New York–So the Hawks had a meeting Wednesday and basically called each other out for not being mentally tough enough. They said that when there are defensive breakdowns guys spend less energy covering for each other than they do griping. Instead of staying with the effort, they give up.
– Al was as skeptical as anyone that anything would come of it. “A lot of things were talked about,” he said. “You go out and do it, you feel good about it. I feel like we did it at times, sometimes not. The Washington game and this game, I’ve really seen it.”
– In regards of focus and intensity, the Hawks have improved in the last two games no matter the strength of their opponents. Clearly the Hawks opened the game with more bounce against the Wizards and Knicks. It’s hard to explain but you can just see it in the way they deflect passes, run the floor, crash the boards, and both move the ball and take care of it.
– “We are helping each other now,” Smoove said. “We are having fun again, sharing the basketball, communicating. I think if we can put a string of games like that together, we can have a successful season.”
– Give the Hawks credit, but I’ve got two caveats. One is that the Knicks and Wizards just aren’t good enough to cause Atlanta the kind of frustration that comes from playing its best but still having to be precise and persistent for long periods. The other is that there’s energy and effort but then there are the limitations of the roster and how L.D. uses what he’s got.
– The latter came into focus during New York’s comeback. With Josh on the bench, the Knicks relentlessly attacked on pick-and-rolls and found little resistance at the basket. This was because Smoove is the team’s best deterrent at the rim, Bibby and Jamal offer little in the way of on-ball defense, and the guards were not in tune with Al and Zaza on the coverages.
– “We blew some defensive assignments, which we didn’t do the first half,” L.D. said. “We had some breakdowns. Some baskets they got in the second half, we did a good job with in the first half. With Josh, we know we can have a breakdown and he will erase our mistakes.”
– With Felton wreaking havoc by easily getting in the lane, L.D. never did call on Teague. It’s too hard for the Hawks when the opposing guards are penetrating and Al or Smoove are constantly being pulled out of position to help.
– I’ve snooped around and so far all I can gather is Teague’s reduced role is nothing more than coach’s decision.
– The fourth foul called against Josh was questionable. The fifth one was terrible. “You seen them,” he said. “It’s tough. They were tough calls but you really can’t speak on things like that or they will fine you. Hopefully they will look back and see those fouls. It’s always tough, especially when you know where youv’e got to be on the floor with defensive assignments and the way you help. Those two fouls were definitely frustrating for me.”
– Marvin got the bench excited when he threw thunder down on Turiaf. He was noticeably more aggressive, willing to go to the hole and the boards, so maybe the knee is feeling better.
– Same thing goes for Mo, who made three key baskets in the third quarter and mixed it up on defense. “When [Josh] went to the bench, I knew we would have to get the energy and intensity from somewhere else,” L.D. said. “Mo Evans played big during that stretch.”
– Jamal and Al had their pick-and-roll game working. Jamal clearly loves New York, where his flashy style and scoring eruptions are still beloved. Knicks fans groaned when Jamal was left open for a 3 with the Hawks lead down to 75-71. They knew he wasn’t going to miss that.
– “It’s always fun to come back here,” Jamal said.
– J.J.’s scoring struggles are becoming a big problem because now he’s wrecking Atlanta’s flow. There are times he’s just not in sync with what his teammates are doing and the ball stops when it gets to him, just like last season. It’s as if the more he struggles, the more he slows down his game as he thinks about what he can do to get a good shot instead of realizing he’d get plenty if he swung the ball around.
– But Joe did have 10 rebounds and seven assists with no turnovers. “I had to be effective some way,” Joe said. “I couldn’t make a damn shot. I just try to make up for it with defense, rebounding, getting guys shots. A lot of times they double me whether I am making shots or not. So I am just looking for open teammates.”
– It seems opponents have finally figured out Al is money on mid range jumpers. Lately they’ve prevented him from facing up as easily. “They are being more aggressive on me and almost forcing me to make other players and pass it out,” he said. “It’s just something I am going to have to adjust to. I’m unselfish enough that I am going to get the ball and kick it out quickly.”
– Bibby is still crafty when working the little two-man games on the wings. He got himself a couple open 3s doing that with J.J.
– Funny that Mike D’Antoni sounded like L.D. did the other day: “”Looking back, guys took off for Thanksgiving, we were feeling good about ourselves and we weren’t quite ready for a 1 o’clock game. It was against a good team. It is not a team you can do that, hang around and win anyway.”
– I’m out, Hawks fans.