Hawks look for that first credible win

The Indiana Pacers are no longer a pushover, but until they become a playoff team, the Hawks are going to have to settle for having another game with an asterisk beside it. On Friday night, they get another chance to prove that they can beat the good teams, too. The good news is that the Hawks will be at home, and the Dallas Mavericks will be coming off of what will likely be a hard fought game against the Chicago Bulls. Well, that should be good news. If the Hawks win, would this one come with another asterisk?

 

Offense Switches Gears

The offensive game plan that Larry Drew instituted has coincided with the growth of some of the Hawks’ younger players, while changing the game of others. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford finds himself in a different position from last year. Oh sure, he’s still the top offensive sub off the bench, but no longer is he second on the team in scoring and shot attempts. Fact is, Jamal is now fourth in both categories, giving way to big men Josh Smith and Al Horford. Things are a little different for Joe Johnson as well, what with his scoring average dipping to just over 19 points per game, though arguably his struggles from the field are a major factor. Still, what once seemed like the only sword Atlanta could live or die by, has become a strong point that finally has adequate support. Remember the days when we talked about having credible offensive threats alongside Joe Johnson? Well, it seems those days are here.

Al Horford has vaulted to the position of second leading scorer for the team, averaging exactly one bucket less per contest than Joe Johnson. It’s not just the increased shot attempts that has brought this about. It’s also the way Horford has worked on his game. Still lacking a couple of sure-fire post moves, Horford has enough in his arsenal to get some baskets on the block, but it’s his perimeter shot that does so much damage these days. Not only can Al hit it on occasion, he can hit it several times in a row before ducking back in for a running baby hook or a baseline turnaround shot. The best part? How about a 63.7 field goal percentage? All of that in just a tad over 31 minutes a game, and you have to wonder what this guy will do if he gets to play 35 per night.

Josh Smith’s game has also taken on a transformation. While he may still have maddening moments where he tries to do too much, Smith has managed to improve areas that seemed all but lost last season. Believe it or not, the man’s shooting stroke has improved, even if we still think we’re daydreaming after 12 games. The unexpected prowess from beyond the arc notwithstanding, Josh looks like he actually worked hard on that part of his game. Here’s the part that flies under the radar, however: free throws. That’s right, after stinking it up from the charity stripe last season, smith is now right back up under 70%, where he belongs. It could get better from here. But for now, we get to watch him shoot a good percentage from the field, and hope that this never stops. Is Josh’s jumpshot legit, or is it just a mirage?

Either way, the Hawks aren’t one-dimensional on offense anymore, and they no longer are front-court challenged when it comes to bonafide scoring. Between the two, the Hawks might just have three all-stars at this season’s half way point. You never know.

 

HAWKS VS. MAVS

Dallas has always been dangerous, and like Atlanta in recent years, they’re good for an early season run. We know who all of the usual suspects are. So much is possible with the cerebral Jason Kidd in the game. Dirk Nowitzki is going to score (and rebound). Jason Terry is a dangerous super sub who can shoot his team to a win. Juan Barea is anathema to any team that has trouble keeping up with quick little point guards. But what about some of the newer faces on the squad? Shawn Marion and Caron Butler have seen better days, what with both of them struggling from the deep perimeter. However, neither guy can be slept on completely. Here’s where the Mavs differ the most, though – in the post. Gone is the apathetic Eric Dampier. In his place is Tyson Chandler, who just happens to be backed up by Brendan Haywood.

There’s the rub. If the Mavs want to, they can go pretty big against us. We’ll be looking at height all night long. Of course, the Atlanta advantage is in speed and full court capability. If the Hawks can get out and run, they’ll give the Mavs fits. The only thing is, if you want to run, you have to rebound on the defensive end. If you want to rebound, you have to play defense (or hope the other team misses a lot of shots). Naturally, this is two areas the Hawks are having trouble in. Defend and rebound, and the Mavs will leave the Highlight Factory with a loss. Fail to do so, and we could be looking at a double digit loss.

Matchups to Watch

Will Larry Drew try to match size with size? Let’s assume he’ll put his five best guys on the floor to start things off, then go from there. So…..

Horford vs. Chandler – Look for Al to draw Tyson Chandler out with his jumper, and see if Nowitzki gets switched onto him. If not, Horford will torch the Mavs as long as his shot is on. On the other end of the floor, Horford won’t have much trouble denying Chandler position in the post, but he’ll have to be careful of quick dump-off passes from the Dallas guards.

Jose Juan Barea vs. Jeff Teague – the Teague watch continues! The second year pg will get his chance to continue proving that he’s a viable option off the bench as he goes up against the Dallas slickster, who has caused the Hawks enough grief in the past. Teague has the speed and on ball tenacity to stay with Barea. But will he have the savvy to stay out of foul trouble?

Josh Smith vs…..?

How will Dallas guard Smith, particularly if they start getting burned by Horford’s 18 foot jumper? Brendan Haywood is too slow, and really so it Chandler (though he’s quicker and a better leaper than Haywood). The Mavs won’t want Nowitzki in foul trouble, and neither Shawn Marion nor Caron Butler have the size and strength. This could be a big key to the game, as Dallas will have to choose which Hawks big man to clamp down on. The Mavs say they have been winning with defense. The Hawks will challenge that idea.

 

What are YOUR keys to the game?

218 comments Add your comment

Avery

November 20th, 2010
12:27 am

Will be at the game, go hawks.

Avery

November 20th, 2010
12:28 am

And my key to the game is not falling over my chair into the court with my thunderstick.

doc

November 20th, 2010
1:09 am

durn big ray after reading this i am confident of a victory whereas after you said what you did about the pacers i was shaking in my shoes. i think the real keys are what their guards are able to do to ours. jason kidd usually torches us with his guile and terry always seems to rub it in that he came to play here and was sent packing. who will stop dirk, is the final key to the game?

the guys need to break the ice against the better teams. last year they performed pretty well against the better teams. i dont see that inclination as yet. i dont want to see boston after another home loss, for sure.

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bjrufino

November 20th, 2010
4:30 am

consistency is the key, the hawks need to be commited for 48 minutes, less turnovers, joe needs 25 points or more, and jamal 15-20, mike need to hit the 3 in every quarter, Al, Josh and Marvin needs to rebound

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NCBravesFan

November 20th, 2010
7:36 am

My (very) uneducated guess is the well-rested Hawks will score a W on the Mavs tonight. As for the asterisk issue – a win is a win. Take ‘em when you can get ‘em.

It’s early yet, but the season appears to be headed in a reasonably good direction. The progress Big Ray has laid out here is being offset by the lack of perimeter D.

LD appears to be doing a really good job with what he has – how far this team can get next spring would seem to have a lot more to do with what Sund does (or doesn’t do – which as we know is always an option) in the next several weeks.

JT0 developing his game more fully over time would also help greatly.

Ray

November 20th, 2010
7:58 am

The two players I’m still worried about at JT and Marvin both are showing flashes, but I’d like it if we got more out of those two, but that does take time.

Jamal has to go though I can say that for sure he’s a great player, but I swear when he gets on the floor the offense comes to a halt.

MD

November 20th, 2010
8:54 am

The Hawks are Garbage!!! Stop supporting these Bums,you already know the outcome for this season.Hawks lose to Chicago or Orlando in second round playoff series 4-0..dont waste ur time……

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
10:13 am

MannyT

November 20th, 2010
12:23 pm

Ray, I like the game analysis. The next 2 games should be very interesting. I hope the crowd shows up to support the Hawks.

I think the underlying key to the game is foul trouble. The team in more foul trouble loses.

W/o foul problems, I think the Hawks can pull it out b/c Chandler doesn’t do much on offense to threaten the Hawks. (HIs biggest offensive attack this season was taking 7 shots. He averages more rebounds per game than points.)

The minor game key, LD needs to stay off the court when the ball is in play…especially if J. Kidd sees him. 8-O

Let’s go Hawks.

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
12:51 pm

Hawks have not played since Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Mavericks played a tough game that went down to the wire against the Bulls last night.

Hawks should be fresh, Mavericks should be tired. I expect an energetic Hawks team to show up tonight. No excuses.

As for the game, one question is, who guards Dirk? If Josh is on him, he needs to be careful not to get into foul trouble.

I think Teague and Bibby will have their hands full tonight, And Jamal will have his hands full on defense.

I think we should play through Al and Josh early, and see how it goes. If hawks are hitting their shots, we whould win this game.

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
12:54 pm

In other news, From espn.com;

The New Orleans Hornets and Toronto Raptors are in serious discussions on a five-player trade that would send Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless to the Raptors for Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks, a source told ESPN.com Saturday..

Mz. Hawkdafied

November 20th, 2010
2:39 pm

“The minor game key, LD needs to stay off the court when the ball is in play…especially if J. Kidd sees him.”-Manny T

I agree. LOL!

Defend home court and get that first “credible win”. Win pretty, ugly, whatever it takes. Go Hawks!

The Mavericks disrespected our house with that weird Jason Kidd and Mike Woodson situation. Make them pay for that shid with a win.

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

November 20th, 2010
3:42 pm

I expect JJ to begin breaking out of his offensive doldrums tonight. If he continues to share with the front court and they continue to knock down, we should come out with victory. Crawford versus Terry should be interesting.

ICECOLD

November 20th, 2010
5:37 pm

ICECOLD

November 20th, 2010
5:38 pm

Blast

November 20th, 2010
6:19 pm

Big Ray, Nice analysis as usual.

The one that stuck out to and nobody picked up was the part about the offense grinding to a halt when Jamal comes in, especially if he is playing point. Jamal is still stuck on the iso play, and you can tell. He hasn’t quite bought into the new offense yet, and it’s showing in his game. Even Joe is passing the ball and moving better, while Jamal still dribble and dribble on the perimeter. He is passing well, though.

Sunday night is gonna be wild. Hawks MUST win that game, no excuses. Defend, rebound, and move the ball means a W.

Horford is playing at a high level, and it’s beautiful to see. Leads the league in field goal %. That is huge!

Go HAwks!!!

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
6:31 pm

Hawks need to win tonight. Because if they lose this game, they will be playing Boston on tired legs tomorrow, and it could easily turn into a 2 game losing streak. Plus Boston is coming off a loss at home to OKC, so they will be fired up and ready.

Blast,

Not only does the offense grind to a halt more often with Jamal, his defense is horrible.

Plus when he is the game, Teague defers to him a lot, and thats not good either.

I still think the Hawks need to trade Jamal for improvement in other areas.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
6:50 pm

Avery ,

I wish you much success. :)

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
6:54 pm

Doc ,

That does seem to be the problem. I remember JJ saying he was not worried about us getting up for the big games, but rather the small ones. For some reason, that’s been backwards so far this season, despite some good competitive efforts against Orlando and Phoenix. Hope to break that ice tonight…

Ray ,

You’re not the only one to make this comment. Others feel the same way about Jamal. It’s not that the offense grinds to a halt, it’s that it does so when he goes into ISO mode. This is why it is imperative that Teague take over the second unit. He can run it, but he has to believe that first. Or maybe he doesn’t want to run it? I don’t know. He looked like he did against Indy. We’ll see how he does tonight.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
6:59 pm

MannyT ,

Thanks! I agree on the foul trouble, as well.

Blast ,

Appreciate it! Hopefully these guys come off of their break pumped up and ready to go. Dallas is coming off of quite a tussle with Chicago. The Bulls won. Key stat – Dallas 34 rebounds, Chicago 59.

Gibson and Noah combined for 35 rebounds by themselves. That’s insane. Now….what could Smith and Horford do if properly rested, motivated, etc? Add Marvin to that mix…

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
7:03 pm

O’brien ,

Interesting trade. Does that make the Hornets better? I think so, though Marcus Banks figures to be trade fodder. He’s been on so many teams now, unable to stick anywhere really. Speaking of which, Jerryd Bayless a journeyman already ? Whatever happened to being a highly touted first round draft prospect….

The way I see it, the Hornets rid themselves of Peja and that contract (which I could have sworn was about to expire in a year). And, they pick up a viable backup who can also play alongside Paul if/when necessary, something they lost in Darren Collison. Anderson gives them a different kind of frontcourt player who can hit from the outside. I imagine the Raptors will give Bayless a shot at a regular rotation role, but Peja has to be an expiring contract. Otherwise, I don’t see much value in him these days.

Blast

November 20th, 2010
7:08 pm

Just found out game was tonight! Gosh!

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
7:09 pm

Man…..Blake Griffin is for real….

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
8:29 pm

Ray,

I think you’re right. Peja’s contract is expiring. So the Hornets traded an expiring $14 mil contract in an attempt to make the team better (although Marcus Banks is expiring, his salary is half of Peja’s, if I’m not mistaken?

As for the game tonight, Josh looking good so far.

As for marvin, once again he is the first one out of the game again. Jamal is averaging 29 mpg, and thats just too many minutes. But with Marvin being Marvin, he is out of the game quickly.

lukas

November 20th, 2010
9:04 pm

Man, Sund needs to shake things quickly. This team’s flaws are too much for LD or a couple of tough-minded players to overcome. They lose the games from the lockeroom, and they don’t give a damn about it. Unable to defeat playoff teams? bad bad sign!!

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
9:14 pm

Ugh. Hawks are a hot mess right now. So is the officiating. Mavs with only three fouls. Geez, that is such BS.

We’re getting our cans kicked on the boards and it’s Shawn Marion who is doing most of the damage.

Marvin has made himself invisible again. After the time off and limited minutes, I’m hesitant to chalk this one up to him trying to get back into the groove after injury. He’s proving to be just plain useless.

Josh Smith and Mike Bibby are doing it all for us on offense.

Horford is all but alone on the boards (Smith has 4, the rest of the team has a total of 3).

Outside of Crawford’s 4 assists, the bench is giving us absolutely nothing.

I don’t suppose it would hurt to put the rookie in, would it? Nobody else seems to be able to hit a shot or penetrate.

The Mavs are killing us with their zone defense, and we’re not reacting well to it.

Sigh …..

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
9:18 pm

Lukas ,

I sure hope Sund has some ideas in mind. I sure hope Michael Gearon is amenable to them. Otherwise, watch us limp past the trade deadline talking about our “core.”

O’brien ,

I have the worst time watching Marvin do stuff like this. Dude gets injured, and it’s like he takes forever to get back into any sort of form. There’s no excuse now, though. He is better fit for Larry Drew’s offensive scheme, and even then….that has nothing to do with rebounding and defending, neither of which Marvin is doing. I’m totally disgusted and tired of his lackluster efforts.

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
9:34 pm

When will Josh understand he can’t play off of Dirk?????

lukas

November 20th, 2010
9:36 pm

Big Ray,

I’m ready to try anything, including trading Marvin for a playstation. The sad thing is that this team has 3 huge holes (PG, SF, bench) and sund can’t/won’t address all of them by the trade deadline.

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
9:37 pm

A early Jordan sighting. Did LD lose confidence in Teague?

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
9:39 pm

I’m convince, it may be time to trade Jamal….

lukas

November 20th, 2010
9:41 pm

Well Big Ray, there you go: the rookie!!

lukas

November 20th, 2010
9:43 pm

Melvin,

I am noticing that. LD is getting frustrated with Teague’s Marvinness.

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
9:45 pm

lukas,

I think you are right… If that’s the case, then lets trade him to SacTown for Jason Thompson…

lukas

November 20th, 2010
9:49 pm

Not yet, Teague maybe is useless but is the only thing close to a PG we have besides Bibby.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
9:50 pm

Ha! Play that kid some MORE! He looks so natural out there. I don’t wish to bag on Teague at all, and they are playing different positions, but there is NO doubt to the confidence and ability of Jordan Crawford. He didn’t play outside the flow of the offense at all, but he also didn’t hesitate when he found himself by himself, with the shot clock running down. Makes a perfectly natural play against Nowitzki, putting himself out of reach and getting his shot off.

PLAY HIM SOME MORE!

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
9:50 pm

About time Marvin showed up… Lets go Marvin…

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
9:51 pm

Man! Would you look at him! He doesn’t even get to sniff the court for days, then comes in and BANG!

Whooeeee!

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
9:52 pm

Lukas ,

I’ll take a playstation 3 with two wireless controllers and Call of Duty: Black Ops. How’s that deal sound? ;)

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
9:57 pm

Big Ray,

All the more reasons why I think Rick can trade Jamal. Sure, he is averaging 14 pts in 29 minutes, but he does not mesh with the offense, his defense is bad, and Jordan has earned more minutes.

Al with 16 boards tonight. A beast on the boards. And Marvin finally makes a big shot.

Hawks have clawed their way back, but do they have enough to win.

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
9:58 pm

Trade Jamal. Now.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:00 pm

O’brien, Nire ,

I hear ya.

How about Al’s stat line? 6-7 from the field, 12 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks. Holy crap….if that ain’t an all-star, I don’t know what is. Now can we get him the ball more?

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:01 pm

I don’t know if we have what it takes to finish this off. Gotta get more stops, which we have had trouble with all night.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:02 pm

Heh…I like this. Drew’s not afraid to run with the rookie for a little while down the stretch.

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:03 pm

Why didnt he take Jamal out instead of Jordan? Jordan was playing well.

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
10:04 pm

Unfortunately, Jason Terry has blown by Jordan the last 2 possessions. but he played really well.

LD needs to throw him to the wolves, because he deserves the opportunity.

With Jamal struggling, why did he still play 24 minutes?

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:04 pm

Can’t get the freakin’ stops. I’m gonna call this one over. Hate to, but we just aren’t stopping them.

And the officiating continues to not help matters at all. Oh, we’d still be losing despite that, but I say we’re not in a double figure deficit but for the officiating.

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
10:05 pm

Melvin,

Meanwhile, a turnover by Jamal. i dont know why LD still has him in the game.