Round 2, Game 1: A big night for LBJ, another no-go for Joe

CLEVELAND — They were here — well, not “here” geographically — last spring. The Hawks arrived in Boston at a time when Sports Illustrated was bannering the prospect of a Celtics-Lakers final on its cover, and they nearly gummed up the works. Now they’re on the shore of Lake Erie for what’s being billed as LeBron’s Coronation. So they know how difficult it is.

“It’s tough to steal a series,” Mike Woodson said before tipoff Tuesday. “I’ve seen it done in my 27 years in the NBA, but it’s very tough.”

The Hawks gave Boston all it could handle — in Atlanta. The games in TD Banknorth Garden were rather different and never close. The Celtics won by 23, 19, 25 and 34. And this Game 1, sad to say, tracked that regrettable path. The Hawks lost by 27 and didn’t lead after the first eight minutes.

True, they hung around for 2 1/2 quarters, whereupon the MVP left the visitors in his considerable wake. Credit the Hawks for making LeBron James work, but credit the man himself for working in a way no other player in the world can.

On the night David Stern handed James a big trophy, LBJ the MVP scored 34 points in the game’s first 36 minutes and made the Hawks realize — if they hadn’t already — that they’re in against bigger and better now. Dwyane Wade is a great player, but he’s not LeBron. Miami is a decent team, but it’s not LeBron’s team.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

And once again Joe Johnson’s team went off and left Joe Johnson. Or, more precisely, he let it leave without him. He’d scored 27 points in the final three quarters of Game 7 against the Heat, but he took four first-half shots (none the second quarter) and scored four first-half points. “I wasn’t trying to force it,” he said afterward. “I wanted to let the game come to me. And they did a good job with their defense and double-teams.”

Johnson tried to make something happen in the third period, but that’s exactly how it seemed: He was trying to do too much after having done too little. He finished with 11 points, 10 shots, six assists, five turnovers.

Josh Smith and Mike Bibby were again very good, but with Al Horford still limping — his right ankle stiffened in the third quarter — the Hawks cannot hope to beat Cleveland even once without Joe doing his Joe thing. It will take maximum production to make this a series and, with the exception of Game 7 against Miami, Johnson has spent this postseason doing the minimum.

Is he weary? He worked more regular-season minutes than any NBA player. “I’m tired,” Johnson said afterward, “but I’d never use that as an excuse. You play the whole season to get to the playoffs, and now that we’re in the second round, we need to act like we want to be here.”

We can understand if the Hawks feel they’ve met their goal by reaching Round 2, but they need to compete in this series for the good will flowing from Round 1 to linger into the summer. Game 1 was competitive for a little while, but in the end it wasn’t. They’ll need to do better in Game 2, or there might not be a Game 5.

“We have to play with a sense of pride,” Johnson said. “The second half, we kind of gave up.”

Promotional insert: I’ll be chatting live from my not-so-spacious hotel room — somehow Sekou has himself a suite three floors below me — from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday. I’ll answer any questions. Except the hard ones. Those I’ll duck. Come talk about the Hawks, the Falcons, the Braves or Manchester United. I’ll be obliged it you do.

139 comments Add your comment

uga_b

May 5th, 2009
11:43 pm

Ordinary name. Ordinary play. He’s got a stroke, good size, and decent handles. just not sure the intensity is there. Josh Smith is the intense one and if grows up could be a leader. Oh well, let Lebron be Lebron I guess

James from Suwanee

May 5th, 2009
11:45 pm

Great Players always show up in the big games. Joe Johnson is just a good player. Nothing more.

calico

May 5th, 2009
11:53 pm

WTF Joe you need to pick it up i blame you for the loss 2night you were terrible 2night and if you came 2 play 2night we possibly could have won this game step your game up and please stop the turnovers you have been worse than Josh Smith in the turnover department and how can we let Josh score 17 1st half points and really not get the ball in the 2nd half thats bullsh*t…
Lets GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2009
11:55 pm

Headed back to the hotel. Will check in again — with you all; I’ve already checked into the hotel — once there. But I think it was significant that Joe admitted he’s tired.

jeremy

May 5th, 2009
11:56 pm

The biggest problem was the turnovers and lack of rebounding. Atlanta needs its bigs to get in there and rebound. I watched the game and you would see four Cavs jumping up for board and the Hawks just watching the game. They need to rebound and if they do that then the offense will come to JJ.

jstrick

May 6th, 2009
12:02 am

I just don’t understand how they can’t be prepared for the double team of Joe. It’s actually ok to me at least that Joe is not trying to force shots early. The question I have is why isn’t the offense ready with people in the right places to capitalize when teams are double teaming Joe 35 feet away from the rim. That makes no sense, it has be 8 straight games now, how long does it take to adjust?

patrick

May 6th, 2009
12:05 am

come on hawks you did not let the one man team called the heat take a series ……dont let the one man Cavs do it. No worries tho, Atlanta got blown out in three games against the heat and where is the Heat now?

patrick

May 6th, 2009
12:07 am

also Hawks, start driving for the hole more. If you do you will be a monster.

gator

May 6th, 2009
12:12 am

This I’m tired statement only proves that JOE is a second tier player, the look in eyes tell the story. Hope will clear cap space for 2010…..

Nick

May 6th, 2009
12:17 am

Look, Joe Johnson has all-star level talent. Is he in the LeBron, Kobe, and Wade tier? No, but then again, only three players in the league are. But he’s certainly the best player on a playoff team. He’s more than just a “good player.”

Why isn’t Joe “showing up?” It’s because Coach Woodson can’t get him going. The dude faces more traps and double teams than I’ve ever seen a wing player get. Can anyone tell me how many times we tried to trap LeBron tonight? Or Wade for that matter? No, we let them go one-on-one vs. Evans, Flip, Marvin, Joe, etc. Well, duh, they are going to get their points. But neither the Heat nor the Cavs are letting Joe go one-on-one.

And guess what? Joe doesn’t have the legs this late in the season (YES, he is tired … again, thanks Coach) to beat TWO PEOPLE off the curl. The only reason he “showed up” in game 7 against the Heat is because he decided to launch two 25 – 30 ft. bombs when he only had one player on him. Sadly, he would have had to do the same thing tonight in order to get his points.

If you’re going to run the ISO Joe play, for the love of God, Coach Woodson get your other players out of the lane. How often does Joe throw up a floater in the lane? Is it because he can’t get to the basket, or is it because the lane is too clogged for him to do anything else?

You want Joe to “show up?” Run him off some screens a la Rip Hamilton. The dude can make that shot. Hit him cutting to the basket. Get a point guard in the game that can drive and kick and create rather than just be a spot up shooter (albeit a good one). Run a high low with Josh Smith. Put him in the freaking post and allow him to shoot over the smaller West / Williams. Do SOMETHING other than making Joe run around a trap on the wing and then ISOing him near the top of the key. It almost cost us the Miami series and it will most certainly cost us this one.

Did you see LeBron getting screens from West? Did you see LeBron running a backdoor to the basket? Do we EVER EVER EVER do something like that for Joe? Man, oh man.

Joe is an all-star. It’s Coach’s fault he isn’t playing like one.

dino

May 6th, 2009
12:20 am

Hawks fans are so trifling. I’m trying to figure out why every one is blaming Joe. I will admit he could have been more agressive, but I wouldn’t say the rest of the team has played all that great either. Bibby made alot of bad decisions, Flip held the ball too much when he should have passed, and Josh took way too many ill-advised jumpers. I hope the Hawks do trade Joe. He deserves better than this bullsh@t. And you people wonder why nobody wants to play for this city. You act like star players are rushing to come here because of your championship pedigree. Last time I checked, Dominique never got past the 2nd round of the playoffs. What a joke.

lawton

May 6th, 2009
12:24 am

nick summed it all up. the hawks win on talent on, not coaching.

cornbread earl

May 6th, 2009
12:28 am

Even after the Miami series I still thought Woody should go..Still comes down to coaching..How do u keep losing in double digits in every playoff game away from home?..He can’t even motivate them to compete

patrick

May 6th, 2009
12:34 am

definitely coaching is the problem

patrick

May 6th, 2009
12:35 am

no one has a woody for woody

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
12:35 am

Coaching didn’t have much to do with this one, I’m afraid.

Let’s look at this postseason objectively: Woodson has gotten next to nothing offensively from four of his top eight — Johnson, Williams, Horford and Evans — and still the Hawks are in Round 2.

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
12:37 am

And Sekou and I were talking about it on the way back to the hotel: Both Woodson and Johnson mentioned Cleveland’s double-teams, but we didn’t recall seeing many of those. Most of the time — or so it appeared to us — Delonte West was taking Joe one-on-one. Like on the final shot of the first quarter.

scottbravesfan

May 6th, 2009
12:39 am

What pissed me off is how they kept just turning the ball over. Bibby at the end of the second quarter just gave it up twice. Johnson would drive and then lose the ball during his dribble. He has got to do something in game 2. He wants to be the man now is the time to step up and be the man.

arealvet

May 6th, 2009
12:46 am

With so much advice about Joe, I guess all you clods will be on the court next game showing what you can do.

doug

May 6th, 2009
12:48 am

I am done with the starters. It’s looking pretty bad when your bench can’t score at all. I knew it would come back to bite us in the playoffs with flip being the backup point. He’s done a great job all season but has been stellar coming off the ball. Mike has got his team in a pinch by not living/dying with acie law during the season. I don’t mind some of the iso’s this team runs just when they decide to run them. Gotta be the only team that calls the iso after a deadball or timeout. With no legit big man in the playoffs they have got to run more motion and get into the pick and roll early not late!! Hint…The key to beating the double is the weakside!!! I am going to pay special attention to how Woodson gets opportunities for flip, back up pg to/assist ratio, who is cleveland sending on the double, weakside aggresiveness and who is crashing the boards.

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
12:49 am

If I had to guess — and I don’t, but I will — I think the minutes have caught up with Joe. Rick Sund talks about San Antonio a lot, and he always mentions how they pace their guys — Duncan, Parker and Ginobli — during the regular season.

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
12:51 am

Flip was bad tonight, too. Scored five points, missed seven of nine shots, had three turnovers. But the Cavs’ guards get after it. Give them credit, too.

bonitis

May 6th, 2009
12:52 am

hate to say it, but bradley is right.

im as big a woody detractor as there is, but this is not to be pinned on coach. horford is hobbled, marvin is close to worthless, but joe…joe has no excuse. josh single-handedly kept us in the game in the first half (again, i have a hard time praising the chucker that is josh smith), but we need more from the rest. and that includes joe johnson.

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
12:53 am

Hawks bench was outscored 20-10 and had as many turnovers (seven) as the Cavs’ entire team.

bonitis

May 6th, 2009
12:56 am

the spurs have the luxury of pacing their guys. whether its pop or the great cast he has (when healthy), they had the chance. we didnt.

that 4th spot took awfully long to lock up. not to mention pacing is a lot more important with the spurs’ aging crew. bibby and joe aint spring chickens, but they havent seen duncan’s miles or ginobli’s trials.

bonitis

May 6th, 2009
12:58 am

“Hawks bench was outscored 20-10 and had as many turnovers (seven) as the Cavs’ entire team.”

ah…so we can revisit all the talk months ago about how our bench (minus j-chill) is cattle feed?

mdysart

May 6th, 2009
1:01 am

Joe is clearly tired – he looks like he’s lost a step since early in the season, and who can blame him – he averaged 39.5 mpg this season, more than any other Hawk, more than Kobe, more than Lebron … the Hawks don’t have the luxury of depth to rest him more, and it’s showing up now. Not JJ’s fault.

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
1:01 am

Flip and Zaza were terrific against Miami. Not so terrific tonight, however.

Anthony

May 6th, 2009
1:02 am

I sum it up like this. Too many turnovers. Missed free throws. No defensive intensity. They have got to be physical also. They settled for jumpers because they were fatigued and you could tell because of all the air balls and shots hitting the front of the rim. Woodson needs to pace his starters and let 1 or 2 other guys get in there and bang Cleveland around. It may be me but the Cavs look soft. What you think?

Rollins Tree

May 6th, 2009
1:02 am

So Does Woodson come back if we lose this series?

bonitis

May 6th, 2009
1:08 am

save from one game, flip was NOT terrific against miami…unless you consider 15 points on 15 shots “terrific”. if thats true, he had two good games (and the rest were horrible). granted, his one good game was game 7, so that has to count for something.

as for zaza, im a big fan, and that 18 reb game was great. but he was certainly not “terrific” in the series.

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
1:09 am

Yes, he does. No question.

bonitis

May 6th, 2009
1:10 am

rollins tree, after what happened in the past, i think woody would have to kill some people to get fired

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
1:10 am

I don’t think the Cavs are soft at all. LeBron, Ben Wallace, Varejao, West — those are some tough guys.

no id

May 6th, 2009
1:16 am

The question now is..Are the Hawks gonna show up in game 2 or get blown out again?

bonitis

May 6th, 2009
1:21 am

i find it tough to categorize teams or players or whoever as soft (hell, theyre a lot “harder” than i am).

nevertheless…tonight, i saw some vulnerabilities we need to exploit in that department. namely, if we can make them want to take jumpers (lebron especially—after his 5/5 opening run, he was happy to shoot from downtown) and take it to the rim on offense (as josh did early), then were in good shape. and by good shape, i mean “better” shape.

to summarize: make them shoot jumpers, box out, and attack the rim on offense (big Z is too slow and varejao loves to foul–i asked him).

Mark Bradley

May 6th, 2009
1:21 am

Their pride took a blow in that second half. I think they’ll give a better effort Thursday. They still might lose, but I don’t think it’ll be by 27 points.

Going to bed now. Thanks to everybody who patronized this and the live blog. I’m greatly appreciative.

bonitis

May 6th, 2009
1:22 am

thanks to you, MB. im very much looking forward to thursday. go hawks!

Hal

May 6th, 2009
1:37 am

the only teams that can match up well with cleveland and could beat them are the nuggets, rockets or lakers not none of the teams in the eastern conference.

the hawks are done the cavs are much better than them and it’s their year this year to make it to the finals. the hawks are not gonna go far without having a legitimate center and consistent players.

Hal

May 6th, 2009
1:41 am

the hawjs should go after rasheed wallace during the off season we need another big man to help al horford.

Atlrayzd

May 6th, 2009
2:02 am

Joe Johnson says he’s tired(logged alot of minutes this year) but he doesn’t want to make any excuses (sounds like one to me). Hate to say it but wrap it up the series is over. I really and truly respect the amount of minutes he logged this year but at this point being the face of the team, the highest paid, and in the second round of the playoffs to come and out and say your tired is nothing but an excuse. Since he is out of gas lets bring him off the bench. Joe you’ll have plenty of time to rest very soon.

Harmony372

May 6th, 2009
2:15 am

Geez, folks…cut the Hawks some slack already! Its just Game 1! WE KNEW this series would be difficult. WE KNEW the Cavs would be well rested, while our team would be tired (I never buy into that “might be rusty” BS, these are professional athletes…the Cavs didn’t just go fishing while waiting on us to finish up with the Heat). WE KNEW the Cavs have a better supporting cast around LeBron than Wade could ever hope for (didn’t it seem like the mighty King sat out most of the 2nd quarter watching his subjects do his bidding….it did to me). WE KNEW our Hawks have a tendency to struggle on the road (y’all act like we didn’t JUST win our first ROAD playoff game in YEARS last week). And if the Miami series taught you nothing you SHOULD KNOW that the Hawks can and will adjust in this series.

Good grief, Atlanta…show a little more support for YOUR TEAM. I’m not a long-time Hawks fan…I’ll even admit I bought my season tix this year for the first time mostly to see the other teams come play…but these guys have grown on me BIGTIME every since the Celtics series last year. And now I yell, scream, defend & support them as if I lived here all my life.

Look, Joe deserves to be tired (if you don’t think so, YOU go play high intensity basketball against the best in the world for 3,239 minutes in 6 months, then tell us how it feels). Josh needs time and PROPER guidance to mature into his game (even Kobe & LeBron didn’t win championships immediately and solely ON THEIR OWN WISDOM) Bibby needs better devised schemes to run (NUFF SAID). Al needs to be playing the RIGHT position – Forward. My hat’s off to Flip and especially Zsa Zsa for that necessary SPARK they bring (so what if they had an off game tonight) But what do all of the deficiencies have in common? Crappy coaching! I’ve only been watching a year and I can’t STAND Woodson! Throw the bum out and get a REAL coach who can strategize, mentor, teach & motivate (if it means lighting a FIRE under every player). Why do the Hawks miss so many free throws? Why is there so little ball movement…better yet, why DON’T we have a half court game? And my biggest pet peeve, WHY don’t we consistently CRASH the freakin’ BOARDS, man!?! WHY…because Woodson is out of his LEAGUE! He should be embarrassed to share the floor with COY Mike Brown. He keeps talking about his 27 years, but what does that translate into? The Hawks have gotten this far on RAW TALENT. Who knows what could happen if we had a Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, or Larry Brown. Heck….somebody please call Avery Johnson up! I hear he’s free!

I’ll get off the soapbox now…returing to my original point. Atlanta! Support your team! Stop being a bunch of fickle ingrates! Its bad enough the national media gives our guys NO respect…do they really need to know the fans back home are dogging them out in the AJC? How about you address your concerns in a letter to Rick Sund, rather than griping on this blog. It will likely have a greater impact.

Meanwhile, GO HAWKS!!! Keep your heads up & go get ‘em in Game 2! And even if not, then the REAL Hawks fans will certainly RAISE THE ROOF off Phillips on Saturday night!

BravesAreDone

May 6th, 2009
2:19 am

Hawks need a true superstar to ever really be contenders. Joe Johnson is not a superstar…not even close.

Patrick

May 6th, 2009
2:22 am

Flip was not “terrific” against Miami. Nor was he terrific all season long. He is what he is–a fine defender and an inefficient scorer who doesn’t pass the ball. People who take a cursory glance at a box score and say, “Wow, Flip had 18 tonight off the bench” think he’s been excellent. People who actually watch the games and understand basketball know this is the exact same Flip Murray that was struggling to stay in the league last summer.

Joe has to find a way to abuse Delonte and Mo, because the Cavs defensive interior is too tough. That means Woodson is going to have to come up with offensive sets to free up Joe or at least allow him to act 1-on-1 with the ball for a few seconds. Which means we’re screwed.

Atlrayzd

May 6th, 2009
2:35 am

Patrick… Joe had enough 1 on 1’s with Delonte but he did not convert. No reason for Woody to draw up a play when it’s already a mismatch. Joe must capitalize bottom line.

tbhawksfan

May 6th, 2009
5:03 am

“Yes, he does. No question.”

Worst news you could have given.

Hear BK tried to fire Woodson (numerous times) and had promised to bring Andersen over. Seems like a much better senario than Sund’s; I’m going to take a year to learn the team approach. The first time I heard that, I thought; Wow, he’s a NBA GM and he makes no moves and takes a year to learn the team.

Like I said, while Sund has been getting to know our franchise, we could have had a new coach, Andersen and probably would have kept Chill.

Might have made a real run this year. This playoff stint looks exactly like last year’s. Only difference is that we met a very weak MIA instead of BOS. Everything else is the same.

Woodson said last two ofseason’s; I should have listened to my assistants and lengthened the rotation. He still didn’t. He really is a joke of a head coach.

ltdbrave

May 6th, 2009
6:11 am

Problem with the Hawks is they are not the same team as last year, no intensity and no stars. To keep losing on the road by 25+ points is not a sign of a championship team. You also cannot win a game shooting 50% from the charity line. Joe is suppose to be the scorer on this team, so he needs to show up every night and if he doesn’t, the others better be ready to do the scoring.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 6th, 2009
7:04 am

You can say what you want about Joe — yes, he has been disappointing in this year’s playoffs, but yes, it’s completely believable that he could be tired (at least 20 different people on Sekou’s blog predicted this happening as the season went along thanks to Woody’s refusal to give him more rest during games).

But none of that is going to matter unless the Hawks are able to sustain their defensive effort for an entire game. The biggest difference between the first half and the second half was that in the second half, Cleveland was able to get open looks on their pick and rolls and pick and pops, and they were also able to get open looks on the perimeter when people drove and kicked it out. In the first half, the Hawks closed out on these shooters and clogged the lane, the way they planned to do all along and the way they did against Miami in their four wins.

Yeah, they could use more contributions from the bench (which has been great in the 2nd half of the season but was nonexistent in this game). Yeah, they need more out of Joe. But the defense is their bread and butter. That’s what feeds the fast break opportunities, and ultimately that’s what gets the momentum going in their favor. If they can’t play D for an entire game you can kiss this series goodbye.

McGarrett

May 6th, 2009
7:05 am

Hawks do too much standing around. This is fundamentals folks. Go to the boards. They have given up already. There is no intensity nor fire in the team at all.

dawgfan1911

May 6th, 2009
7:10 am

The Hawks are what they are and thats just an OK team. they are playing a super team in Cleveland with the best player on the court.The flaws for this team are obvious, COACHING! Woodson makes little if any adjustments during the game and it shows. They still dont knwo what to do when JJohnson gets double teamed, they still dont know how to run plays as oppossed to isolations, the bench is well nuthing without Pachulla and Flip. The other guys are there just to well, get a pay check and watch the game from the sidelines. I think Avery Johnson can come in here and get Josh to play near the rim as oppossed to taking jump shots. I think he can get them to play better defense on pick and rolls and at least look klike they have a clue. The problem with the Atlanta teams is that ownership is terrible with the exception of the Falcons and thats debatable. The Hawks have no vision, they are cheap, and they really dont care what happens to the team. It’s sad but true.