The Hawks are still taking it one cliched game at a time.
It’s just that this one is bigger than most.
“There’s always more energy when you play against the top teams,” Jamal said. “You get a chance to measure yourselves against the best teams and the best players. Those games are always a lot of fun. I don’t care what anyone says, they are a little more special.”
Even Woody, loathe to acknowledge that any game is bigger than the next, said this one is significant.
“You want to play your best,” Woody said. “When you play the world champions it is a test to see how you fare.”
In the big picture, the standings are the most important reason for the Hawks to get a W. They aren’t going to catch Orlando but for the first time Woody said finishing ahead of Boston for No. 3 in the East is important, too.
“It’s a major goal,” he said.
There’s also the matter of getting 50 victories for the first time since 1997-98. That seems almost certain but you never know.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t win 50-plus games if everyone is committed to finishing the season strong,” Woody said.
–The Lakers have a guy named Kobe Bryant. He’s pretty good. He’s also angry about the Lakers’ effort in their loss at New Orleans on Monday and worried they might get complacent as the season winds down.
“Everyone is on edge is I think is a good way to put it,” he said today.
The Lakers are in a sort of holding pattern. They aren’t going to catch Cleveland for the league’s best record and homecourt in a potential Finals meeting and Dallas won’t catch the Lakers for No. 1 in the West.
Bryant wants them to stay sharp, anyway. From the LA Times:
“It’s important for me to put my foot on the gas and have in our mind’s eye the kind of urgency that we need to play with in order to defend [the championship],” Bryant told NBA TV host Ernie Johnson and analysts Kevin McHale and Chris Webber. “The trap that you run into is you play with that sense of urgency when you’re down 10, 12, 13 points and that’s the kind of mentality I do not want us to have going into the postseason. You kind of lollygag around for a series and now you’re down, 3-1, now it’s time to play. You kind of fall into that false sense of security and all of a sudden it’s time to go and sometimes it’s too late to turn it on.”
– Phil Jackson said the Hawks remind him of Oklahoma City in the West.
“The Hawks have a little more experience obviously than Oklahoma City,” he said. “They are still relatively young but with Bibby, Johnson and Crawford it gives them experienced guards. Both (teams) are tremendously athletic.”
– It will be interesting to see Kobe and Jackson’s triangle against the Hawks’ switching defense. I asked Jackson about the pros and cons of that approach.
“I personally watched the San Antonio-Hawks game a week ago Sunday and Ginobili was tearing them up,” he said. “Certainly it is tough for them to guard Ginobili with one person. I started watching Josh not really wanting to make that switch all of a sudden after Ginobili goes by two or three times. That’s the issue. Who are you going to switch on Kobe? Are you going to switch somebody on who does not have the capability of staying with him. We have always admired the ability for teams to switch. It’s a remedy against what is prevalent in this league and that’s the screen-roll.”
Kobe said the Hawks “are the only team in the league that (switches), but they have the athleticism to do it.” In fact, he said the Hawks “are the most athletic team we’ll face all year.” Not sure about that but you get his point.
What are the keys to attacking the switches?
“Just understanding what their defense is doing and countering it,” Kobe said. “Our offense is pretty flexible. If we are paying attention to what they are doing, hopefully we can capitalize on it.”
– Jamal said the Hawks’ shootaround was all about defense. Kobe probably was discussed at some point.
“He’s one of the best to ever play the game,” Jamal said.
“He’s probably going to get his with the number of shots he takes,” J.J. said. “We’ve got to contain the others.”