This may take more than a wing and a prayer

Maybe the Hawks should let "Spirit" man the post area in Game 3. And he can bring friends.

Two games into their playoff series against LeBron James and his slightly closer-to-mortal teammates, the Hawks are about where most expected they would be: down 2-0, with three injured starters classified as game-time decisions, and the rest merely struggling with self-esteem issues.

At this point, they might want to re-evaluate their strategy and expand the roster to include all creatures in the animal kingdom. Maybe let “Spirit” the Hawk loose again in Philips Arena. He can even bring his friends this time.

“Yeah, hopefully this time we can train him to fly into their bench,” said Josh Smith.

“Scratch their eyes out!” said Randolph Morris. “We need to get zookeepers to bring 10 of those things.”

They need something. The Cleveland Cavaliers have won their first six playoff games by an average of 18 points. They have won the first two games of this series by 27 and 20. The worst part: That actually makes the series look closer than it’s been.

The initial objective was to make a series of this. Now everybody is just trying to escape with all major organs intact.

If nothing else – and there may be nothing else – they can try to draw on history for inspiration in Game 3. They responded well to humiliation in last year’s playoffs. They followed two lopsided losses in Boston with two wins at home and, implausibly, ended up taking the eventual league champion Celtics to seven games.

This was the scene last year when the Hawks got off the canvas and won Game 3 against Boston.

This was the scene when the Hawks rebounded from misery against Boston and won Game 3.

But seeing three starters — Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Marvin Williams – leave practice early Friday because of ankle or wrist injuries and schlep into the training room for treatment, didn’t create much in the way of positive foreshadowing.

“You can talk about what happened last year,” Smith said. “But in the end, you have to be able to bring it.”

Game 1 was bad. Game 2 was scorched earth. The Hawks trailed by 24 points at halftime and 36 in the third quarter.

Smith was 2-for-13. He spent part of practice Friday working on his three-point shot. We’re not sure if that’s good news or bad news.

Johnson, Smith and Mike Bibby — the team’s three biggest offensive threats — combined for only 29 points. Johnson, who has had a mostly miserable post-season, left Game 2 in the third quarter with an ankle sprain. He later was wheeled into and out of an X-ray room in a wheelchair.

On Friday, he lumbered around in a walking boot.

Progress?

“We’re excited,” Mo Evans maintained. “We’re in the hunt. We still feel like we’ve got a great chance of winning this series.”

Everybody waited for the punch line.

As for the first two lopsided games, Evans said: “No matter how big the losses are, we didn’t do so great in Miami, either. And they didn’t do so great here.”

But the Hawks acknowledge Cleveland is on a different level than Miami. Finding offense is only part of the problem. The other is slowing an opponent that’s averaging only 96 points per game and hasn’t even been pushed yet.

They could use some help. But it won’t likely come from “Spirit” the mascot. He has been tethered to his handler since going for a joy ride in the Miami series.

But somebody going by “SpiritTheHawk” on Twitter did respond to a message Friday. He said his game plan “may include chewing through scoreboard wires or LeBron’s new shoes. And Cavs may want to wear precautionary beakguards.”

Any help would be welcome.

52 comments Add your comment

Mike Lum

May 8th, 2009
6:14 pm

Go Hawks! But it’s gonna be tough with everyone hurt.

HawkDawg

May 8th, 2009
6:35 pm

This is a nightmare! Dear Lord, make it STOP! Thank GOD for the Falcons!

Tony from Stone Mountain

May 8th, 2009
7:06 pm

Please God heal our players!

Tony from Stone Mountain

May 8th, 2009
7:07 pm

Heal their Bodies and their Minds!

Danny

May 8th, 2009
7:55 pm

it’s over Jonny

alsim

May 8th, 2009
8:59 pm

Go Mike Woodson! Go somewhere else!!

BTW, Rick Pitino is making himself available.

Dante Fitzgerald

May 8th, 2009
9:01 pm

LOL @ Rand!!! LMAO!!!

Disgusted

May 8th, 2009
9:19 pm

The last post I see is Danny’s: “It’s over Jonny”.
Want some breaking news, Danny? IT WAS OVER BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED!!!!

I was so disgusted yesterday, I couldn’t keep watching until the 10′th minute in the 1st quarter! I AM DONE WITH THE NBA! I AM DONE WITH “CEASAR” STERN AND HIS KINGS AND QUEENS!

Noticed the MVP presentation? He was sooo exited he almost wed his pants! Noticed how he tried to touch King James’s arm? Like he was afraid to be called for a technical himself!!!!

ESPN’s broadcast was more of the same!!! Only about KING JAMES. Even during the game they needed to broadcast an interview one of those a$$lickers had with the King. The game didn’t matter. To their defense, for what I was able to digest from the game, I heard 2 comments that even for them seemed too much to be able to explain to normal people, other than King James suckers:
1/ after Smith’s 2nd foul called against King J., one of them at least had to admit it was a bad call!
2/ a couple of moments later, the other reporter had noticed that the Hawks had already 5 fouls against them, while “the Cav’s haven’t had one WHISLED against them!” You notice the difference? “not whisled against them”, meaning the refs saw them but choose (? sic?!!! – were ordered???) to ignore them.

A play or 2 later, one of the Cav’s was called a travel! Noticed how King James reacted? He was ordering the refs around! Reaction: Zaza’s lay-up was called a travel as well. Of course!! The Hawks could have come too close!

Anyway, that did it for me! I switched channel to “Disney Channel” – those shows have more reality in them then watching such a sell-out they call sport!!!

I read all these comments about what was going on with JJ. Maybe one of you, soft “reporters” should ask him if he had heard already before the Heat series that they wouldn’t make it. Would you play if you knew the game was sold anyway?!!

To all fans of the real game of basketball:
SHOW YOUR DISGUST WITH THESE PREFIXED GAMES – STOP PAYING YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY FOR SOME TICKETS – BOYCOTT THE GAMES UNTIL THE HOLY STERN RESIGNS AND THE REST UNDERSTANDS THE FANS WANT TO SEE “REAL” GAMES, INSTEAD OF PREFIXED!!

Nothing against our team, they worked their a$$ off the whole season (well, most of it anyway). Go Hawks!! BUT SHOW THE DA##ED NBA YOU HAVE ENOUGH OF THIS!! DEMAND YOUR REFUNDS OF YOUR TICKETS – HOLY STERN AND KING JAMES MAKE ENOUGH ANYWAY.

I am soooo disgusted I won’t watch another game of NBA in my life, so help me God!!!

Ned Bartlett

May 8th, 2009
10:29 pm

Jeff:

Just a week ago, you were ready to “validate” Woodson and the job he has done as coach of the Hawks this year merely by winning a series they should have won against an undermanned Miami team, even though the Hawks lost games at home and on the road by double digits during that series and were within 1 game (a game 7 in Atlanta) from losing the series to Miami. At the end of that series, I made the point that the Hawks play too inconsistenly to be considered well coached. After two blowout losses to Cleveland, are you ready to reconsider your anointing of Woodson based upon the series win over the Heat and realize that the Hawks may need to replace Woodson and rework their roster if they are to become serious about winning something beyond the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks are simply too inconsistent to be considered a very good team, and Coach Woodson is the person responsible for this!

Jeff Schultz

May 8th, 2009
10:51 pm

Ned, I never nominated Woodson for Coach of the Year anything. What I said was, yes, a playoff series win validated the season and him as a coach because nobody expected more from the Hawks this season. The Hawks lost a home but they also won a road game, and a Game 7 — a game that a lot of people they would lose, following what happened in Game 6.

Anthony

May 8th, 2009
10:58 pm

TO ALL MY FELLOW HAWKS FANS,
We got our butts kicked these last 2 games and we were supposed to. It doesn’t look good but I’ve always tried to look at the good in everything. It’s time for our hawks to suck it up and bring it. I still say on our court with our fans behind us we can win. We need to rock the house Saturday night and let the world know we belong here. There are plenty of other teams who would love to just have the opportunity to still be playing. Let everyone else be against us. I believe in us. DO YOU TRUE HAWKS FANS?

Anthony

May 8th, 2009
11:04 pm

Ned,
I would tend to agree with you some but I’ve learned something. During these games where they have had the coaches wired you can hear Woodson telling the players what to do but they are not doing it. Some of it may be coaching but the players have got to be man enough to do their job and show some pride in what they do.

JoeP

May 8th, 2009
11:13 pm

I thought I was going to read something with some sort of journalistic value regarding what the hawks may do to better the team and take us to the next level but nope here we have yet another Schultz lame attempt at comedy… try again

intellibird

May 8th, 2009
11:20 pm

I hope that our bench players have had a long practice today, learning the things that they should have been learning all year long. As I read in the AJC (Wednesday), Joe Johnson has played more minutes this year than any other player in the NBA.

No wonder the poor fella was getting wheeled around in a wheelchair the other night.

Hopefully, our bench guys can find a way to compete with the Cav’s tomorrow night.

Go Hawks!

scottbravesfan

May 9th, 2009
12:13 am

The NBA is the worst league of all the major sports. There is absolutely no parity in the game at all. Cleveland is going to win the East and then play the Lakers in the west. That’s what the NBA wants and that’s what they will get. I would love it if the NBA finals are Nuggets vs. Magic or something like that just so ABC, ESPN, and David Stern would cry about it.

James

May 9th, 2009
12:41 am

Mike Woodson isn’t the problem why the hawks are losing it is the players. The hawks team isn’t built to win the championship they don’t even have a legitimate center, Al Horford is a power forward that have him playing center I think during the offseason GM Rick Sund need to see if he can somehow pull off a trade in the draft to get Hasheem Thabeet out of Uconn he is like 7′3 and could be the hawks center for a long time like Mutombo was then they could move Horford back to his right position PF.

As for re-seining Mike Bibby I would say don’t do it they can get Rafer Alston from Orlando and save money and get a backup like Earl Watson from Oklahoma City.

David Smith

May 9th, 2009
12:41 am

I see these next two games as a mini championship series on our floor. This team plays much looser on it’s home floor and, should make game three a much tougher affair for the cavs. I hope we can show some pride saturday and the Nba leaves the refs who screwed us the last time they played us here (bs call that lebron converted one free throw for a 88-87 win). GO HAWKS!!!

jackson

May 9th, 2009
1:32 am

The Hawks are a good team, but Lebron James is great. Its as simple as that. Trust me, I’d rather the Hawks were in the West, and could compete in the finals against the cavs…but nobody on the hawks (or any other team) can beat LeBron.

Josh Smith is amazing. He’s the Domonique of today. But LeBron is the Magic and Michael. The Hawks are exciting, but are the Cavs of four years ago. Don’t lose faith Hawks fans. You have some great players, some building is necessary…but you have got some great players for sure.

jt in dallas

May 9th, 2009
2:57 am

James, I’ll agree that the players play and the coaches coach. However, the coaches also make the decisions as to whose in the game at any given time. At some point a coach has to realize that a certain player is not on his game and he should try someone else. Also, he has to recognize when a certain strategy is dead in the water and that perhaps it’s time to try something else. What I saw was a pathetic attempt to make the old Iso Joe work, even after falling behind by 36 points (do you think that’s why Joe sprained his ankle?).
I really think this team has the talent go a long way; but with another coach. Changing situations demand changing your strategy. The Hawks are S-O-O one-dimensional offensively, that a high school team could easily scout these guys and KNOW to double & triple Joe and the team is sunk. They also know that for Joe to go one-on-one other players, such as Josh will stay out of position so as to not clog up Joe’s penetration area. That’s why Josh takes three’s rather getting post up position.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a coach who could teach a good inside out offense that keeps Josh & Al closer to the basket, posting their man, and run Joe off picks to get open shots (rather than Joe using most of the shot clock, then when he can’t get his shot he has to dump it off to an out of position player, such as Josh, who is forced to take a shot outside his range.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Woody could stay, he just needs to be an assistant because he is NOT head coaching material.
I sure hope I did not mince any words here.

jt in dallas

May 9th, 2009
3:08 am

Another glaring issue here is that Woody’s no track mind (I meant 1 track) does not afford his bench players to get ANY experience with the core players. So what happens when a starter is hurt and a bench player is tossed into the fray? Has Woody ever thought about this? Is he stuck in a time warp or what?
We are in the playoffs with players who have been worn down by the rigors of a long season (and playing too many minutes in the first place) and now they are getting hurt. Guess what, Woody. Now you’ve got to play those players that you refused to develop and they’re only used to playing with the other bench players in practice. Makes for bad timing doesn’t it?
What an idiot!!! The ASG must be getting this guy to coach for peanuts, otherwise, they would get a new coach by the next game time.

Cavs Fan

May 9th, 2009
6:11 am

Seems to be an effort here to deny reality. The Cavs are a better team than the Hawks, it isn’t any more complicated than that.

There isn’t a position on the team where the Hawks are more talented than the Cavs, especially if you consider the back-ups at each position. The Cavs have former starters to bring in to the games when they give a starter a rest. Frankly I haven’t even heard of these players the Hawks are starting in place of injured players.

As far as the criticism of Woodson for not playing back-ups when a starter struggles… the same people would howl with outrage if said back-up struggled and would write that you have to dance with what “brung” you to the dance. After 82 games and a play-off series you don’t suddenly bench starters to play no names with no experience. You’re just trying to blame someone for the teams poor performance. The Hawks don’t compare in talent to Boston, Orlando and Cleveland.

Success doesn’t come over night. This is King James 6th year and Danny Ferry has done a masterful job finding complementary players to play the kind of game James plays. Boston stunk until Ainge acquired Garnett and Allen to compliment Paul Pierce, and they already are on the downward side of the curve due to the age of all 3 players.

Orlando is the next Eastern power. Who knows how good they would be now if they had Jameer Nelson. Look out next year.

The Hawks went out to a superior team last year in the 1st round. This year they have made the second round and moved up 4 spots in the standings to secure home court advantage in the 1st round. There seems to be a lack of patience permeating Atlanta.

Match the Hawks up player by player with any of the top 4 teams in the NBA (Lakers, Boston, Orlando and Cleveland) and try to honestly claim they are of the same caliber. You can throw in Denver too as well.

There is a huge element of luck involved in player acquisition. One never knows for sure if a players past history will be an indicator of what they will do with their new team. “Mo” Williams was not known for his defense before he came to the Cavs yet was able to adjust his game to what the Cavs demanded of him. When the Cavs tried that with Larry Hughes, Hughes was completely unable to fit the role. He could neither play adequate defense or subjugate his game to James.

If it makes you feel better to scapegoat Woodson then I guess you will do that, but the next Coach will have the same roster of players that have quit in the 3rd quarter of the first 2 games of this series. He will still have a bench of no names and he will still have no superstar to build around. At that time you will run him out of town too, and then you can do it again with the next Coach.

truth-serum

May 9th, 2009
7:24 am

truth-serum

May 9th, 2009
7:26 am

Looks like Schultz is making an attempt to hinder my comments. Schultz are you a man who can dish it but cant take it?

jacket3

May 9th, 2009
7:30 am

With the officiating so bad through out the entire league….and a team that will dominate the NBA finals…the struggling Hawks are just practice for Cleveland. Only the Lakers have a chance against them…and the Lakers are a good team. The Cleveland Team is GREAT. Two games 20+ point leads by the half. The Hawks are decimated….no chance here.

Sadly now we have cheap whistles and missed blatant fouls…This isn’t the way you play a sport….this is the World Wrestling Federation with a basketball.

truth-serum

May 9th, 2009
7:35 am

James

May 9th, 2009
12:41 am

Good thinking. Ive said all year long that the Hawks need a center and that the playoffs would come down to a half court game. You cant win in the NBA without a Bonafied center.

Good scouting.

The only issue I have is will he be NBA ready or a project that could hit or miss like Koncak. Certainly the Hawks have all the supporting cast in place. I do think that the window of opportunity for birds is about five to six year to get a crown. It may be best to get someone more established if the Uconn center is not NBA ready. Lets face it Z is only good for 5-10 mins and is slow with no lifts. Hes not a shot blocker and theres no way we can win a title without protecting the middle.I like your suggestion. How would you package a trade for the rights?

Sorry Snowman.

Greg

May 9th, 2009
7:39 am

The fat lady has sung….this was over before it started.

Cuz

May 9th, 2009
8:56 am

Tonight on the home court it is time to see if they are men or mice, got any chees?

Cuz

May 9th, 2009
8:57 am

should be an e at the end of cheese, must proofread before posting.

chemdawg

May 9th, 2009
9:18 am

I really don’t think the problem is in the middle. When we have our trio of “power” forwards actually in the lineup (Marvin, Horford, and Smith) and playing well, we man the inside well without the true center. There is a ton of dribble penetration from the opposing teams perimeter players because bibby can’t move his feet quickly enough. And why was solomon jones guarding Lebron on the perimeter?

Jeff Schultz

May 9th, 2009
9:28 am

Anthony — Obviously this team plays better at home. Players talk about it all the time. Not sure how much cheering can help Josh hit a 3-pointer but the whole team seems to function better as a unit in Philips.

JoeP: Sorry. Next time I’ll try to break it down for you. On second thought, just go read a boxscore. It’s pretty much self explanatory.

ScottBravefan — Parity doesn’t define a league’s greatness. The NBA did pretty well when the Lakers and Celtics were in the finals every year.

Truth — Hinder your comments? What are you talking about?

Greg — Fat Lady hasn’t sung; merely clearing her throat.

Jeff Schultz

May 9th, 2009
9:32 am

Chemdawg: I agree with others. Horford is a great player playing out of position. If you move him to the 4 and get a legit center and Josh/Marvin (who’s ever still on the team) to the 3, the front line would be sick. Problem is, there’s not a lot of legit centers around. A lot of personnel decisions to make after this season.

braveshater

May 9th, 2009
10:21 am

Why are they practicing anyway Woody. Damn he is an idiot. Its not like he is inrtroducing anything new. Get this JERK out of town please.

braveshater

May 9th, 2009
10:22 am

Why are they practicing anyway Woody. Damn he is an idiot. Its not like he is introducing anything new. Get this JERK out of town please.

braveshater

May 9th, 2009
10:22 am

Why are they practicing anyway Woody. Damn he is an idiot. Its not like he is introducing anything new. Get this JERK out of town please.

KP

May 9th, 2009
11:17 am

I have been a Hawks fan for over 30 years and personally am very pleased with the progress that the team has made over the last few years particularly the last 2 seasons. It is the true Hawks fans that I am sure will agree with my sentiments.

We must remember that not too long ago, the Hawks were at the bottom of the NBA food chain. We are now a franchise that is showing improvement year-after-year and is definately moving in the right direction. Next season, our goal should be to make the E. Conference Championship round and with the right tweaking of our roster…..this goal is possible.

Although we will be limping into this game, I am hopeful that our HOME team will give us something to be proud of – win or lose.

GO HAWKS!

What?

May 9th, 2009
12:04 pm

Derrick Favors, skip Tech help the Hawks

HawkDawg

May 9th, 2009
12:50 pm

The hawks are very quickly killing any progress they made this year. they need to come out tonight and make a statement. They need to hurt someone on the Cavs. I mean really lay someone out. It should be Mr. James. We have to show some toughness.

Maybe we could trade Coach Woodson for Patches O’Houlihan. He can inspire the team.

DawgNole

May 9th, 2009
12:58 pm

Cavs Fan: “There seems to be a lack of patience permeating Atlanta.”

Forty-plus years in Atlanta, and never–not even once–have the Hawks made it past the second round of the playoffs. Few if any teams can match that level of postseason failure, and you cite the fans’ lack of patience?! Shut your face and do your research before you come on this blog ponitificating about how the fans of Losersville need a little more patience.

Sparq

May 9th, 2009
1:37 pm

Hawks are “cooked”

Jeff Schultz

May 9th, 2009
1:43 pm

What: Can’t do that any more. HS players need at least a 1-year stopover in college.

Dawgnole: you summed things up very well. Atlanta sports fans have suffered enough for a lifetime.

SparQ: Maybe. But last I checked, it’s best-of-7.

5Titles4daU>State of GA combined

May 9th, 2009
3:00 pm

Seriously, stop talking about the bird. Is this the one memory from the playoffs? How about talking about our 3 best players that cant man up and play in the playoffs, o rmaybe how all of ESPN was making fun of our strategy on defense

Patrick

May 9th, 2009
3:45 pm

Fans complaining about how much their home teams lose are just sad. Fans complaining that they’ve suffered more than fans in Cleveland are really, really sad (and a bit delusional/uninformed). Check the history.

Right now, looks like the Hawks are not going to enjoy much additional success after a fairly successful season. Life is short. Enjoy what you can from the Hawks this year, and move on to the next entertainment.

DawgNole

May 9th, 2009
3:47 pm

I believe that a significant part of the reason Atlanta has only one major championship (and thus the unfortunate label of “Losersville”) in nearly a half-century of professional sports competition is the mentality of its team executives and its fans–as epitomized by KP’s comment above: “I have been a Hawks fan for over 30 years and personally am very pleased with the progress that the team has made over the last few years . . . .”

You will NEVER win a championship if you are satisfied (or in KP’s case, “very pleased”) with anything less than a championship–particularly after 30 or 40 years.

“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”
“Winning’s not everything; it’s the only thing.”

Yes, these are tired old sayings, but they still hold true today, and they represent precisely what’s wrong with this fine city’s sports executives and fans: Satisfaction with less than the very best.

I’ve been an avid fan of Atlanta, its newspapers, its sports teams, and even its sportswriters since the Braves moved to the city in the mid-60s. I continue to hold out hope that Atlanta can shed its Losersville image, but (with all due respect to the ‘95 Braves) that will happen only when the teams’ executives and fans can rid themselves of the debilitating attitude that anything less than the best is acceptable.

Cuz

May 9th, 2009
4:03 pm

Jeff who gets the job of blogging from the game tonight?

Jeff Schultz

May 9th, 2009
5:16 pm

EVERYBODY: I’ll be filing a live blog in about an hour or so, with updates. I’ll post a note here that it’s up when I finish. But here’s a tease: What famous visiting player already has social plans for tonight?

KP

May 9th, 2009
5:32 pm

Dawg Nole: I am not sure how a fan’s mentality has any bearing on whether a team win’s or loses. I do not think that any true ATL sports fan is satisfied with the current state of our professional teams and the lack of the number of championships that they have produced. Believe me….I am NOT satisfied and no where in my earlier post did I state that I was satisfied. It is clear, however, that the Hawks have made great progress from being a 13-win team in 04-05 to making the second round of the playoff’s this year. I will not be satisfied until we win a championship and hopefully this will happen in my lifetime.

A true fan will cheer and support his team – no matter what! This is what I was trying to get accross in my post. So if you feel that this is part of the reason for our teams lack of success – I completely disagree. As far as placing blame on the ATL sports executives – that is the argument you should be making. But blaming the fans……how can you do that? You said that you were an “avid fan” – does this mean that you should shoulder some of the blame as well?

Go Hawks – Go Braves – Go Falcons!!

Cuz

May 9th, 2009
5:37 pm

Let me guess Jeff. Lebron James has reservations at the Cheetah. Is that place still open?

HawkDawg

May 9th, 2009
5:45 pm

No. He will be at the Clermont Lounge immediately following the game to watch the big girls dance. Perhaps if he may get lucky with one of them and he will get a hernia.

Cuz

May 9th, 2009
6:43 pm

You know I would not wish a hernia on anyone, how about a stubbed toe that keeps him out for five games.

Cuz

May 9th, 2009
6:44 pm

Okay math is an obstacle, four games.