Rebound and then run. That will be the Hawks game plan against the Cavaliers Friday night at Philips Arena.
The Cavs featured Anderson Varejao, who leads the NBA in rebounding. The Hawks must contain the center, especially from keeping possessions alive on the Cavs’ offensive end.
“We just have to make sure we put on body on him as much as we can,” coach Larry Drew said. “He is the best rebounder in the league right now. The numbers speak for themselves. We just have to make a conscious effort to make sure we get a body on him every single time. He has a knack for getting to the glass and keeping balls alive. He’s just a guy you have to be concerned with and know where he is at all times. It’s going to be important the our big guys are conscious about putting a body on him.
Varejao leads the NBA with 14.9 rebounds a game.
According to Hawks center Al Horford, his team will also need help from the guards, including starters Jeff Teague and Devin Harris. With Kyle Korver (back spasms) out, the Hawks will be smaller in the backcourt.
“For those two guys it’s going to be a challenge to get those long rebounds,” Horford said. “Kyle is a good rebounder, under-rated. He’s a really good perimeter rebounder.”
Harris told me following the morning shoot-around that the Hawks will look to push the tempo even more with two point guards on the floor at the same time. But first they most control the rebound.
“Instead of leaking out to emphasize the fast break we really have to make sure we secure the ball first,” Harris said. “(Varejao’s) a guy that keeps a lot of balls alive, tips a lot of balls out. Those 50-50 balls, we have to make an emphasis on getting the majority of those.”
Then the Hawks will run. Harris will be making his fourth start of the season. Drew is expecting the Teague-Harris tandem to start the game with the energy that was lacking in Wednesday’s win over the Bobcats.
“It doesn’t change a whole lot,” Harris said of the offense with the point-guard tandem. “We still want to push the ball. Obviously, Kyle is a focal point in transition trying to get him open shots, open looks. We’ll still push the tempo. We might be a little quicker within our transition offense.
“We want to play a little faster. Obviously we want to get as many easy buckets as we can. With two point guards I think that will probably happen a lot more tonight.”
* Drew said his biggest challenge of the night is preventing his team from looking past the struggling Cavs. Without Kyrie Irving, the Cavs are 3-12 and have lost four straight. Coach and players are aware that the Cavs lost a two-point decision at the Heat earlier this week.
“We can’t take their record for granted,” Josh Smith said. “We have to go out there and play aggressive and play up to par or otherwise we’ll lose this game.”
* Anthony Morrow, who suffered a quad contusion is Thursday’s practice, is still a game-time decision.
* Drew said the loss of Korver and the questionable status of Morrow could lead to some minutes for rookie guard John Jenkins.
“We’ll see how the game is going,” Drew said. “We also have to see Anthony Morrow’s status. There is a possibility that (Jenkins) could get some minutes tonight.”
* The Hawks are going for their seventh straight victory tonight. Trivia question. When was the Hawks last eight-game win streak? It’s something they will go for Wednesday against the Nuggets should they defeat the Cavs tonight. The answer – The start of the 1997-98 season (Oct. 31-Nov. 18, 1997) when the team started with 11 straight victories.
- Chris Vivlamore