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

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:05 pm

Melvin,

Veteran experience is my only guess. Yeah, Jordan has some defensive work to do. But like O’brien says, throw him to the wolves. He’s no sheep…

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:06 pm

I dont like LD decision to play Jamal extended mins tonight…

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:06 pm

Al straight beasting. Too bad Josh Smith didn’t show up to help him on the glass. For that matter, neither did anybody else. And I mean anybody .

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:07 pm

Melvin,

Me either.

I wonder if Al goes for 20 and 20 tonight? He’s at 18 and 18….

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:09 pm

lukas

November 20th, 2010
10:11 pm

There yuo go Big Ray,

20-20

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:12 pm

Big Ray,

Keep in mind Josh is guarding Dirk on the perimeter therefore there’s not too many opportunities for alot rebounds…

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:12 pm

OH MAN! Was I wrong about this game being over, or are we gonna lose a heartbreaker?

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:13 pm

Melvin ,

You’ve got a point…

Lukas ,

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Big Al with 20 and 20!

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
10:16 pm

What does it say, when LD has more confidence in Jamal (who has struggled on offense and defense), instead of marvin Williams?

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
10:16 pm

Al didn’t have much help though. Everyone else sucked either at one end of the floor or the other. Or in Jamal and Zaza’s cases, both.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:17 pm

Facts of Life:

1) Jason Terry has a head shaped like a peanut. Maybe that’s why I don’t like him.

2) Rick Carlisle is the reincarnation of Jim Carey in another life. A sad one.

3) Dirk Nowitzki has bigger teeth than Mr. Ed….or any other horse that has ever lived.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:18 pm

O’brien ,

Don’t get me started….

Niremetal ,

Yep.

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
10:18 pm

Seriously LD?

That looked like the play that Woody would call last season.

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:18 pm

WTF was Joe doing? Pass the ball, jump into the defender or go for the quick two…

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
10:18 pm

Marvin defended Dirk well during the relatively short spurts that he was assigned to guard him. Other than that, he was the invisible man again.

lukas

November 20th, 2010
10:19 pm

And that’s how you dump 126 million dollars!!

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
10:20 pm

Hawks have 4 home losses already. They had 7 for the entire season last year. Wow.

I wonder if Woody is watching this game, and smiling.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:20 pm

There it went. Our goose is cooked. Hopefully we can continue our ways with Boston, and finally earn a win over a team that is actually playing above .500 ball.

Great game by Al, pretty good game by Smith (sans the defense against Nowitzki on the perimeter).

Great game by the officials, they earned those bonuses for the non-calls and bad calls.

Damn fine effort by Bibby.

Somebody trade Jamal. Send Marvin with ‘em, just bring us back a SF in return.

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
10:20 pm

I actually didn’t think that play was bad at all, at least once Joe saw that Chandler was guarding him. He knew Chandler couldn’t stay with him, and he got an open look. He just missed it.

Hopefully Joe’s just having his usual late-winter slump early this year. He just isn’t shooting well.

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:21 pm

OB,

I think Joe force that one. He should have pass to a wide open Horford at the FT line. Go for the quick two and foul.

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:23 pm

OB,

You can stop referring to last year home record b/c i doubt they equal or improve on that record….

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:24 pm

Joe actually had Chandler in the air, he could have jump into for the foul and shoot 3 FTs.

Big Ray

November 20th, 2010
10:24 pm

I don’t know about that play call. I’m sure it wasn’t designed to fail, but Joe never looked for an option, either.

Both he and Jamal were awful from the field. Clearly we cannot beat the better teams in the league when two of our top four scorers are stinking it up. Jamal looked bad, but here’s just how bad it was for JJ – usually he gets more assists. This time, Jamal had nearly twice his total.

4 home losses is downright scary. Maybe we’re seeing the team get through its issues now, and they’ll be better later. Maybe I’m just being optimistic.

I know this much: it won’t be easy if Joe continues to struggle the way he has. What’s up with that glove on his left hand?

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:25 pm

Ray,

Co-sign your 10:20 post.

Harry Hawk

November 20th, 2010
10:26 pm

The comeback was nice, but we’ve made the playoffs three years in a row. Gutty comebacks that end in losses are not acceptable anymore.

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
10:31 pm

The mavs played 3 games in 4 nights. This is the hawks 1st game in 4 nights.

Nire,

JJ and Jamal struggled all game so why not use JJ as a decoy again, and call a play for Al to get the quick 2, and foul again?

Maybe Al gets an And one. But if the Mavs dont foul, maybe he gets an easy 2. And with the game he was having (10-12 from the field), he should be an option.

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
10:36 pm

O’Brien,

I don’t think Al wasn’t an option on that play. I just think that once Horford set the screen and JJ got Chandler on him in single coverage, it’s tough to fault him for trying to break the 7′1 dude down and work him for an open 3. That’s exactly what happened.

It was a 3-point game, and the “quick 2″ option is not as appealing when there’s less than 10 seconds less in a 3-point game. Odds are that the Mavs would have simply hit the free throws and you would have been right back to trying to get a 3, but this time with 10 seconds left. I don’t see how taking an open 3 is a bad shot in that situation.

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
10:41 pm

*this time with less than 5 seconds left

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
10:44 pm

LD said the play was for JJ to turn the corner, and drive to the bucket for 2. I am ok with that play, because he struggled shooting all game.

Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford was 2-10 from the field, with 5 turnovers, but he still played 33 minutes.

That’s on LD.

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
10:45 pm

Hawks need to upgrade its bench, plain and simple. There’s too much of a drop when they have to sub for their starters….

vava74

November 20th, 2010
10:46 pm

Not a good coaching effort by LD tonight.

Marvin was doing a good job on Dirk stopping him in several possessions in a row.

The minute he went back to Josh, Dirk missed an open look and then hit a jump shot from the elbow with Josh flying by really late.

To keep Jamal on the floor was a painful exercise. Actually, to play him at all is painful exercise.

Trade him ASAP.

To design that last play for JJ is plain dumb. JJ will not all of the sudden find back his stroke AND HIS HANDLE with that thing in his left hand.

In theory the play went reasonably well but it’s not the play we needed.

LD should have given the last shot to Jordan C or to Bibby. That is how you do it, give it to the guy who is hot, not to the guy who is stone cold.

vava74

November 20th, 2010
10:51 pm

We need to trade Jamal and get Teague more minutes until he breaks free. If he doesn’t, then we need to look elsewhere pronto.

The drop of on bench play is Jamal’s responsibility. Tonight he did get 7 assists, but the problem is when he first enters the game.

If he is hot, he can offset the fact that the offense stops executing. If he is cold – as in the majority of the games – he shoots and dribbles us out of the games and the reserves never get going.

Tonight he also had a bad pass and a lost ball in consecutive possessions in crunch time which cost us dearly.

vava74

November 20th, 2010
10:53 pm

And if LD’s plan was for JJ to receive and drive for a quick 2, then he also chose the player wrong for that option.

If he had Jamal on the floor, he should have chosen him since he sells contact better than JJ and his tricky dribble is certainly better than JJ’s with his hand like that.

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
10:55 pm

Yeah, what is up with JJ’s hand?

vava74

November 20th, 2010
10:55 pm

By the way, it was good to finally get to see two legit seven footers showing Al how to do it…

vava74

November 20th, 2010
10:59 pm

nire,

I read somewhere (pre-season) that JJ has a nagging wrist problem on his left hand and that he complains that it bothers him a lot but he does not want to get surgery and wants to simply withstand the pain.

I have two theories:

1. It’s true and he is diminished, in which case I would vote to shut him down immediately and start Mo (if healthy) with Jordan C subbing him heavily.

2. JJ has lost confidence and is feeling the size of the contract and made up an excuse to cover himself up form criticism.

vava74

November 20th, 2010
11:04 pm

OKC just won second in a row, back to back away from home, without Durant…

O'Brien

November 20th, 2010
11:15 pm

Vava,

I think the play should have been called for al horford. He was 10-12 from the field (unless LD was afraid of him missing FTs again).

Although Marvin was Invisible, he did not make the costly mistakes Jamal did. Not only was Jamal bad on defense, he also had 5 of the team’s 13 turnovers. But yet LD played Jamal 33 minutes?

But I agree about trading Jamal. His negatives are cancelling the positives, and with Jordan showing promise, he deserves more minutes.

Unfortunately, rick waited too long to trade Jamal, and now his trade value is lower.

lukas

November 20th, 2010
11:18 pm

Teague’s minutes in the last 4 games: 10, 17, 12, 4. If LD doesn’t pull a Woody on JC2 after tonight’s display, JT0 should be worried about start producing vs going into the doghouse. Somebody has to tell him that pulling Marvins won’t get him far!!

niremetal

November 20th, 2010
11:32 pm

O’B,

Even before the season, I really don’t think any team would have given us a player of value in exchange for Crawford on the logic that Crawford would actually improve their team. I think Jamal’s trade value this year stems almost entirely from the fact that his contract is expiring. So I really don’t think that waiting to trade him “hurt” his trade value, because I doubt teams are intensely interested in acquiring Jamal for what he brings as a player. Guards who can score but can’t play a lick of defense are easy to find.

That being said, I think some teams looking to rebuild or dump a long-term contract might be willing to take Crawford’s expiring in a trade. But we need to trade Jamal ASAP so that whoever we get in return has maximum time to adjust before the playoffs.

And if we need an extra volume-scoring guard, Flip Murray is still a free agent. Just sayin.

vava74

November 20th, 2010
11:40 pm

nire,

I am with you on Flip. He would fit in nicely.

At this stage, I would trade Jamal for anything.

Pretenders or Contenders?

November 20th, 2010
11:44 pm

Hawk’s record has them leaning almost exclusively towards the “Pretenders” side.

I actually think last years Hawks would blow this years out of the water, just outright embarrass them out of the building

Melvin

November 20th, 2010
11:51 pm

Drew said the plan was for Johnson to drive to the basket and draw a foul.

“But it was not a clean exchange between he and Al on the handoff,” he said.

vava74

November 21st, 2010
12:04 am

until we get 20/25 minutes of steady PG production behind Bibby, we are going nowhere.

it’s that simple.

right now we have JJ struggling mightily and Jamal playing horribly

It’s impossible to beat “serious” teams that way with the current rotation.

For me, Jordan C has proven to be deserving of ALL of Jamal’s minutes behind JJ.

Teague needs to step up or be moved.

vava74

November 21st, 2010
12:10 am

nonetheless the issue is simple:

We lost 5 games so far.

On all 5 losses but 1, we were in the game with 1 minute to play.

On all 5 losses we had players injured or severely limited.

Given JJ’s struggles, my guess is that we have been shorthanded since day 1, contrary to last year.

No need to panic, but what I mentioned above remains, IMO valid:

- Jamal out as soon as possible;
- Teague needs to step up;

With that, we would be significantly better and would be able IMO to overcome the rest of the issues we have with injuries and shooting funks.

O'Brien

November 21st, 2010
1:18 am

Vava,

No need to panic as yet. However, history suggests these players don’t have the mental fortitude necessary to make the next step.

LD said he saw guys hanging their heads early on just because Dallas made a run, and how he has seen it before. He sounds frustrated with this team.

Nire,

Teams may have valued Jamal more for his expiring contract, but I still think rick could have traded him for help in the frontcourt, or for help on the perimeter.

They say the easiest way to improve the moral in the work place is to fire the employees who are unhappy.

The best way to improve the mental makeup of this team is to make a trade.

O'Brien

November 21st, 2010
1:20 am

big Ray, Melvin

Hibbert had 19 and 10 against Howard and the magic tonight.

O'Brien

November 21st, 2010
1:48 am

And props to the hornets.

Despite being 10-1, with a rookie HC, and playing in a smaller market, they traded their $14 mil expiring contract in an attempt to get better.

Ed

November 21st, 2010
4:45 am

Great work as always Ray. LD stands no chance as long as Jamal plays to his own tune. Not having everyone (especially such a key player) on board and playing Drew’s offense means LD is in a no win situation. The longer Sund / McGearon wait to rid the Hawks of this cancerous attitude the bigger hole we will be dug into. And, without a doubt Jordan Crawford should be playing far more. He has that it factor which allows him to demand his team runs the offense or by taking big shots, and making a majority of them. He as has future star written all over him.