The AJC’s Mark Bradley queried whether or not fans should have some faith in their team. On Sunday night, the Hawks gave the answer they’ve been giving all season : “Do so at your own risk.”
Maybe there is little reason to be upset. After all, Atlanta has all but locked up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, and they pretty much know who their playoff opponent is going to be. Then again, maybe that just isn’t the point. After beating two of the East’s top teams, they should have figured out how to win against quality opponents. Why the complete letdown on defense?
Three-headed monster strikes again…
After allowing the Rockets to hit on 57% of their shots, the Hawks were all in a scramble to explain why it went down the way it did. Enter our three team captains, who always know what the problem is. Let’s take a look at some very telling quotes obtained by the AJC’s beat writer, Michael Cunningham:
From one captain -
“We gave up too many dribble-drives, too much dribble-penetration,” Smoove said. “They scored 56 points in the paint; that’s way too many. I think if we could have closed in some of those gaps and made them kick it out to shooters, it might have been a different outcome.”
From another captain:
“We didn’t do a great job helping one another,” J.J. said. “We gave up way too many points in the paint. We didn’t play inside out defensively and make them make those shots. We made it tough on ourselves.”
And the third captain?
“We just got kind of seduced into their style of play,” Hawks center Al Horford said. “We were doing great in the first half but at some point we had to make a stand defensively. Still, we had a chance to win there at the end.”
Okay, question. Were the first two captains covering all the bases concerning their team’s defensive lapses, or were they pointing fingers? Or, is this just another example of how these guys simply do NOT view the game the same way? Your call. What we do know is that it can’t be good when a team’s floor and locker room leaders can’t get on the same page with the playoffs looming large.
The world’s worse kept secret
Has Larry Drew’s wonderful offense ever even caught on in Atlanta, or is this just a perversion. We were told that the idea was to mold this team into a group that could attack from anywhere on the court, and wouldn’t be predictable by any stretch of the imagination. I guess we should have smelled that old “Detroit Model” poison being slipped into our koolaid as we looked forward to something besides ISO Joe and ISO Jamal. Instead, the results have morphed into something that statistically has proven to be possibly even worse. Don’t believe it? Need more evidence? Well, Mr. Cunningham has it for you once again.
“They hit a lot of jumpers [in the first half],” Chuck Hayes said. “Out of 60 points, they only had 20 in the paint. So they were taking the shots we wanted them to take, they just made them.”
“They did just what we said they were going to do: isolations, post-ups and pick-and-rolls,” Rick Adelman said. “Then in the second half we came out with a much better effort defensively and then down the stretch we switched Courtney [Lee] onto Johnson. He did a great job on Johnson in the last three minutes. He made him take tough shots.”
At this juncture, it’s really too late to try something different. The Hawks are as predictable as ever on offense. Since habits die hard, what should the Hawks do? Perhaps the only suggestion is to be tougher on defense, which oddly enough, is something no opposing team can predict where the Hawks are concerned. In order to do that, the Hawks have to be cohesive on defense, something they have similar issues with on offense. The difference is, everybody has an assignment on defense, and the only deviation is who helps who, and when, something that should happen instinctively.
With Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinrich on the roster at point guard (and no Mike Bibby), there is little excuse left when it comes to defending at the point of attack. Jamal remains the only weak link, and even he has shown that he can get into passing lanes and get his hands on the ball here and there. The Hawks don’t need to be fighting amongst themselves about who is giving up too many points where. Completely differing quotes such as the ones we saw above shouldn’t even be happening. Instead, guys should be taking responsibility for their particular end of things. Substitute Joe’s quotes for Josh’s and you have the difference between being responsible and knowing what went wrong.
And there’s the rub. The Hawks always know what’s wrong. But are they truly exercising any amount of responsibility? Keep reading the post game quotes, and see for yourself. Forget “playing the game the right way.” Forget sharing the ball and taking good shots. The Hawks are going to do what they do on offense, good or bad. If this team is going to come together and STAY together, it’ll be on defense.
Agree or disagree? Let’s hear it!
Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest Blog