Hawks look for a win, Heat look for a pulse

Dwyane Wade surrounded.

If Miami guard Dwyane Wade felt somewhat surrounded in game one against the Hawks, it's only because he was. (Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com)

Winnersville — Thought I’d check in early today because I went to the shoot-around (basketball term) and didn’t want to drive back home outside the perimeter, which would necessitate me turning back around to go to the game in a few hours and, given 400 traffic, would get me to my seat with approximately two minutes left in the first quarter.

The themes this morning were about what you would’ve expected.

1.) The Hawks do not want to take a step back.

2.) The Heat are determined not to play to the tempo of dirge again.

The most pointed comments probably came from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, who, after briefly addressing potential adjustments and player rotations, said: “The most important thing is we come out with the right mentality, physicality and intensity. The way we were scrapping to get that fifth seed in the last three weeks – we didn’t have that in game one. We can talk about all of the offensive adjustments, rotations, playing time – all that stuff. Nonef that matters. You can drop kick that out the door if you don’t come with any intensity.”

Tonight should be interesting, not just from the adjustments standpoint but the psyches of the two teams. Game one was a smackdown. The Hawks’ Joe Johnson has been on the other side of that score before. When I asked him what the mindset of the athlete is coming off a loss like that, he said: “You just want to try to come out the next game and match their intensity. We were so eager to get out there and play — we just came out of the gates flying. You know what I mean? We were pressing, picking up full court. That’s tough [for another team to deal with], and we still had a lot of energy and we were feeding of the crowd and the energy in the building.”

Can the Hawks duplicate that intensity in game two?

“That’s going to be the challenge,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a little tougher to duplicate that. The first game you’re always very high energy, very eager and desperate to get that first win. So now in game two, this is another challenge to see if we can duplicate that.”

SO WHAT WILL MIAMI DO? Not sure that this qualifies as a hint about how the Heat will try to attack the Hawks’ defense. But here’s what Dwyane Wade said after the morning practice: “They guard the rim pretty well with athleticism. It seems like they’re always around the basket. They give us something. A lot of the time, it’s the mid-range jumper, and you either hit or miss. We’ve got guys who can hit that shot. They just didn’t hit it Sunday.”

BACK TO THE SIDELINE: I watched game one on TV. One thing that stood out: Spoelstra looked lost. He didn’t have his team ready at the start. He failed to make any adjustments as the Hawks pulled away. The coaching battle was unquestionably won by Mike Woodson. A frequent poster who goes by “Snowman” posted a comment on my Josh Smith column the other day, saying: “How in the world did the Heat coach get 3 times more COY votes than Woodson is beyond me.”

Honestly, I wasn’t aware of the voting breakdown until I looked it up. But coach of the year awards often are determined, at least in part, by expectations-to-results ratio. The Heat went from 15-67 last year to 43-39 this season — the seventh-greatest win improvement (28) in NBA history. The Hawks improved by 10 wins, 37 to 47.

Even with that, Spoelstra finished only seventh in the voting, Woodson eighth. The award was won by Cleveland coach Mike Brown. Here’s the breakdown, for those who haven’t seen it:

Coach (Team) Votes: 1st place 2nd place 3rd place Points
Mike Brown (Cavaliers) 55 21 17 355
Rick Adelman (Rockets) 13 24 14 151
Stan Van Gundy (Magic) 13 20 25 150
Nate McMillan (Trail Blazers) 15 14 10 127
George Karl (Nuggets) 11 16 14 117
Jerry Sloan (Jazz) 9 9 6 78
Erik Spoelstra (Heat) 2 8 19 53
Mike Woodson (Hawks) 1 3 3 17
Phil Jackson (Lakers) 1 3 3 17
Doc Rivers (Celtics) 1 2 4 15
Vinny Del Negro (Bulls) 1 1 1 9
Larry Brown (Bobcats) - 1 3 6
Scott Skiles (Bucks) - - 1 1
Tony DiLeo (Sixers) - - 1 1
Rick Carlisle (Mavericks) - - 1 1

PRE-GAME DINNER OF CHAMPIONS? Just came from the locker room. In case you were wondering what the Heat is feeding on before they try to even the series: They’re passing around a huge bag from Chick-fil-A. Presumably, they have to make other plans for a Sunday game.

5 comments Add your comment

Ted Striker

April 22nd, 2009
6:22 pm

First things first: Who voted for Skiles, DiLeo, and Carlisle?

Secondly: I’m crushed. Our lingerie football team, ‘The Atlanta Steam’ is having to leave town for Charlotte because they can’t find a venue? Couldn’t we all live with one less monster truck rally or Fall Out Boy concert? Unbelievable. For what it’s worth, I have a LARGE back yard, white paint, and lots of lawn chairs. So, if Chassidy Luke (5′7 125, Safety), Suzanne Berkshire (5′10, 124 QB), Christiana Aronstam (5′6 102 WR), Justene Jaro (5′5 117 CB), and Dawn Jaro (5′2 104 lb RB and SISTER OF JUSTENE!!!!) among others — are reading this……drive down 316 till you get to Athens & swing by. I assure you, we’ll work everything out.

JSS

April 22nd, 2009
6:24 pm

Blah… Blah… Blah… Yours are just useless words masquerading as being insightful… Please stop wasting space… Where’s a real sports commentator when need one?.

Somebody Has To Say This!!!

April 22nd, 2009
7:17 pm

Jeff

I’m back; seems like you’re trying to pull a 180 on us with your sudden fondness for the Hawks. I’m not surprise though I am encouraged by your effort. It’s amazing what effect a bad economy, job security and writer’s competition can have on a person’s attitude. As I evaluate your article, I must call it the way I see it, your article is some what informative. However, as a cautionary, if this is the old bait and switch routine you are playing, I will call you out so be careful. You really don’t want me calling you out. As I have demonstrated, I have a very sharp pen.

Now let’s say this together, one … two…three GO HAWKS!!! :)

irishmafia

April 22nd, 2009
11:49 pm

I guess that coronation of the Hawks will be delayed -perhaps by a real NBA team and real coach.

Snowman

April 23rd, 2009
12:18 am

Jeff, the Heat were 52-30 and the NBA Champs in 2005/006 season (by the way, the Hawks were 26-56). Then the Heat were 44-38 the next season, 2006-2007 (the Hawks were 30-52). The Heat were 15-67 in 2007/2008 season (w/no Dwayne Wade…the Hawks were 37-45) and finally the Heat were 43-39 with Dwayne Wade back this season and the #2 pick in the draft (The Hawks were 45-37 with no starter free agent pick-up in the office season and no real Big Man pick up and NO DRAFT picks!!!).

In other words with Dwayne Wade back their record was about the same as before he was injured and lost an entire season and Shaq left as well.

In other words, I still don’t know how Erik finished with 3 times more votes than coach Woodson, but that’s just me!!!…Go Hawks!!!…