Hawks face nemesis again

For the Atlanta Hawks, another week begins with back-to-back games, the first being tonight in Orlando. For this team, it’s been a season of streaks so far, wherein anything they’ve done once, they’ve done at least twice before going the other way. In other words, if they came off a loss and won the next game, they’ve won at least two in a row before losing again. Will that trend continue or break tonight?

 

The Damien Effect

If you didn’t know it before, let me tell you now. Damien Wilkins is no joke on the defensive end. While he played limited minutes and the Hawks couldn’t pull out the victory, it was refreshing to see an Atlanta guard giving an all out effort on the perimeter, and doing so effectively. How about that? Sorry, but I have to say it again – couldn’t the Hawks have used this more than Etan Thomas? Well, you know what they say…better late than never, and at least this move comes around 20 games into the season, rather than halfway through.

Hold the phone, though. If you think Wilkins will be around simply as a 5 to 7 minute defensive specialist, think again. While his career shooting percentages are nothing to write home about, he can still provide some offense here and there. Few things are better coming off the bench than a guy who can play two positions, provide very good defense, and hit a few shots. Watch for Wilkins to demonstrate this as he learns Drew’s offense, and as long as the Hawks keep sharing the ball. It also gives the Hawks a good modified three guard lineup off the bench if Drew finds the matchups to be beneficial (Jamal-PG, Mo-SG, Wilkins-SG/SF being one example). This might even help matters when Marvin Williams is practicing his magic act. Perhaps the Hawks would do well to heed this endorsement:

It’s just one game, but Al is sold: “I love that. I love his intensity. I love his toughness on defense. It’s something we need. I’m saying it now: I hope we keep him and he’s with us for the long run. A guy like that can be helpful.”

The Enigma that is Marvin

After four straight good games, Marvin Williams has fallen by the wayside again, disappearing against the Miami Heat. Is this the new consistency? Nobody can expect a guy to have a good game every game, but sometimes it’s just the worst timing in the world. It’s not like he does it on purpose, but what gives? Part of the issue may be that Marvin simply does not have what it takes to impose his will on the game from any particular aspect, on a night-to-night basis. While his defense is the most consistent and effective part of his game most of the time, the team simply needs more than decent-to-good defense sometimes. In fact, now more than ever (since Joe Johnson is out), the Hawks need for Marvin to be better in at least one area, if not two. Without a good night on the boards or in scoring, the Hawks are forced to go to the not-yet-quite-healthy Mo Evans for points and rebounds, or are otherwise leaning too heavily on Jamal Crawford, who will take on the task whether it’s a good idea or not. If you think that thought is off base, then read between these last lines. Either way, the point remains – the Hawks will need more from Marvin against the better teams, and tonight is no exception. Can he deliver?

HAWKS VS. MAGIC

Last time these two teams met, it wasn’t anywhere near a blowout. In fact, the Hawks nearly pulled the victory off, sans some turnovers and missed shots down the final stretch. Some say Orlando simply didn’t shoot well and had to find other ways to grind out the win. Others say the Hawks competed and made the Magic guard them for once. Regardless of what theory you have, the real story may have been who was missing in that game. The Magic didn’t have starting point guard Jameer Nelson, and the Hawks didn’t small forwards Marvin Williams and Mo Evans. Which guy(s) makes a bigger difference for each team? It will be hard to tell, as the Hawks come into this game as having drawn the short straw, what with leading scorer Joe Johnson unavailable.

What’s bad about this is the fact that Joe had a good game against the Magic last time, shooting over 50% and posting 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Outside of his efforts, Al Horford’s efficient offense, and Jamal’s free throws, the Hawks struggled on offense. What will they do without Joe? Jamal will no doubt have a big hand in things, but the Hawks will need more from other sources. Mike Bibby’s outside shooting has been a real boost for Atlanta on most nights, and Josh Smith will need to be on as well. Can the Hawks get Al Horford going early and run the offense through him, or will it have to be somebody else?

If you ask me, the biggest challenge for the Hawks won’t be Dwight Howard. We probably already know how that is going to unfold. Drew will likely start Twin (Jason Collins) at center, and Dwight will get his. No, the problem will be Jameer Nelson. This guy is driving the Magic bus as much an anyone, and he’s proving himself to be one of the better point guards in a conference that boasts some pretty good younger ones at the position. Averaging 15 points and 7 assists per game is good, but the scary part is Nelson’s shooting. The Magic guard is hitting 49% from the field overall, and nails 40.7% from three point range. If the Hawks can’t clamp down on Jameer Nelson, look for an early blowout, as he’ll feed Dwight and those nasty perimeter shooters on a regular basis once the defense tries collapsing on him. If you don’t believe that it unfolds this way, ask the Chicago Bulls, who endured a 29-point loss at the hands of the Magic several days ago. At the center of it all was none other than Nelson, who shot a blistering 8 of 11 from the field, enroute to a 24 point, 9 assist outing.

So…

YOUR TAKE

1) How do the Hawks stop Jameer Nelson?

2) How do the Hawks make the Magic guard them, and whom do they run the offense through?

3) Can Damien Wilkins make a big impact in this game?

4) Who steps up for the Hawks in this game?

155 comments Add your comment

O'Brien

December 6th, 2010
10:52 am

Big Ray,

This game could be very different from the last one.

The first Orlando game was the second of a back to back for us, so at least we should have a little more energy tonight. Plus we have Mo, Marvin and Damien Wilkins, who we didn’t have last time.

Unfortunately, we are without JJ. Orlando will have Jameer this time, but 4 of their players have been fighting a stomach virus.

O'Brien

December 6th, 2010
10:53 am

As for your questions;

1) Not only does Jameer score, but he sets up Dwight really well. I would start Teague and Jamal. Teague won’t score like Bibby, but his job will be to keep up with Jameer as best as he can. And Jamal starting over Mo should help provide some of the offense that we lose with Bibby out.

2) Hawks should run the offense through Al and Josh early. The key is to not play timid, and also knock down the open jumpers.

3) Damien might still not be in game shape, and he hasn’t learned the offense yet. But I think he will play well on defense when he is in the game.

4) Who steps up? I think Al does. He will knock down enough jumpers to open up the lane a little bit (but I would like to see him with 10 or more rebounds).

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Rufus1

December 6th, 2010
10:59 am

Why is always about Marvin? He makes 7.5mil a year…how many good games in a row is he supposed to have? It has been made clear he should not have been the 2nd pick, so what should we expect from a 7mil dollar player.

How about Josh Smith step-up and earn the 12mil he makes….How about 25pts and 12rbs in a BIG GAME when JJ isn’t playing.

I think MW benefits when JJ isn’t their….I think Josh benefits when JJ plays. I think Josh loses sight of his place when JJ, isn’t playing.

PS. MW is a very good consistant defender, his offense is inconsistant.(ask Iggy and Gay)

Astro Joe

December 6th, 2010
11:23 am

As MC just stated, the Magic may be missing key players due to a nasty stomach virus that has decimated their team so many of these match-ups may not materialize.

If we can get close to 16 PPG from Marvin against players who don’t require his ful-defensive effort, I’ll be satisfied. Clearly, he would be able to do both, score AND defend exceptionally well. But at a middling salary for a starting SF, that’s not a realistic expectation. And given the team’s current dynamics, keeping opposing SFs below their season scoring average is FAR more important than producing points.

i_am_soulstar

December 6th, 2010
11:26 am

This’ll be a good game tonight. If Howard is still out, maybe we can win the rebounding battle for once.

Astro Joe

December 6th, 2010
11:38 am

LD seemed to get the team to play with aggression after half-time against the Heat… stop acting like they were playing immortals and start acting like they were there to compete (of course, having Horford on the court helped in the 3rd quarter). Let’s see if that talk carries over to tonight’s game. The Hawks treated the Magic like mere mortals in the first match-up so we shouldn’t see any timidity tonight. As usual, Smith needs to close-out on the perimeter-shooting PFs and not hang in the paint looking to provide weak-side help. And we should get an Etan sighting tonight (with JC2 in street clothes).

wordsmithtom

December 6th, 2010
12:15 pm

Rufus1, SECOND that thot.

vava74

December 6th, 2010
12:24 pm

OB,

Do you realize that your point 1 (start Jamal) makes it a lot more difficult to implement point 2 (focus offense on Josh and Al)?

O'Brien

December 6th, 2010
12:34 pm

vava,

Good point. Once Jamal is in the game, he determines who the offense runs through (and its usually him).

For the game tonight, Hawks can’t afford to slart slow. That has been a problem for them the last few games. And then they spend the whole game fighting back.

And if the Magic have players out, that should help the Hawks to win this game (especially if Howard and Jameer don’t play).

Speaking of Jameer, he was drafted 20th in the 2004 draft, while Josh was drafted 17th. If you had to do it over again, do you still take Josh, or you take Jameer?

Mike Woodson

December 6th, 2010
12:44 pm

Play Jordan Crawford more who cares about his defense we dont play any anyways

RealSquawk

December 6th, 2010
1:08 pm

To answer a previous question. Who is the leader of this team? Al Horford, with his endorsement of Wilkins he is speaking up and out for the teams benefit. Match that with his consistent play and you have who should be the sole captain of this team.

In order to stop Jameer Nelson let Mike Bibby start on him and let Damien Wilkins finish on him. Don’t let him drive give him his shots on the outside when Damien gets put on him his air space will completely change. Attack him on defense putting him in the post and spreading the floor with shooters in prime position. Who plays him in the post? Jamal, Marvin, Wilkins, Mo in that order.

Run the offense through Al Horford and Marvin Williams. Lets see if Al can take advantage of Rashard Lewis in the post. Pull twin out and hope he hits his jumpers so Dwight will have to respect it. Put Smith on the boards cleaning the glass. Marvin at shooting forward for the immediate kick out and then Bibby spot up for the swing.

Damien Wilkins can. Yes he can.

Are young nucleus Williams, SMith, Horford, and Crawford. With Horford leading the way. Look for Teague to provide a spark if he gets the chance.
Horford will set the tone and dominant.

Astro Joe

December 6th, 2010
1:20 pm

I wouldn’t expect every referee crew to allow Damien to defend as aggressively as he did the other night.

Astro Joe

December 6th, 2010
1:30 pm

This just in:

ORLANDO, Fla. — A stomach virus that forced the Orlando Magic to send home four key players during a recent road trip is beginning to subside.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says the team is “optimistic” that Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus will play Monday night against the Atlanta Hawks after they participated in the morning shootaround.

Point guard Jameer Nelson was at home recovering from the illness and is not expected to play.

With forward Ryan Anderson also in a walking boot because of a sprained right foot, Orlando had only eight players available in a loss at Milwaukee on Saturday. The Magic also were short-handed at Detroit on Friday.

During a win at Chicago on Wednesday, Pietrus vomited in the hallway at one point in the first half.

Astro Joe

December 6th, 2010
1:49 pm

The Hawks aren’t the only team struggling to beat quality teams in the Eastern Conference.

http://espn.go.com/nba/standings/_/type/expanded/group/2

Astro Joe

December 6th, 2010
1:58 pm

If the Hawks need a 3rd PG somewhere down the orad (assuming a roster spot is available), they could always call up a familiar name.

In mid-November, there were some clues the Grizzlies may be looking to part ways with backup PG Acie Law.

And according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, that day has now come: Memphis has indeed waived Law.

The veteran was on a non-traditional non-guaranteed contract. Usually, non-guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed in January, but Law’s became fully guaranteed on Dec. 8 — a reason why he was cut this early in the season.

Rookie PG Greivis Vasquez struggled in the summer league and was slowed by an injury to start the season. But he’s worked into the primary backup role behind starter Mike Conley, making Law more expendable.

vava74

December 6th, 2010
2:05 pm

OB,

Well, rather than, who would I chose – given that Nelson has been productive at a higher level longer than Josh, I would probably go with Nelson as an initial hunch but…

How much of Nelson’s production derives from the fact that he plays with Howard? My guess is that plenty and both (Nelson and Howard) are faulty parts which together work well.

On the other hand, my patience levels with Josh are greatly diminished after these past 3 games.

Right now I would trade him for Ibaka without blinking.

vava74

December 6th, 2010
2:09 pm

OB,

Pretty absurd initial sentence. I started with a train of thought and then got distracted.

What I meant was:

Nelson’s career, as a whole, as been more consistent, which means that knowing that, a retrospective change of the draft choice would make sense from that point of view.

On the other hand, I believe that Nelson would not function (as) well without Howard, hence, talent for talent, Josh is probably better.

Nonetheless, Josh makes me mad like hell which means that, regardless of talent, it is tempting to hit an imaginary “trade button”.

JM

December 6th, 2010
3:07 pm

Go blog Big Ray. I need to check it out more often, the MC blog is always full of gloom and doom and idiotic trade suggestions. As far as tonight’s game; if Jameer is out, Smoove plays with his head in the game, Al doesn’t back down to Howard and somebody guards the 3 line – the Hawks will have a shot.

Go Hawks!

JM

December 6th, 2010
3:08 pm

*Good*

Damn, first word!

Big Ray

December 6th, 2010
5:50 pm

Rufus1 ,

Well, linking expectations to salary, and then trying to attach that to stats…the whole thing gets REALLY tricky. If Josh should produce more because he gets around $12 mil a year, then what should JJ be doing (when not injured, that is)?

Marvin gets some heat because he’s a starter for this team, and in order for this somewhat smallish frontcourt to flourish, all three members must be playing well. Unfortunately, all three have their flaws, and when one or more is showing his flaws, it hurts us.

O’brien ,

I wasn’t aware those guys were sick. What did they do, go eat at the same place? It wasn’t Zaza’s restaurant, was it? I smell a conspiracy…. :twisted:

Big Ray

December 6th, 2010
5:52 pm

JM ,

Good to have you around, and hope you come back! By the way, good call on what needs to happen for the Hawks to win. Now can they do all of that for 48 minutes is the question….

Vava ,

That imaginary trade button will always be a tempting proposition where Josh Smith is concerned. Trust me, you aren’t the only one who has pushed it in effigy dozens of times!

Big Ray

December 6th, 2010
5:56 pm

RealSquawk ,

I’d love to see all of that. Two major questions are how hard Josh hits the glass, and whether or not Teague will continue to be aggressive against Orlando. It would have been interesting to see him get some floor time against a relatively physical Jameer Nelson. Ah well, I’ll just settle for some pushing of the pace and some great kickouts from penetration (and some very solid defense).

AJ ,

True, Wilkens may not get to play as aggressively on defense all the time, but then…he plays far more under control than someone like Mario West.

Big Ray

December 6th, 2010
5:58 pm

I think MW benefits when JJ isn’t their….I think Josh benefits when JJ plays. I think Josh loses sight of his place when JJ, isn’t playing.

I think this is true. Nice one…

O'Brien

December 6th, 2010
6:04 pm

LD needs to throw the 2 foul rule out the window tonight. Al needs a 3 foul first half rule.

As for the starting lineup, does he stick with the same lineup from the last 3 games (Al/Josh/Marvin/Mo/Bibby)? We have started slow each game.

Or does he change it up and go with Collins at Center if Howard is playing? I would start Twin. But if so, then who does he start at Forward? Al and Josh? Al and Marvin? Josh and Marvin?

I would start Collins, Al, and Josh, and bring Marvin off the bench.

mountain_jim

December 6th, 2010
7:02 pm

ESPN said that NBA channel had the game – I am there and its not true. (Hawks are blacked out where I am and I don’t have the pass)

Melvin

December 6th, 2010
7:15 pm

Big starting lineup. Nice adjustment (or try) by LD….

Melvin

December 6th, 2010
7:22 pm

Marvin should not be playing SG. I give LD credit for trying to be creative…

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
7:23 pm

I’ll take it, but that definitely was an offensive foul on Smoove, not a defensive one on Q-Rich.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
7:23 pm

Collins bullying D-12 so far. Wow…

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
7:27 pm

Crawford-Marvin-Josh-Al-Collins. Definitely the biggest lineup the Hawks have trotted out in the past decade.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
7:27 pm

Offense bogging down. Post ISOs are still ISOs. Not getting good looks.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
7:29 pm

Josh beasting so far.

Melvin

December 6th, 2010
7:32 pm

Josh is all over the place… Nice to see him this active…

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
7:34 pm

Soon as the Magic got 4 team fouls, we started shooting jumpers. Huh?

Melvin

December 6th, 2010
7:41 pm

Nice play by ZaZa. His body got in the way of Bash elbow…

Melvin

December 6th, 2010
7:58 pm

LOL… The Orlando announcer just said that Marvin is having an invisible…

Melvin

December 6th, 2010
8:01 pm

* invisible night…

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:04 pm

Etan not looking half bad tonight.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:20 pm

Ugly game so far, but up by 1. I’ll take the offensive struggles if we can keep playing D like we have been. The Magic have had no breathing room on O and that’s good.

Melvin

December 6th, 2010
8:25 pm

The lineup of Josh, Al and Collins has played well. Just imagine if it was Josh, Al and Shaq… Thanks ASKG…

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:33 pm

Horford pulling a Smoove, trying to dribble around like a guard. And it ain’t working.

lukas

December 6th, 2010
8:35 pm

OMG!! the magic’s commentators refered to Marvin as the invisible man!!

Melvin

December 6th, 2010
8:36 pm

LD may as well play Jamal along with Bibby in the backcourt because Vince is having his way with Marvin anyhow…

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:36 pm

Marvin definitely looks like he is still bothered by his knee. On his free throw, he barely bent at all.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:40 pm

Melvin, ladies and gentlemen, proving once again that he doesn’t know jack $hit about defense (not surprising, since he thinks it doesn’t matter). Vince is 3-7 with Marvin guarding him. Two of those were contested jumpers with Marvin’s hand in his face. Only 1) a complete and total idiot or 2) someone who doesn’t actually watch the game closely, would actually say that Vince is “having his way with Marvin.” But we’ve long ago established that Melvin consistently falls into one of those two categories.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:42 pm

Fall away contested jumper by Vince over Smoove. I guess Vince was having his way with Smoove too.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:43 pm

Vince misses a contested jumper over Al. Al is shutting Vince down.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:45 pm

See? Man, it would be so much easier if my analyses just consisted of “Player A has scored X points with Player B as the main person assigned to guard him. Therefore, Player B is doing a [good/bad/neutral] job guarding Player A.” I mean, I wouldn’t even have to watch the game. I could just look at the box score afterward and make my posts.

In other words, I could sound just like Melvin.

niremetal

December 6th, 2010
8:47 pm

Of course, Melvin is such a simpleton that he will think the “point” of this has something to do with Marvin being a good/bad/neutral defender. In reality, that’s not the “point” at all.

The point is simple: Melvin is an idiot.