Let's just say that the next few paragraphs will sound as if they are not coming from the Hawks #1 fan, but please be sure -they are. They come from the #1 fan who also has no problem with Str8 Talk. So, it's time to be real.
Game Recap - Heat a lot of points, Hawks too few points
First, let it be said that a 8 AM flight to see the Hawks play the Heat was in order until a reminder notice was viewed about a friend's going away to Iraq party. So, thanks to Sgt. Marcus Smith - you were spared a more crazed blog posting (no one costs me money without the payoff of victory). Thanks Sgt. Smith for your service to our country and your service to me in saving me the cost of watching an ass kicking.
Now, it's really hard to know where to start, but it's time to stop having bloggers and fans speak less than truth to power. These Atlanta Hawks lack the things you need for playoff and championship success, so let's not talk any further about the Heat playing out of their minds or D Wade carrying them to victory. The things causing our domination have little to do with the Heat. They have to do with the Hawks deciding to not rachet up their focus, their defensive aggressiveness, their offensive unselfishness, their transition game, or killing their desire to blame officiating for things during the game.
We'd be better served by cultivating the following: leadership, consistent defensive effort, an offensive strategy, and mental toughness. It's not free throw shooting, not athleticism, not 3pt shooting, not blocked shots. All season, we've discussed whether or not we have the stuff of champions. For the most part, we've communicated that the success of this season has been that we are able to defeat teams that we're clearly better than. That will result in 40+ wins every season. And in contrast to season's past - that's an acceptable goal. If we hadn't shown so early in the season that we could be better than advertised, then we'd accept it, but the expectations were raised and the noted goal of 50 wins and a playoff series victory says that we should be doing better. Particularly when the team you are playing is NOT better than yours. We can accept being beaten, we can't accept being dominated by a semi-good team. That just shouldn't happen.
The rub is in whether we can defeat teams that are equal or better than us. Consistently, we have proven that that is not the case unless we play them at home. There is no reason for the Atlanta Hawks to lose by 30 pts on the road to a one man team. Period. The Miami Heat do not own an advantage over the Atlanta Hawks at any position with the exception of shooting guard (and even there - it's not a huge gap advantage, though it is a considerable one) and even the bench is thin on both accounts. So, it stands to reason that the difference is in those things that matter in the playoffs.
So, why are we losing in this manner to a team that is better than the other? Well, we see two things happening - Coach Spoelstra has shown himself to be a better coach than Coach Woodson. His adjustments have allowed his team to counteract the Hawks' strengths. A coach's worth is in his ability to cultivate a strategy that positions his team for victory in the short and long term, in being able to motivate the charges to do their best, and to make adjustments on a game-by-game basis. That's the point of having a coach. Unfortunately, we aren't getting a great return on investment in those categories. If you want evidence, here's evidence:
1. When your team's offensive strategy relies on dribbling and good outside shooting, you are set up for disaster. All season - we've hoped that our outside shooting would win for us. You can survive this during the regular season when you are playing inferior talent, but superior teams will not allow one on one play and outside shooting to defeat it. PERIOD. So, there is nothing good about having your power forward and center shooting outside jump shots and having your guards having to create their own shots off the dribble as a part of the DESIGN! When your coach thinks that 'getting hot or making shots is an answer to 'what should you do in the 2nd quarter'', then I say - we're losing the coaching war. How about setting better screens for your shooters or, heaven forbid, going to a low post game with Horford or Smith or Pachulia?
2. When your team's defensive strategy of switching on all screens, you are set up for disaster. A team who is getting open looks (no matter where) should see a new defensive strategy. PERIOD. So, as we said in the series - make the decision to either let D Wade get his and lock down everyone else OR to let the others get theirs and lock D Wade down, but you can't let BOTH happen. To date, we haven't seen where our philosophy resides. The decision to not double D Wade and get the ball out of his hand - HASN'T worked. I will say what has worked - doubling Joe Johnson at the three point line. Sure can't see why if it works against our star that it can't be done against theirs.
3. When your starters come out without any energy, why not play the energy guys? So, on a night when we didn't come out to play - why not play Mario, Acie, Solo, or anyone else who WANTED to play? Better yet, why not employ the Popovich approach of just knowing when to fold 'em and to sit your starters for another game 2 days later.
What we're finding is nothing that we didn't think was possible from the Atlanta Hawks, but it is still distressing to see it manifest itself in 3 non-competitive games (only one from the good guys). Games that basically have the TNT guys (Chuck, Ernie, and Kenny) laughing at how bad the Atlanta Hawks offensive strategy and execution is. No #4 seed should be a joke. Even Mike Fratello noted that their is no leader on the Hawks and that if you don't have that - it has to come from the coach. So, what was the coach quote on what to do to turn things around after half - it's that 'I can't beat up on them b/c they may get down and play tight'. How did that work out for you, Coach?
Uh...when you're down by 21 in a critical playoff game and your team is playing like feces - that denotes that if no player is going to break a chalkboard over it, then YOU are allowed to lose your mind over the level of play you're seeing. If a player doesn't respond to that and goes into a shell over your anger at their lack of effort, BENCH THEM. Play someone who doesn't shrink from the challenge. Down 21 requires a challenge. Tough love is still love. You can rest assured that if they let me give the halftime speech after traveling to Miami during a recession to see them play like they did tonight - the last thing that would be said is sweet nothings to keep from hurting someone's feelings for fear that they'd be tighter. Losing is acceptable, but being laughed at for your approach is not, particularly when you aren't even attempting to play to your strengths - running, athleticism, having better post players than the other team...
I know it'll be easy to pick at the players and that's appropriate, but as we've said all year - it's unfair to even make an analysis on these players until we see a coaching philosophy that reflects an attempt to be successful (playoff, championship successful). As we said to start the series, the Hawks should win in 5 if we play hard and coach hard. We only played hard in 1 game and still haven't seen any hard coaching. So, it's Miami 2-1.
The only upside to this is that the level of embarrassment that is being levied at the Hawks will either wake them up on their way to a playoff series victory OR a reason to lift the ceiling on this team's future prospects in the way of a removal of the coach (or adjustments of the Mike Brown level - by hiring assistant coaches to design an offensive and defensive philosophy). That won't solve the lack of player development and management issues, but it would at least resolve the issue of the Hawks looking as if they are not ready for prime time by design. We're not sure what's preferable at this point - a playoff series victory or a performance so putrid that it forces coaching changes. The fact that that question has to be asked should reflect just how bad the Hawks look right now.
The more I think about it, the more I hope that we just continue to get blown out to make this decision easier on GM Sund.
NBA Rising Stars Challenge open thread - *NBA Celebrity Game:* 7pm *NBA Rising Stars Challenge:* 9pm
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