Archive for April, 2010

Atlanta Hawks: Game Matters (Update: Hawks Clinch Third Seed)

Shaq is back just in time for the Hawks. Well, maybe. (John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer)

Shaq is back just in time for the Hawks. Well, maybe. (John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer)

(Edit: The Celtics lost at Chicago Tuesday, so the Hawks clinched the third seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Heat beats New Jersey at home tonight, then the Hawks would face the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. If the Heat loses and the Bucks win at Boston tonight, then the Hawks would face the Heat. If both the Heat and Bucks lose, then the Hawks would face the Bucks.)

So Shaq is cleared to play for the first time since Feb. 25 but that doesn’t mean he will return against the Hawks. Coach Mike Brown is tempted to play LeBron James, too, but that doesn’t mean he will give in:

“They probably wouldn’t play the whole game on Wednesday, so are we going to be that much better because they played 20 minutes together?” Brown said. “Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. I keep going back and forth.”

If you’re wondering why Brown would even consider sending out either guy when the Cavs …

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Atlanta Hawks Squawks: Hawks 104, Bucks 96

Milwaukee– I told Smoove I thought this was the Hawks’ best road effort since they won at Utah way back on Feb. 22. He thought about it for a few seconds before agreeing. “Probably so, all-around. We pretty much led the whole game. Even though they went on a run in the second half, we didn’t bend. We kept fighting. We kept with our game plan and used our advantages.”

– And, what do you know, one of those advantages was stout defense. The Hawks were active and energetic from the jump. I don’t recall seeing many lulls. The Bucks stayed in it by making tough shots and scoring off some loose ball scrambles. They didn’t stay in it because of lax rotations, half-hearted closeouts or any of the other lapses we’ve seen from the Hawks lately.

– “Everything was solid from beginning to end,” Woody said. “We are going to need that the rest of the way. We’ll face Cleveland on Wednesday and then we’ve got to get ready for the playoffs.”

– It’s hard to find anything the Hawks did poorly. …

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Atlanta Hawks at Bucks: Too Much Fun Preparing For Games? (UPDATE: Crawford out with toe injury)

Woody's mad and Jamal is hurting. (AP Photo)

Woody’s mad and Jamal is hurting. (AP Photo)

Milwaukee–(EDIT: Jamal Crawford (toe) is out. He said he hurt his right toe late in the Wizards game when (he thinks) big JaVale McGee came down on his foot while challenging a shot. He said he had turf toe during his New York days but that injury was “much worse” than this one. Crawford hopes to play Wednesday vs. Cleveland even if the game has no bearing on seeding for the playoffs.)

Tense scene at Hawks shootaround today. Woody was going over the Hawks’ defensive rotations and he felt some players were taking the lesson too lightly. So Woody told them in salty terms he didn’t see what was so funny considering opponents had been exploiting the Hawks’ in that very situation late in games.

Woody headed for the bus without talking to reporters. (Edit: In pregame Woody said: “That’s my time. That’s time for me and my staff. I don’t want to have to keep repeating myself because that means you’re not listening.”)

Clearly he’s not …

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Atlanta Hawks Squawks: Hawks 105, Wizards 95

Washington– The Hawks never really did lock down on D. That might sound harsh considering the Wizards scored 17 in the final quarter but they missed a few open shots from my perspective. At one point I looked out there and Jamal seemed to be the only guy really getting after it defensively.

– But the Hawks pulled out a road win over a hot team (hey, hot by Washington’s standard), and that’s got to be the bottom line no matter how they looked doing it. The Hawks play a tough game at Milwaukee on Monday and carrying an eight-game road losing streak into the playoffs would have been a big burden.

– The Hawks improved to 6-8 in road games since the All-Star break when they have a lead or tie in the final period. “We’ve played well enough on the road to win but little things have been hurting us,” Woody said. “Tonight we buckled down when we had to. That’s how we did it early in the year. We’ve got to get back to that heading into the playoffs.”

– Crawford’s 28 points included 13 …

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Atlanta Hawks at Wizards: Suspenseful Standings

Washington–The Hawks aren’t watching scoreboards in Milwaukee or anywhere else because, really, what’s the point? With just three games left in the regular season the Hawks still don’t know if they will get the Bucks, Heat, or Bobcats in the first round of the playoffs.

“We are just concentrated on what we need to do,” Woody said. “Everything else will take care of itself. I think this thing is going to come all the way down until Wednesday, I really do.”

Further muddling all the playoff jockeying is neither Milwaukee nor any of the “bad” teams are laying down.

The Bucks somehow have won four in a row since Bogut’s injury. The ramshackle Pistons followed up their victory over the Hawks by going into Miami and beating the Heat. The Wizards turned back the Celtics here last night thanks to Shaun Livingston (remember him?).

This game is shaping up like the last time the Hawks were here, and remember how hard they had to work for that W. In addition to Livingston, guys like …

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Hawks squawks: Hawks 107, Raptors 101

Greetings-

Ken Sugiura sitting in for MC. Mike will be back at you Saturday from Washington.

Hawks are at home, hence, they win. Punch in, punch out. Given the way they floundered in Detroit, I wasn’t so sure of their chances tonight against Toronto.

But they took it, thanks in no small part to a huge second quarter. Jamal was his electric self, nailing 4 of 5 3-pointers and scoring 15 points. Said Al Horford, “I would say Jamal Crawford happened.”

- Credit also Zaza Pachulia, exceptional ball movement and good work on the glass. Of the Hawks’ 15 baskets in the quarter, 10 were off assists, and they had 13 second-chance points. The Hawks missed 11 shots in the quarter and had seven offensive rebounds.

Raps coach Jay Triano: “We just didn’t box out, and that was really our downfall.”

- Much of the rest of the game wasn’t much to look at. In the other three quarters, the Hawks shot 21 for 62 (33.9 percent), including 2 for 16 from 3-point range. I’m not quite sure what to make …

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Johnson back in lineup for Friday

Hawks guard Joe Johnson will return to the lineup Friday night after missing the past three games with a sprained right thumb.

Johnson practiced with the team Friday morning at the team’s shootaround at Philips Arena in preparation for the game against Toronto. His thumb was heavily taped.

“It’s alright,” Johnson said of his thumb, which he injured last week in the team’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers. “It’s not where I really want it to be. It’s still sore, but that soreness is going to be there for quite some time. Just trying to help the team reach one of our goals, that’s trying to solidify the third spot.”

With four games remaining, the Hawks are tied with Boston for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference at 49-29. The Hawks need to finish ahead of the Celtics in order to take the third spot, as Boston owns the tiebreaker by virtue of being a division champion.

Without Johnson in the lineup, the Hawks went 1-2, beating Detroit last Saturday to run their home winning …

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Hawks Squawks: Pistons 90, Hawks 88

Austin Daye is one of the Pistons fill-ins who beat the Hawks. (AP)

Austin Daye is one of the Pistons fill-ins who beat the Hawks. (AP)

Auburn Hills–No excuses for the Hawks this time. The Pistons saw the Hawks missing their leading scorer (J.J.) and raised them their top three (Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey, who left the game early).

– In 15 road games since the All-Star break, the Hawks are 5-8 when they either had a lead or a tie in the fourth quarter. Of those games, tonight was the fifth time the Hawks blew a lead in the final two minutes.

– After this latest collapse the Hawks sounded much the same as they did following the others. “Same thing,” Mo said. “We just relaxed a little bit and got careless and thought we had the game in the bag and we let it slip away.”

– “We self-destructed again coming down the stretch,” Woody said. “We’ve got to figure it out.”

– And it’s not simply a matter of getting one of their closers back in J.J., who after all was on the floor for six of those eight blown road losses. “(Even) …

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Atlanta Hawks at Pistons: Bibby’s back, J.J. rests, Pistons show life

Bibby is back in the starting lineup vs. the Pistons. Zaza is available. Collins is not. J.J. is out until at least Friday vs. Toronto. Woody said: “If Joe had to play, he could play. But this gives Joe an opportunity to rest as well. He’s not played as many minutes as last year but he’s still top 10 in minutes played (he’s actually 11th). That’s OK. He’s not burned as much as last year and hopefully that will help for the playoffs.”

Rip Hamilton (ankle) is out for the Pistons. So are Tayshaun Prince (personal), Jason Maxiell (back) and Chris Wilcox (hamstring).

– Other than the daily injury tidbits, it seems the Hawks are in a sorta holding pattern. The Magic clinched the Southeast. The Hawks’ race with Boston for No. 3 in the East looks like it could come down to the final couple games. There’s lots happening elsewhere, though, starting with the Pistons.

Coach John Kuester apparently finally lost it and lit up his team during a practice. Charlie Villanueva, a $35 million …

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Hawks Squawks: Bobcats 109, Hawks 100

Charlotte–Well, what to make of this one? You could hate on the Hawks for coming out with no urgency though they needed more of it without J.J and Bibby in the lineup. Or you can look at their 64-50 advantage in the second half and praise them for at least not folding.

– Shoot, I don’t know, maybe it’s something in between? “We didn’t come out ready to play,” Woody said. “It wasn’t pretty in the locker room at halftime. I thought we came out and played Atlanta Hawks basketball in the second half but the effort came too late.”

– The Bobcats raced out to a 21-8 lead and were up 34-14 after the first quarter. The Hawks had no energy, cohesion or communication. “We got off to a sluggish start,” Smoove said, and if you saw it you know that’s an understatement.

– The Hawks certainly looked like a different squad after halftime. Too bad they were already buried under Charlotte’s dunks and layups. “I don’t think we came out with enough energy to stop that early,” Al said.

– Another …

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