This year, I wanted to do better about sending blogs within hours of the games ending and news coming out. Well, this was thwarted by an offensive by the officiating crew that refereed the game. Now, this is not said to give the Hawks a pass for losing a game they should have won, but simply to provide you the context for how long it took for me to calm down after a loss. Not sure if I've taken a loss this hard since the Celtics game on ESPN and not sure if I've ever kicked a chair in the club level, but leave it to our late 4th quarter execution (and building angst described below) to cause an infliction of Adidas-icitis on a stool.
Before I get to the game recap, three things:
1. I am thoroughly frustrated with any fans who come away from that game happy with our effort and saying we should be proud of the Hawks. Listen, I've been saying this since it became apparent that we had a playoff team. We must get over the moral victory stage in our fan-dom. Screw the moral victory - the Hawks play games to win them. That's it. We can play and beat any team in the league. I don't believe we can beat most playoff teams in a 7 game series (if our team stays as presently constituted), but I do believe that we can beat any team on any night if we play to our strengths and, therefore, on a night when we have the game under control - I am not going to be happy because the team we lost to has a great record. Maybe if we were on the road, but at home - sorry...stop being satisfied with almost.
2. I'm not going to blame the refs for the loss. That said, they were awful. There's no doubt that at least 5-6 calls were extremely questionable. Now, the issue I'm frustrated about in the grand scheme is this - LeBron James is the best basketball player in the planet in my mind and he doesn't NEED superstar calls. None do. Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson...none of these guys need superstar calls. On too many occasions, that is the difference btw a win and a loss. Simply call the game that's in front of you. That's it. It won't take any shine off of their brilliance to not be given extra possessions or even extra shots to win games. So, to watch Joe Johnson get hit before the final Cavs possession, then watch LeBron not get hit and get a call is really just sickening. Either call it both ways or don't call it.
3. Free Throws - I have repeatedly said that our free throw shooting is a major issue. It still doesn't seem to be taken seriously. If Josh hits the first 2 free throws of the game, we win. I hate to cherry pick things, but I just believe that if we can get our 2nd worst free throw shooting percentage up, then we can add 4-5 pts to our score a game. That is a major difference in winning and losing.
Game Recap - Cavaliers 88, Hawks 87
Str8 Butter Award: Zaza Pachulia
There was a lot to like about the Hawks' effort this evening, but none more than Zaza's infusion of energy and commitment to the glass. My loyal readers already know of my affinity for Zaza's effort as a backup center for this team, but tonight - we needed someone to commit to playing down low and Zaza was up to the challenge. 23 minutes and 6 offensive rebounds - almost a double double with less than 3" on his vertical leap sounds like Str8 Butter to me.
* Williams - You can't measure Marvin's impact on this game by looking at a box score. Marvin frequently played LeBron well (or what you would consider well since all you can do is hope to contain the best player in the game). Now, some of this effort is marred by the fact that the referees seemed to want to mimic the Fox News mantra of having a slogan, but not sticking to it.
* Smith - It's already been discussed ad nauseum in chat rooms, on message boards, and in the blogsophere as to why Josh Smith didn't play for much of the 2nd half. I certainly would love to hear what Josh or Woody have to say about it, but I will say that if this was based on lack of effort or any desire to prove that we can beat the best teams without a reliance on Josh OR a desire to simply ride with the team that brought you to the brink of victory. So.Be.It!!! I love Josh - no one has defended Josh Smith more than me. I forgive bad Josh in order to get some good Josh, but when the bad Josh (no free throw shooting, jump shot shooting, sulking, complaining about fouls that he ABSOLUTELY committed) starts to equal the effort of good Josh - a benching is fine by me. None of that trade Josh, give up on Josh crap here, just saying that coaching Josh has been sorely missing his entire career and if that's what this was...we can only ask for more and to almost win should hopefully give Woodson more leeway to actually focus on the big picture without feeling like the small picture (winning an individual game) will surely be compromised.
* Horford - A double double for Al, but surely - with the weak inside presence that the Cavs are trying to shore up with Joe Smith (probably as we speak - uh, an aside : GM Sund, can WE also try to get Joe Smith, can we try to get Stromile Swift, etc?) we could have gone to Al more during the game. He had been doing it for the past few games, so let's keep going to what has been WORKING.
* Johnson - A decent game from Joe, but as we've previously stated - let's call Joe what he is - an All-Star, not a superstar. That's not meant as a knock. That's meant as ...he's an All Star. A superstar gets calls and wins games. And well...we didn't get calls nor did we win the game. Now, I'm not going to knock his individual game, but I am going to say that if it is Joe's decision to ask for the ISO down the stretch, then I blame Joe for having a belief in his abilities that isn't being supported by victories over good to great teams. Good to great defensive teams will not allow the last 4 minutes to be defeated by a play that we ALL have watched for the past 4 years. Sorry to say that, but only D-Wade, Kobe, Paul, LeBron are good enough to impose their will on the game like that. I love Joe, but Joe you are an All Star, not a superstar. I'm not sure if he needs to know that or if Woodson needs to know it, but SOMEONE needs to know it on the Hawks bench.
* Bibby - I could just repeat what I said on Friday and in fact, I will. Do not play Mike Bibby again until he is fully healthy. Period. I still am shaking my head in disbelief over why he was in the game with 40 seconds left. DISBELIEF!!!!
* Murray - Flip, I am now a fan of yours. That said, you are not our 2nd best option on any night. I want to see you doing what you do best in spurts and when Marvin, Al, and Joe are on the court - you running an isolation play is NOT what I want to see. I want to see you playing off our better options. Just sayin'...
* Pachulia - See Str8 Butter Award
* Evans - Mo, I forgot that Mo even played. Not only that - then I looked at his line in the box score and uh...the line supports my recollection of you playing.
* Law - DNP. Let's hope that we can see you play until Bibby is healthy.
* Jones - DNP
* West - DNP
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - Inactive. And thanks to hoopinion for posting the Gardner interview. I'm so happy that he seems to have his head on straight. In fact, I would have rather seen him in the game than Bibby for the final 40 seconds.
* Hunter - Inactive
First, let's kill the coach, players, and referees for the correct things. I will not kill Woodson for sitting Josh Smith for most of the 2nd half. I will not kill Woodson for sitting Bibby once he showed he wasn't ready. And that's where it ends. I will continue to highlight why I believe Woodson to be ineffective as a leader of this basketball team. I hate to do it actually. I'm a pretty benevolent guy, but let's count the ways...they have quickness on the wings - how about playing Acie to match their quickness? Why even play Bibby? Why not bring in more bodies (maybe Josh can block his shot off the ball) to stop the LeBron penetration on the final play? WHY OH WHY did we spend the last 4 minutes going to Joe with that DAMN isolation play? At the four minute mark, I said to myself - we've playing decent basketball. We came back and none of it was based on the Joe Johnson 4th quarter dribble around until you can get a shot play (or in some cases, Flip), so WHY start now when you're ahead. I don't kill the team for not trying to get a 2 for 1 shot situation with the game on the line - I blame them for reverting to the things that truly haven't shown themselves to be effective over the long haul.
Str8 Talk Love
1. The Crowd - Now, there's my Superstar's in town, Friday night, Get Crunk Crowd. You know it's gonna be a good night when you get to the game 30 minutes early and are in LINE to get in. Yesssss Weeeeee Cannnnnnn!
2. The Overscene - I'm sure it was reported that many of the stars were in the house. Plenty of football and hockey players joined Spike Lee, Bill Murray, Ciara, Polow Da Don, Christina Milian (in a ridiculous get up), The Dream, Usher, and so many others...
3. Our experiences - Thanks to my people who handled the drinks, seats, and entertainment. I was able to hold it down with T.K. and Brian Thomas as we got a chance to not sit in our seats and enjoy the sights (the game and otherwise). All I'll say is that for everything that I thought was missing on Friday with D-Wade - it was there in spades on Sunday, snow be damned. All I can say is - let's do it again at the end of March with the Celtics/Lakers weekend at the Highlight Factory.
4. The Honey Quotient - I gave away one of the things that I'm most attracted to in my last blog and that was teeth. Well, let's just say that since I gave you the celebrity lineup above - know that the ladies came out tonight to show them off for me. I had no idea that Sunday night could be so sublime (and short of a victory, it was), so thank you to the people who made the game so freakin' difficult to focus on the game itself. Let's just say that there was a lot of visual candy that had to deleted from the brain at halftime and during pre-game (PRE-GAME, people) in order to get focused on the game and 2nd half. Shouts to Jocelyn, Natalia, Keisha, Angie, and so many others who make our eyes sparkle :)
5. Hawk Shouts - Just the regulars...big up!
6. The After Party - Now, I was fully prepared to hit the streets with Bro. Choo and the fellas, BUT my anger at the game couldn't help me meet the challenge to let go. So, it was off to the house for the game replay and the Amazing Race. ;)
Nothing has changed - it's 45-37, but I must say - if we can only play with more energy, we can win about 10 of the next 12 home games, but energy is necessary, Hawks. With that, we're gone.
April 19 Game 1: Nets vs Hawks - The Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets open their first round series on Sunday evening, and the home team will be searching to make a statement in Game 1. ...
35 minutes ago