I wrote a story about the Hawks’ road woes, trying to support my theory that the Hawks have played some of their worst road games against so-so teams in dead arenas. I’m thinking of those games at Milwaukee (the first time), Philadelphia, and Detroit and blocking out the games at Chicago (missing two starters) and New Jersey.
J.J. agreed with my take. Smoove kind of did. Al thought it was suspect because such things shouldn’t matter, in his view. Woody dismissed it like he has each time I’ve brought it up.
“I don’t look at it like that,” he said.
It’s something that’s pretty much impossible to prove but I just base it on feel. I see the Hawks ball when they are ripping and running at Philips and how the fans help them pull out Ws when they stall. Seriously, think of those times the Hawks have sagged at home, and then Jamal hits a 3 or J.J. sticks a fadeaway, and Smoove gets a block for a runout and everybody is going bananas. Suddenly, the Hawks have locked up a game that seemed in doubt.
Contrast that with how many times they make big runs on the road, only to fall back into a nonchalant attitude and blow leads. Yeah, like Woody says the poor shot selection, lax defensive rotations and turnovers don’t help but they have some of those same issues at home but then ride the wave of energy from the fans to Ws.
Anyway, the story was a good excuse to break out my stat about fourth-quarter ties and leads after the All-Star break: The Hawks had a tie or lead in the fourth quarter of 15 of their 17 road games after break. They were just 7-8 in those games, a significantly worse mark than the East’s top three seeds of Cleveland, Orlando and Boston. They did close out their last two road games, at the Wizards and Bucks.
“We know we haven’t been great on the road,” J.J. said. “But we haven’t been that bad.”
That’s probably a fair way to put it. But “not bad” wasn’t nearly enough to close the gap between the Hawks and Orlando and it explains that 15-game disparity between their home and road Ws.
– The Bucks say Game 3 is a virtual sellout but seats remain for Game 4.
– I asked Bibby about my road theory but I never did get a chance to get back to him on it. (Bibby is one of those dudes who if he doesn’t feel like talking, there’s no use forcing the issue)
“I don’t know,” he said. “It kind of depends on how we start.”
I got to thinking about that during the Lakers-Thunder game last night. The Lakers were taking it to the Thunder early and Doug Collins said he thinks how visiting teams start playoff games is the most important factor.
“I just think it sets the tone,” Collins said. “You look at what happened here tonight this crowd was electric, they still are, but they were deflated early.”
Of course the Thunder came back to win that game, and home teams have pretty much rolled through these playoffs. So maybe I found a road theory more half-cocked than my own.
– Computer issues and print responsibilities made me late to the blog game today. I started to collect a bunch of links but realized Brett LaGree at Hoopinion already has done the work. Instead of stealing those links, I will just send you to LaGree. Good stuff in there.
– No dinner plans for Stack and Smoove.
– I offer this link not because of the story, but because of that first reader comment. It reminded me of my blog people.
– They just brought up Josh’s comments about Milwaukee during ESPN’s Celtics-Heat telecast. Doc Rivers: “I was trying to figure something negative to say about Miami. But it’s too nice here. That’s the negative. You don’t want to come to Miami because it’s Miami.”
That’s pretty much the same sentiment I heard expressed by lots of non-players in the Hawks organization when it was between Milwaukee or Miami for first-round opponent. The concern is justified. Too much Miami fun was a factor in the Mavericks blowing the 2006 Finals. That’s why after after Dallas blew Game 3 and lost Game 4, Avery Johnson sequestered players in a Fort Lauderdale hotel two-to-a-room.
When the Mavs came back to Miami during the ‘06-’07 regular season, I was working on a story about the perceived advantage the Heat enjoyed because of opponents partying before games. I asked Jason Terry about it in regards to the ‘06 Finals but figured there is no way he would go there. Instead, he gave me what might be my favorite quote in 12 years as a hack:
“It ain’t no big secret,” he said. “We come to Miami to party.”