HAWKSVILLE - We haven’t seen any in this Hawks-Heat series yet, but I can’t imagine we’ll make it another four quarters without it.
Someone has to draw first blood.
And I don’t mean the kind that comes from an accidental scratch on someone’s arm or a stray pass that cracks a guy in the mouth and causes a trickle off the side of mouth, Dracula style.
I’m talking about blood produced by a good ol’ fashioned, wicked “hard foul” served up playoff style (I keep seeing Heat backup center and wrestling superstar in waiting Jamaal Magloire in the middle of the scrum). My gut tells me we’re going to see one tonight in Game 2 at Philips Arena.
That said, no one is interested in cheap shots. That’s not at all what I’m talking about. But sooner or later you figure someone is going to catch someone else with a clean blow that draws blood (the Hawks have already handled that, figuratively, by dotting the Heat’s eye with that 26-point whippin’ Sunday night in Game 1) and the sight of that plasma will serve to inspire someone to play above and beyond their pay grade.
Forget that yarn about a series not really starting until the home team loses on its own floor. A good playoff series doesn’t start until someone gets clocked upside the head and the blood boils on both sides
There has to be some genuine disdain for each other for teams to compete at the required level to win in the postseason (the Hawks had to get their noses bloodied, figuratively, in Boston twice last year before standing up to the schoolyard bully of the league. I’m sure you remember Zaza Pachulia’s nose-to-nose with Kevin Garnett).
A slower, more physical and much more deliberate style in this series would certainly benefit the Heat, even with the great Dwyane Wade on their side. Because they showed Sunday night that allowing the Hawks, namely Josh Smith, to get to the rim unabated is bad business.
The Hawks are prepared for the increase in hand-to-hand combat. They noticed a spike in Game 1, after their lead reached 20 points and kept climbing after halftime. But that was just an appetizer for a Pat Riley-run production.
“We’re going to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Smith said. “We’re certainly not going to back down to anybody. We never have. And we’re a physical team, too.”
We’ll find out just how physical tonight, because the Heat’s goon squad will be deployed before they allow the Hawks to run wild again.
SOUTH FLORIDA REPORT
Our friends from greater Miami have been hard at work digging into the psyche of the Heat since their Game 1 meltdown and the results have been interesting (fingers have been pointed at everyone).
Miami Herald columnist Israel Gutierrez spotlighted two guys I think could sway the Heat’s fortunes in this series if they find a groove.
Palm Beach Post columnist Greg Stoda touched on Wade’s strange, second-half disappearance in Game 1, a complete departure for the league’s leading scorer. Don’t expect an encore.
LAY OFF THE YOUNG FELLA
Being the keen observer of player development that I am, I’ve noticed the similarity in the way Michael Beasley is viewed, treated and examined by folks in Miami and the way Josh Smith was, is and continues to be viewed, treated and examined around here.
And it’s the same foolishness being mistaken for true player development around the league. The last time I checked, the Heat picked Beasley because they were in the lottery and not the other way around.
The fact is, when you spend all your time focusing on what a guy does that you don’t like, you conveniently ignore all the things they do well. And Beasley’s a marvelous offensive talent with an ability to both score and rebound at an incredibly high rate when he’s allowed to just play. But judging from his season stats and all the stuff written about his up and down rookie year, you’d think he was some project instead of one of the best pure talents to come out of the draft in recent years.
All this hand-wringing being done over Beasley’s immaturity, supposedly on and off the floor, is a colossal waste of time. The Heat would be better off letting the young fella play a little bit and correcting his mistakes constructively while also benefiting from the unique blend of skills he brings to their team (a team, mind you, that was in dire need of all of the above this time a year ago).
But instead, in true NBA fashion, folks are busy trashing the kid’s name, game and reputation in the name of “breaking him down to build him back up.” I know that routine and the dues-paying system that is supposed to be in place. And like I always have, I think it stinks.
That’s also why I love what Thunder general manager Sam Presti is doing with his youngsters in Oklahoma City. Sure, there’s plenty Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook have to to learn. Allowing them to do it in an environment where they can play to their potential and through their mistakes is much more sound in the long run than that “old school” approach. The Thunder’s method should be the blueprint and the rule rather than the exception.
SELLOUT BLUES …
Much has been made about the Hawks’ spirited campaign to sell out tonight’s game, and for good reason. The Hawks rarely get the national stage to themselves, so when they do, they want to make a good impression.
And for the record, Sunday’s crowd in Game 1 was fantastic. But there’s cache with a packed-to-the-rafters arena that the Hawks simply cannot claim on a consistent basis. Our esteemed friend and blog regular Stoned Mountain (he doesn’t post as much but he emails me with his thoughts regularly) offered up his own view of the Hawks’ predicament a few minutes ago. I’ll leave you with his thoughts (which are sure to be controversial to some):
Interesting that the Hawks don’t sell out, and in fact don’t get talked about much. The reason is pretty straight forward, I think.
What the Hawks do best is not crowd pleasing here.
At the game Sunday I found myself the only person around me applauding defense – grabbing rebounds, steals, forcing the opponent to exhaust the shot clock. Team work ain’t a big hit here. The only thing that interrupted their chatter was the occasional Josh dunk. Hitting 3’s gets polite applause but not ovations. They get a little excited at a steal and break away, mostly because they think a dunk is coming.
Not ’til late in the game, when the verdict is in doubt, do they get animated.
Certain teams get them excited – the Celtics and Kobe and LeBron.
But DWade and his sidekicks don’t do it.
Not a basketball town.