The Hawks sure do sound confident about playing the Magic. Not that I thought they’d say they are worried or anything but a more measured tone might be expected after last spring’s beat down, the extenuating circumstances surrounding the three previous meetings this season and Atlanta’s issues since the All-Star break.
It’s that last part that had Smoove playing down what tonight’s game might mean for the likely rematch in the playoffs.
“The playoffs and regular season are completely different,” he said. “We just want to play consistently right now.”
L.D. and J.J., meanwhile, obliged media types looking for that playoffs angle.
Joe: “We’ve played them pretty well during the regular season. Obviously the playoffs are a lot different but
we know we can play this team.”
Drew: “I think it’s definitely a carryover. We want to approach this game like it has true meaning, which it does. Win, lose or draw we have to come out and establish ourselves and compete and play hard. The last thing you want to do in a game like this is not play with an aggressive instinct. The way we gave played in the month of March we don’t have any room for that. We have to come out and we have to be the aggressor from start to finish. ”
Al’s view falls somewhere in between: “I think it will be a good test for us. I don’t think that determines everything but we have to come with that [playoffs] mentality.”
This is all just talk, of course. The Hawks generally executed a sound plan against the Nets and Cavs which, while certainly better than the alternative, did little to answer questions about this team’s ability to do so when there is more resistance.
So the talk about the Magic must be backed up with action, though I’m sure my blog people welcome such talk if it increases the chances that the Hawks will be ready for this.
“I think we got embarrassed so bad in the postseason last year when we play this team we know what to expect and I think we tend to play a little harder,” J.J. said.
- L.D. is using the Hinrich, J.J., Josh, Al, Twin lineup. Jameer will play for the Magic.
- L.D. and Hawks players all seem to agree that the big lineup has made the difference vs. the Magic: “I think big Jason Collins has done an unbelievable job on them each time we have played,” Joe said, adding that he was a little unsure about the alignment at first. “I didn’t know how it would work but it has really played into our hands.”
- Al on Atlanta’s increased confidence vs. Orlando: “It’s all about match ups. I feel the time we have played them our bigger guys like Zaza and Jason have done a good job on Dwight. He’s obviously having an MVP-type season but we have been able to play better with a bigger lineup.”
- Josh on one benefit of the big lineup: “Defensively it helps a lot because with Dwight setting those mean picks, I can guard him fairly well. I mean, not as well as big men, but probably better than most threes when make the switch.”
- Drew on the plan: “Obviously with Dwight, he’s a load. You have to really be refined on what you are doing against him. This team is a really good 3-point shooting team. Our game plan going in it won’t change from the first three times we played them. We have to do a good job with Dwight [and] we have to do a good job defending the 3-point line.”
- Drew on the post-trade Magic: “They’ve gotten some rhythm. The guys they’ve gotten in the trade have certainly gotten acclimated to what they do. That was just going to be a matter of time. We knew that. Turkoglu can cause a lot of problems with his size and ability to handle the basketball and make plays. Arenas is very capable. Richardson seems to be playing at a high level. They are a tough ball club. They have got weapons all over the floor. We can’t let Dwight go crazy and at the same time we have to do a good job defending that 3-point line.”
- Orlando media types tell me Arenas has lost much of his explosiveness in addition to struggling with his shot. So much for rejuvenation: Arenas’ player efficiency rating, offensive win shares and field-goal percentages, already at or near career lows with Washington this season, have declined even further with the Magic. Sounds like a job for Teague.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat