Hawks schedule: Bring the pain

It’s probably a little early to be talking about how the Hawks will do in the second half, to finish the season. All-star Weekend hasn’t even come and gone yet. Then again, 51 of 82 games have been played, and that only leaves 31 games to be played, so why not? Of the remaining 31 games, 14 are road games. Of those road games, only 4 of them are against winning teams (Lakers, Knicks, Blazers, and Nuggets). But don’t let that fool you. Some of those “losing” teams are quite dangerous, and have the ability to take the Hawks out if they’re not careful (or worse, if they’re not healthy). A perfect example is the Houston Rockets. The Hawks struggle against teams that have sound fundamentals, play solid defense, and more than anything -  have good rebounders. On the other hand, Atlanta is sometimes a victim of their own lax defense. High scoring teams that catch fire in transition and from the perimeter can have a field day if/when the Hawks fall into lethargic mode. Examples include Golden State and Phoenix. That brings up another point – the West has been pretty tough, so those teams that are hovering just below .500? They’re all dangerous. Those just above .500? They earned their way there.

Here’s where things can get tricky: the Hawks have 17 home games left. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Hold the phone….11 of those games are coming against opponents with winning records. And not just teams with records that are a couple games above .500. No, we’re talking the Lakers, Spurs, Heat (twice), Celtics, Bulls (twice), and Thunder. What do these teams all have in common? They all have a better record than the Hawks do. Atlanta has yet to meet up with Chicago and L.A., but Miami, Boston and Oklahoma City have already beaten them this season. The road ahead could get really bumpy for the Hawks. Or maybe it’s not the road they have to worry about. What do you think?

How the Mighty Have Fallen…or so it seems

One and a half games. That is all that separates the Hawks from the Bulls. It’s also what separates them from the Magic. As long as Derrick Rose and at least one of his talented teammates (Boozer, Deng) remain healthy, the Hawks will have a rough time catching the Bulls and reclaiming their status as the East’s third seed, which they managed to obtain last season. But enough of the Bulls, what about the Magic? Who knew this would be the case at this stage of the season? Take a close look at the standings. Orlando’s schedule may be a tough one (or it may not), but as of right now, you can’t deny the facts. The Hawks have the better record. They’re better on the road, better in the Eastern Conference, and better in the Southeast division. Are the Hawks really better than the Magic? Maybe this is a better question – are the Hawks better, or are the Magic simply worse? With the season record notched at one victory apiece (and both of them pretty close games) and only one contest between them remaining, the Hawks have a chance to prove themselves the better team. Then again, the Hawks swept the Boston Celtics during the regular season last season, and we all saw how that translated to the postseason. So would beating the Magic 2 to 1 on the season (and finishing with a better regular season record) really prove anything? The Magic are most definitely not the Celtics, but they still figure to be the better playoff team.

Why is this even important? Simple. If the Hawks can’t overtake the Bulls, and the Magic can’t overtake the Hawks, guess who is going to meet in the first round of the playoffs? The 4th and 5th seeds. Hawks. Magic. First round of the playoffs. The perfect storm, and NOT in a good sense. Stay tuned, Hawks fans….

It Begins Tonight

Tonight’s matchup features Atlanta versus Philadelphia in the Highlight Factory. Right now, the Sixers aren’t getting a lot of press, but they’ve always played the Hawks pretty tough. In fact, I’m not sure I can remember a time that the Hawks were able to blow this team out of the water. Two things make the Sixers dangerous for the Hawks – their guard play, and the fact that they are currently a 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. If you want to know what a sad state the Eastern Conference is in, just look at Philly and Indiana. Both teams are below .500, but if the playoffs started today, they’d both make it to the dance. Compare that to the West, where one team above .500 wouldn’t make the playoffs today, and that one coupled with two more, have better records than both Philly and Indy. Just look at the next three teams that would supposedly mount a challenge for the last two playoff spots in the East: Charlotte, Milwaukee, and Detroit. The Bucks were supposed to win the Central Division. Not going to happen, not even close. The Pistons, well they’re a hot mess all the way around. What happened to the Bobcats? Proof that star power does not equate to management genius, I say. Anyway, the Sixers won’t easily give up their current spot, which means they’ll be willing to fight anybody and everybody to remain a postseason invitee.

Matchups and Pitfalls

When the Sixers last came to the Highlight Factory (back on December 3rd), it took an exemplary performance from Marvin Williams and good supporting efforts from Al Horford and Jamal Crawford to pull out the win with Joe Johnson watching from the bench and wearing a suit. The Hawks didn’t shoot well, and got beat on the glass as well, but the bench was a big key to the win.  

Now, the Sixers have to deal with a very dangerous, very healthy, red hot Joe Johnson. Everybody’s healthy and ready to go. What do the Hawks need to do to win? First, they have to isolate and contain Andre Iguodala. He’ll likely get his anyway, but the Sixers feed off of the plays they run for him, exploiting his fluid game and supreme athleticism. Second, they’ll have to keep Elton Brand from returning to anything like his old form (which doesn’t happen a lot these days). Make things easy for Brand and allow Iggy to run around as he pleases, and it will only be easier for the Sixers’ more marginal players. Third, neutralize the high energy qualities and play of Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner. Both guys are willing defenders, rebounders, and chasers of loose balls. Every loose ball is a possession for the Sixers that the Hawks don’t need to give up. These guys can run, so they can score in transition. What’s an Atlanta weakness? Transition defense. Finally, contain Lou Williams as much as possible. Williams won’t likely be stopped by the efforts of Jamal Crawford or Mike Bibby. So that leaves Joe Johnson and…….Jeff Teague. Can Teague get in the game? Can he have a positive impact like he did last time? Or is he that far buried behind the rotation? One thing is for sure – if the Hawks backcourt struggles on offense as well as defense and Teague doesn’t get any burn, it won’t make Larry Drew look too good.

With Samuel Dalembert gone, there isn’t much to stop Al Horford and Josh Smith. Both guys should be able to have an impactful game on offense, especially if neither one gets too jumper happy. Pound the ball inside and work the inside-outside game. Marvin got to the free throw line 8 times in the last contest. He showed it can be done.

359 comments Add your comment

Astro Joe

February 8th, 2011
1:39 pm

#1 Value Meal with a Chocolate Shake.

hawkfan2

February 8th, 2011
1:42 pm

Hmmm… I believe the Hawks have to go to Chicago as well as a road team with a winning record . They also already have played Orlando three times (leading 2-1) with one left, but other than that it is all good. Go Hawks!!!!

Astro Joe

February 8th, 2011
1:43 pm

76ers have been playing well of late… they are quietly sneeking up on the Knicks in the standings. Last season, the Hawks finished first in the SE division (remember the shaved eyebrows) and 2nd in the conference at the All-Star break. If they do a little better than .500 against a tougher schedule, they will hit 50+ wins.

Meanwhile, to bring this forward from the previous blog…. Melo to the Lakers?

http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/news/story?id=6101304

jp

February 8th, 2011
2:20 pm

I’m hoping the Hawks can get Teague to step up otherwise this team will be once again doomed in the playoffs. Bibby is old and unathletic. Isn’t that what Drew was brought in to do or do better than Woodson. Develop young talent?

MannyT

February 8th, 2011
2:25 pm

There was a baseball commercial that said “Chicks dig the long ball.” The pro athlete equivalent is that “Players dig the long haul.” Don’t let your Falcons perspective dilute the Packers opportunity. Orlando made a big move to go for a championship. If they right the ship, they have a higher ceiling than the Hawks this year. Unfortunately, it is harder to imagine the Hawks getting to the NBA Finals.

In the interim, if the Hawks win 1/2 their games, their win total will be in the upper 40s. The real question is can the Hawks step it up in the playoffs? Do we need to make a move before the trade deadline or do we roll with the team we have? Getting to the same place in the playoffs (or worse) with the same guys is worse than trying something different and getting the same result.

Astro Joe

February 8th, 2011
2:38 pm

MannyT, an attempt to improve the roster would obviously be welcomed and a very pleasant surprise. I’m still of the opinion that the ASG (and several other owners) have been waiting for the new CBA to take effect before setting a new course for their franchise. So unless they are trading comparable contract lengths, I think we’ll see this same “sacred core” on February 25th.

ATL FAN

February 8th, 2011
2:45 pm

We NEED that 3rd spot in the East, Knicks will prove easy to get by, and we’ll at least have a chance against the Heat. We just need to continue our run and also beat the Bulls in our 3 matchups against them

ATL FAN

February 8th, 2011
2:46 pm

Also, the West being a much better Conference overall is nothing new

MaxxHawk

February 8th, 2011
3:00 pm

Will we have a Jeff Teague sighting tonight?

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
3:25 pm

If Melo goes to LA, do they have enough balls to go around for Kobe, Gasol and Melo? I think Melo either ends up in NY at the deadline, or Denver keeps him for the season.

Right now, I think Hawks can beat the knicks, but if the Knicks get Melo at the deadline, then I would have to reconsider.

As for the schedule, Hawks have 7 straight road games starting on Monday. A 5-2 trip would be nice.

@ AJ,

I think this Hawks roster will be the same roster in the playoffs, but I think Orlando makes another move at the deadline.

The only move I think the Hawks might make this offseason is Jamal. If the new CBA is favorable, they may try and resign him. If it’s not (or his price is too high), then they will let him go, and resign Mo Evans to split the backup SG spot with JC2.

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
3:29 pm

Big Ray,

Hawks lead the season series with the Magic 2-1, with the 3 games decided by 4, 6, and 10 points. And the final game against them will be in ATL. If Hawks can win that game, they win the series 3-1 and have the tie breaker.

As for the game tonight, we need Bibby to make shots. Because if he is missing, it gives the sixers a chance to run, and Bibby will be a major liability.

Iggy will do what he does, but I think the Hawka play well enough for one quarter to win.

MannyT

February 8th, 2011
3:33 pm

@AJ
Even under current CBA, Al gets a raise next season. I doubt we go over lux tax unless we make it deeper into post season, so someone has to go. You can make that move now & try a new player or two, or you can wait until the summer and let Jamal walk (unless they can trade someone with a sizable salary, most likely Marvin).

Hawks have a chance in playoffs, but as Ray’s post notes, there is much work to do between now & season’s end.

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Barry

February 8th, 2011
3:43 pm

Records do not mean a thing. You have to play on the court everyday in the NBA.

doc

February 8th, 2011
3:44 pm

i think that the owner’s are playing their hand with the promo for season tix: if you buy now you can hold your playoff ticket cost to 32 bucks for the whole series of games through the nba championships. now, if they think they are going to make a run for it this year would they bet to lose that revenue to lock my money up or are they trying to get me to look the other way and hold my money while the CBA is fought over and hammered out? i think they dont expect to go far based on this particular sales bit.

m.t.baker

February 8th, 2011
3:56 pm

MannyT

I disagree with you. If we change it and get the same it’s not better than staying status quo and getting the same results. Because if we change it up then that means we probably will be stuck with bad contracts or one and dones and that will put us at a even deeper hole when it comes to finances and trying to build this team for the future.

ATL FAN

February 8th, 2011
3:57 pm

lol Barry, records mean everything. Playoffs, how well your season has been going, how consistent you are, etc

Astro Joe

February 8th, 2011
4:02 pm

MannyT, it all depends on the model of the CBA. They could try to force down salaries like the NHL did… even if there is a hard cap, the ASG has less expenses in that scenario. Or, they could conceivably gamble that they could void a contract like the “Alan Houston” rule from a previous CBA. I just think that they may not want to gamble on the unknown. It appears that they are poised to have their ducks in a row once the CBA is nailed down. They have extracted the Hawks from the agreement with the city regarding the arena… so they have greater financial flexibility from that move. They could even get a little scratch from their lawsuit with the lawfirm that “botched” the contract. And then they would have whatever they gain through the CBA. (Who knows, they may have “disposed” of the Thrashers by then also). With all of that and a head coach in the last year of his “smallish” contract, they would appear primed to make a big move. Do they disrupt any of that by rolling the dice in the next 2 weeks? I don’t think so. But again, I will be cheering virtually any move that changes the sacred core (and ideally the stagnant culture).

doc

February 8th, 2011
5:33 pm

all we need is j smash to show up at every game. simple formula.

oh and the ugly duckling to turn into a swan and stay healthy.

Astro Joe

February 8th, 2011
5:48 pm

Yeah, when you look at the Shooting Stats section, it is easy to see hwo much better the “ugly duckling” can do with his 8 shot attempts. The extra point per game from better 3 point shooting ought to be worth maybe 5 more wins.

http://espn.go.com/nba/team/stats/_/name/atl/atlanta-hawks

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
7:05 pm

AJ,

I dont think the Hawks have much flexibility regardless of what the CBA says. Even with a voidable “Alan Houston” contract, the Hawks have noone to void.

As for off-season trades, JJ and Al are not going anywhere and Marvin has little value around the league. Bibby will be expiring, but we can only trade him if we get a PG back in return and Jamal’s contract will be up.

So to me, our only option is to trade Josh and another piece if we want to change the team dynamics.

nire,

Jeff Schultz will be blogging live from the game tonight. I’m sure you’re looking forward to his article after the game :smile:

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:12 pm

O’brien ,

Yeah, saw that after I finished the blog….nice correction. I think a tie-breaker does nothing for us against Orlando. We fact them in the playoffs, we face elimination. They’re the better playoff team until we can prove otherwise.

As for making a move, I don’t see it happening until this offseason, and after the CBA. But that’s just me.

Well, we’re without Al again. Hmmmm….

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:13 pm

Bad move by JJ to start the game. He got himself caught in a difficult double team and it leads to a turnover.

Uh-oh, Bibby missed his first shot, and Marvin just watched his man go by, and Josh with an errant 20 footer. Oh brother….

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:14 pm

Home game, Schultz blogging live….

I’m guessing it’ll just be you and me, Nire ….

Nire? Nire!

:lol:

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:18 pm

Need to get Zaza involved in this game offensively. We also need him to give us some help on the boards.

Melvin

February 8th, 2011
7:23 pm

Hawks looks awful to start this game…

Melvin

February 8th, 2011
7:26 pm

Boooooooooooooo….

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
7:32 pm

I thought the motion offense was supposed to cure these low quarters? We will be luck to score 15. And to think, we have been off for a couple days.

Meanwhile, bad play by teague. 6 turnovers for the Hawks already.

Hawks were down 18 to the Sixers last game before rallying to win. Do they have another rally in them without Horford?

niremetal

February 8th, 2011
7:35 pm

Wow. Down 33-15, but it’s even worse than the score indicates.

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
7:36 pm

Jodie Meeks was picked 41st in the second round of the 2009 draft. Our 49th pick? Sergiy Gladyr.

I hope Sergiy pays off for us down the road.

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
7:38 pm

Oh Oh. Our assistant coach mentioned the “E” words. Energy, and effort.

And he mentioned attacking the rim. This team hardly attacks the rim…

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:44 pm

Well, this is going wrong in spectacular fashion.

Teague gets on the good side of that call. I thought they’d say it was an offensive foul, but nope. I’ll take it.

Meanwhile, Josh is getting himself into foul trouble, and the rest of the team looks pretty dang funky, especially on defense. Yuck.

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:46 pm

O’brien ,

The motion offense does cure low quarters. There’s this little thing called execution….

Of course, we could just take this tactic – “We just missed shots”

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:46 pm

That was one sweet coast to coast move by Marvin. Gimme more! Gimme more!

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:48 pm

Hot dang….Jordan Crawford? In for Jamal? Somebody tell Hades to check his thermostat…

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
7:49 pm

3 SGs in the game. JJ, JC2, and jamal.

Meanwhile, jamal is 2-6 in 11 minutes.

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:50 pm

Key stat :

Sixers have 21 rebounds.

Hawks have 8 rebounds.

Marvin Williams has 4 of those rebounds. Marvin came to play. Not sure about any other frontcourt player…

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
7:52 pm

Lou Williams was taken with the 45th pick in 2005. At 31st, we took Salim.

I thought Salim would be the player Lou Williams is. Boy, was (the Hawks) and I wrong.

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:52 pm

Nire ,

You’re right. It’s worse. As in, 50 to 25. Our own commentators are starting to clown the team. This is piss poor. Simply piss poor.

No defense, lackluster offense.

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:54 pm

Sixers didn’t come into this game hot. But we sure let them get that way.

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
7:55 pm

Meanwhile, after Bibby came back in the game, the Sixers extend the lead from 19 to 27.

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
7:56 pm

But as bad as Bibby looks on defense, the rest of the Hawks look worse on offense.

JC2 went 0-4 in his brief stint, and we kept missing…

Big Ray

February 8th, 2011
7:57 pm

Somehow I think it’ll take more than one good quarter to pull this one out. Pretty sad when ‘Nique is talking about getting the deficit under 20 points before halftime.

Whatever happened to Smith being our energy guy and the kickstarter on defense? The six assists are nice, but they hardly make a dent in a 25+ point landslide….

niremetal

February 8th, 2011
8:00 pm

Josh generally has poor games against Elton, so it’s nice to see him stepping up a bit. He took a few poorly-selected shots, but that is the LEAST of our problems.

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
8:00 pm

JJ with 4 turnovers, to go with 6 points. he is off tonight, evne missing some shots he usually makes.

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
8:01 pm

Hawks lost by 41 to N.O., at home.

And now we are down 29 to the sixers. At home.

What will be the excuse this time? Can Rick really wait until the playoffs to see what the Hawks can do?

niremetal

February 8th, 2011
8:02 pm

Ray,

I’m frankly happy with what Josh is doing tonight. He has never been able to score on Elton (who’s just too strong and too savvy for Josh to take inside, which forces him into being a jumpshooter), so playing the role of distributor is a good approach for him to take. Of course, it would be nice if everyone stopped acting like Elton is able to stop EVERYONE from scoring inside. He’s a good on-ball defender but a terrible help defender, so it shouldn’t affect the others.

Melvin

February 8th, 2011
8:03 pm

Hawks shouldnt even play the 2nd half. Just mail in the score…

OOGADALA

February 8th, 2011
8:04 pm

OOGADALA GOIN OFF!

O'Brien

February 8th, 2011
8:08 pm

Bibby; 13 mins, 5 points, 1 assist, 1 reb, +/1 of -17

Teague: 6 mins, 4 points, 1 steal, 1 rebound, +/- of -5.

Since we are down 32, why not give Teague extended minutes with the starters, and see if he shows anything positive?