First, know that it's always Str8Talk's objective to keep it real...not get too high and not get too low. Well, it'll probably be debated by some, but there's no doubt in the mind that this was the BEST win of the year. Maybe in a few years...why? See below! While our friends at Hoopinion, THHB, Peachtree Hoops, and The Vent will have all angles covered, so here's our impressions from the Highlight Factory.
Game Recap - Hawks 99, Blazers 95 (OT)
- Who knew that Juwan Howard was still stealing money?
- Toughness, grit, heart...we've been saying that's what's been missing from this team's run for glory and well, for the first time in a long time - we gutted out a victory over a really good defensive team.
- Who needs Brandon Roy when you can have Shelden Williams?
- Watching Steve Blake shoot open 3s reminded me of Josh Smith (YES, you got your J back) last year
- Listen refs - it's ok to call a foul in the last minute if a player gets hit across the bridge of his nose and goes sprawling to the floor esp. against one of the 'I'll foul you for the hell of it' players in the NBA (insert G. Oden here)
- Atlanta Fans - it has been stated already that the fans haven't yet recognized that the Hawks are a good team striving to be great and greatness needs FAN SUPPORT! Well, in a half empty Hawks gym - the fans stood up in the fourth quarter and joined Josh and Joe in leading the Hawks to victory! Hairs raise on my head when thinking of the same outcome with the other half in the building. D-Wade on Wednesday...be there!
Starter Kudos/Smackdown -
* M. Williams - He struggled on the offensive end and frankly, I don't see that changing much in this offense, but if Marvin accepts the challenge of becoming a defensive stopper - there may be a championship level effort in you, yet.
* Josh Smith - A whole career has been consisted of these quotes - can't make jump shots, starts too many fast breaks, can't make free throws, doesn't make good basketball decisions. Well, guess what - some of that still exists, but just like players like Shaq or Ben Wallace, etc - Josh's game is starting to overshadow those flaws in a way that it makes us proud to say - if you can play to your strengths...we can accept your weaknesses!
* M. Bibby - Actually only one comment - please go get the ball from our forwards when they rebound the ball, so you can run the fast break. Please!
* J. Johnson - No complaints about minutes or anything like that - the Hawks needed you tonight and yes, we have serious concerns about the conundrum we face when our crunch time offense degenerates into iso-Joe exclusively, but when it works - it works. For someone as talented as you, it will ultimately work to some degree, but there still is a question of whether it's by design or by character flaw...but Joe will try to beat a double team and on nights like tonight - it'll work.
* A. Horford - Again, yeoman work in the time you were on the court. Double Double and solid defensive work.
* J. Crawford - simply put - we will be at the mercy of Woodson's ability to keep Jamal from shooting us out of games, but we do respect the heart it takes to try to win games solely on his shotmaking ability
* J. Teague - Thanks for attempting to inject your imprint on the game in your 5 minutes.
* M. Evans - Unfortunately, you aren't like Teague and can't just take the ball and try to inject your imprint on a game, but we're ok with that...
* Joe Smith - Like Mo Evans, you can't do much when not granted the right to do much. Not complaining much, but what is different about a championship frontcourt in Boston and young frontcourt at home vs. Portland that keeps you from getting more minutes.
* Z. Pachulia - The 9 rebounds and solid defense were key!
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive
We're really beside ourselves when we say this - we actually liked what Woodson did tonight. First, you'll have nights when the shots won't fall. That's not a Woodson issue (maybe in design, but open shots are open shots), but the attempt to let the second team change the momentum or tempo (with the rookie even) was a stroke of good coaching. Things didn't really change, it's that trust that allows Joe Johnson the rest to come back in the 4th quarter and go the rest of the way and TORCH the Blazers (pun intended). That's where the growth in Woodson can be measured. Not always in a substitution that results in a 16-0 run, but sometimes it's in sitting a player on Sunday in order to have him ready on Monday. Or sitting him in the face of a deficit and trusting that rest will be useful in the 4th quarter.
The old Woodson plays Joe Johnson the entire 2nd half and he doesn't have the legs to attack for 15 straight minutes. Now, I'm still not sure why Mo, Joe Smith, and Teague were not trusted to possibly turn around the game (yes, Woody - sometimes, the RESERVES...not just Jamal can change the game), but we won't quibble on what we thought was good coaching management.
Str8 Talk Love
There's never a dull moment when joined by the homies at the Hawks games. The kiss cam, the organ, the oft repeated segments (and even today's awful attempt at some staged dating thing with the dance team members and Harry - please pull that one from the game operations playbook), and what not all make a difference, but let's be clear - it's always about the games! ALWAYS! Now, when a boring Paul-less Hornets comes to town - those things keep your attention, but tonight was a GREAT game and it's made greater when everyone who is a fan comes to see it, so we implore you Hawks fans - come see our Hawks. Call Will Stephens and get your discounted tickets now! It's great fun and in a town where the Braves are down, the Falcons could be back to another .500 season - it could be your Hawks that make the town sizzle come May and June! So, let's get this thing moving in the right direction where the stars are out, the heat is on, and the groupies are plentiful :).
Dance Team/Game Ops update - At the expense of our ability to date multiple dance team members, this dance team really is uninspired. Overheard by two people was the quote 'is this REALLY the best Atlanta can do for a dance team?' And that about sums it up...as a true Atlanta defender, all that dances in my head are my forays to Miami Arena and seeing how wonderful those girls look and dance. A SOS is out for 2010-2011...
Shout Outs - the chef who made the Bananas Foster tonight! I hate the acronyms, but OMG!!! Next time you see it - stop and make yourself purchase it. Nothing is worth the price at Philips, but never have $7 been given away with more glee.
Final Notes - We'll say it again...best win of the year for what it represents. We've seen this team win big games before, but almost exclusively - it was when most things were going right. When things are going terribly wrong against a really good team, we regularly lose that game. Tonight, we fought and won and all of this in the face of unprecedented accolades for the Hawks. Yes, #1 in NBA.com and ESPN.com's power rankings would qualify as unprecedented. Winning all games during a week when we play Portland, Houston, Miami, and New Orleans would qualify as reason to say - maybe i was COMPLETELY wrong about our ability to be a part of the Big 4!!!
53-29 and a run at the Southeast Division title...with games vs. Miami and Orlando over the next 2 weeks - we'll see whether or not we are prepared to send a message this year that we're serious about winning our division and by extension NOT being happy with a top 4 finish this year. Not sure if I've ever seen a goal set for us to win the division or conference, but if someone has it - show it to us. It's time to do big things!!!! Let's Go Hawks!!