Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jazz @ Hawks - 3/11/09

Preamble Ramble

Excuse the brevity, but it's a few days after the game and we have things to say...
Let's start with our three things:

1. Deron Williams - Wow, that guy just looks like all sorts of awesome. Still can't understand what owner (oops, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to continue the charade that Billy Knight was responsible for that pick) made us select Marvin, but this annual reminder can only be saved with wins.

2. The Mo Evans Experiment - No matter how forced it is, the Mo Evans as a starter experiment is at 4-0 and counting. Hate to say we told you so, but ...

3. Mike Woodson's Evolution - Since none of the other injuries have caused Mike Woodson to coach better, who would believe that Marvin Williams' injury would cause a rethinking of the offense, the rotations, heightened confidence in the bench, renewed commitment to defense, etc, but one has to hope that the things seen vs. the Jazz are repeatable. It's still needs to be proven with all the bullets in the holster, but it sure was good to see the bench given a chance to perform. Not sure if we want that in as long a stint as Mario West received, but one has to be encouraged that while the lead was there - there was no knee jerk reaction to make a change for the sake of making the change.

Game Recap - Hawks 100, Jazz 93

Str8 Butter Award: Joe Johnson

Let's just keep it real. Many have noted that Joe Johnson's production had started to fall off. Well, tonight was a reminder of how valuable Johnson is to the offense. The early 2008-2009 Johnson was in full effect from the opening tip and we are happy to see him back.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown

* Evans - Again, there is this belief that you always have to play your 5 best players, but some of the best teams have debunked that belief. The Spurs and the Mavs come to mind...the reason they don't start their best players is to allow other players to get started and for chemistry/defensive reasons. Evans' good defense and spot up shooting is still a better fit in our opinion for a Horford, Smith, Johnson, Bibby lineup b/c he's the one player in that lineup that doesn't need shots to be effective.

* Smith - Maybe the Bobcats game was that abyss that we all hoped it to be. Ever since then, it's been lights out for JSmoove. It's probably best to not harp on the fact that he still will take bad shots and bring the ball up the court instead of passing to the PG, but when it comes with 20 and 10, blocked shots, steals, and good passing - who are we to complain. Oh, and can you say DUNK ON THEM?

* Horford - Another double double - another solid effort. We called Joe Johnson and Al Horford out in February for their lack of stellar production (we need stellar production for this team to become a 2nd round or better team) and it looks like Horford has stepped up to the challenge. Let's hope Woody continues to get Horford touches and teaches him how to talk trash after a Murray dunk w/o the technical.

* Johnson - 31 and 9...back to back 30pt games - sounds like production for an All Star. Play like this down the stretch and superstar status might still be within reach.

* Bibby - We are concerned about the fact that when Johnson is performing at a high level, then Bibby doesn't. Might it be time for a Law/Johnson starting backcourt and a Bibby/Murray backup backcourt in order to see what these two can do with each other. Law and Murray being able to penetrate and dish and Bibby and Johnson being able to take shots off of that penetration.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - When your backup point guard provides one of the dunks of the game (yes, dunks!), it's a good day. Murray has been a consistent killer for this team all season and let's continue to use him as just that - our Vinnie Johnson.

* Pachulia - As always, solid production off the bench in the post. Nothing more needs to be said.

* Law - He still needs to finish better, but so did Marvin Williams and you see where he is now, so that looks to be more of a function of playing time that ability. There should be much more concern about Law's outside shooting than his ability to drive, dish, and finish. The more he plays the point and plays defense - there is still a baffling sense of why Law can't get more playing time, PARTICULARLY with the injuries we've had this season.

* West - Here's the silver lining in Mario's play. If Mario is able to give us minutes, there has to be a Woody coaching moment involved b/c there isn't a basketball skills reason for Mario to play. While we love Mario's energy and heart, we know that that can only take you so far. Hard nosed defense, making open shots and free throws are necessary to have an energy guy from the 3 spot on the floor. Mario can only do hard nosed defense (presumably), so the silver lining is that Woody has determined that using the bench to see what it gives you when the starters are NOT giving you what you request. And that we will do that against the best teams without feeling a sacrifice of that particular game is necessary. It serves not only a greater good, but can have an immediate payoff. That is actually a golden lining if you ask me. Thanks Mario! [Aside: We still believe that he should be our 10th man, so tread carefully Woody with this experiment]

* Jones - DNP - Not sure how he fell behind Mario on the depth chart, but when you win - you don't ask.
* Morris - DNP
* Gardner - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

As we said above, we'll eschew the desire to nitpick any decisions of a coach we had little confidence in and say we were happy to see a change in strategy by the team. Aside from the brief change to the 4th quarter Joe Johnson isolation play, which resulted in a bucket, 2 bad shots, and a turnover - we were happy to see use of the bench and a strategy that seemed to have us attacking and playing hard nosed defense. Anytime, we attempt to play to our team's strengths (running at every opportunity) - we smile.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Looks like Atlanta is trying to get ready for playoff level crowd participation. Can't ever take that for granted.

2. The Overscene - Not a star studded night, but it was a fairly full house and so we could have missed someone...

3. Our experiences - Maybe it was due to the fact that we were touting our favorite non-floor seats for the Hornets game, but thanks to the best salesman in all of Atlanta's sports teams - (hit me up for more on him)...we were able to watch the game from our FLOOR SEATS. Anytime you see a $400 ticket or a row that's repeated (AA, BB, CC, or DD) - go ahead and do the happy dance. Yep, great game, Level Lounge access (vs. our usual Club Level), and a Hawks win...can't get much better than that.

4. The Honey Quotient - Since we were on the floor, it was hard to see what the crowd had in store, so we'll just say - who cares? We had floor seats, man.

5. Hawk Shouts - The usuals - big up to Will, most definitely

6. The After Party - No after party...too much partying lately to make it out, but Friday will be different.

Season Prediction

Still can't imagine that we will only lose 4 games for the rest of the season (12-4 seems to be asking too much), but 9-7 seems about right with our schedule, so that means 47-35 and possibly that 4th seed. Still not sure we want that with the way that D Wade is playing (I still have that '05 NBA Finals vs. the Mavs ringing in my head and Lord knows we don't want to deal with the referees vs. Wade), but that's where it's headed. Call me back to encouraged that home court advantage would be a big difference for us vs. any team, so let's get it crackin'.

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