A bravura debut? Nope. The new-look Hawks fall to 0-1

DeShawn Stevenson tries, and fails, to stop James Harden. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

DeShawn Stevenson tries, and fails, to stop James Harden. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Let the record reflect that a new Atlanta Hawks’ era — if we can call what could be a six-month experiment an “era” — began with a fast-break basket, which is kind of the idea. Josh Smith blocked James Harden’s shot, and Kyle Korver flipped the rebound ahead to Jeff Teague, whose layup made it 2-nil 44 seconds into the season, and if Opening Night had ended right there, we’d have called it a smashing success.

But NBA games, as you may know, last 48 minutes, not 44 seconds, and the longer this went the less smashing it was. In the course of the final 47:16 we saw the new Hawks for both better and worse, and worse prevailed.

In their Opening Night opponent, the Hawks surely saw a bit of their new selves. The Houston Rockets are likewise new and backcourt-driven. Their guards are the famous Jeremy Lin, imported off a brief-but-scintillating turn in New York, and Harden, who’s the NBA’s reigning sixth man of the year, but became an immediate starter by dint of Oklahoma City’s stunning decision to trade one of its cornerstones at the ripe old age of 23.

In Game 1 as a Rocket, Harden scored 37 points and made 12 assists against Detroit. This didn’t augur well for the Hawks, who figure to have trouble defending and double trouble defending guards. On this night they couldn’t slow, let alone stop, the Houston guards. Lin had 21 points, and Harden more than doubled that.

The first six minutes went nicely enough. Devin Harris, one of the many new little guys, scored nine quick points and helped the Hawks build a lead, whereupon matters deteriorated. The Hawks were getting next to nothing underneath — Al Horford barely touched the ball, and when he did it was 17 feet from the hoop — and the visitors were seizing nearly every rebound, and the perils of trying to play small in a big man’s game were readily apparent.

“If I’m not getting the ball, it’s tough to get myself going,” Horford said. “This is our first game, and guys are trying to feel things out. I’ve got to do a better job of making myself available. I was there — I just wasn’t getting touches.”

This basketball truism was also self-evident: It’s hard to run if the other team is scoring. The Rockets made 13 of their 28 first-quarter shots, and the run-and-gun Hawks were reduced to the stand-around Hawks. They trailed 53-44 at the half, having been outrebounded 34-20 and having been outscored 32-20 in the lane.

The Rockets led by 16 halfway through the third quarter, and right about here — even though you know full well that these aren’t the same old Hawks — you were tempted to say, “Same old Hawks.” But here’s the thing about a quick team: It can create tempo from nothing and scramble its way back. Fueled by Teague, the Hawks started getting their hands on every other Houston pass, and their seven third-quarter steals turned the game.

From 16 down, the Hawks caught and passed the Rockets. Three point-blank Smith baskets put his team ahead 90-87, and suddenly the usual Josh Moments — on this night he loosed a half-dozen iffy shots, one an 18-footer than traveled 15 feet — were (mostly) forgiven. But he is, as we can never forget, Josh Smith, and much of being Josh Smith is the capacity to keep both teams in the game.

The Hawks’ surge was a function of their big lineup — Zaza Pachulia at center, Horford at power forward — but the big lineup leaves Smith at small forward, and too often he takes that assignment as a license to hoist. He missed a long jumper with the game tied at 90, missed a 3-pointer with the Hawks down 97-94. Of the latter miss, Smith said: “It was the right basketball play.”

Harden, who would scored 45 points, closed the sale at the foul line. The new-look Hawks were 0-1, which isn’t to say there weren’t hints of brighter tomorrows.

Sub Lou Williams scored 22 points, 19 in the second half. DeShawn Stevenson, a ride-along in the Joe Johnson trade, hit four treys before fouling out in the vain attempt to stop Harden. (”We tried,” Stevenson said. “He’s just more talented.”) Pachulia was his usual boisterous self, scoring 12 points and taking eight rebounds in 22 minutes. And the Hawks did outscore the Rockets, who aren’t ponderous, 33-18 on the break.

There are enough pieces here to construct a pretty good team. Putting them in place will take time. “It’s only Game 1,” Williams said. “There’s not a fire in the house.”

Well, no. If NBA games aren’t over in the first 44 seconds, neither are NBA seasons done after one game.

By Mark Bradley

55 comments Add your comment

UPGRAYEDD

November 2nd, 2012
10:41 pm

UPGRAYEDD

November 2nd, 2012
10:42 pm

Tough loss. Get used to them.

UPGRAYEDD

November 2nd, 2012
10:43 pm

But more fun to watch than anything we trotted out the past couple of seasons.

falCANS

November 2nd, 2012
10:45 pm

Smoove fa president…..Melo just went 10 fa 28……ijs

UPGRAYEDD

November 2nd, 2012
10:46 pm

Man, I just hit the Bradley trifecta, but I can’t get any love.

Gotta Bench Korver

November 2nd, 2012
10:47 pm

Korver was gone most of 2nd half– he should stay hidden. Start Zaza, move Josh to small forward, and pray

Williams and Stephenson can handle bench points

Jamaaliver

November 2nd, 2012
10:52 pm

Had we offered Josh Smith, do you think we could have gotten in on the Harden sweepstakes, MB?

Mark Bradley

November 2nd, 2012
10:53 pm

Yes, you can, UPGRAEDD. Kudos.

Mark Bradley

November 2nd, 2012
10:55 pm

Well, Jamaaliver, they’d have had to pay him $80 million to stick around. Not sure the Hawks are ready to do that for anybody just yet.

Joseph

November 2nd, 2012
11:04 pm

It was obvious that after trading two big wing players in Marvin and Joe that their perimeter D would take a hit. But Drew’s insistence on leaving a guy like Ivan on the bench for Anthony freakin’ Tolliver is just baffling.

Joseph

November 2nd, 2012
11:07 pm

Josh didn’t even get to the free throw line. Inexcusable for someone who wants to be a #1 option and whines about All-Star votes.

Roster

November 2nd, 2012
11:08 pm

The Hawks could use another center for more size, we got destroyed on the boards and no physicallity. Either sign kyrylo fesenko or bring back keith benson, i just dont like seeing Al Horford vs centers 7′0 feet and above.

OldSchool

November 2nd, 2012
11:13 pm

I read the column on the Hawks loss for one reason: the author of the column. I like your stuff, Mark. Always have. Don’t always agree with you, but that’s secondary to your writing. As for the Hawks, I wouldn’t watch pro basketball if they played across the street and I had free front row seats and all the drinks and food I wanted. What a monumental bore where the players go through the motions for the first 3/4 of the season and play defense as an afterthought. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. What a waste of time and money.

Grandmaster JeJe (GM)

November 2nd, 2012
11:28 pm

Where the heck was Anthony Morrow?

This team has no wings at all (besides DeShawn Stevenson, who can’t guard anything anymore) and it will burn this team every single game.

Not one wing on this team. Anthony Tolliver looked pathetic out there.

Horford had what? 5 rebounds?

Josh – STOP TAKING JUMPSHOTS. ANOTHER YEAR, SAME CRAP

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Joe

November 2nd, 2012
11:49 pm

Here we go again. Another season of watching Jdoofus hoisting I’ll advised jumpers time and time again. There’s a reason teams leave smith alone as the 24 second clock winds down. And for Christmas sake get a big man. Same oh, same oh!

beone

November 3rd, 2012
12:01 am

Josh is Josh. Just trade him & whomever else needed before the trade deadline to get a long term starter at C (preferably), SF or SG. Make Horford the PF, Teague the PG and then use whatever cap space left to fill the other 2 positions.

Mike

November 3rd, 2012
12:05 am

I was there and I watched some of the game. Larry Drew’s coaching decisions were down right puzzling. I watched Smith make a series of mistakes and Drew? ……Just a timeout and he’s still on the court. Meanwhile, as it became clear we needed a little strength out on the floor and the crowd were asking for Ivan the Terrible to step in….Drew?…….nothing. He just would timeout and draw up some sort of plays that weren’t working and it appears as if he was willing to take the loss rather than actually change his decisions in the game.

gainesville#1

November 3rd, 2012
12:11 am

Was ivan hurt?

Cedric

November 3rd, 2012
12:26 am

20 wins and 62 losses, we will be in the lottery. If Ferry does not select the right star player then we will struggle next year as well. Same team as last year, with different players. Trade Joe and bring in Lou/D. Harris, trade Marvin and bring in Korver/Stephenson. This team is tragically flawed and it will not compete for nothing but the lottery.

Cedric

November 3rd, 2012
12:30 am

Oldschool go watch boring baseball then…

Bradley Curse

November 3rd, 2012
12:47 am

“neither are NBA seasons done after one game”

if you believe those 0-2/NBA Championship stats they’ve been using for the Lakers this week then most NBA seasons are over if you lose the first 2 ……….

Considering how many pts they gave up to the Rockets I’m guessing we’ll see the Hawks blown out for the first of many times this year on Sunday in Oklahoma City

Al

November 3rd, 2012
12:51 am

You guys all sound like a bunch of mediocre losers… We didn’t hire Ferry so he could watch paint dry for the next 3-4 years while the $$ anchor that was Joe Johnson slowly sunk this ship to the bottom.

Jamaaliver

November 3rd, 2012
1:55 am

Yeah, Al. It was JJ holding us back. We definitely look 100x better without him. Josh Smith for MVP…not.

Sargent Carter

November 3rd, 2012
2:12 am

What in the name of Bob Weiss are we doing? Oh, what the heck, at least if we have the Hawks, we get to see the Lakers, Heat, OKC and Bulls when they come to town. To paraphrase Lenny Wilkens, “I can win 50 games a year, get to the playoffs every year, but if I can get no real players…” The pathetic thing is the owners talk about “the succes we have had”. Think the Hawks could win the ACC championship or, The SEC for that matter, hey there ho there hey there…The Mickey Mouse Club

Moorman

November 3rd, 2012
3:27 am

Did the hawks trade ivan ???

No show up

November 3rd, 2012
3:41 am

Untill atlanta sprit group leaves here and sales us to some one else never set foot in Phillps arena cause they sold us out on thrashers and no worry any way atlanta sprit group will move team anyway to seattle cause they buildin a new arena with more seats n skybox’s and rooms get more cause next atlanta sprit group will say phillps is outlasted its time for a new Phillps arenall now. and they move hawks to seattle in time for the 2015 season!

jo

November 3rd, 2012
5:57 am

I saw a scrappy team that played well with their bigger lineup. This translates that we need a big center to stay competitive. We also need Ivan on the floor!

ag

November 3rd, 2012
6:21 am

In the last preseason games, Anthony Tolliver went 0-8. Then he makes the team, plays 16 more minutes and goes 0-3. Meanwhile the team gets outrebounded by over 20 rebounds and the player who led the team in rebounds is sitting in his street clothes.

Then, we start a player, who has not started an opening day since 2005-06 season, not to mention has started only 10 games in the last 7 seasons. He rewards coach Drew with 0 points in 15 minutes. He did contribute 5 fouls.

Then the sixth man of the year goes for a career high 45 – despite being guarded by our defensive stopper (your reputation will follow you) desipte easily in the preseason (yes I actually went to two games) played horrible defense against lesser opponents.

Laslty, AL (I didn’t touch the ball, Mr Excuse), Josh took 21 shots. Horford took 10. How many times did we not establish himself clean looks by moving without the ball ( Please learn to pick and roll). I don’t care how tall a guy is, if you don’t block out, you will not rebound.

BeamMe

November 3rd, 2012
6:53 am

it will be another mediocre year for the hawks–no defense, throwing up forced three’s, — it never seems to change. But, chumps keep buying the tickets and the owners bank millions—so it goes on.l

Native Son

November 3rd, 2012
7:05 am

@Larry Drew
If you are in a battle, and you don’t use all your weapons…………

Soutg Gwinnett Comet

November 3rd, 2012
7:47 am

Glad to see Lou Williams scored 22.

Peter

November 3rd, 2012
8:10 am

When this team is sold to a new ownership group with a clue…….. we will be a contender !

PD

November 3rd, 2012
8:11 am

More post ups and More size is needed for this squad. Bring Back Keith Benson and Damion James drop Tolliver. Yea I know it’s but these are signs of things to come when facing tall teams. The Rockets aren’t even that big in comparison to the rest of the league. They just took advantage of what they have in Asik. Coach Drew has to play more High Low with his big men instead of placing both them at the free throw line.

Peter

November 3rd, 2012
8:18 am

Mark we have the same issues I spoke about 3-4 years ago….. the front line is too small for the league. You mentioned how many years ago we had the size to compete with Boston ?

We are smaller yet…… the hawks still do not have a post up center or a Big period.

Josh also has not learned mush, he reverted to his old game of 3s at the end when we needed punch at the goal.

How many points did Houston score in the paint ? How badly did the Hawks get out rebounded ?

This is a rebuilding year yet again…….. I see a lottery pick in the future, and the Hawks will not make the playoffs…never mind attendance will be horrible this year !

Peter

November 3rd, 2012
8:35 am

By the way did anyone see Marvin Williams line score from last night ?

29 minutes 3 rebounds 6 point 1-6 from the 3 point line….. It won’t be long before the Utah fans understand why he is not a Hawk.

Big Crimson 75

November 3rd, 2012
8:43 am

Ol’ Matty Ice is looking better & better, ain’t he sports fans!!
It’s not too late, c’mon & hop on the wagon(if you like winners).

Phil — since you wanna fire everyone in this Town, I suggest you take a look at this squad. There’s plenty of candidates.

Reggie

November 3rd, 2012
8:43 am

Damien James and Keith Benson are way better options than Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver. Tolliver couldnt shoot in the preseason and surprise he still cant or rebound or defend…but he can wear his socks high. Korver couldnt guard a chair or rebound or defend but he can wear his socks high too.

Peter

November 3rd, 2012
9:07 am

Kyle Korver starting is a joke………Zaza center Al PF and Josh sf…should be the starting front line.

Will Al ever learn to play with his back to the basket ?

Mark Bradley

November 3rd, 2012
9:37 am

I would concede that Kyle Korver mightn’t be long for the starting lineup.

Bill Walton

November 3rd, 2012
10:00 am

Atlanta has an NBA team ? Since when?

Dean

November 3rd, 2012
10:36 am

Few things…
1. Teague, Harris and Lou make a tiny backcourt. We will have trouble defending bigger 1’s and 2’s all year.
2. We don’t have a leader to run the team. Teague is not a floor general, maybe Harris takes that role.
3. Josh is still the same old Josh.
4. We are more exciting than last year, but not necessarily better.
5. Korver is a waste of 5 mil.
6. Horford has got to do better than 14/5.

Murphy Campbelton Jr.

November 3rd, 2012
11:12 am

Can someone teach Larry Drew how to coach ???…and teach his son how to play basketball ??

ToeKnee

November 3rd, 2012
11:55 am

Devin Harris shouldve been in in the 4th

Blue Flame

November 3rd, 2012
12:06 pm

This loss, and the many to follow, can be attributed to lousy ownership. These tightwads killed our hockey team and are hard at work on our basketball team. If you can’t afford to play, get out of the game!

DawgNole

November 3rd, 2012
12:42 pm

Let’s don’t start with the ol’ “It’s only our first game” excuses. The Rockets played their first game a couple of nights ago and won–ON THE ROAD.

No more excuses!!

DawgNole

November 3rd, 2012
12:43 pm

DawgNole

November 3rd, 2012
1:01 pm

Your filter has heartburn again, MB. Disappointing not to be able to post week after week.

Hawks d

November 3rd, 2012
1:15 pm

Big lineup is the ONLY way the hawks are going anywhere. And if we want to be any where near quality then josh has got to make ALL his points in the paint. Its shocking how little we are at the free-throw line.
Something about this first game makes me seriously worried going forward.

mike

November 3rd, 2012
1:47 pm

Although Ivan is small, we needed him last night to bang with Asik and instill some fear around the basked. I don’t understand why LD didn’t put him in lineup. Also, I hope Tolliver just had a bad game he was horrible to watch. Wish Morrow got some PT for some instant offense.