Is it possible to not feel that great about your team having the best record in the Eastern Conference?
Raise your hand if last night’s win left you feeling like the Hawks deserve the distinction of being the only unbeaten team in the east. To be both fair and realistic, the season is barely four games old for many teams, and the Hawks have yet to come up against a truly tough matchup. But you have to wonder just how it is that they managed to escape their own Jekyll and Hyde act this time. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be grateful if that’s the ugliest third quarter we play all year. Utterly ridiculous. The Cavs are a hot mess. There is no other way to say it. How they ever beat Boston to begin the year is beyond me. They looked like a D-League team until the Hawks began giving them one gift after another, before finally deciding to remind them (and their fans) that those fun days of clowning the opposition from the bench are over. They’re so bad, you almost feel sorry for them. Nah. Atlanta fans still remember the clowning. And the ref calls.
This Won’t Cut It
It seems that not only do old habits die hard, but some diseases are tough to cure. Whatever were the Hawks thinking, this being a road game no less? The offense in the first quarter looked about the way it should have, despite some missed shots here and there. The turnovers were way down as well. The second quarter is where the Hawks looked like they were going to make up their own plays on the court. What may have stood out the most -
- Can’t have one without the other. For nearly two quarters, the Hawks forgot that there is no such thing as good ball movement when there is very little personnel movement. They tried to run the Princeton offense without the motion. The result? The Princeton “Stationary.” Is that an offense? I’ll bet Drew didn’t draw it up.
- Josh Smith dressed up as shooting guard for Holloween…and forgot to take the costume off for the game. Smith looked decent on a couple of his jumpshot attempts. Unfortunately, that was only a couple out of nearly a dozen (or so it seemed at the time). As a result, his shooting percentage went way down, and he managed only six points. It still wasn’t enough to lose the Hawks the game, but it certainly helped the Cavaliers on the glass, where they were getting beaten early on. Oddly enough, Smith wasn’t credited with a single turnover in the game, and grabbed 11 rebounds while dropping 4 dimes. That’s good, right? So why doesn’t it feel as good as it should?
- If they can’t shoot, then why defend them? Because….it’s an NBA team, meaning that somebody is likely to start scoring at some point. The Hawks saw that they didn’t have to play particularly tough defense against the offensively challenged Cavs, so they decided to simply let them do what they wanted, until the lead got away from them. After all this time, they still haven’t learned that they aren’t good enough to just turn it on when they feel like it. Facing a Cavs squad that is this awful did nothing to dissuade this false notion.
- There is no MBPG award, only the DPOY award. Simply put, you don’t win an award for Most Blocks Per Game. Okay, so maybe it seemed that way when NBA favored son Dwight Howard won it, but Dwight changed games by scaring teams from going inside to score, not just blocking shots. He prevented the scoring. Smith seems bent on breaking records with his swats so far this year, and there is no doubt that it is both fun and amazing to watch. Unlike Howard, Smith baits players into shooting or swoops out of nowhere to throw a shot that nobody knew he was even going to be challenged. Unfortunately, this is not all there is to defense, and Smoove is finding himself in a position already, where he is getting torched by the man he is supposed to guard. 5 blocks is worthy of ESPN highlights. Here’s what ESPN probably won’t show: J. J. Hickson dropping 31 points on him while shooting 65% from the field, and 9 of 11 from the free throw line. This, after giving up nearly 20 points on to Darrell Arthur a couple games back.
The Bright Spots
- Hello, Dr. Jekyll. Arguably, no one looked better on the floor last night than Marvin Williams. Confident and aggressive right out of the gate, Marvin looked like he was due for his annual 30 point game. It was like he knew nobody wearing a Cavs uniform could guard him. He hit shots from wherever he chose, and made good plays off of post-ups (Marvin, posting up??). How is it possible for this guy to show up like this one night, then play the Invisible Man the next? Marvin still has us wondering, but his performance was VERY nice last night. We can only wonder how the next game will go….
-Killing ‘Em Softly. If you hadn’t heard Bob Rathbun gushing, or hadn’t read the box score, you might not know that Al Horford had his third straight double double. That had to have been about the quietest 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists I’ve seen in a while. Must have been the noise from the third quarter insanity, or the moronic “Godfather” music in the background every time Mo Williams did something halfway decent on the court.
- ISO Everything Man. Things definitely turned into ISO-Joe as the execution of the offense totally broke down. Of course, at this point Joe was well out of rhythm and missed a number of shots he normally makes. However…Joe is the go-to guy when this happens, and to his credit, he never forgot to pass the ball. More importantly, Joe never forgot Marvin, even towards the end of the game. 6-21 shooting may be ugly, but I’d say 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and a good deal of solid defense makes up for most of it.
- Can’t Argue the “W.” You always appreciate a win. Especially a road win. Even if your team makes it a little hard to appreciate it. Ask the Cavs fans. All they get to appreciate is their team letting them think that they had a chance, even if it was just for one quarter of basketball.
- Jamal to the rescue. Once again, Jamal’s scoring and attack mentality helped bail the Hawks stay afloat. Crawford hit everything from the charity stripe (6 free throws), both of his 3 point attempts, and went 4 for 7 overall for 16 points off the bench, in a little over 21 minutes of work.
UP NEXT – The Detroit Pistons @ The Highlight Factory
The Pistons aren’t very good. Their 0-4 record would suggest that this is an understatement. However, the Hawks can’t afford to take it easy on these guys. Whereas the Cavs have offensive issues, the Pistons can shoot and score. Most of their troubles lie on the defensive end, and in rebounding.
Josh Smith/Marvin Williams vs Austin Daye/Tayshaun Prince
Prince hasn’t been the same since the Detroit nucleus broke up, but he is still a defender of reckoning. Marvin Williams won’t have it as easy against Prince as he did against the Cavs, but if he remains aggressive he can still do some damage. In the meantime, will Josh Smith look to finally establish himself inside against yet another forward who can’t contain him, or will he engage in another ill-fated jumpshooting contest? Will Daye be the third straight young forward to torch Smith for a season or career high?
Joe Johnson/Mike Bibby vs. Ben Gordon/Rodney Stuckey
Only two Pistons can even think about guarding Joe Johnson, and one of them is out with a bad foot (Rip Hamilton). Tayshaun Prince will draw the assignment when Joe plays at the 3, otherwise it’s between Gordon and Stuckey. Neither is up to the task, and maybe we’ll see Joe’s 30 point game this time. On the other hand, Mike Bibby will find his hands full with whichever Piston backcourt player he gets assigned to, at least on the defensive end. But will either guy be able to keep Bibby from doing the damage he’s been doing to other teams so far this season?
Jamal is the guy who most accurately fits this description, even if opposing teams know he’s coming. However, the Pistons frontcourt depth is hurting badly, especially with Jason Maxiell not being what he once was. Detroit has to worry about Crawford, but they may find themselves having a hard time with Pachulia and Powell.
Detroit counters with the engimatic, but talented Charlie Villanueva, who can grab his share of rebounds, and explode for 15-20 points or more at any time. Villanueva is the type who will do it from the outside, utilizing his height and length to get shots off. If he goes unchecked, he’ll hurt the Hawks plenty. The best option for guarding him might be none other than Marvin Williams.
How do YOU see this matchup going down?