‘Soft’ Hawks looking to make statement against Heat

Al Horford and Joe Johnson were the only two Hawks to show up for Sacramento. (Curtis Compton)

Al Horford and Joe Johnson were only two Hawks to show up for Sacramento. (Curtis Compton)

Oh, the clever puppet-master that is Larry Drew. The night before the Hawks meet the Miami Heat for the second time, he directed the Hawks to play three of their worst quarters of basketball of the season against the 9-29 Sacramento Kings, only to pull out a victory at the end.

Don’t you just know this was all part of a master plan to lull LeBron James and the Heat into a false sense of security?

“Yeah, we know Miami’s playing possum with all of those injuries,” Jamal Crawford said, laughing. “That’s why we’re kept Marvin [Williams] out and we went back and forth with Sac.”

OK, maybe not. The Hawks defeated Sacramento 100-98 Monday at Philips Arena. They took their first lead with 6:41 left on a Joe Johnson jumper. They won it on a pair of Johnson free throws with six-tenths of a second remaining. So maybe there was just a little bit of looking ahead to the Miami game Tuesday night.

There's no guarantee the "Big Three" all will play Tuesday.

There's no guarantee the "Big Three" all will play Tuesday.

It’s only a January game but the Hawks are forever looking to measure themselves against the league’s elite.  That’s one reason Drew’s head exploded Monday. Despite the impressive 27-15 record, the Hawks haven’t earned the right to cruise against anybody. He watched his players follow a dreadful game against Houston with an even worse defensive effort against the Kings, which was finishing a six-game trip. They trailed by 10 in the second quarter. Parties broke out in Sacramento.

Drew peeled paint at halftime, blistering the team. It was until the fourth quarter that the message sank in.

Afterward, the coach called his players that dreaded four-letter word: soft.

“We came out soft,” he said. “We played soft across the board. If you play like that, you get a reputation around the league. ‘When you play the Hawks, you can bang them.’ We can’t have that.”

There was also this: “I told the guys that was embarrassing. Not playing with a sense of urgency, not giving that team respect.”

Motivation shouldn’t be an issue against Miami. The Hawks played Miami tough Dec. 4, despite missing Johnson. “You get up for these games, especially the way we lost down there,” Jamal Crawford said.

“I’d be lying if I said this was just another regular season game,” Johnson said.

The best thing the Hawks may have going for them right now is Johnson. He scored a season-high 36 points on 16-of-27 shooting and is close to all the way back from elbow surgery. (Johnson and his adjustment to Drew’s offense will be subject of a column Tuesday.)

The question is, which of Miami’s $100 million players will play? James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all missed practice Monday. Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said Wade (ankle) is probable the game, but James (ankle) is a game-time decision and Bosh (knee) is doubtful.

“I’m sure they’re all gonna play,” Al Horford said. “And if they don’t, too bad for them.”

Regardless, the Hawks need something they didn’t show Monday. An early pulse.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

41 comments Add your comment

rob

January 17th, 2011
8:43 pm

First!! And we need some sports encouragement from these hawks after that Falcons loss.

@DanWeiner

January 17th, 2011
8:50 pm

“Drew peeled paint at halftime, blistering the team. It was until the fourth quarter that the message sank in.”

Encouraging…

jerry

January 17th, 2011
8:54 pm

miami will beat them with 2 of the big 3 out

JSS

January 17th, 2011
9:03 pm

Drive-by Hawks Blog!

Heath

January 17th, 2011
9:05 pm

You do get the feeling that the Hawks, much like the Falcons, are nowhere as good as their record. Still, it looks good in the standings.

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j

January 17th, 2011
9:22 pm

Hawks shouldn’t worry about the Heat tomorrow. They’ll be playing without Bron Bron and Bosh, and Wade is only listed as probably. This will be just like playing the Heat last year- With that lineup they are barely even a playoff caliber roster

MitchC

January 17th, 2011
9:38 pm

Jeff, to me, if the Hawks beat Miami without the Heat’s best offensive players, what kind of “Statement” is that? It would be like the Braves beating the Phillies with Ryan Howard and other offensive weapons on the bench.

Chances are, if all of the Heat’s best players played, Miami would win. The Heat seem to have found themselves after a not so great start.

I don’t measure this game as a barometer against anything. First, it’s only January. Second, even if the Hawks win by 20, how can we measure it against what might happen in May.. or June.. if both teams had all their players healthy for the playoffs?

Kramerica

January 17th, 2011
9:43 pm

Why can’t Joe be that agressive every game? 27 shots is a lot but I’ll live with that instead of Josh coming off screens with a jump shot!

MannyT

January 17th, 2011
9:49 pm

Hawks put out a D effort today. Had they not been playing a team that is having a D season and put in a standard D performance, they would have lost.

What the heck was that last inbounds pass from Cousins. I had never seen anyone throw the inbounds pass over the backboard like that 8-O

Hopefully, we will be ready to be tougher against Miami.

Najeh Davenpoop

January 17th, 2011
9:55 pm

“You do get the feeling that the Hawks, much like the Falcons, are nowhere as good as their record.”

The Hawks are exactly as good as their record. They have the fifth best record in the conference and they are the fourth or fifth best team in the conference.

Winning at Miami tomorrow would be a nice confidence builder, but this team should and will be judged on whether or not they improve on last season’s playoff performance.

Ra'mon

January 17th, 2011
10:24 pm

Jeff, Josh went 19 pts, 10 reb., 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal, but you say he didn’t show up for tonight? Josh was the only Hawks player doing offensive work in the lane in the 4th quarter (the decisive quarter).

O'Brien

January 17th, 2011
10:26 pm

Najeh,

Even if the Hawks win tomorrow, the media will say its because the heat is banged up. And the Heat is coming off a 3 game losing streak too…

NorCal Brave

January 17th, 2011
10:29 pm

Just don’t understand why Hawks wait until the 4th quarter to play to the level they’re capable. The Kings clearly wanted this game more and nearly came back from a late 20-point deficit against Atlanta out here a couple of weeks ago. Also frustrating to see us get killed on the boards night after night. Sure, we have a very athletic team, but not at the center position when Al’s not there.

Ra'mon

January 17th, 2011
10:30 pm

O’Brien, if the media says that, we really can’t blame them. The Hawks have offered no proof that they can truly defeat the upper echelon teams consistently this season.

KevinM

January 17th, 2011
10:31 pm

The big 3 did show up tonight, but it almost wasn’t enough.

Our big 3 does not account for the numbers that the Heatles get from their big 3. LD needs the bench to step up and make up the difference between the big 3s.

On another note, all the rumors about Dallas looking around for help…..JJ was mentioned more than a couple of times….could Joe actually be traded at this point? Is he far enough into the mega deal?
Not sure that Dallas has enough to give back of value though…..not that Joe doesn’t have to prove himself still in the playoffs, but he would look good in that lineup.
If I were Dallas, I’d be inquiring about Jamal, who’s not Joe, but knows how to fill their void. He is a good fit, yet he isn’t even mentioned by Dallas rumor mongers.

Jeff Schultz

January 17th, 2011
10:35 pm

MitchC — Point taken. But we don’t know yet who’s going to play. I’m wagering only Bosh is out. I think beating Heat w/Wade and LeBron in Miami would be significant.

Jeff Schultz

January 17th, 2011
10:36 pm

Ra’mon — You hit it on the head — Josh played hard in the fourth quarter. First 3: not so good. Joe and Al were the only two who played well for four quarters.

niremetal

January 17th, 2011
10:39 pm

‘Sportswriter’ Schultz looking to make it seem like he watches more than 3 Hawks games per year

teedub

January 17th, 2011
10:51 pm

It seems like the only thing the Hawks really “need” is the desire to bring it every night. They can play with anyone when they act like they want to.

Ra'mon

January 17th, 2011
11:02 pm

Jeff, lol… You’re right..

Jeff Schultz

January 17th, 2011
11:10 pm

Niremetal — Four, actually. (Seriously?)

Ra'mon

January 17th, 2011
11:12 pm

Teedub, I don’t think any more desire is really going to help Bibby and JC1 stay in front of their man, lol. I think that ship has sailed.

JSS

January 17th, 2011
11:42 pm

Was Schultz rolling in a ‘85 B-210 when he pulled the DBHB?

jeff p

January 17th, 2011
11:58 pm

When will it sink in that this team plays with energy for 48 minutes? They will be yet another first round exit unless they get creative and find a trade for Nash and a true gritty banger that comes off the bench and can play defense. I just don’t see them getting to that next level yet.

niremetal

January 18th, 2011
12:25 am

Jeff,

Start giving more attention to the Hawks actual, you know, games than you give to the latest Braves offseason rumblings and maybe I (and others) will stop giving you a hard time. Until then, it will continue to be painfully obvious that you (and Bradley) just read the box scores, watch the occasional nationally televised game, and think you know all you need to know to post one of your pathetic attempts at NBA writing.

MsDee

January 18th, 2011
1:34 am

You guys act as if we had Jamal and Bibby tonigh?? If those 2 could throw a penny in the ocean like they usually do, we would have won atleast by 10 points!! NOW IF THOSE TWO GUYS WERE ON AND WE STILL ONLY WON BY 2, THEN YOU WOULD HAVE A ARGUMENT..BUT YALL DONT SO DONT ACT LIKE WE CANT BEAT A 9-29 TEAM????????

MsDee

January 18th, 2011
1:35 am

And that goes the same against Houston the other night.. neither guy could hit ANYTHING!! But again if they were on like they normally are, that TOO would have been a WIN!!

MsDee

January 18th, 2011
1:37 am

And we STILL didn’t have Marvin. Yall could say what ya want to about him, but Marvin could have made a difference in both those games with his defense and his free throw shooting!!

Stinger2

January 18th, 2011
2:49 am

After two dreadful games against Houston and Sacramento,playing the Heat on the road (back to back)
games, I look for a blowout loss for the Hawks. I agree the Hawks record is mostly build among weak teams. They will be no better than a No. 5 seed or maybe the No. 6 seed if the Knicks get hot.

Ted M

January 18th, 2011
6:22 am

I’ll be pulling for the Hawks but they look like “one & done” in the playoffs.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Dukester

January 18th, 2011
9:56 am

I wish we could have got Sacramento to leave either Sam Dalembert or Jason Thompson here. Man I am telling you if we could get a real Center in here to rebound and control that paint we would be a nightmare for some teams.

Jeff Schultz

January 18th, 2011
10:40 am

JSS — DBHB?

Jeff Schultz

January 18th, 2011
10:45 am

Niremetal — As a general columnist, I write on four pro teams, at least four college teams and major national stories. I need to write about what most of readership is interested in. As much as I like the NBA (and everything), it’s not going to get an equal amount of coverage. I grew up as hockey as my favorite sport but I write about that the least now. College football, NFL and Braves moves the meter. They get top priority. As for my “pathetic attempts at NBA writing,” maybe you can tell me what I’m missing. You know, give me some tips about the finer points of the NBA that seem to have eluded me. By the way, I covered the Lakers in LA in the Magic-Kareem years, went on the road and everything. Nobody seemed to think I was pathetic then. Anyway, I’m open to enlightenment whenever you’ve got the time.

Geemack

January 18th, 2011
11:20 am

Never thought I’d see the day where Marvin is a factor in how bad we beat a losing team.

jmarable

January 18th, 2011
12:43 pm

i have never seen a team play d like atl. they let whoever and whenever go right down the lane. The hawks play d like they are just waiting 4 the other team to put the ball in the hoop so they can get it out, go down court a launch a three. Our starting point has no chance of stopping anyone. but we play no d so he fits right in. if atl played d or atleast gave it 100 percent effort every night they would b a different team. we need a point guard who penetrates and a center with a low post game to compete with the big boys. shot may b off some nights, but u can always play d.

Paul From Milton

January 18th, 2011
12:45 pm

All this Atlanta Spirit money being paid to a team that has no chance of advancing beyond the second round. It’s a waste to even bother going to the games.

SDP

January 18th, 2011
2:40 pm

Paul – I’m not telling you how to spend your $$, but you should go to games to support the Hawks and to enjoy basketball played at the highest level. You seem to prefer that we have losing teams in the ATL given that your comment is applicable for all the pro teams plus GT, UGA and even our local golfers.

JSS

January 18th, 2011
3:13 pm

“DBHB” = Drive-by Hawks Blog…

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