BOSTON - Live from the Hawks’ second home the past year … seriously, has any team spent more time in another team’s town the past 11 months than the Hawks have here in soggy Boston?
Another couple of days here and the Hawks will need to start paying taxes.
Lucky for them this is probably their last tryst with the Celtics until next season (no more Duck Tours or Big Baby Davis for at least a year).
Coincidentally, this is their last weekend to try and climb off the mid-major express and move over to the predatory side of the Eastern Conference.
Tonight’s game against the Celtics and tomorrow night’s home tilt against the Orlando Magic presents the Hawks with two final opportunities to knock off the big boys.
Another inspired defensive effort like the one against the Lakers last Sunday and the Hawks might finally get the leprechaun off their backs or pay back the Magic for those back-to-back beatdowns administered a couple months back.
Another eyes-wide-shut showing like the one given in Philly Tuesday night and someone better find the map back to sanity for as one of one of our regulars likes to refer to them, “Team Fragile.”
I believe in embracing a challenge, however daunting it might seem. That’s why this second straight double-shot weekend looks more like a monster opportunity to me than it does a major hurdle.
If the Hawks are serious about being a player in the playoffs – and despite their continued inconsistency on the floor, they remain steadfast in their comments to the contrary off the floor – they can go a long way towards making sure their actions and words are in sync with some stellar play in the next 36 hours.
1 - One thing that keeps coming up this time of year for playoff bound teams is who they might face in the postseason.
That means the Hawks spend as much time worrying about the team’s directly below them in the standings as they do worrying about themselves.
A good friend and advance scout from an Eastern Conference team that’s been in the playoffs the past few years warned me this afternoon that there is no more dangerous development for a team still in the shallow end of the playoff pool.
“We wasted a lot of time and energy on that very thing a couple years back and almost lost our spot in the standings the last two weeks of the season because we were locked in stuff that was out of our control,” he said. “You can tell the teams that lost focus this time of year by the fluctuations in their play. One night they look great and the next you wonder how it he world they’re even in the playoff mix. That’s the sign of a team that isn’t totally licked in on the task at hand. And that’s a team that’s vulnerable now and in the playoffs.”
I can think of five or six teams, the Hawks, Heat and 76ers included, that fit that mold these days. All three of those teams are busy jockeying for position, hoping to land the seed they think allows them the best first round matchup.
My scout friend makes a great point. The more time you spend foolishly spying on the competition, the less time you spend focusing on finishing the season with a bang.
2 - The back bug continues to bite the Hawks on the backside. No Acie Law IV again and no Marvin Williams anytime soon, per Hawks coach Mike Woodson at shootaround today.
Woodson has maintained a positive stance in regards to the lower back injuries that both players are dealing with. And to be fair, Williams wasn’t expected to return anytime before the final week of the regular season and the start of the playoffs (at best).
Law’s injury, though, is starting to worry me if only because there doesn’t appear to be anything that can be done to expedite his recovery at such a critical time for this team. You remember the Hawks’ struggles in the playoffs last year at the point guard position don’t you?
And for all the work Flip Murray has done in relief this season, his attention needs to be on scoring above all things, particularly with the playoff matchups looming (I’m predicting Flip has a field day against Philly or Miami in a series).
A change-of-pace point guard could be the difference in a seven-game series, just ask the Celtics if it made a difference against the Hawks last year when Rajon Rondo became the Most Important Player in the series.
With Law nowhere to be found, or at least not in a uniform, that leaves the Hawks vulnerable at that crucial position once again this weekend and going forward.
3 - So let me get this straight, the confidential drug screening that goes on during the NFL combine every year has turned up yet another handful of transgressors?
Just exactly what qualifies as confidential in NFL circles anyway?
I’m sure Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji would love to hear how that supposed to work since he’s been identified as one of the alleged transgressors.
Since there’s no way Raji or his representatives are going to engage in any air-clearing discussion about it, the kid is automatically considered guilty by the public without anyone knowing what actually took place and why someone chose to make it public. (I know this is off track from our normal conversation but indulge me for a minute, please.)
4 - Lost in the hoopla surrounding his explosive offensive night against Philly (some video evidence here courtesy of our friends at YouTube) was Josh Smith keeping his 100-block season streak alive for another year.
And while his block numbers are way down this season compared to his totals from the past, he collected 200 or more in each of the past three seasons, he remains one of the league’s most unique stat stuffers.
His two blocks against the 76ers gave him 101 for the season, giving 100 or more for five straight seasons.
In addition, Smith is one of only four players in the league to pile up at least 85 steals and 85 blocks this season. Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Cleveland’s LeBron James and Denver’s Nene are the others.
5 - You are not alone Hawks fans. You’re not the only group of fans out there doing the Watchmen routine on your own team.
My main man Broderick “BT” Turner from the Los Angeles Times has a fan Q&A on the paper’s website right now that is a must read for fans of teams whose teams aren’t on track for 60-wins this season.
Silly me for thinking our priorities were out of line around here for questioning how the bench is used and why Solomon Jones doesn’t see regular rotation minutes on this team. The Lakers are the second best team in the league and their fans are worried about the same sorts of things.
Maybe we’re on the right path around here after all.
Don’t forget, Hawks-Celtics at 7:30 live from TD Banknorth Garden. Chop it up with the rest of the blogfamily here now all the way through the final buzzer.