Hawks still better than Grizzlies, but Sixers are next

Different year. Same personnel (mostly). Different methods. Same results.

The Memphis Grizzlies came into this season with aspirations of truly earning a spot in the western conference as a playoff team. There haven’t been many changes to their roster, certainly no big ones. The Hawks entered this season looking to maintain their position as a top 4 team in the East, and perhaps even have a better playoff showing. Put both thoughts on hold for the moment. Neither team is anywhere close to knowing if their goal is attainable. What we do know is this – the Hawks are still better than the Grizzlies by a double digit margin, and it doesn’t really matter who has what kind of game. Other than the fact that the Hawks look really good running this new offense, there isn’t much to take from a road win against Memphis. At the same time, there isn’t much we can take away from it (the prevailing notion is that the game changes if Marc Gasol is available or Zach Randolph doesn’t get hurt). Let’s compare last year’s results with this year’s, but I’ll keep it short.

Last year vs. Memphis:

- Josh Smith and Al Horford outworked and outperformed the tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in both games, even though not by huge margins. Edge to the Hawks, due in part to athletic ability.

- In the first game, Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby all but disappeared. Both played better in the second game.

- Joe Johnson owns the Grizz whenever he wants to. In the first game, he scored at will. In the second game, he played it cool and dished out assists, while Jamal did all the backcourt damage.

- the bench didn’t figure in much, with the exception of Jamal Crawford. Mo Evans showed up for the second game.

This year vs. Memphis

- Gasol is out, Randolph leaves early with injury. Al Horford and Josh Smith both have subpar games, though Josh collects 5 blocks and 4 assists.

- Marvin and Bibby are both major contributors to the victory with Bibby doing plenty of damage on offense, and Marvin doing damage on both ends of the floor (his defense on Rudy Gay was downright stifling at times).

- the bench absolutely pounds the Grizzlies as 5 reserves account for 50 points and 19 rebounds, led by Zaza Pachulia’s near all-star performance.

See? Different methods, same results.

 

Just Like Last Year….

Or rather, we hope not. The Hawks set out last year looking to be a better road team, and there was some progress made along some avenues. However, not all was peachy, and the Hawks lost games on the road to teams that just weren’t supposed to be better than them. Included in the list of humbling losses was the trip to Philadelphia, where a determined Sixers squad edged out the Hawks in several statistical categories. Problem is, they did so without the services of the quick and explosive Louis Williams.

This year’s Sixer team won’t enjoy the benefits of the rebound gobbling and shot-changing Samuel Dalembert, which could make it very hard for them to contain Josh Smith and Al Horford. Elton Brand is a long-armed decent defender, but he could get into quick foul trouble trying to keep up with Atlanta’s highly athletic front court, and neither Spencer Hawes, Mareese Speights, or Jason Smith are scaring anybody down low. Add to this that the Sixers have had trouble shooting from range in recent years, and it begins to sound like a very winnable game, right? So thought the Hawks last year. There are several things the Hawks need to do to secure this road win. Here are 3 keys to Friday night’s game, off the top of my head:

1) Win the battle on the glass.

The Sixers may not miss Dalembert’s whining and sometimes inconsistent effort, but with him gone, there is only one true double digit rebounder – Elton Brand. Spencer Hawes is another example of an underachieving 7-footer at center. However, Philly still collects offensive rebounds fairly well, and that is due to the uber-active, incredibly athletic, versatile Andre Iguodala. But that’s not all. Second year point guard Jrue Holiday is sizeable at 6′4″, and can get active on the glass as well. Darius Songaila is savvy in the post, Andres Noccioni scraps and backs down from no one, Thaddeus Young is pretty active, and rookie Evan Turner pulled down 7 boards of his own in his debut against Miami yesterday. If the Hawks don’t put forth the effort to a man, they’ll lose the game due to rebounding alone. Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, and Josh Powell will all put forth the effort, as will Joe Johnson. The Hawks will need more. It has to come from Marvin Williams (already off to a good start), and Josh Smith (not so much).

2) Jeff Teague must play well on defense, or the Hawks will need a scheme of some sort. 

A defensive scheme for the Sixers, you say? Whatever for? Andre Iguodala hands it to us every time. In their home victory last year, he hit us for 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. There is no doubt to Iguodala’s skills and versatility. Add the quicksilver Lou Williams to the mix and things become more complicated for an Atlanta backcourt that all too often depends on Joe Johnson to do all the work. Mike Bibby will most likely give the effort, but he simply lacks the speed to keep up with Williams or the bigger Holiday. Rookie Evan Turner may see time at the shooting guard position, and he performed quite well against Miami (7-10 from the field, 16 points). That leaves Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague. Jamal can’t guard the door to a mouse hole on most nights. Teague has the speed and seems more committed than ever to fighting through screens to keep up with his man. Well, the Hawks will need at least 20 minutes of that (if not more), if they want to keep Joe from working too hard on defense, and Iggy and Lou out of the lane all night. Joe can handle Iggy. But nobody else in the backcourt can. The Hawks have to find a way to guard the Sixers’ other guards.

3) Josh Smith needs to dominate inside.

I’ll start this by saying that Al Horford and Elton Brand may find each other matched up quite a bit in this game. Brand is a bit thicker, Al is quicker. We need a good solid game from Al, and there is a chance that he might be more dominant if the opportunity presents itself. However, he’s not necessarily the low post offensive focal point in this game. There is no one on this Philadelphia squad that can challenge Smith on any sort of consistent basis, if he’s attacking the basket. Once again, Samuel Dalembert was the sole obstacle, and he’s no longer there. It behooves both Smith and the Hawks if he leaves his perimeter attempts to a minimum, and makes the Sixers chase him to the rim, where he will punish them over and over, and probably get to the free throw line as well. But will Smith see this? If he doesn’t, and the jumpers don’t fall, will Larry Drew sit him in favor of Josh Powell?

 

 

What are YOUR keys to this game?

137 comments Add your comment

BrittishAnger

October 28th, 2010
9:32 pm

Focus on one point guard or the other, since it’s a back-2-back and we need one of them fresh for Saturday’s home opener. Josh must cut the nonsense of midrange shots out of his repertoire or choose them wisely (the corners of the box, maybe one step beyond at most), and focus on driving and creating some more and-1 possessions. If Joe does what he did against Memphis again, with hopefully a better showing on FG%, then I think we take it no problem (Iggy still has that nagging injury in his shooting hand, and it showed last night).

BrittishAnger

October 28th, 2010
9:33 pm

and for the sake of insanity, PRIMERO!!!!

Samuel

October 28th, 2010
9:57 pm

A win’s a win but MC you’re right in that we can’t take too much away from a win over a non-playoff team without their 2 starting front court players. I did like the fact that we put our foot on their necks when we had them down.

It’s interesting how a bad team can make you look good. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Al leave. I know the “homers” around here believe in the “AllStar” talk but let’s be real. Al knows his real future is at PF and he may for the Hawks’ hand on either getting him some help or testing the FA waters as a PF.

I predicted that the Wizards would contend for a playoff spot. Orlando is making me think otherwise but I think it really has more to do with the Gap between the Haves and Have nots.

ATL FAN

October 28th, 2010
10:10 pm

Man it feels great to actually have a coach that knows what hes doing once and for all… If Josh shoots mid range jumpers and misses them in a game, I know Drew will do something about that and handle it well. I have huge confidence in this coach, and therefore the NEW Atlanta Hawks team.

doc

October 28th, 2010
10:20 pm

samuel, big ray is not MC.

northcyde

October 28th, 2010
11:07 pm

I hope we don’t need more than 20 minutes from Teague. If we do, something has gone terribly wrong, and we’re probably losing. I understand the logic behind the thinking though.

JJ may have to mentally prepare himself to play 35+ minutes tomorrow night.

Melvin

October 28th, 2010
11:08 pm

Ray,

Hibbert play well against the Spurs last night. 28pts,9rebs,3blk,3ast. I think my boy is getting better…

steve brown

October 28th, 2010
11:21 pm

Big Ray, you are a bag of wind. Horford isn’t going anywhere, except, he is one player you can go to war with.

Tony

October 28th, 2010
11:43 pm

You said it all, MC!! Enough Said!!! Oh, yeah, one more thing, HAWKS get Horfy signed by MONDAY, PLEASE!!!! Thanks, you cheap, why the heck didn’t we sign shaq, owners!!!!!!!

Tony

October 28th, 2010
11:46 pm

Sorry, I meant BIG RAY!!!

Tony

October 28th, 2010
11:57 pm

“BIg Ray” I can tell you that Horford has been able to guard Andrew Bogut, Tyson Chandler, Greg Oden, Marcus Camby, Brendan Haywood, shall I go on!!!!!

kwooden1

October 29th, 2010
1:01 am

I think we need to take every game with an eye on the playoffs. This game showed me that Powell isn’t a stiff. He’s not as good as Bass, but he does look like an upgrade over Joe Smith. I think Horford is actually struggling a bit with the offensive, but I’m sure he will figure it out. Tonight is another step to become better with the offense and more consistent with the defense

HB Ando

October 29th, 2010
1:21 am

Tony, you should “go on”, because a cardboard cut-out of Horford, or my two-year old daughter, could shut down the brick-laying compendium of offensive stiffs you named.

Waz’ up, Big Ray, doc and you other lifers?

Baby #2, Thomas Andrew, is 10 weeks old and already the size of a six-month old.

Can’t believe the season has started. Miss you guys. Love you. Mean it……..

MannyT

October 29th, 2010
1:35 am

congrats, Ando!

Big Ray

October 29th, 2010
2:40 am

Sorry guys, that person posting as “Big Ray” was not me. I don’t always post on my blog while logged in as a moderator, but I promise you that the person posing as me will never be able to do it (post with the background in gray).

Anyway, responding to your posts….

Tony ,

No doubt, Al Horford has shown himself capable of playing well against other centers, even though he sometimes struggles against some of the bigger and more talented guys. Most of the time, he holds his own or outperforms them. I mean, how is it that 30-some odd NBA coaches voted him to the All-star team if he wasn’t for real? Some still say he’s a PF, and I completely understand that argument. Making him out to be the team’s weakness? It’s always going to be hard to support that argument with anything credible….

Horford struggles mostly against Dwight Howard. That’s about it.

Big Ray

October 29th, 2010
2:43 am

steve brown ,

It wasn’t really me who was posting that. On the one hand, it’s entirely possible that Horford goes, but not because the Hawks want to trade him. I don’t see that being the case unless there is some really great deal in the works, and I just don’t see it (which of course, proves nothing).

Usually you’re calling me a big bag of hot wind when we talk about Jamal Crawford. :lol:

HB Ando ,

You mean there’s gonna be an HB Ando II? Ah hell, can the world take it?! Congratulations man!

Big Ray

October 29th, 2010
2:47 am

Northcyde ,

I feel you. Personally, I’d rather Teague simply earn the right to be on the floor that long, as Zaza did against Memphis, than for us to truly need him on the floor. As some others have said, he hasn’t done anything yet to make any of us think he should be getting the lion’s share of minutes at the pg spot, let alone be the starter. I feel like he’s really getting his feet wet for the first time, not just playing gratuitous minutes, and I think it will be a good 20 or so games before we see him take any sort of control….heh, assuming we see it at all. Not doubting the kid, but he isn’t quite making me want to stand up and cheer unabashedly for him just yet, either.

Big Ray

October 29th, 2010
2:51 am

BrittishAnger ,

You da man.

Something tells me Joe will not only hit more shots against Philly, but he’s going to come closer to his ‘06-’07 stats, when it comes to scoring average.

kwooden1 ,

Not a bad idea, though right now they really need to concentrate on a total team effort when it comes to defense. Horford is pressing a little bit, I think. He’ll come around, though. Josh Powell is showing himself to be a TRUE bargain, and for once I’m happy with a minimum contract acquisition. We could have used this guy last year. And the year before. And the year before that….

Big Ray

October 29th, 2010
2:56 am

Samuel ,

The possibility becomes more real every day. If the extension doesn’t get done, and Al wants to test the waters, this is going to put tremendous pressure on the front office. How do they come away smelling like anything but refuse if they lose one of the best lottery pick players in years? We absolutely lucked into getting the selection that allowed us to pick Horford. Any sign and trade situation must bring us either a traditionally-sized center, or a star player at another position (besides SG and PF). Looks like a real tight rope to me. Wouldn’t be surprised if it ended in high draft picks. We shall see how this unfolds.

As for Al wanting to be a PF….well, he has to balance that against testing the FA waters for possibly a LOT less money than he could get now. Then again, maybe not too much less.

vava74

October 29th, 2010
3:29 am

With Mo Evans out we will need to make adjustments to the line up which will have as a result that our back court rotation will bring less D to the table.

That is not good at all, in particular since Sy is not yet apt for some day light.

Keys to beat the Sixers?

1. Marvin must contain AI2 since last year he single handedly torched us midway the game and got Philly back into the game and then ahead.

2. Al and Josh must dominate inside defensively making Brand look as old and washed up as he is already.

3. JJ must hand out a defensive-offensive clinic to Turner who looked really good to me against Miami (he actually kind of looked like a JJ mk2).

Philly played a very scrappy game against the 3 stooges and only the horrible officiating kept them from winning.

Check the boxscore and see the FT discrepancy. Enough to close down the league in disgust in my opinion.

Without that favoritism, playing the game fair and square, Philly could have won the game.

They looked a bit out of control but that is something which can be contagious and could result in us loosing focus and have 20+ turnovers under this new offense.

On Powell (and Zaza):

I liked what I saw, however, he, like Zaza, benefited greatly from MEM’s lack of size and I don’t expect him to keep playing at this level.

My view on Al and Josh’s performance and what can be another key tonight:

I think the new offense is generating plenty of open looks, however, it does not generate (yet*) too many post ups and possessions down low. Hence, Josh wants to get his points and breaks plays with his jump shots and Al is having trouble finding his comfort spots.

If Al can find his touch from 15/17 feet tonight and Josh realizes that he must crash the boards to rebound any misses, we should be fine but I am very worried about the second part of the sentence.

Josh had 4 rebounds – all defensive – against an undersized MEM team…

* the entry passes are not yet 100% sharp

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by miss todo, Michael Cunningham. Michael Cunningham said: AJC's fan blog: Hawks still better than Grizzlies, but Sixers are next http://bit.ly/aGnwEZ [...]

steve brown

October 29th, 2010
8:28 am

Crawford is still here (though I might be seeing what I could get for him now) and I had a chance to meet Coach recently and I can tell you if he has any input Horford will be a Hawk for a long long time.

I noticed a number of successful backdoor plays-more than we have seen in some seasons, almost shocking.

Yeah I know I still owe you a drink from last year!

Astro Joe

October 29th, 2010
9:40 am

Ando, congrats!

Control the boards and this win should be easy. That was the one thng about the Memphis game, with Gasol and Z-Bo out, we were able to own the glass and enjoy a slew of fast break opportunities. Assuming that Brand, Speights and Hawes are all healthy, we likely won’t have the same advantage. I’m looking forward to seeing what Evan Turner looks like… he played well in his first NBA game. I assume that Doug Collins will have them pushing the ball, but that will also be interesting to see…. the influence of Collins on that squad.

Melvin

October 29th, 2010
10:19 am

Astro,

Speights has given us problems in the past with his length. Brand is becoming the immovable object and I watched Hawes in their first game and he looks terrible. However, they were playing the Heat which may cause a lot of teams to look bad. I wouldn’t be surprise if Jordan get some playing time when Philly may use their small perimeter lineup of Williams, Holiday, and Kapono. None of those guys a threats to play in the post so maybe the Hawks matchup with Teague, Jordan and Jamal to allow Joe and Marvin time to rest since Mo will be out.

O'Brien

October 29th, 2010
10:21 am

Congrats Ando.

AJ,

Despite scoring 112, Orlando still held the Wizards to 83 pts. That’s the kind of defense you would like to see from the Hawks too, even if we’re putting up 120 pts.

Although the Sixers are the first of back to back, it will only be game 2 and 3 of the season. So if JJ has to play extended minutes, I think he can handle it.

As for our PG situation, I think it will be obvious from early on if Bibby is feeling it, so I hope he makes a couple shots in the first quarter to get it going.

Teague will be needed on defense, but he needs to make that floater more consistently on offense to keep guys honest.

doc

October 29th, 2010
10:30 am

andro, glad to hear of the newcomer, great stuff. been wondering if there was going to be an update, hope the wife is well.

love you back bud, mean it!

be well.

gee ray, it sounded exactly like you, heh heh

Astro Joe

October 29th, 2010
10:55 am

A fight is brewing between Horford’s former agent and his current one. Sounds like this stuff goes on constantly (player poaching).

http://nba.fanhouse.com/2010/10/28/aaron-goodwin-plans-action-against-arn-tellem-for-poaching-al-ho/

truthspitter

October 29th, 2010
11:46 am

The Sixers bench is better than ours but our starters are better than there’s. It is simple the starters will have to all play 35 + minutes to win this one. Will Drew be willing to do that in a back to back situation? I don’t know. I think we lose this one because Drew will try to overplay the bench and use the excuse that it is just one game. On the other hand, they have no answer for Al and Josh around the rim so if Al and Josh both have strong double doubles 17 pts and 10 rebs or more each we can still win.

We have no answer for Lou Williams, Evan Turner, Nocioni, or Thad Young off the bench. I also feel that they will put Turner, Nocioni, or Young in the game during the clutch to help combat Marvin and keep him off the glass because he will beast the glass as long as Kopono is in the game. They have no answer for Josh and Al. They have the clear advantage unless Josh and Al both have incredibly strong games.

O'Brien

October 29th, 2010
11:59 am

truthspitter,

If the Hawks can only win one game out of the next two, they need to win tomorrow’s Home opener. I think it will be important to start off right in front of the home fans.

And even if they play 35+ minutes tonight, I think the energy at home tomorrow night will carry them through.

Big Ray

October 29th, 2010
12:11 pm

steve brown ,

We can only hope (in vain) that Coach Drew has that sort of influence. It’s in the hands of the money holders and the super agent, however. We’ll see how it goes.

truthspitter ,

I agree, the key to this is likely the performance of the starters. Our bench showed out well in game 1, but they’ve got a ways to go to prove they’re better than the last couple of years.

Vava ,

I’d keep my eye on Josh Powell. He may not dominate any game, but something tells me he is going to be consistent. The Lakers had nothing but good to say about him, and you don’t get to stick around a team like that (even at the end of the bench) for no reason. I think he’ll do well against Philly, but we shall see.

Big Ray

October 29th, 2010
12:15 pm

Philly edged Miami out on the glass by a single rebound.

There is a reason why Sacramento was okay with letting Hawes go, and it’s showing already. I’ll say this: he does have some offensive game, but not a whole ton of it. And for a guy his size, rebounding just isn’t a strength. As AJ says, it will be interesting to see what influence Doug Collins has on this group.

Still, we can’t take them lightly. I expect Al Horford to show up much better for this game. Same with Josh.

YoDaddy

October 29th, 2010
12:21 pm

Are we really scared of Philly though? I think not. Go out play our game and we’ll win regardless of what Philly does.

YoDaddy

October 29th, 2010
12:25 pm

We are talking about the 76ers and the Wizards. Atlanta will take both of these games.

Big Ray

October 29th, 2010
12:39 pm

YoDaddy ,

Nah, we aren’t scared of either team. Our problem has been not executing for an entire game, and not respecting the opposing team enough. If we get punched in the mouth, we have to punch back right away, then keep punching.

We’ve let both the Sixers and Wizards get away with stuff when we shouldn’t have. It’s definitely a matter of focus, rather than just talent.

kaminari

October 29th, 2010
1:20 pm

All those J-Smoothie jumpers had me cringing. He made that awesome three (has he been practicing like Marvin did in the off-season a couple years back?) and a couple others. His blocking made up for all the misses. Anyway, I don’t wanna harp cause it was a great team effort. And when we needed the isolation plays, they seemed to work. Great performance and I applaud the Hawks for looking like champions. Just 81 more to play.

Astro Joe

October 29th, 2010
1:40 pm

To re-visit an old subject, can the trade exception acquired in the Childress transaction by added to a player in an outgoing trade? So if player A makes $5M and we have a $3.6M exception, can we add those 2 together and trade for a player who makes $8.6M (+/- 25%)? I think the answer is “yes” but I’m not sure if that is correct.

niremetal

October 29th, 2010
1:44 pm

Ray,

As for Al wanting to be a PF….well, he has to balance that against testing the FA waters for possibly a LOT less money than he could get now. Then again, maybe not too much less.

That’s actually something I’ve been thinking about. From a marketing perspective, one would think that Al would want to be viewed as a center rather than a PF. Then again, I don’t think Al’s in it for the money…

richbrave

October 29th, 2010
3:28 pm

HELLO olf friends:

First, I hope you are well and are enjoying the true blessings this life bestows upon us all. Family, liberty and thanks to our eternal maker for this gift of life. Not sure where that came frrom, but peace to all. Well, it must be the music I’m listening to – SOUL BALLET A Smooth Jazz Classic. A bad jam, man.

Posted up my first full blown rant of this young NBA season on the WIZZIES over on CUNNINGHAM’s blog. I mean damn, did they wet themselves on national t.v. or what? Easy pickin’s and don’t fool yourselves. Arenas makes little difference here. Everybody playing soft on the front-line even if it is Superman ain’t gettin’ it. More later.

Astro Joe

October 29th, 2010
3:41 pm

I think I found my answer.

Trade exceptions can’t be added to anything. A team can acquire 125% of the salary they trade away (in a simultaneous trade). So if they have a $10 million player, he can be traded for up to $12.5 million in incoming salary. If they also have an outstanding trade exception for $5 million, they can’t add it to the $12.5 million in order to acquire a player making $17.5 million. The trade exception can only be used to acquire a player or players making the amount of the exception or less (plus a $100,000 fudge factor).

http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?STORY_ID=14923

O'Brien

October 29th, 2010
4:05 pm

AJ,

Good find. So if the Hawks use the TPE, they will be limited to a player who makes ~$3.6 mil. Do you think they will use it before it expires? I dont.

richbrave,

I know its only one game, but John Wall did not look good. A big part of that though, is because he cant get to the basket with D12 waiting on him.

With the way Blake Griffin looked, it should be a big battle for ROY between Wall and Griffin (Griffin still qualifies as a rookie, right?).

nire,

I dont think Al will be persuaded by the money. My impression, is it will be about:

1) A team that wants to win. Al is a winner, so I dont see him signing with Minny (for example) if they have the money.

2) What position will he play. Clearly, he wants to play PF.

How will he balance the winning, the money, and the position will be interesting.

richbrave

October 29th, 2010
4:35 pm

With the way Blake Griffin looked, it should be a big battle for ROY between Wall and Griffin (Griffin still qualifies as a rookie, right?).

Yes, I believe that’s correct. Forget WALL for ROY unless the front-line starts drawing the heat off WALL. I mean driving against QUINTON RICHARDSON is one thing, and against a roving and free HOWARD quite another.

richbrave

October 29th, 2010
4:38 pm

All right, WIZ pick up DELONTE WEST for their backcourt. DOC and WYATT, the pistol packin’ pair. Now that would be truely the wild,wild WEST!!!!!

richbrave

October 29th, 2010
4:40 pm

I’m over and out ……………….for now. Roger that.

Melvin

October 29th, 2010
7:40 pm

Hmmm, Horford 13pts/4rebs and Jamal 4ast all in the 1st qtr…. Just think, they were two of the guys that caught most of venom on the blog after the Memphis game….SMH, its all season….

YoDaddy

October 29th, 2010
7:50 pm

tried to tell yall…Philly…please..some scrubs…

Larry Drew is changing the culture and no longer will we lose to inferior teams.

lukas

October 29th, 2010
7:51 pm

Bibby and Jamal together: offensively is a great move, defensively…. gulp!

vava74

October 29th, 2010
7:56 pm

I am strating to enjoy this NBA League Pass stuff…

I might actually help reduce the NBA’s deficit… :-D

vava74

October 29th, 2010
8:16 pm

Teague may still be a bit wet behind the ears, but with him on the field Philly’s offense was a lot less fluid.

We are still giving away too many uncontested shots from outside. Gotta make better rotations.

Josh is driving me nuts. Fortunately tonight he is rebounding…

niremetal

October 29th, 2010
8:36 pm

7:48 in the 3rd: Horford just made the best offensive move I’ve ever seen him make. That was Divac-esque.

lukas

October 29th, 2010
8:38 pm

Cosign niremetal.