Friday, November 27, 2009

Game Recap - Magic @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

2 Game Losing Streak. Panic should not be setting in, but it should leave a little doubt as to whether or not we're of that ilk. To understand what that ilk is and the difficulty involved in cheering to the fullest during a Turkey Day clash (er...clunker), see below.

Game Recap - Magic 93, Hawks 76

Overall Observations:
  • Good crowd, but we still are trying to figure out how they determine what a sellout is vs. what I see in the stands. I don't want to get in the way of the PR/Marketing spin that gets more people on board the Hawks bandwagon, BUT I've been to almost every game and ... we've yet to see anything that looks like a sellout. Maybe we can have a designation like - ticket sell out and people sell out.
  • Sorry Hawks concessions, but methinks that today might have been your lowest sales day ever.
  • The Josh Complain-O-Meter was at its season low. Now, if the output is going to match the complaints, then we're going to have to rethink our belief that complaining Josh has to go.
  • The Josh Jump Shot-O-Meter was at its all time low earlier in the season, but in the last 2 games has started to creep back up - we're seeing even more of a tolerance from the crowds (earlier games brought boos when Josh shot from outside 10 feet). Everyone, let's continue to be vigilant about extinguishing every iota of non-inside 3 seconds on the game or 24 second clock jump shots.
  • Looks like we're going to have to create a metric for what is most disconcerting - the Joe Johnson/Jamal Crawford dribble-thon that seems to be a linchpin of the Atlanta Hawk offense.
  • To the Magic, while we praise the defensive effort in the first half of the Hawks, could it really be fool's gold to have looked at that favorably instead of just thanking the Magic for not giving the ball to Dwight Howard much in the first half b/c when they did...ball game.
  • The Points in the Paint leader obviously didn't take any pride in wanting to continue to be that by the end of the game b/c it was jump shot city out there.
  • Also, how is it that despite only 25 turnovers between both teams that this game looked so sloppy?
Str8 Butter Award - No one gets a Str8 Butter Award for almost ruining my Thanksgiving Day.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - By every measure, the Hawks are not really getting a good return on the money they've re-signed Marvin for. Not on the defensive end, not as a shooter, and I'm not sure there's anything this coaching staff is going to do other than say...just keep shooting. Sigh...
* Josh Smith - On a night like tonight, we won't worry much about the jump shots and will be positive about the fact that Josh was fighting on the boards and had some level of activity while not being able to get shots to fall.
* M. Bibby - Glad to see that there were no ill effects from the ankle sprain. Now, if we can just get you to be a real point guard and recognize that when the coach will not take a timeout OR make adjustments in the offense to change up something that obviously isn't working, we'll be cooking. [Note: We reserve the right to revisit this assessment if we find that Bibby's ankle is not 100%. We should not be rushing Bibby back and jeopardizing the long term prospects of this season over a fear of Teague starting for this team.]
* J. Johnson - There have been many bloggers who have called out Joe Johnson for being able to articulate the problems the Hawks have had in our losses with sharing the basketball and yet being unable to articulate that he's part of the problem. Even people in the stands - women and children - were talking about how much dribbling it takes to get a 20 ft jump shot. Sure seemed like a lot...
* A. Horford - We respect the effort that must be expended to handle Dwight Howard. We just hope that those who got super excited about Al's 2 big games this season are respecting the fact that Al is really not a part of the Hawks offense. As constituted, the Hawks will only beat elite teams if their jump shots are falling.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Again, Hoopinion has hipped me to the fact that indeed - there is a lot of dribbing going on to get semi-contested or long jump shots.
* J. Teague - Listen, I'm simply happy to see him even get into the game at this rate. It was against an elite team and he acquitted himself just fine (save missing a wide open jump shot like everyone else). Of course, being a rookie trumps acquitting yourself just fine. Ironically, the backup point guard for the Magic closed us out when the starting point guard was not getting it done.
* M. Evans - Not really much to say here other than it would have been great to see if you could match the ex-Hawk Anthony Johnson's effort as an ex-Magic.
* Joe Smith - Hard to say much about a bench player that didn't really get many minutes despite being productive when he did get them.
* Z. Pachulia - We'll duplicate what we said for Horford except Zaza came out firing. Forget all semblance of waiting for his shots - maybe Jamal is rubbing off on him...low shooting percentage and all.
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* Hunter - Inactive

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

So, again - we are left trying to find out what we should make of a game like this one. Should a fan wonder why when players who certainly are off on the jump shots are not running any plays for the frontcourt? Should a fan wonder why starters who are not useful if they can't make jump shots (Bibby, Crawford, Williams) are on the floor when possibly the rookie or our only other penetrating/mid-range/long range options (Teague, Smith, Evans) could? Should a fan wonder why we didn't take a timeout or three to simply say - pick up the pace, go inside, or something other than the 24 minutes of jump shot-palooza that ensued in the 2nd half. Simply put - we've noted ad nauseum how much we believe that our offensive philosophy that relies primarily on dribbling and passing until you can find an open jump shot is not really a philosophy that can be utilized to win playoff basketball. Good defensive basketball snuffs that out. Not only that - IF that's your primary philosophy, at the point that it's not working - we should have Plan B or Plan C. That's the value of a coach. The difference in the game was that after one half of basketball. One coach noticed that whatever they were doing wasn't working and went to another plan (now, it can be debated that that plan should have been in place from the beginning of the game), but when our plan wasn't working - we just kept banging the round peg into the square hole. Hence, the reason while our record may highlight our ability to make the Big 3 into a Big 4 - we still believe that our biggest liability is our coaching. Woodson can't make the shots, but he can make adjustments when things are not going well...unfortunately, that didn't happen yesterday.

We also would like to note that Woodson has noted numerous times that he doesn't know when a player will get minutes, but that they must be ready. Unfortunately, being ready and productive in VERY limited minutes is not causing Joe Smith or Jeff Teague to be used more when our other options are not performing well. We believe Joe and Jeff to be upgrades over Solomon and Acie, but using them in the EXACT same way as Solomon and Acie doesn't show us that YOU believe they are upgrades and worthy of minutes that can benefit this team...

Str8 Talk Love

Said a lot, but simply put - the Magic are better than us. Better personnel. Better coaching. So, we didn't take the punch in the mouth that the Magic always are going to deliver at some point. That's not new and it may have put an early end to any thought that a change in the division was afoot. Order has been restored, sadly.

Dance Team/Game Ops update - I said that I was done talking about the dance team, but a few things came out this year that bear some reporting. First, another sad dance team performance - if you don't know the first part of the routine, then don't go out on the court. Simple and plain. Second, it looks like the diverse occupations that dance team members possess include porn star. Maybe I was late to this information, but former dance team member Briana (type Atlanta Hawks cheerleader and porn star) has found another way to make some money and let's just say - we hope this is not a career progression that is repeated. Not that we pass judgment, but because for as much as we knock the recent performance of the dance team - they work very hard and by and large are REALLY, REALLY wonderful young ladies. Too bad, Str8Talk is too honest to not just say that vs. telling you how bad those dance routines are sometimes.

Shout Outs - Will, Howard, Marcus, and all our Turkey Day friends...

Final Notes - 11-4 would still have been taken no matter who we lost to, so there's no need to panic. The only thing to worry about is our lack of adjustment when faced with adversity this season. It's quite disconcerting to see a team on the back end of a back-to-back on the road getting stronger as the game goes on when a team coming off of 4 days of rest at home would come out flat in the 2nd half of its biggest game of the season.

Season Prediction

Offense, coaching, and heart in face of our biggest test of the season says...our first downgrade in our season prediction - we're back to thinking that 50-32 and 2nd in the division is about right.


thirdfalcon said...

I didn't really take anything away from this game other than something I already knew; we have no answer for Howard, none at all, and he was dominant in the second half.

We did take a lot of jumpshots, but when we did drive or try to take it inside we looked just as bad. We can beat the magic when we are creating a lot of turnovers to get into a lot of fast-breaks. But if they are taking care of the ball, I don't think we can beat them save a great shooting night. I honestly can't think of a team we match-up worse with.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Here's what I always find fascinating about can always find the way that makes the Hawks blameless in anything. Particularly if that blame shines on our coaching staff.

I actually do agree that the Magic are better than us, but I don't think Howard is the sole reason we lost. Howard is no better than Wade - Wade is just surrounded by bad basketball players. So, I just wonder why there's nothing to take away from the game when the point is - we didn't make a concerted effort to share the ball or go inside consistently. Yes, we did have some drives to the basket, but they certainly were vastly outnumbered by the jump shots we took.

So, Howard didn't make our offense look awful. I mean we threw the ball away and were sloppy in the first half too. Are all of those things on the Magic? Are we unable to stop Anthony Johnson from taking the ball to the basket uncontested? Are we unable to try any other way to keep from scoring 25 pts? That's ALL Howard, none of that is Hawks players and coaches! None of that - it's only making them turnover the ball and if that's the case and we share that thought, then why not uh...try to trap or create turnovers. There was nothing in that defensive gameplan that looked like it was trying to create turnovers to get into transition. No pushing the ball happened, so can that be a complaint? Or do you have something to absolve the team of on that one too?

thirdfalcon said...

It's not all Howard, we didn't play well either. But while Howard and Wade may have a similar overall impact on the game, they do it in very different ways. we simply have the personnel needed to match up with Wade effectively and not Dwight.

And of course Dwight has a much better team than Wade does, and they are able to take better advantage of the mismatches that their star player creates.

AJ wasn't playing in a vacuum. He was wide open because we have to double Howard, and they were still very fortunate to get that kind of production from him.

The magic are very good at moving the ball around and they have a full complement of guys that hit open jumpers well to take advantage of the double team. That's pretty much their M.O. and it's been an effective way to play on offense since the game was invented. And it's what the did to us in the second half.

Their Defense is also very good when they want to be, and they hounded our perimeter guys throughout the second half, all while Dwight was making things very difficult in the paint.

I think it will take a special effort to beat them that's all. if we had hit 70% of our three pointers like the hornets did the other night things probably would have went differently. But no, I don't think you can ask Josh and Al to go one on one with Howard and expect them to score efficiently.

Our guards absolutely will have to have better poise in the future for us to have a chance. But at the end of the day it's a bad matchup for us and I don't think we can beat them if they are playing close to their peak like they were last night.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, and I hear most of what you're's quite accurate. What I disagree with is - 1) they weren't playing that well. The Magic can play MUCH better and the Hawks can play MUCH better. It seems like you're saying that the Magic were playing very well during that second half vs. us playing awful. 2) It wasn't that we just missed shots. it's the shots we took. We took bad shots. We took the shots they wanted us to take that didn't even require them to play defense.

There wasn't an outstanding effort that won them the game. That's why I said - if that's what happened then I'd say - you're right, we just were beaten by the better team. The Magic are overall a better team. Last night, they weren't that good, but we just were awful and did nothing to change being awful. So, that's why I say - if I make the assertion that we could play better or we should have done something different tactically - I wonder why it ends up that it's just that the other team was better. Sometimes, the coach or the scheme or players just give games away. In the Magic game, we might not have won, but give the Hawks a 12 pt lead against any team in the league and it's my belief that we shouldn't lose by 17. And I can feel comfortable that there's something wrong with the players and coaching if that happens. Not that the other team was just so much better that there's nothing that we could do about it.