Phoenix– Woody, subdued and contemplative at this morning’s light practice, acknowledged that his strategy of playing his starters heavy minutes was a big factor in the Hawks’ loss to the Suns last night.
“I did something last night I haven’t done all year in terms of playing six guys,” he said. “I really thought we could beat those guys like that but it backfired on me because their second unit beat us.”
The Suns’ reserves took it to the Hawks in the fourth quarter. The Hawks’ reserves other than sixth man Jamal Crawford watched the entire second half from the bench.
Despite going with the starters plus Jamal for those 24 minutes, the Hawks managed just 30 points, missed 20 of 33 shots and were beaten 27-17 on the boards. Jason Richardson was the only Suns starter to play more than four minutes in the fourth quarter.
“Their second unit is probably their best defensive unit and they climbed up in us,” Woody said.
Woody stuck with his six-man rotation even though Hawks vet Joe Smith sparked the team in the first half. He had seven points and four rebounds in six minutes and was active rotating out to Phoenix’s shooters.
“Joe Smith surely should have played more in the second half based on how he played early on,” Woody said.
Making matter worse for the Hawks was a poor shooting night. Joe Smith, Smoove and J.J. combined to shoot 19 for 37; the rest of the Hawks were 11 for 39.
Add those numbers to the Hawks’ 50-36 deficit on the boards, 15 turnovers and Phoenix’s 52 points in the paint and it explains how the Hawks lost despite holding the Suns more than 20 points below their league-leading scoring average.
“We couldn’t make shots,” Woody said. “We got good shots, shots we normally make. That put some pressure on our defense to get stops, and we did get some. But our offense worked against us. We have not seen too many nights like that.”
I asked Woody if the offensive problems were related to the specific matchup with the Suns or if there are adjustments he can make going forward. He kept coming back to his six-man rotation.
“I had to see something for myself,” Woody said. “I condensed things last night almost like it was a playoff game, when your backs are against the wall and you have to have one. I blew out six guys trying to do it. I can tell you it won’t happen again.”