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 24th, 2010
8:34 pm

Great feed again by JJ and nice bomb by Bibs

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
8:35 pm

:lol: :lol: :lol:

Did Jameer really think he was going to get that shot off?

Meanwhile, Joe’s assists picking up, even as his shooting dips. Love that he’s still contributing without hitting shots.

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
8:38 pm

Would you believe it? Al Horford is turning into something that neutralizes Dwight Howard’s defensive domination. I like this.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
8:57 pm

We will need more out of the frontcourt in the 4th.

I hope that the tim suddenly does not tighten for us and that Al keeps up hitting those shots.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:00 pm

Charge by Howard!

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
9:01 pm

Howard is getting away with pushing off every single time. This is disgusting.

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
9:02 pm

Let me help myself to another serving of grilled crow as Mike Bibby’s long range shooting bails us out once again….

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:03 pm

Another clear foul by Howard on the rebound

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
9:04 pm

Line doesn’t lie…. :lol:

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
9:04 pm

Vava,

I can barely contain my disgust with the calls by these idiot whistle blowers…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:08 pm

This is nauseating: Howard is being allowed AGAIN to push, grab, hit and do whatever he wants at will…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:17 pm

Stern doesn’t realize that this “star system” is what is killing the NBA.

How does he expect people to attend matches and support the trams who don’t get these benefits?

there is a clear cut favouritivism benefiting some players/teams which allied with the financial disparity which exists between markets, kills the ability to draw interest from the people who feel that for instance college bball is not rigged nor spoiled by stars…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:21 pm

We are imploding

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
9:23 pm

And there’s the trap.

Orlando has more guys who are capable of drawing fouls (penetration is the key).

Atlanta is stuck with Bibby on defense for the simple fact that he has been hitting shots on offense.

Both teams are in the penalty.

Josh is out with 5 fouls, and Horford has 4.

What to do now?

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
9:25 pm

Magic get away with straight nasty fouls and are rewarded with a free dunk.

I hate NBA refs.

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
9:26 pm

another 4th qtr meltdown.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:26 pm

Why do I bother staying up to watch this?

In between thd calls and our inability to simply have JJ and Crawford shoot OUT OF PICKS jnsteD of out of ISO dribble situtions we are bound to lose again

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
9:27 pm

Keep shooting the jumper Josh….lol

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
9:28 pm

Get that weak shot out of here Reddick…

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
9:28 pm

Josh with the jumper, then with the block!

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:30 pm

The number of passes made by the Hawks after the half court averages about 1,5 per possession at best

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:31 pm

Hit the FT JJ please! Pretty please with sugar on top?

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
9:34 pm

Somebody explain to me why we had Horford on Carter?

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:34 pm

Why Woody called the time out? Orlando will foul for sure!

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:36 pm

I have a bad feeling about JJ’s free throws. He has been missing a lot at end games

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:38 pm

Uffffff… Please, play straight up d down the line Woody. No more switching please…

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:39 pm

What an unbelievable finish by Josh!

vava74

March 24th, 2010
9:40 pm

There was a clear foul by Carter on JJ with the extended elbow!

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
9:46 pm

Take that Daddy Mouse….

KevinA

March 24th, 2010
10:47 pm

I have mentioned several times that the Al short jumper might be a way to get Howard out of the paint. Well it never happened but it did leave Al with wide open jumpers. We need to consider this same type of play calling in the future. Do it until they adjust to us. Gundy bad – Woody good. I would argue we did not do enough of what was working. I once mentioned that Josh and Al could be used like Duncan. Of course I was laughed at. It was not the claim of our big’s being as good as Duncan but the style of play. Nothing is an answer after a team adjusts but until then both Al and ZaZa shooting the 15′ seems viable to me.

niremetal

March 24th, 2010
10:51 pm

Looks like I missed a helluva game. Props to the Hawks for pulling out the type of grinder they usually lose, and props to Smoove for crashing the boards. Two game-winning dunks in a year – gotta be a record!

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
10:53 pm

I think I’ve finally calmed down enough to type on the keyboard…..whewwwww! What a win! What a play at the end by Josh! How about J-J-J-J-JOOOOEEEE with the clutch free throws?!

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
10:57 pm

KevinA,

All I can say is that it worked. We didn’t allow Howard to beat us, while Horford played very well on both ends. We did what we had to do to beat these guys, and it certainly involved going to the bigs, as the guards weren’t getting it done (Bibby being the exception with those big shots he hit).

Low scoring, low percentage FG shooting game. Defensive grinder, and we came out on top. I was so hoping we didn’t go to overtime, as I think they would have had the advantage.

Big Ray

March 24th, 2010
10:58 pm

Man, what a grinder. What an entertaining game, felt like the playoffs. I can’t think of a better way to get win #46!

KevinA

March 24th, 2010
11:00 pm

Running the ball through our big’s is potentially our next move toward better ball movement. If this was our focus and team mentality, who better than JJ and Jamal with Evans and Bibby waiting in the wings to finish. I realize I have many distracters when it comes to inside out play. As time goes buy the results seem to go in that direction. I saw this coming two years ago.

We do not use this philosophy or style of play game in and game out. Even during games we still allow our guards to think shoot first. But as time goes by the trend is obvious. We are better and more diversified when we think Attack the basket through good ball movement.

I have made a commitment not to knee-jerk after a loss even when I think we have lost our best style of play. We are not anywhere close to perfect but are trending in the right direction. Got to love it.

KevinA

March 24th, 2010
11:07 pm

Ray – On another blog I was begging for Joe to get fouled. He is an all-star. Attack that basket to get fouled is what we need. Our top six are capable. Even Evans and ZAZA can draw the foul. Bibby is the only one that has to rely on more of a shooting style. It’s playoff time. Attack that basket.

KevinA

March 24th, 2010
11:08 pm

Geeze – I can’t help but type and grin. Great win over a tough opponent.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
11:12 pm

Good grief… Al was supposed to switch again on Carter…

NBA Hang Time (Sekou’s New Blog): http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2010/03/24/air-smoove-to-the-rescue/

“…“I had a great view of the play from the corner,” Hawks center Al Horford said, “so I knew it was good when he caught because he had the follow through and everything before the light went off. I was really excited because we actually made a mistake on the play before that. I was supposed to switch over on Vince [Carter] on defense and hesitated for a second and waited to long and he knocked down the 3-pointer that tied the game. So Josh sort of bailed me out.”

vava74

March 24th, 2010
11:20 pm

How can you use the switching defense on a closing defensive possession? When it is crucial to keep as much man to man defensive contact as possible?

Al was on Howard, locked on to him and when Carter came cutting from the baseline using Howard’s pick Al had to switch, but that would always be an ultra difficult defensive play which would free Howard to receive the pass from Carter with a good match up (against Marvin who was on Carter previously)

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
11:21 pm

Nire,

All you need to know is that the Sh!t works….

vava74

March 24th, 2010
11:25 pm

Let us not forget that we were close to 10 minutes without a basket in the 4th… and ended with just 18… including the last gasp dunk…

The refs had a huge role on the game flow as well, however, we had close to zero ball movement throughout the 4th and with Craw and JJ cold as icebergs.

We benefited from an cold ORL team (some defensive merit from our side – better perimeter defense and good defense on Howard) and from the absence of Ryan Anderson who has been torching us from the outside all the time.

vava74

March 24th, 2010
11:34 pm

In our defense:

The refs were plain awful again, bailing out Howard with bad calls against us and non calls benefiting him (elbow to Marvin’s face, for instance).

Also, on the last play, Carter pushes JJ on the hip and that should have been a foul called against ORL but the refs were not going to call it.

Melvin

March 24th, 2010
11:56 pm

Vava,

Uh, Anderson was available. He has falling out of the Magic playing rotation. DNP-CD…

vava74

March 25th, 2010
4:51 am

Melvin,

Bad move by SVG then. He has single handly outscored our bench in previous games.

SVG is probably trying to satisfy Bass giving him more time because he thinks he will need Jim for the playoffs.

My guess is that SVG accepted the possibility of a loss against us by going for that option.

vava74

March 25th, 2010
4:54 am

In the meantime, you should all take a look at what my favourite NBA analyst (Charley Rosen) has to say about the Hawks and last night’s game:

http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/hawks%27-offense-won%27t-cut-it-in-playoffs

FYI this guy has always said that Woody was making a very good job with wat he was given and has been pointing in the past out two major flaws in our roster: Josh’z immaturity ad Bibby’ decaying game.

Astro Joe

March 25th, 2010
8:48 am

Vava, regarding your 11:20 post, remember that the Hawks had a 3-point lead, so if Howard was in a favorable match-up with Marvin and scored, the Hawks would have been up by 1. Giving Carter room to shoot the 3 allowed the Magic to tie the game. I’m sure that is why defending the 3-ball was a coaching priority on that possession.

When Dwight gave Marvin a shot to the face with the ref 3 feet from the action (and Howard didn’t get called for a foul) I almost tossed my TV out the window.

That said, the Hawks have played maybe 5+ playoff-like games in a row. I can’t remember the last team that we played that didn’t have a sense of urgency. I like the way we have competed in all of those games. And I actually like the fact that all of them have required late game execution. Some of y’all consistently discuss “player development”, well, learning how to play in charged atmospheres with a game on the line, those are great lessons for a team looking to do some 2nd round playoff damage.

Great win, Hawks!

Melvin

March 25th, 2010
9:52 am

Vava,

Hard to argue with SVG rotation when they been on such good streak…

Astro,

Now I really feel sick about the losses to the Raps and Bucks. We could have really been on the Magic heels for the 2nd spot. Then you throw in the Mavs, Knicks, Warriors, and Pistons games and we could have been ahead of the Magic….UGGGHHH

Astro Joe

March 25th, 2010
9:57 am

Melvin, but how many comparable “bad losses” did the Magic have this season? You can’t isolate one team when playing those “what if” sceanrios… every team has a “I wish we could have a do-over” list of games.

I know they won’t do it, but I’d love for the Hawks to hold Marvin out of the next game and say that he is suffering from “concussion like symptoms”. I’d like the Hawks to plant a seed in the minds of refs that Howard’s elbows are dangerous and need to be carefully monitored as we approach the post-season.

Melvin

March 25th, 2010
10:54 am

Astro,

It will be kind of hard to hold Marvin out the next few games when he continue to play after being elbow. Besides the league could careless about the Hawks….

Melvin

March 25th, 2010
10:55 am

Astro,

Did you check out to the link to Craig Brackins I post on page 1. If so, what do you think?