Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hawks/Heat - Round 1, Game 4


For the past few days, we've broken (in record time) our word in trying to just be a cheerleader for the Hawks throughout the playoffs and eschewing the need to be critical of our effort. So, we've been all over the board in providing evidence for why we need better coaching. Game 4 just provided more fodder for this stream of consciousness. But before that is done, we want to give thanks to the Hawks Blog Nation for getting the juices flowing - while we don't agree on everything - we share a passion for the home team, so to Micah, Bret, Drew, Coco, THHB, Joe, Sekou and anyone else that loves the Hawks.

Game 4 Recap - Hawks 81, Heat 71

Let's start with the obvious - we won. The reason we won is that we're a better team than the Miami Heat. Nothing that has occurred during the regular season or in the playoffs that has indicated that the Miami Heat have anything better than the Hawks other than Dwyane Wade. Now, Wade is a formidable force, but a force that shouldn't overcome a team better at every position and on the bench.

So, it stands to reason that there are some things that we like and dislike about a Game 4 that was really only in contention for a small stretch because of maybe the most frustrating 4 minutes of basketball seen by this observer all season. So, let's get to our likes & dislikes:

1. Zaza Pachulia - What can you say about Pachulia in Game 4 that hasn't been said by writers and bloggers all evening and morning. He was a beast and the reason we won. The fire, the energy, and the production is exactly what we have come to expect from Zaza when given the minutes. Let's hope that he continues to get the minutes against a team with a weak inside game.

2. Josh Smith - Oh, you know that he'll see time in the dislike section as well, but that's what you get from Smoove. We've said since mid-season that we need to give up on trying to criticize Smoove for his schizo b-ball IQ. Let's just revel in the fact that when he's dialed into the game - he is a PRESENCE. More than any other Hawks player, he wants to be the #1 force for the team. During the first quarter (sans the jump shots), Josh was the best player on the court. Blocks, steals, assists, free throws, driving, acrobatic shots, and energy. The kind of effort that allows you to accept those jump shots and the dribbling up the court (very grudgingly, though).

3. Flip Murray - He definitely kept the team intact while short-handed. There wasn't much of note to his game other than veteran leadership.

4. Maurice Evans - While he played a solid game when he was on the floor, it was his comments at the half to Cheryl Miller that brought a smile to our faces. We're paraphrasing, but Miller's last question was basically - who is going to step up and get this team to settle down and back on course after that meltdown in the 2nd quarter? Mo's answer - 'I am'. Now, who knows what that meant, but FINALLY someone wants to lead this team. Not sure how good Evans is at that, but we'll take the profession of wanting the job as a step forward.

5. Mike Bibby - Bibby shot the ball well, but the thing that made me happiest for the entire game was in the 2nd half when Josh was bitching at the refs for some foul call that the refs were correct in not calling - Bibby shouted repeatedly for Josh to SHUT UP AND PLAY BALL. Not once, not softly, not with care, but simply - be a man, it may not be fair, but focus on this possession so we can win a game. That's called leadership. Unfortunately, this should have been on display from Game 1 instead of Game 86. Oh and go get the ball from your forwards like you are taught in youth league basketball.

1. Players Only Meetings before Playoff Games - The result notwithstanding - it's disturbing that you need a players only meeting to convince everyone to do the things that they didn't do in Game 2 and Game 3, which is to cheer enthusiastically and stand up for your teammates during the game if you're on the bench and to come out and play as if your lives depend on it. That's really all that you need to do to beat the Heat. Play like your lives depend on it. Much has been said about this 50% 3pt shooting, but we maintain that if we played like our lives depended on it - we'd at a minimum be playing to close out the series tomorrow. So, yes - we're shaking our heads at the fact that you have to have a team only meeting to reiterate all that...

2. Josh Smith's Teammates - It has gotten to this...STOP PASSING JSMOOVE THE BALL IN JUMP SHOOTING POSITIONS. We noted during the final month that Josh Smith hitting some jump shots was going to end up being a bad thing in the long term. If people recall, Josh had pretty much stopped shooting 3 point shots during the middle part of the season. We all thought that the light bulb had gone off, but it only took a stretch where he hit some long range bombs toward the end of the season to get him back to shooting shots that he's not good at. Now, maybe Smoove works on his shot in the offseason (a la Marvin Williams) and gets so good that we laugh at these past seasons, but until then. If we can see it - the teammates should be able to see it as well. If Josh hits a jumper, he will keep shooting it. If he misses a jumper horribly, he won't stop shooting it. SO, we must eliminate this option for him. DO NOT PASS HIM THE BALL IN JUMP SHOOTING POSITIONS. He is self check from long range. They know it, we know it, the other team knows it. Since Josh Smith can't make that decision on his own, it's now his teammates who will incur my wrath for the remainder of the season when you pass it to him in a jump shooting position. You hear me, Bibby and JJ?

3. Joe Johnson - What happened to you? Wasn't that you that said you wanted to be a legend and that legends are made in the playoffs? Are you trying to pull a Ray Allen (circa 2008)? Is it all those minutes that we begged Coach Woodson to stop giving you unnecessarily? No comment on what's really going on, but we will say that Joe certainly doesn't look to be showing any passion, leadership, or production that befits his talent. Please get your mojo back because you are playing like you're punked by the double team right now.

4. Al Horford - Yes, you were a victim of the Woodson foul game to the point that you were out of the flow early, BUT you better see what Zaza was doing out there and do it better. This was Exhibit A for why we don't give you an excuse to not have a significant impact consistently (like everyone else) does despite the fact that you don't get any plays called for you. Neither did Shawn Marion. Neither does Zaza. He puts up double doubles in limited time for us often. We think you're a talented fellow, but we're focused on production, not talent. Everyone gives you a pass b/c you won some college titles and you don't do stupid things on the court. Here's what I have to say about that - you can do stupid things like Josh does if you put up the production he does all over the court when he's dialed in. That said, please show us that you're better than Jermaine O'Neal. That shouldn't be too high a hurdle to leap over.

5. Josh Smith - Listen, we're not going to harp on the jump shots - it's obvious you don't care about what your talent, coach, teammates, or bloggers say about this. We just have to live with your jump shots this season. You're 23 and haven't gotten a clue on that one. But the bitching about fouls has GOT to stop. You are reaching Rasheed Wallace levels on your scowl to foul ratio (hey, that rhymes - Andre 3000, watch out!). It's ridiculous - yes, you get fouled sometimes and it isn't called. Yes, you sometimes get calls when you don't foul. BUT MOST of the time - it's a foul. Period. Your hip check on Chalmers was a FOUL! No need to talk to the refs about it. My goodness - it just strips away at your credibility to do so. I know you're 23 and that you may not be able to see the big picture yet, but just trust us - we love you and want the best for you. SHUT THE ---- UP! And teammates - tell him the same.

6. Coach Woodson, Captains, Leaders - The score was 44-23 going into a timeout with 3 minutes left in the half. The rout was on. The half ended 46 - 42. Now, you had to expect a run, but how do you allow a 19-2 run in 3 minutes. How is that possible? Were there not enough timeouts? Was there not a reason to say 'hey, Solomon Jones made a boneheaded play, so let's get him OUT of the game' since saving a player from 1 foul isn't worth giving a team life over. (Note: No Hawk had more than 4 fouls to end the game. We are still wondering why the world has to end if a player fouls out of a game - at least you get as much time as you can out of said player vs. watching them on the bench with fouls to give - never figured out why that EVER makes sense). Yes, the foul by Mo Evans was touch and go and YES the Bibby foul was completely bogus, but that shouldn't cause you to completely implode.

Here's what we call leadership - Kobe and the Lakers close out the Jazz last night by 11. After the game, they ask Kobe what he thinks about the game. He says - it's ridiculous that they came back to within 5 and that we need to do better about closing a team out and that we'll be working on that during our week off. Why is this important? B/c instead of patting himself on the back for closing out a team - he's focused on the performance that will win him a title. He knew they were better than the Jazz and that they'd need to be better in that situation vs. a better team. No need to tap your chest over a victory you knew was coming - just focus on where you can get better. I would have been giddy to hear the Hawks say afterward - we won, but we need to play much better defense since they missed a lot of open looks and we need to execute on offense since 81 pts isn't likely to win Game 5 or Game 6, but instead what I heard Joe Johnson say was that we made some changes - hmm, what changes are those, Joe? We switched the pick and roll so that we left Bibby on Wade and Bibby did a great job. Really? It's a great job when he just misses looks vs. Bibby and Zaza while hurt. Ugh! At least you said - we still had work to do. Which leads to the next dislike...

7. The Blog Nation - I'm not happy to read our Blog Nation speak about this victory as if it was a significant accomplishment. We did NOT shut down D Wade. D Wade was hurt. The supporting cast was who we thought they were, the rookies showed that they were rookies, their 2nd round picks masquerading as starters - showed why they are 2nd rounders. These guys shot 37% FG, 25% 3pt range, and 75% from the free throw line - that should have meant a 20+ pt victory. On a night like this, the Hawks didn't have to do much more than play with energy. Joe didn't come to play. Al wasn't good when he was in the game, Flip didn't shoot well, Josh shot poorly. The point is that we said from day 1 - the Hawks are better than the Heat.

They need both D Wade and the supporting cast to perform well to win. In the second half, we left D Wade one on one with Bibby and Zaza for most of the half and he couldn't convert. That wasn't good defense - that was D Wade being completely off and hurt. Period. So, the keys to beating the Heat are - play with energy and don't let both D Wade and the supporting cast beat you. Shut down one and you win the series.

Sounds real simple, huh? Yep, it's that simple...we have said since the start of this series that we EXPECT to beat the Heat. They aren't very good. If we lose, it's more of an indictment on us than the Heat or D Wade. Period. To think of it any other way is foolhearted. Now, let's win these next 2 games and take our a$$ kickin' in Cleveland like men.

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