Well, we knew the Hawks couldn’t stay undefeated forever. Losing to the Phoenix Suns in a shootout at home in front of a somewhat sparse crowd probably doesn’t make the team feel any better about it, though.
It’s unfortunate that Atlanta, missing two regular rotation players, was not able to secure a victory despite exemplary efforts from Joe Johnson, Al Horford, and Josh Smith, all of whom played 40+ minutes. Meanwhile, there can be no head-hanging, as they travel to the home of the team that has beaten and broken them so many times in the last couple of years, otherwise known as the Orlando Magic.
As some of you foretold during the preseason, the Hawks’ lack of depth at the small forward position is beginning to bite us. While the team displayed a heck of an effort in coming back from a nasty deficit against the Suns, the difference was defense. Perimeter defense, that is. The Suns continually abused the Hawks by getting mismatches on Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford. Oddly enough, Crawford’s defensive effort was probably the best we’ve ever seen out of him, but it just wasn’t enough to slow the jumpshot happy Suns, who also were able to get scores inside by posting Channing Frye and Josh Childress. With Marvin Williams around, we probably would have won that game. Maybe even with Mo Evans, who has only played one game this season. The fact is, the Hawks are forced to play Joe Johnson there quite a bit, and supplementing him with Josh Smith. Not the worst of combinations, but hardly the most efficient.
Hawks blogger Niremetal brings up a good point. Did GM Rick Sund foul up by signing Etan Thomas, instead of another wing player? Thomas has yet to play a minute in the regular season, and hardly seems needed at this point. Unfortunately, the Hawks probably can’t do anything about this anytime soon, so they’ll have to suffer through the vengeance of the injury bug that left them largely untouched last season.
A Streak of Another Kind?
A bit of noise has been made about Atlanta’s strong start of the season, and you have to laugh a bit at the detractors. Sure, they have a point (namely that nothing is proven in the first 5 or 6 games of the season), but obviously the Hawks got people’s attention. That has to be a good thing, right? Ok, so in losing to Phoenix, Atlanta lost its first game to a known playoff team. Naturally, no one feels extremely chipper about tonight’s game against Orlando (except maybe Magic fans). We’d like a win, but…would we settle for not getting blown out and embarrassed? If the Hawks lose tonight, that will be two in a row. After Orlando, two more playoff teams come calling in the form of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Utah Jazz. Between injuries, an inconsistent defense, and who knows what else…could Atlanta be looking at a four game losing streak? The Bucks have Delfino, Maggette, and Salmons, all of whom are struggling from the field, to an extent. But all could be mismatches against a team with no small forwards, and Joe can only guard one guy at a time. Meanwhile the Jazz would look to use Andrei Kirilenko, C.J. Miles, and perhaps rookie Gordon Hayward to their advantage.
If Marvin is back, then that helps a good deal. If not, look for the good teams to use that against us.
Fascinating or Fatigued?
Watching Joe Johnson get his groove back last night was a thing of beauty. We can only hope to see a similar performance against Orlando, but what is up with all of these back-to-back games? Larry Drew’s decision making and the play of the bench has helped to lower Joe’s minutes overall, but after playing 44 minutes last night, one can only wonder just how much energy he’ll have tonight. So too with Al Horford, who played 42 minutes last night, and has the unenviable task of dealing with Dwight Howard. The one guy I tend not to worry about? Josh Smith. I don’t know how he does it, but the guy never seems to be all that tired, nearly always finding the energy to try and make a play, even if it’s a bad one.
Is Twin in?
How should the Hawks approach this game, concerning the center position? Should they start Zaza Pachulia, or Jason Collins? My vote goes to Collins, as Pachulia is a needed weapon off the bench. Besides, he is likely to get whistled for two or three quick fouls against Howard early on, regardless of whether he committs them or not (you know what I mean). Does Etan Thomas see any playing time in this game?
Howard usually gets a few blocks on us, but also grabs double figure rebounds and coasts to 20 or so points on dunks and layups, but is he the real issue here, or is it the perimeter players who are going to give us the fits once again? With no Marvin (still don’t know if he’ll be ready to play in this game), the Hawks could be in for a worse time than usual. Is there a solution at hand?
What do you think the game plan should be?