Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pacers @ Hawks - 3/13/09

Preamble Ramble

Straight to the point - our three things

1. The Early Season Hawks Are Back - The one theme we recollect from the season's start was that while we were not blowing teams away - we were mentally tough down the stretch and particularly at home. Right now, that's what we see. An ugly stretch in the first half against a woeful Pacers team made for a potential bad start to the weekend, but in true early season fashion - the ship was righted as a result of Joe Johnson and some timely bench energy

2. The Mo Evans Experiment - We'll just say again 5-0 with Mo in the starting lineup. Small sample size for sure, but undefeated is undefeated. What is more interesting is what to read into the 11-1 with Marvin out of the lineup.

3. Mike Woodson - Again, we can't OVERSTATE this. There is some coaching going on. I don't hold Woody accountable completely for our team being susceptible to overlooking teams for short stretches of a game. That happens to all teams - we can't always play well, but it's the adjustments that you make that make you confident in one's ability. For a 2 game stretch, Woody has responded to poor play and has planned for the playoffs. On one end, he is playing the bench (we'll overlook Mario West coming in as the 6th man in hopes that it doesn't happen again - we don't mind him as the 9th man or as a message for the energy and defense you want in a quick stint, but coming in early in the game without the other proven bench players hitting the court is a bit much). On the other end, he actually took the starters out (most importantly, Joe) as SOON as the team looked like it had the game in hand. The old Woody plays Joe until 45 seconds are left in the game, so imagine the surprise of seeing Joe leaving with 5 minutes left in the game. The rest of the bench emptied shortly thereafter. Acie even got 4 different shifts in the game. All we can say is - Woody, have you been reading this blog? For that matter, any blog?

Game Recap - Hawks 101, Pacers 87

Str8 Butter Award: Joe Johnson

Another 30 pt outing = the on court leadership we've been looking for. Let's make it 4 in a row on Sunday.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown

* Evans - One of his best and most efficient outings. We hate to pat ourselves on the back, but count us among the folks who will be howling if Marvin hits the starting lineup immediately upon being activated if we're still playing as well as we are right now. Let Marvin be our super sub, PLEASE!!!

* Smith - Another Woodson kudo. If JSmoove doesn't want to bring the effort that he needs to bring to be effective. SIT HIM. He will get the message or he'll sit. So, as I watched Bibby, Evans, and Johnson grab more boards during most of the game - nothing could have sent a better message than - we'll play our bench and win this game without you, Smoove.

* Horford - THIS is what we call a man's admission. Horford, thank you for providing me visual, tangible evidence of what we all think you can be for this team. Consistent, solid production. The touches are still a little sporadic, but your work rate is what we count on and it was there for us against a game, but overmatched Hibbert.

* Johnson - 3 in a row...can't say anything bad when there is no evidence of the Joe Johnson isolation play. 30 in the flow of the offense or abusing one on one plays is ok with us.

* Bibby - The defense was ..uh, offensive, but the offense was almost back even if the 3pt stroke was not. Let's continue to manage Bibby's minutes, so he's fresh for the postseason.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Murray - Nothing really special here, but the energy was where it needed to be.

* Pachulia - Give the man 15 minutes and he'll get you damn near 10 boards, so the question is - is there a time when we might want to play him and Horford together with Smoove at the 3 in order to match up on the boards. Just a thought for all the times we get outrebounded. Yeah, this rebuffs my Mo Evans experiment, but now is the time to figure out what combinations are viable for the postseason.

* Law - He could be more aggressive all the time (kinda like Kevin Johnson in his heyday), but 3 assists, no turnovers, good defensive energy, and 4 stints in the game. It's making me afraid that a Charlie Brown/Lucy football foray is in the works by our fair coach...are you really gonna let us kick the football, Luc...oops, Woody?

* West - We gave you the silver lining in our last game recap, now let's give the honest truth. West is an ENERGY guy. You send him in to send a message or to play defense. That's it. Anyone with his hops who can get 3 straight offensive rebounds and has the b-ball IQ not to pass the ball to JSmoove on the perimeter, YET can't hit an open 4 ft shot (or even try to attempt it) says that he simply needs to come in under those circumstances. Now, let's be honest - I'd prefer to see him in for a few extra minutes than not at all as a metaphor for Woody's willingness to trust in his bench, but let's find the RIGHT mix and that means only when we come out lazy or when we need a stop or to give a foul, etc.

* Jones - Back in the rotation...what else can be said?
* Gardner - Finally a chance for a few minutes, but why are you not jacking it up when you get in? Show Woody that you have a skill that the Hawks can use.
* Morris - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Using the bench and sitting Smoove says to me that MAYBE Woody is turning the corner on this coaching thing - albeit 4 years later, but hey - we ain't too proud to beg.

Str8 Talk Love

1. The Crowd - Sparse crowd, but those who were there were loud and in tune with the task of WINNING from the 2nd quarter on...gotta love it.

2. The Overscene - Nothing much of note actually.

3. Our experiences - Nothing of note again.

4. The Honey Quotient - Sensing a pattern here

5. Hawk Shouts - Kat

6. The After Party - Since we didn't flub the game, there was no reason to avoid the best party of the year. Sol Fusion at Aja was extraordinary as usual. Very diverse crowd, great venue, good people watching, and the music of our youth, oh... and expensive drinks....what says Atlanta more than that? Anyway, it was a great time had by all. Enjoyed the friends, old and new.

Season Prediction
Sticking with 47-35 as my prediction for the season's final record. Which is seven games better than my preseason prediction and 4 games better than my best case prediction, so for all my whining - we are still doing better than expected. Good times...

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