The Hawks have to be asking themselves just what happened last night. The answer: a beating in their own arena that probably has the Utah Jazz feeling a bit better about the one they received at the hands of Hawks a short while ago.
There are other teams that have similar roller coaster-type seasons, but does that make Hawks fans feel any better about it? Doubtful.
Getting the offense going
The motion offense couldn’t possibly be just for getting open jumpshots. I’m sure that Drew and his staff also intend for the Hawks to get the ball inside. Getting the ball inside isn’t just about posting somebody up. It’s also about getting a player to slash to the basket, and receiving the ball on the way there. The Hawks haven’t done enough of that lately, and they certainly didn’t do nearly enough against the Hornets.
Instead, the Hawks shot jumpers. On most nights, somebody is hitting those jumpers. Last night? Pretty much nobody. I’m sure the neighborhood “jumper” watch could dig up the information on who hit how many outside shots last night, but with the team shooting a dismal 29% from the field, would there really be a point? Try as the Hawks might, they couldn’t buy an outside shot to save their lives. Few attempts were made to score inside. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Jamal Crawford were just about the only ones to try and go inside prior to the game being blown out. Unfortunately, Johnson ended up double-teamed and fouled (but no fouls called), and Smith endured similar struggles, what with New Orleans playing some pretty tough defense as well. Crawford found a modicum of success in getting to the basket on one or two trips, but managed to dribble himself into trouble more often than not. So what was the solution? More jump shots, to no avail. That’s the only problem with living and dying by the jumper. But then, could the Hawks have done any better with the personnel they had? By the look of it, it was simply an off night, and teams have those. The Hawks were also bereft of two major rotation players in Al Horford and Marvin Williams. Would things have gone much differently with both guys, or was the team simply in its worst funk of the season?
The Hawks have a good deal of size in Jason Collins (7′0″, 255), Zaza Pachulia (6′11″ 270), and Etan Thomas (6′10″ 260). None of the three are unwilling to mix it up down low. What this group lacks, however, is athleticism. It’s just one more reason why not having Al Horford hurts. When Jason Collins was unfairly ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul (the call was BS, I don’t care what anyone says), it only exacerbated an issue that the Hawks were already having – rebounding.
The Hornets weren’t shooting very well until the middle of the second quarter. What they were doing well was rebounding. In fact, they blew the Hawks out of the water with a 55-32 advantage on the glass. With Collins gone and others ineffective, Josh Smith looked to be fighting for rebounds all by himself out there. They needed more energy, if nothing else.
Which begs the question, why wasn’t Etan Thomas in the game earlier, and more often, especially with Collins out for the night? Out of the three backup centers, I’d argue that Thomas is the most athletic, which would have helped with rebounds.
It must have been contagious, this “jumperitis”, because Jeff Teague took more outside shots in the game than I can recall seeing from him. Like everybody else, he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Jordan Crawford’s attempts were no surprise at all (hey, he hit a 3), and he had the best play all game when he picked off a pass and threw down an alley oop dunk on the other end. It was nice to see him get some burn, but we all know he’ll be on the shelf again until the next blowout.
Atlanta has to get past their worst home loss since who knows when, as the travel up to Charlotte for another chance at padding that road record. The Bobcats aren’t who they used to be, but they’ll play the Hawks tough all the same.
The Usual Suspects
Penetration – The Hawks always have issues with this. Charlotte point guard DJ Augustin is among the quickest in the league, so Atlanta has its work cut out. Also, containing slasher Gerald Wallace is usually an issue for the Hawks.
Rebounding – Charlotte doesn’t have a player that averages 8 or more boards per contest, but they are still outrebounding opponents 41.9 to 39.3 on average. They’ll be without the services of jumping-jack Tyrus Thomas, but Gerald Wallace is capable of snagging upwards of 15 rebounds on any given night. In addition to that, the Hornets have 6 guys who are producing between 4 and 6 rebounds every game, so the Hawks will need a total team effort to win this battle. With Horford and Williams out, the Hawks are missing roughly 15 rebounds a game, production-wise.
More rebounds means more possessions, which means more scoring opportunities. Rebound well, and the Hawks have a great shot at winning the game.
Jumpers, Jumpers, Jumpers!
The Bobcats are not big on scoring. With an offense that averages less than 93 points a game, it’s tough to win in this League, even if you have a stellar defense. To put things in perspective, DJ Augustin is shooting better (43.8%) than the two guys ahead of him in the team scoring column (Stephen Jackson 40%, Gerald Wallace 42%).
By contrast, the Hawks have more perimeter oriented talent. However, if last night was any indication, falling in love with the jump shot (especially when it ain’t lovin’ you back) is a good way to lose a game to a team that can’t score. If the Hawks go inside to Smith and post Johnson up here and there, things should go well, as both guys should put up 20+ points apiece. However, if the team fails to do this and the jumpers are once again not falling, then the Hawks could be looking at a low scoring loss of anywhere from 5 to 10 points.
We might cringe at the idea of Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford taking turns trying to keep up with the elusive DJ Augustine, but what about Wallace and Captain Jack? Joe Johnson may end up matched against Jackson, or he could have the task of keeping Wallace from going off. Whichever he draws, Mo Evans will end up guarding the other guy. Evans will give the effort, but how ironic is it that we finally get him in a position to play his more natural spot of shooting guard, only to find him in a situation where he’s got a choice of larger small forwards to guard? Sometimes you just can’t catch a break….
The multi-talented Boris Diaw will likely be matched up against Josh Smith. Smith’s tasks for the evening will be simple:
1) Do not let Diaw outrebound and out-hustle you.
2) Force him to pick up his dribble and cut off his passing lane. He’s third on the team in assists.
3) Take Diaw to the basket every chance you get. Don’t settle for the open jumper unless you’re in rhythm, have established your presence inside, and the defense is giving you NOTHING else.
Your Keys to the Game?
Let’s hear ‘em!
By Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest Blog