First, a little perspective. Most folks didn’t believe the Hawks would defeat Orlando in the first round of the playoffs, but they took out the Magic in six games. Most certainly believed they had no chance in this series against Chicago, especially without point guard Kirk Hinrich.
But maybe the Hawks can start tonight with this: effort and intelligence. If they show those two things in Game 4 against the Bulls, they’ll be way ahead of what we saw in Game 3.
This team’s multiple personalities have been well-chronicled this season. Coach Larry Drew referred to it in an amusing way: “I will admit — I do have an interesting group.”
This interesting group stunned Chicago in the series opener, tailed off in Game 2 and never really competed in Friday’s 99-82 loss at home. Derrick Rose scored 44 points. But the bigger reason for the Hawks’ loss was their collective team defense, lack of physical play and poor rebounding (the Bulls had a 47-34 advantage, including 18 offensive boards).
Drew will make one significant change, going with the “big” lineup: That means center Jason Collins comes in to guard Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Josh Smith each slide down a spot and Marvin Williams goes to the bench.
Collins, who was a key in the Orlando series against Dwight Howard, said: “I’ll just try to be physical and use my fouls. I won’t be so much in the low post – I’ll be more in pick-and-roll coverage.”
Drew said he just felt, “It’s time for a change. … Jason plays a physical game. He’s not looked at as a finesse player.”
Joe Johnson (34,16, 10) and Jamal Crawford (22, 11, 7) both have seen their point totals shrink in three games. That’s partly because of double teams. But Drew also referenced Johnson in particular, saying he needs to do more to get open. He told our hoops guy Michael Cunningham, “He is just going to have to combat that. There are a lot of key players on teams that other players play physical against and they just combat it. There are a lot of key players that get double teamed and they play out of double teams.”
Not sure, but I think Drew just said Johnson isn’t trying hard enough.
I also have to credit M.C. for handing me a few great stats on Smith: He is 0-for-17 from beyond 15 feet in this series, and 5-for-33 in the playoffs. Conversely, he is 38-of-63 (60 percent) from nine feet and in, where his strength is.
Win tonight and it’s an even series, 2-2. Lose and the Hawks may have played their final home game, with Game 5 in Chicago Tuesday.
And no, I’m not guessing. But you’re welcome to. I’ll be here blogging live at tip-off.
By Jeff Schultz