johnson, Smith, and any others who have good scoring opportunities. Up top, same applies to Joe Johnson, who has been doing a better job of giving it up to others, lately.

And let’s not forget Marvin. If he remains a steady force on the glass and hit his open shots, opponents will be hard put to double up on the Hawks’ more potent offensive threats.

2) Do not let John Salmons go off as he pleases. A streaky shooter, Salmons can do more to hurt his team than help it if he’s not given open looks or clear paths to the basket. The Hawks should know this already, after watching Salmons torch them for 32 points in the last contest.

3) What Jerry Stackhouse did to us off the bench was outright embarrassing, and may have made him look better than he really still is. Then again, Stackhouse might have simply had a chip on his shoulder after hanging around Atlanta all summer long, then getting snubbed by management and having to go to Milwaukee for a job. It doesn’t matter either way. What matters is that our bench takes some pride in hustle, defense, and execution overall. And that our starters don’t let a minimum salary, 15 year vet outplay them for 27 minutes.

4) Either Mike Bibby or Jamal Crawford (and preferrably both) has to pick it up out there. Last time, the two of them combined for a depressing 5 for 22 from the field, leaving Joe out there by himself. These days, and with the weapons the Hawks have, if you see Joe having to take 20 or more shots to score 20 or more points, you can just about bet that at least two main rotation players are struggling badly from the field. More often than not, those struggles are showing up along the perimeter.

 

You know the drill. Speak your piece….

162 comments Add your comment

vava74

March 23rd, 2010
12:01 pm

OB,

One thing I can tell you, Jamal is not doing nothing in the court when Woody calls an ISO which involves a clear out and NO PLAYER MOVEMENT, NOR PICKS.

If Woody knew what he was doing, he could use JJ as decoy and get the ball to Jamal, Al or Josh on a diagonal cut after a dribble penetration by JJ.

Instead of launching a bad and highly contested jumper, he could dish out.

vava74

March 23rd, 2010
12:02 pm

O'Brien

March 23rd, 2010
1:54 pm

vava,

To me, thats the biggest drawback with the ISOs. The defense has to focus (mostly) on 1 player, while on offense, the other 4 guys are not as involved.

In the playoffs, teams will double JJ at the end, and he will be forced to give up the ball, or take a tough shot. I just hope we are able to make the right decision when the game is on the line.

Fortunately, at least we have Crawford to help him out. But I would like to see us go to Al more down the stretch.

Hawks are 4 games behind Orlando in the loss column. If we lose to them tomorrow, then we can kiss the division goodbye, because they already own the tie-breaker, and they would be 5 games up.

If we win, we have a slim chance of catching them. Hopefully Woody calls off the double-teaming of Howard. Play him straight up (foul him hard and often if you have to), stay on the shooters, and hope JJ and Crawford can bring us to victory.

Melvin

March 23rd, 2010
2:29 pm

Astro,

See the Bulls record (or improvement) when Salmons was wearing their uniform. Check him stats from last year playoffs.

OB,
I see the thinking behind the Bulls trading Salmons but I think it’s too risky trading your 2nd best player for cap space especially since it’s rare that the top tier FA’s to sign lesser deals with other teams (yes the bulls made be able to offer a max contract but the player current team can offer more money and years). I think they would be better off trying to do S&T deals to acquire a Superstar player. The more pawns you have, the better your chances of getting such a deal done. Just my opinion.

O'Brien

March 23rd, 2010
8:07 pm

There is an article on bleach report that suggests, that if JJ leaves the Hawks, then we should look into Manu Ginobli as a replacement. Manu might take 3 yrs, $30 mil to start at SG for the Hawks, And we could still bring Crawford off the bench.

A max for JJ will be approximately 6 years, $119 mil. How do you guys feel about Manu as a replacement (if JJ chooses to sign with another team)?

Astro Joe

March 23rd, 2010
8:36 pm

No thanks to Manu. He is an incredible player when healthy, dude just plays the game in a manner that won’t likely allow him to stay healthy as he ages.

If Joe bolts, I say either take a long look at Mike Miller or bring in a perimeter-oriented center, move Marvin to the 6th man role and try that for a year. Not that long ago, Luol Deng played a season without taking more than a few 3s from the SF position and was very efficient. Couldn’t Josh do the same? Couldn’t the Hawks run some of the same offensive sets with a perimeter center positioned wherever Marvin is now in those same sets, with Al and Josh closer to the paint?

If Joe leaves, do you replace him with a SG or do you use the limited salary slot to push Al and Josh down one position?

It’s certainly debatable and it would provide Sund with several viable options.

Melvin

March 23rd, 2010
10:36 pm

I agree with Astro. No thanks to Manu. At his age, his durability is definitely a question. He and Crawford may be able to fill in the points but they can’t replace the defense and versatility that Joe brings.

Melvin

March 23rd, 2010
10:47 pm

Astro,

NBAdraft.net is expecting Craig Brackins to drop to the 2nd round. I think the Hawks should snatch him if he’s available when they pick. He reminds me of Glenn Robinson. Although he’s not the wide tweener that you like but I can see him playing alongside Marvin and Josh. As he filled out he could be a very nice PF. Checkout his highlights…

http://www.nbadraft.net/players/craig-brackins

Melvin

March 23rd, 2010
11:17 pm

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
3:58 am

Melvin ,

I don’t see the point in feeling insecure about Joe leaving. This team can’t take that approach, the coaching staff can’t, and management definitely can’t. No time for crying over spilt milk if it does in fact get spilt.

O’brien ,

Personally, I don’t like the tone of the “Josh shooting jumpers” article, either. Of course, I see a certain intent in writing that article…. ;)

Also, I agree and have been saying the very same thing myself: practice that jumper in the offseason with a vengeance. Take fewer in the games for now.

Astro Joe ,

I don’t like his body language either, and I do think he may be mentally exhausted.

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
4:05 am

I think if Joe leaves, you don’t try and get another starting SG. I don’t think we can get a guy who will be good enough to start ahead of Crawford. Anybody that fills that role would have to be a good defender AND be able to create his own shot or at least be a deadeye jumpshooter, who can come off of screens and what not.

I’d change the way we approach the game. Moving Smith to the 3 isn’t impossible, but it requires a perimeter oriented center, or at least a “perimeter capable” center. Horford at the 4 would take some adjustment by Horford, as a lot of PFs out there are quick, there aren’t as many bruisers as there used to be. However, Horford can adjust.

Marvin would have to go to the bench as a backup SF. If Mo Evans isn’t around, then we have to get a backup SG who can defend and hit open shots. The trick to this is pg. We need more penetration. But anyhow, these are thoughts for another day….

O'Brien

March 24th, 2010
7:29 am

Melvin,

Thanks for the hoopshype link on Josh. I like what he was saying in that article (but I still dont like his comments in the jump shooting article).

“We feel we have the depth and talent to do big things this season. We’re going into the postseason with the mindset of winning a ring. Everybody on this team is hungry for a title.’’

If JJ leaves, I think Crawford becomes our starting SG, and Mo Evans our backup SG. I would resign Chills to be our backup SF (or give him Marvin’s spot, and move Marvin to the bench), and then we would need a backup PF, and a solid PG to backup Bibby. For the perimeter oriented center, I would look into Big Z.

If Josh is shooting all those jumpers now, I would not want him at SF, because he would probably shoot even more. So I would keep Josh and Al where they are.

With continued growth from Josh and Al, and the return of Crawford, if JJ leaves, it will not be the end of the Hawks playoff run (although we might be competing for 4-8). Maybe they can do a sign and trade, but if not, Rick Sund will have to get creative.

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
9:29 am

If Joe leaves, then I think Bibby and possibly Woody should be a step behind him. As this team/offense is built around Joe and with him gone then that philosophy needs to change. And I’m not sure if Woody is flexible enough to incorporate a different style and Bibby is ineffective without a workhorse at SG. I agree with Ray, an upgrade at PG would be needed (uh, Devin Harris).

O'Brien

March 24th, 2010
9:40 am

If Joe leaves, then Bibby and Woody should definitely be behind them. Even if Joe stays, I wish we could find an upgrade at PG.

Melvin,

If JJ resigns, are you open to trading Crawford? For example, what if we could we get Devin Harris and piece for Crawford and piece? Upgrade the starting five, but bench takes a hit.

I hope Sund explores all his options, regardless of whether or not JJ resigns.

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
10:54 am

OB,

I think Crawford is a keeper. For what he brings off the bench: scoring, the ability to play 1 or 2 and deliver the big shot. I hope the Hawks can extend him versus trading him. I would try to use other methods of trying to get Harris like Bibby, Mo, Chills and/or picks. Then look to upgrade the bench thru free agency.

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
11:01 am

Also, I wouldnt mind seeing the Hawks go after Drew Gooden and Kwame Brown to fill the Joe Smith and Collins seat next season…

Astro Joe

March 24th, 2010
12:18 pm

I’m nt sure what options Woody had previous to this season, other than run things through Joe. And when Josh matured and stopped taking horrific shots and Al blossomed and became a low-post threat, the offense changed to accomodate their talents. So I’m not sure where the hard-link between Woody and Joe has validity. I struggle to think of some supremely talented offensive player who didn’t have a significant role in Woody’s offense while wearing a Hawks uniform. Are we supposed to believe that Flip and Jamal just happened to have amongst their most productive seasons in their careers as a Hawk? We’re supposed to beleive that Chill was not able to use his skill set (while hiding his shaky jumper) as a Hawk? Are we saying that Al and Josh were ready last season to do what they are doing this season?

Obviously, I’m missing how Woody has mismanaged the offensive talents of this team. And don’t talk to me about 4-5 minute spurts in 20 games… I don’t think you hire a coach based on 4-5 minutes stretches in 20 games.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
12:34 pm

Melvin,

First of all, I think you are day dreaming when you think that such trade could be pulled out.

Second, Harris is not a true PG and suspect that our bigs would continue to starve for attention with him manning the position.

He is a scorer who plays from the PG position and a defensively liability. His eventual pairing with Crawford would be a highway into our rim.

It’s true that he has lost quite a few games due to injury but when a supposedly legit PG playing with a legit 7′0” Centre is not able to produce more than single digit wins doesn’t that trigger your alarm bells???

niremetal

March 24th, 2010
12:53 pm

Melvin doesn’t care about the feasibility of the Hawks acquiring players or whether they’d be a good fit, vava. If he likes the player, he thinks we can and should be able to acquire the player with little difficulty. ;)

vava74

March 24th, 2010
1:27 pm

Melvin is what? Fifteen?

O'Brien

March 24th, 2010
1:54 pm

Good article om Hoopinionblog.com as to why the Hawks struggle with the Magic.

According to the article, the bottom line is we are unable to score against the Magic. But there were some other interesting stuff on there, including the ISOs.

“without a second manner of attack, the Hawks remain susceptible to good defensive teams that prevent the creation of advantageous one-on-one matchups leaving isolated individual Hawk players attacking a defense at a numerical disadvantage.

This applies not just to Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford. When the Hawks make an effort to get the ball to Al Horford on the left block he remains just as isolated* from his immobile teammates as does Johnson when the Hawks clear out the left side for him.”

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
2:14 pm

Vava,

Go back and read O’brien post to me again. He ask if I was willing to trade Crawford for Harris and I said no. I would rather use another method b/c Crawford is a good fit on this team. Also, O’brien stated that if Hawks RE-SIGN Joe. So pairing Harris with Joe not just Jamal is no worst than pairing those two with Bibby. Actually I consider it an upgrade b/c Harris is more explosive and a better playmaker than Bibby…

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
2:15 pm

Nire,

I guess you saw the Bibby and Crawford trades coming b/c clearly there was equal trade of talent in those deals.

Sarcasm alert

March 24th, 2010
2:35 pm

Devin Harris is a bad player, and therefore a bad fit, because he plays for a team that basically gutted itself in preparation for the 2010 summer free agency bonanza (that may just not be all it’s cracked up to be). Ineffective coaching changes had nothing to do with it, nor does having a bunch of directionless young players with no veterans to help out.

Missing nearly 20 games in the season is no excuse. You have to find ways to make your team win, even if you are in street clothes. Failure to do so is indication of a bad player.

Devin Harris is a defensive liability who probably won’t pass the ball. Just ask Vince Carter and Brook Lopez, both of whom have suffered mightily while playing with Harris. 6.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Absolutely pathetic on a team that relies on you to be scoring option #1 or #2 every night, and actually guard your position.

I heard Mike Bibby expects to get faster, stronger, and make the NBA all-defense squad next season. He says playing next to one of the best SGs in the game has nothing to do with the contributions he makes, and thinks he will get even better if Joe signs elsewhere. Bibby is three times the defender, penetrator, and overall player that Devin Harris is, or ever will be. Mike Bibby still has upside. Harris should be in the D-league. Besides, acquiring him is impossible. That would be like trading a useless Speedy Claxton and Acie Law for Jamal Crawford or something. Nobody has ever heard of such things.

Speaking of Jamal Crawford, he should be traded. Because he played for losing teams his whole career, he’s a bad fit.

Miami is not going to try and resign Dwyane Wade. A couple years ago, his team only won 15 games, despite the fact that he is regarded as one of the League’s top 3-5 players. That alone signals red flags. After all, a team’s struggles can always be attributed to the performance of a single player. Miami was just letting him play his contract out, to be nice. But they don’t want to resign him.

Melvin turns 16 next month. Haters.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
3:10 pm

:-) wow… shall I bow and apologize?

I never said that Harris is not better than Bibby, just that his game is, IMO, flawed, in particular if we analyze him as starting PG.

The ability to score is important, however, a PG should make the players around him better.

Devin does not do this, at least not yet. Hence, he plays PG but he is not a PG in my book.

Bibby was, prior to this year, making the players around him better and his arrival changed this team.

Now, he is fading fast and consequently we need to look for a solution at the PG.

Teague? Maybe since he has shown a willingness to involve his teammates. Harris? I doubt he would make us better and let us not forget, he demands so much ball and so many shots that we would need to sacrifice elsewhere.

This, unless anyone believes that we would suddenly average 130ppg

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
3:12 pm

Sarcasm alert, I like the way you think…..

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
3:16 pm

Vava,

Did Harris not start on a team that was game away from winning the NBA title? Last time I check, Bibby best effort was leading a very talented team to the WCF.

O'Brien

March 24th, 2010
4:07 pm

If the Nets get the #1 pick (John Wall), then Harris might be available. And if he is, I think he would be worth looking into. His career average is 13 pts, 5 assists. And this year, he is averaging 17 pts, and 7 assists.

I’m sure he is a better defensive player than Bibby, but I really haven’t seen much of his game to know if his defense is a major upgrade. Even if we keep JJ and Crawford, I think Harris would be an upgrade at PG over Bibby.

However, I can understand if his price tag and his injury history makes it too risky.

niremetal

March 24th, 2010
5:18 pm

Melvin,

Not one of the players you mentioned has an expiring contract, and Childress is BYC. You pretty much never consider what incentives the other team has in making a deal. You just think about what players you’d be willing to part with and say “Get it done, Sund.”

Sarcasm alert,

Put together a package that the Nets would have some incentive to take. Acie and Speedy had expiring contracts, and Speedy and Jamal’s salaries were about to decrease and increase, respectively, at the time of the trade. Thus, the Warriors stood to save $15M by making the deal. The Nets would have no similar incentive to trade a franchise PG with 3 years left on a reasonable contract (the last year of which actually drops in salary) unless they are getting back expiring deals (like the Hawks did with), lottery picks, and/or cheap young talent. The Hawks can offer none of those things, unless you’re willing to part with Al Horford.

And no, I don’t think Harris would fit well here as long as Woody is the coach.

niremetal

March 24th, 2010
5:24 pm

None of this is actually to say that with a different coach, I wouldn’t take Devin Harris to play alongside the rest of our squad in a heartbeat. He actually is not a bad defender. His effort is hit-or-miss, but he at least has the tools to play good D when called upon. But with our coach, Harris’s skills would not be put to good use. And pretty much every other team in the league could put together a more appealing package than we could (again, unless we’re willing to part with Horford).

Sarcasm alert

March 24th, 2010
6:39 pm

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Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
7:11 pm

I think Al Horford has it right: we must attack Orlando, instead of waiting to see what they do, then trying to defend it. It’s what our mentality has been all this time, and we can’t keep this up.

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
7:20 pm

So far Bibby has guarded Nelson just once. And that resulted in a crossover and layup for Nelson.

Great.

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
7:30 pm

More of the same, I see.

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
7:31 pm

Dwight Howard has but two jobs to do tonight, and I think everybody on the Magic bench knows it: rebound our misses, and act like he’s going to block our shots if we go inside.

He has 8 rebounds already. I forsee 20 for him tonight, 18 of them on the defensive end, off of missed jumpers.

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
7:37 pm

Josh’s aggression begins to take over…

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
7:42 pm

Josh with the block, Teague with the dime. These are ballers, gentlemen…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
7:50 pm

That pass by teague was enough for me: he’s a keeper.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:02 pm

Every time that we get close to take the lead we make a bonehead play. What was Marvin thinking?that he was hot to finish a semi-fastbreak with that dribble and pop?

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:03 pm

Another bump by Howard “bordering” the charge…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:06 pm

Huge block by Smoove. That was “Bill Russellesque”…

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
8:13 pm

Okay, maybe we should let Jamal Crawford have those kinds of plays. Joe is just not getting a break here…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:17 pm

Great recovery by the bench. The fact that ORL is missing Ryan Anderson seems to be favouring us since their bench has killed us consistently from 3 point land.

I also hope that Pietrus doesn’t come back, however I am expecting the same sh*t which happened when we were dominating in our first game in ATL: up at the half time and the Howard got a free pass to ram his shoulder on Al’s stomach and plow his way to the rim with +1 calls instead of charges…

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
8:19 pm

Okay, well we’ve had a lead over these guys before, so I’ll reserve my barely-contained excitement for the second half, where Orlando will no doubt try to come out and punch is dead in the mouth.

In the meantime, here’s the difference in the game for me:

1) Our bench has performed well. Those guys came in with major energy, played some defense, hit some shots. Mo Evans and Jamal Crawford combine for 17 points on 50% shooting from both the field and from 3 point range.

2) We didn’t let their bench torch us, like we’ve done in the past. Reddick, JWill, and Gortat? Non-factors.

3) They have the advantage on the boards, but we have half as many turnovers as they do.

4) Both teams are shooting low percentages. However, the second quarter did it for us. We held them to 20 points, while we scored 30.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:20 pm

Barnes is getting a free pass to poke JJ all that he wants.

On the previous play when JJ got a rare +1 Barnes made a clear reach in foul right in the front of the refs’ noses before he got poked again during th shooting motion…

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
8:20 pm

Vava,

I think the question comes down to this: will we forget what was working in the first half?

If the Magic come back in the second half with a different approach, will we recognize it and adjust as well?

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
8:21 pm

I say poke Barnes in the eye again. :twisted:

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:23 pm

Ray,

the problem is that our bench will not see consistent daylight in the second half and even if we are ahead or close by mid-4th quarter, we will falter…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:28 pm

Yeah, we need to go hard at these guys and draw some blood.

In particular Howard needs some flying elbows every time he goes up for a rebound. Something discrete but effective… You jump up with your arms outstretched in a “V” shape and either when going up or when coming down, hit him in the face… Just a slight “rub” will do the trick.

I think that with this done consistently his rebounding average against us would drop to single digits…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:31 pm

Great feed and great shot by Al