Thursday, December 24, 2009

Game Reverb - Hawks @ Nuggets

There is a reason we believed at the beginning of the season that our ceiling was the 2nd round of the playoffs. That reason was slightly exposed vs. the Nuggets. We won't say completely exposed because it's still early in the season, the postseason doesn't have back-to-backs, and the fact that the Hawks have passed most tests this season. That said, no full game recap, but we're going to do a lil' Christmas Eve Reverb and then get back to Christmas preparation.

Game Recap...Nuggets 124, Hawks 104.
  • If there is a formula for a Hawks victory, it doesn't include not playing defense (over 50% FG including 50% from 3 pt range), Josh Smith shooting jump shots (4 - and no, going to 2 for 4 does not make it right), and a lack of energy.
  • While somewhat yielding to the notion that the Denver air on a back-to-back, this game was never in the Hawks W bank on our sheet, BUT doesn't that highlight why we should have played our starters even LESS time vs. the Timberwolves in a game that we were going to win no matter what? We have a no moral victory clause, but playing the Nuggets on a road back to back competitively would seem to be something to build upon.
  • I'll just say that I REALLY hate that any Denver road loss can be covered up with the 'thin air' excuse.
  • I miss Joe Johnson's post game complaints about the team and what we need to do to win the postseason. Please don't get complacent with that vocal leadership, Joe.
  • As a corollary to our biggest playoff complaint, is there something to that fact that the Hawks have lost most of their games fairly easily this year? An argument can be made that we only were close to defeating Chicago and maybe Detroit in our 8 losses. They can't all be victories, but can they mostly be hard fought? Or is that asking too much? Bottom line, blowing teams out and getting blown out would seem to not be a good formula for building the mental toughness needed for playoff victories. Just in case you forgot, we've got a 2 year playoff streak of losing EVERY game by double digits.
  • I'll use Ty Lawson as today's example for why you play your rookies/backup point guard. In the prior two games without Billups, the Nuggets lost both games. One with Lawson as the starter (where he performed poorly) and another from the bench (where he performed decently)...which led him to last night's performance..where he basically outplayed Mike Bibby and gave the Nuggets an early lift. Karl's consistency and trust in Lawson to perform the role he'll need to perform for the Nuggets to maintain a consistent level of play should Billups get hurt again or if Anthony Carter stinks up the joint in the postseason is what the regular season should be used for. Not to mention that you can win games that way too. So, all that was said to say - after a pretty good run in blowouts during the win streak, Teague is back to playing garbage time minutes on days where Bibby didn't show up to play and the Nuggets were determined to not let Joe Johnson beat them. THIS is what GM Sund should be evaluating before giving Woodson another contract.
  • Speaking of coaching adjustments, player pride aside - it would seem that the same way the Nuggets got it in their brains that Joe Johnson would not defeat them - at some point, oh - the third quarter maybe...someone should have said to themselves...I won't leave JR Smith and someone else should have said - I'll help Jamal Crawford keep JR Smith from even getting the ball. If we're gonna lose, let's see if Aaron Afflalo, Kenyon Martin, Nene, etc can be the one delivering the final blows.
  • Now, forgetting the coach for a second, I'm not that old, but I do remember a time where if a guy tried to show you up and break a record on you, you'd put him in the 5th row. I'm sorry, but Hawks - that was maybe the most disappointing thing I've seen all season. You put JR Smith on his ass - you foul him as soon as he gets the ball just to let him know that you are not making a mockery of our perimeter defense for a record...we can do that all on our own (make a mockery of perimeter defense, that is). Bill Laimbeer, anyone?
  • Does anyone get the feeling that maybe Joe Smith is that integral to our psyche? I don't remember Josh Smith shooting 20 ft jump shots and getting more technicals before Joe Smith went out. Come back, Joe...
  • Interestingly enough, the worse Maurice Evans plays - the more I want to reiterate my Mo into the starting lineup and Marvin to the bench theory for improving the Hawks...I need some statistical data to back me up because right now it's all HS8T gut feel.
  • Just gonna say it again...Teague - 2 DNPS, 10.8 minutes a game (with about 60% of those in garbage minutes) will not prepare him for the playoffs, so anyone who is wondering..our only hope for keeping our 3 guard rotation fresh and spry for the postseason (b/c that's all the next 54 games are for since only a collapse could prevent us from a top 4 seed) is to keep blowing teams out and to be blown out, so that they are on the bench in the 4th quarter. Any hope that we'd make it a point to rest our players (as a short term and long term strategy for success) no matter what is pretty much out the window.
That's pretty much it - no need to tout Jamal's performance last night. We've come to expect it, so let's focus on the Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year holidays. For those who celebrate Hanukkah and Festivus or nothing at all, just enjoy the days off and the fact that the Hawks are 20-8 on their way to a 50 win season (one we've predicted to land at 54-28 until further notice). That's something to be cheered and celebrated no matter how we feel about Jeff Teague's minutes...

Happy Holidays!!!!!!


CoCo said...

Yep! And, Happy Holidays!

The Casey said...

You mentioned mental toughness, and I think that's huge, and I'm not sure it's something the Hawks have. It seems to me that if you get chippy with Joe and Josh, they both get pretty easily frustrated and taken out of their respective games. The Hawks aren't going to win many with both those guys out of it mentally/emotionally.

Anyway, Merry Christams (or holiday of your choice) to all!

Xavier said...

@ ATL... It's one game. One loss. Bad loss, good loss. A loss. And do you really think Sund is using particular regular season games(losses) to evaluate Woody? That would be flawed logic. They have responded pretty well to losses and the Hawks have exceed everyone's expectations to this point. 3 games back in the loss column from having the best record in the NBA. Let me repeat. 3 games back in the loss column from having the best record in the NBA. As of December 25th. And as for the Denver game, blowouts happen all the time. I just looked at the Lakers get blowed out on a primetime stage. And this isn't their first blowout of the season. History has shown that Hawks will respond and overall the Hawks will improve through out this season.

thirdfalcon said...

My biggest problem with your insistence to play Teague more is that you seem to think he can bring a whole lot to the table. It's true that he can go by guys off the dribble like no other player on the team, but he still isn't finishing so it's not that much help as of now.

If he does put it together how much better can he make the offense? we are currently number 1 in offense. They have exceeded my wildest expectations, and I was one of the most optimistic people posting on the Hawks blogosphere.

Our biggest problem right now is perimeter defense. And it's mostly that we're leaving guys wide open to shoot off of kick-outs. It would take Teague becoming an exceptional team defender to make a difference, and it's probably to much to ask for him to become an average team defender by season's end.

I know you think that anyone is better than Bibby, but is it really going to matter if we are giving up .2 less points at the end of the year if our offense is suffering for it? I say no, but it is an intriguing argument.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@The Casey...Merry Christmas to you as well. I'm not willing to say that we won't develop mental toughness, but in the postseason - we have responded to every punch in the mouth with a laydown, so I'm looking to our vets and coach to turn the tide on that this season.

@Xavier, I just need you to do me this one favor. Just remember that I'm always discussing items in context of how it prepares or degrades our postseason readiness. So, that's always my point of view and where my assessments come from. You're right - it's one game and I'm only saying - what can be gleaned from this game that we should pay attention to come playoff time.

As for Sund, I don't, so I don't want him to over or under value any problem with Woodson, but I am willing to dismiss any perceived problem with Woodson as long as they don't show up come playoff time and that's all I think about. So, you are talking about our record today and I'm saying that - it doesn't matter to me if we are playing b-ball that can't sustain itself in the playoff crucible. So, I'm not sure what history you're talking about, but only a few months of basketball have shown you something that would give you any confidence and I can simply point to last season at this time when we had an almost identical record only to see us become average down the stretch, so history says - let's just watch to see how much better we can get rather than believe we've arrived as a postseason giant.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, here's the thing I don't think you understand. You are making the assumption that the following can't happen - 1. Bibby gets hurt or tired. 2. Joe Johnson gets hurt or tired. 3. Jamal Crawford gets hurt or tired. Or any of these guys hit a slump or whatever. My point is - while I continue to just say - giving the guy 5-10 minutes a game WILL NOT affect an elite team's ability to win games. The point is that if we get better at defense does it matter if you are the #4 offense vs. #1. No, it doesn't and I continue to say that you don't know if he can finish (sure looked like he could finish when he was dunking on fools last week) when he's only playing garbage minutes when no one is playing a lick of defense or any kind of offensive sets.

You also don't account for my other point, which is - let's take for a minute that Teague isn't the answer to any question I've posed, then what is the backup plan? If Woodson and Sund sat down in the preseason and said - ok, Teague is our backup point guard, yet believe as you do that he can't get better by year's end to be better than Crawford or Bibby as a defender vs at least backup point guards (thought i'd hope that he could play the Devin Harris, Tony Parkers of the world in a pinch), then WHY would you not sign a backup point guard that could do that for us.

If that guy was on the roster, my points about this stuff would lessen significantly. Yet, you continue to overlook that point. So, believe me - I think Teague needs more minutes no matter what. I watched a rookie just get his team off to a great start on the way to a blowout of our team when their starter went down. What if that happens to us? Will our rookie be ready to do the same? No, because he doesn't play. So, then what - are you just gonna play Jamal and Joe for 48 minutes a night?

Just remember that i'm always talking about what makes us better for the postseason. There isn't an argument you've made yet that makes us better for the postseason. Courtney Lee looked awful for half the season, but by season's end - looked pretty good for the Magic. Not a rookie, but Ariza was pretty average last year until the end of the season. Same for Shannon Brown and so on...guys need time to fit into the system and get accustomed to leading a team (even the reserves). So, you keep trying to make an argument that I'm not making...I'm not saying that playing Teague tomorrow is going to make a difference in tomorrow's game (though it very well could), but I think the accumulation of those games could/will pay off big dividends come playoff time. Aaron Brooks was a revelation come playoff time last year. He did nothing of note until then, but his PT certainly mattered in the postseason. That's all I'm asking...Teague may not (and that's a likely outcome) make a difference at all this regular season and short of actually costing us more than a handful of games - I'm not concerned about it. I'm only concerned about him being ready to make a difference in the postseason. That's where we differ in thoughts on this. You want him to matter today (and I presume so does Woodson) and if he doesn't, then he should sit.

I just disagree that that's the way to prepare him for this postseason and if you can say - he shouldn't be ready for the postseason, then I'd say - well, then Sund and/or Woodson will need to answer to the fans for why we don't have a backup point guard if any of the worst case scenario sitautions come up in the postseason. B/c I'm not accepting another 'we were injured' postseason excuse. Short of 3/5ths of the starting lineup being out - we should win Round 1 and be competitive in Round 2. Anything less than that is unacceptable to me.

Xavier said...

@ATL the history I'm referring to is the Hawks improvement each season. So far this season we have answered every significant challenge. They have kept pace with the leagues' elite record wise thus giving the Hawks a chance to win home court advantage(which contributes to our post season readiness) and they have a winning record versus the NBA's top ten. And from what I have seen, I know they are a better team than last year even if the record is almost identical. I also think this better team will fare better down the stretch.

As for the Teague discussion, is it possible for you to have a wait see approach just like you asked me to have regarding the Hawks overall season? We are only at game 28, not even half the season yet. And you have a valid point about Teague and his readiness for the postseason but in the grand scheme of things how important is the development of Teague in regards to the Hawks postseason success? Benches tend to shorten up anyway in the postseason. I picture most rookies on title contenders as specialists. And in Teague's case as of right now he could be labeled as a defender in comparison to Bibby and Crawford. However how much is he an advantage at this time w/ his offensive deficiencies? That is the true question. And I think over the next 50 or so games he will get better offensively and will decrease the gap between his usefulness compared to Bibby in certain situations. And normally it takes an injury for rookies to get the playing time needed to adjust to the NBA. Lee, Lawson, and even Collison for example fit that mold. And really Brooks, Ariza, and Brown doesn't compare to Teague. Like comparing apples to oranges. It's odd you bring up Brooks though cause just like Teague, in his rookie season he was drafted by a team expected to make noise in the post season. He didn't play much his 1st season. Now last season, his 2nd season is the season you are referring to. He made a name for himself. Ariza and Brown were in their 3rd and 4th seasons respectively when they made major contributions. So I didn't quite see the comparison. In regards to Brown were you referring to Farmer? I do remember when Farmer was a rookie for the Lakers. He wasn't getting any minutes so they sent him to the D-League and he even played in a D-League game and a NBA in a 24 hour period.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Xavier, well, we are looking at our historical progression a little differently. First, I don't count much that happened in the first 3 years of the Woodson regime as Woodson doing much but letting players play and that's important, but over the last 2 years - much more coaching and development was necessary to get us to the elite level.

So, history in the postseason says - that we haven't developed much mental toughness or coaching adjustment in tough basketball games. The last time that happened was in the Boston series two years ago at home. We played well at home. Other than that, we flunked every test. The Heat were a bad basketball team last year. I don't blame them for losing 1 or 2 games, but I do blame them for losing them BADLY. The Celtics crushed us away from Philips. I attribute a lot of that to not preparing our team for what was in front of us over the course of the regular season.

I'm saying the same thing now - you're talking about records and I've already conceded (cheerfully, I might add) that we can win 50 games. Winning 50 games is not mental toughness. Winning 50 games is not a contender it's my job here to simply call it as I see it. And what I see are areas where we have cracks in the foundation. I saw cracks before our collapse down the stretch last year (and to me, going .500 for much of the second half of the year was a collapse compared to our great start). We ended up regressing as a team instead of getting better last year.

That's my concern - it could certainly be a concern that the Hawks alleviate with their play and I definitely account for it and hope it comes to pass, but I do think it's worth mentioning in my blog that we still need more from perimeter defense (and our defense overall) if we're going to be a contender and not simply the 4th best team in the East b/c if you haven't noticed or more depth.

The East sucks right was something I didn't foresee, but I'm almost curious as to whether the upheaval that occurred in the offseason is not the cause of that. So, I want to make sure the Hawks are improving and not staying stagnant b/c I can still see a circumstance where those teams below us get better over the course of the year and possibly can pose an issue for us in the postseason.

There's no doubt that the top 3 teams are using the regular season to prepare for the postseason, so I just want to highlight where our improvement lies. So, in that context, it's not just one game. It's what are we learning and doing better from game to game to show our ability to put it all together in May and June.

And final note - it's been mentioned a few times about playoff rotations shrinking for teams and while that's definitely true in Atlanta, it's simply not true for the top teams. If you go to the game logs for the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Nuggets from last year - you will find that that's not a true statement. These guys aren't stocking up on talent to get 10 deep to not play them. And in the cases where they do - they are trying to ensure that they have depth in the case of injury. Because injuries happen and you don't want to have to wait a year because your team had an injury. That's how I feel about the Hawks - I'm not flushing the season down the drain just because Bibby is out for 2 games in the playoffs. I'm expecting Teague to be ready if that occurs. That's my point.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Xavier - about Teague, Teague's importance to our postseason is as follows to me:

1. As a contributor in the regular season that reduces the minutes for our main 3 guards. So, I don't care if he plays in the playoffs (provided we're healthy and rested), but I don't see our main 3 guards being rested if we don't play Teague more in the regular season.
2. As insurance for any backcourt injury, I don't want Teague to look like Acie Law did vs. the Celtics when he didn't play all season and ended up being needed for a few games and looked part effective and part clueless. I don't want that for Teague or the Hawks and I'm not going to absolve us of any culpability in not being playoff ready if we lose playoff games because of injuries if we're playing guys who never played in the regular season when we could have.

So, the points I'm making about Ariza, Brown, and Brooks is that they were unused players by their teams (or previous teams) and then when given a regular season to build their confidence and skills with the team - they showed up in the postseason.

thirdfalcon said...

No I understand, You must have said that argument 100times, I get it. You can save yourself the typing in the future. I'm just trying to examine a particular angle a little closer