Monday, January 11, 2010

Game Recap - Hawks @ Celtics

Preamble Ramble

This is probably going to be a difficult blog to write because it really defies many of the things that we are accustomed to with the Hawks. It was the definition of a 'stolen victory'. Yes, there were several things that the Hawks did well, but not more than they did bad and yet, a victory. One that actually we needed - for the following reasons...we needed to rid ourselves of the Orlando stench, they were playing without KG and Rasheed and Marquis Daniels (Note: Back-to-back losses where we lose to elite teams that are shorthanded would not bode well.) So, let's get to the analysis...

Game Recap - Hawks 102, Celtics 96

Overall Observations:
  • There really was NOTHING that made me feel like the Atlanta Hawks would win this game by virtue of their first half play. Yet we won...and that makes me feel giddy.
  • Overheard in the post game interview with Woodson - uh, praise for Jamal Crawford's defense...
  • How does it work that the only Celtic players who don't shoot over 50% are House, Perkins, and Allen and the Hawks win?
  • Ok, so we must have won the battle on the boards, right? Nope. Ok, we scored more three pointers...uh,, you mean to tell us that we shared the basketball more than the Celtics in the form of assists...not that one either. Ok, so maybe we have undervalued the value of steals, blocks, turnovers, and wait for it...FREE THROWS!
  • Yes, let's say it again - on a night when there were some terrible calls on both sides, in Boston, the Atlanta Hawks won the foul battle. Way to attack the basket (and way to go Boston Celtic lack of self control)...
  • Speaking of which, the irony is drippingly rich that on a night when Kevin Garnett and Rasheed 'Self Control is my Middle Name' Wallace aren't even in the game - that technical fouls, ejections, and flagrant fouls would turn the tide decidedly in the Atlanta Hawks favor.
  • Not only that - it's amazing how coaches don't see how the whistle giveth and the whistle taketh away...Coach Rivers wasn't giving back the obviously NOT flagrant foul assessed to Zaza Pachulia, but lost a gasket over a pretty easy to call (if we're using the Zaza scale as our litmus test) flagrant foul on Marvin Williams. (Note: I didn't think either were flagrant.)
  • Ok, we've delayed it long enough - on this night...Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford showed why you need a player to simply take over and just dominate a second half. We've railed against the isolation plays for a long time here, but when you are making those shots - we can't do anything but applaud you. AS LONG AS YOU MAKE THEM. Tonight, Joe played like the All Star he is and should be.
Str8 Butter Award - Joe Johnson and our 4th quarter defense (on the heels of a 3rd quarter where the Celtics really didn't miss many shots)...equally awesome!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Your defensive work should be lauded
* Josh Smith - Josh's contributions don't show up well in the box score, but his energy was definitely necessary. One note though - Josh, we gotta get back on the free throws. If you get your FT % over 70% - we'll let you take one extra jump shot a game, ok?
* M. Bibby - Now, on the heels of your good work vs. the Celtics at home, you didn't provide much value with Crawford's good work down the stretch...
* J. Johnson - Again, Joe - your star status has been confirmed. Carry on...
* A. Horford - It isn't a double double, but it again was the dirty work that is worth the tea in China. Manicures on me, Al.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Nobody knows how to get fouled in 3pt land like Jamal. Thanks for stepping up and not giving up on idea of winning this game. Too often that happens in Hawk-land in case you weren't aware.
* J. Teague - DNP...and we won't even complain about it (today)
* M. Evans - Not much notable, but Mo did hit a big 3 to keep us in striking distance...
* Joe Smith - 4 minutes and donuts in the box score as well as an 11 point swing...doesn't bode well for your future PT.
* Z. Pachulia - All we'll say is - we love your aggression, Zaza - sorry if the refs tried to make it seem like you were thuggin' out there.
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Ok, so let's get away from the defensive strategy for a minute...Coach Woodson coached a fine game tonight. Timeouts when things were getting way out of hand. Going with the hot hand over the starter and more than anything making sure that the Hawks did not let go of the thought that we could win this game.

This game is our example of why we completely disagreed with Mike Woodson's assertion that you have to play a perfect game vs. elite teams to win on the road. We didn't play ANYTHING close to our best game. The Celtics shot well, they rebounded, they did some things well and yet they lost. It's the reason why you need to simply continue to grind and work despite the fact that you aren't playing perfectly. The Hawks can play less than perfect basketball and defeat the best teams in the league. The litmus test for your elitism has everything to do with the fact that you can win with less than your best. Rarely this season have all of our cogs worked at even 90% in our victories. Marvin, Joe, Josh have all had significant drop offs in production during a series of games - and in many of them...we won going away (particularly during the Marvin stretch of bad games). So, the moral is - don't teach a team that they can't win unless they play perfect. That pressure is both unnecessary and false and this game is a prime example.

Str8 Talk Love

Can we say again that we should not have won this game?

Season Prediction

50-32, but if we can defeat the Magic and sweep the Celtics - we may reconsider our ability to win the division...50-32 and 2nd in the division (4th seed)


THHB said...

Great call on the "stolen win". It sure was--and we'll take it, take it, take it.

CoCo said...

"So, the moral is - don't teach a team that they can't win unless they play perfect. That pressure is both unnecessary and false and this game is a prime example."

Preach Larry!

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I still can't believe Woodson said that. I will give Woodson some credit for changing some long held beliefs and make a few new adjustments, but player rotation and overall philosophy and motivation/philosophy stuff is just not his strong suit. I'm still trying to figure out how he didn't take any of the coaching brilliance that is Larry Brown or Bobby Knight with him. None of the stuff he does follows ANY of those guys save the don't play your rookies thing.

Xavier said...

Whats going on everyone?

Do you guys think Woody literally meant perfect as in shooting 100% from the field and free throw line and no turnovers etc.? I don't think Woody expects that to happen since its never been done. Or could the perfect comment refer to mental toughness needed to win on the road? When the team is down 10 you stick with the game plan. No silly fouls. If you blow a lead don't lose composure?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

uh, no - I don't think that's what he meant. And I think you're stretching too far to think that WE even think that perfect play means any of those utopian things you describe.

But no, the words - perfect play - even if that's what he meant don't denote what 'perfect play' is, so if you're a team and your coach said that - you'd think if we don't play perfect ball we can't win and frankly, that's just not true and it's a stupid thing to say. You should be saying all those things you mention at the end of your comment no matter what venue you play in, so that's why my point is - we should strive to play with everything we have no matter what. So, NO - I just think Woodson is bad at the psychology of teaching a team to be champs. Period.

thirdfalcon said...

its just something he says to the media to lower expectations.And if he wants to get his players to strive for perfection than that's fine with me.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, I'm not sure I understand how that comment lowers expectations. And of course, I think you know that there is a difference btw telling the team that they have to play perfectly to beat teams and wanting them to strive to do better each and every game, week, month. Saying you have to play perfect to beat teams might explain why in many cases - once the Hawks get down, there is very little fight to batten down the hatches and to fight to get back in it. Our tendency up until our last game was to simply try to shoot a bunch of jump shots and hope we get back in the game. We lose all semblance of offensive and defensive form and teamwork when behind most of the time.

I'm hoping this victory vs. the Celtics gives us the push to simply play hard ALL the time no matter what the score is. I would say though that if your coach is telling you to strive for perfection and you're ok with that - is the players' fault or the coach's fault if they fall short of that?

thirdfalcon said...

It lowers expectations because it makes t seem like we aren't as good as them. We have to play perfect to win so if we lose we were supposed to because it's rare to play a perfect game. And if we win then whoa! look what a great job the coach did! He got them to play perfectly!

Virtually all coaches do this. It's designed to fool dumb people and protect their jobs. It backfires against people like you who take everything the coach says to the media seriously.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, No, I think you are simply foolish to think that all coaches LIE to the media about what they tell their teams. If you looked at the question asked, they didn't ask him a question that said - hey, I tell my team that they have to play perfect to beat elite teams.

It would foolish for Phil Jackson to tell his team we have to play perfect against good teams b/c the TEAM and everyone watching knows that that's false. Same for the Hawks - that could have worked in 2005-2006, maybe even 2007, but the last 2 seasons - we already see that the team is better than 'we have to play perfect', so I think you're the fool for believing that coaches use that tactic when their team is better than that. I don't think you'll find ANY coach worth their salt with the talent that their team has saying - we can't beat elite teams unless we play perfect. Again, my emphasis is on perfect - shoot, the main point from last week was that we didn't really play well at all. Jamal played 1 good quarter, Joe played 3 great quarters, Al played hard but not great, Josh played inspired defense for one quarter. That's ALL it took. No one else really did anything of note and we won, so it's hard for me to take anything you say with any level of seriousness...(as usual).

I love you though TF...I'm sure I'll hear from you after the next victory that you use to advance your cause that Woodson is a good coach. If you're right and Woodson is trying to lower expectations - he's failing at that miserably. Nobody is thinking that we shouldn't compete well in the 2nd round this year...I know he's always saying dumb things like - we just want to get that 4th seed and 50 wins (that was his preseason goal), but he should have just said - we think we can win the division and contend for a title and shut up from there. That would show me more about his ability to coach, motivate, and assess a team than saying - we need to play perfectly (when we don't) to beat the best teams in the NBA. It's weak and says a lot about him EVEN IF HE'S LYING.

Xavier said...

ATL , in what terms do you think Woody meant perfect which would make it a dumb comment? I find it hard to believe that if an NBA player hears a coach tell the media, not the player, we have to play perfect to win, they automatically think they have to play "perfect" to win? Its a phrase underdogs use all the time. How many times have you heard that team played a perfect game etc. And the Hawks are underdogs. And for Atlanta to beat Cle, Orl, and Bos in the playoff series, they have to perfect basketball. I mean much, much better as opposed to Mia, Tor. etc.

thirdfalcon said...

I wouldn't say lieing is he right word. More like clumsily trying to manipulate. But any way you look at it I think your reaching.

But I don't know why you still think that I think woodson is a good coach. It just proves that you won't read what I write when it's easier to imagine that I have some packaged adenda that you can give a canned response to. That's why I don't really post here much anymore. I promise it has nothing to do woth whether the hawks win or not.

Xavier said...

Also here is an example as to what Woody is actually saying to his players as reported by Lang Whitaker:....Woodson addressed the team as Whitaker scribbled notes. Woodson said:

This team has a chance to do something special if you believe in each other. If you feel like what we’re trying to do on the court isn’t going to work, speak up! I have zero ego as a coach, none. If you think you see something that’s going to work better than what we’re trying to do, speak up! Say something to me! But what I’m telling you guys is that if you guys will just consistently do what we’re asking you to do on defense, we’ll win games. I don’t give a s--- about the offense; you guys can score more than enough points to win games. The offense isn’t the problem. But you have to get stops on defense, and if you’ll listen to what we’re telling you, I promise you’ll get stops. The s--- works, okay? The s--- works, but you guys just have to have the pride and the heart to buy into it and do what we’re asking you to do every time down the court. ...

Guys, I’ve been in this League as a coach and a player for 28 years. I won one title with Detroit a few years ago, but I’d like to win some more, and I know all of you guys would, too. Look, your clock is ticking. My clock is ticking. We’re not going to be around this League forever. This team is possibly good enough to win a title. You guys who weren’t here before this year, I’ve never been able to say that before this season. But you guys could do something really special. You just have to trust each other and do what you’re supposed to do out there on the floor. The s--- works, you just have to execute and trust.

So ATL maybe he is saying dumb things to the media but I get the impression that he is not repeating those dumb things to his team.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Xavier, in the context of the question (and the article is in the AJC's Hawks section - if you want to read it yourself), no one said - what do you say to the team to get them to win on the road and then, he gave that answer - the question was - what's the key to winning on the road...his quote was as I listed it. So, my point is either 1) you're right about him not being able to articulate well his philosophy or 2) he has actually said that to the team and it's just not an accurate assessment of what he means, but since I think communication is key over a long season - I do think actions and words should match up. I"m glad you brought up Lang's piece b/c it's yet another example of what worries me.

I think it's great that he is convicted about his defense, but my question is until this year - the sh*& hasn't worked. His communication of buying into defense wasn't taking hold b/c no metric was saying - the defense is championship quality. Even this year - I would say that our defense is inconsistent at best. So, I'd take issue with the fact that he's saying something works that with this group isn't necessarily producing as he would make it seem it is.

It's doubly troubling that he doesn't care about the offense (and I read btw the lines that he was making a point about defense, so he definitely DOES care about offense), but it's telling that our lack of offensive philosophy/identity - the few plays run, the Jamal and Joe just taking over whenever they feel like it, etc are all telling. I don't feel good about a coach saying - hey, if you don't buy in, speak up. How many times have the players said since last season that we need to run. So, to me, they have spoken up...the results speak for themselves regarding what works (playing inside out, the fact that our outside shooting is below average %wise, etc). So, that's why I do listen to what's being said. Yes, I don't have all the data and conversations, so I give pause to saying that I'm 100% right, but I'm certainly concerned about our coach's messages to the team. Both the quotes and what Lang's article just give more evidence of why.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, No worries - not trying to scare you off and I think if you have read my blogs - I've given Woodson credit on many things this season, so again - no ax to grind. Still have problems with his player rotation, his offensive and defensive philosophies as it relates to what works in the postseason, but I think he's improved with regard to his use of TOs, not sitting players due to fouls as frequently, and making a few in-game adjustments (though I think he is who I thought he'd be regarding Jeff Teague - I wish they'd just sign a backup PG that Woodson will play and send Teague to the D-League).

Anyway, the long story short - if you think he clumsily made the statement, then I think that's something I can agree with if it wasn't what he truly felt. And I can completely cede to the belief that if I pressed him - he'd clarify it more and we'd get closer to what perfect means, but I think as I mentioned to Xavier - it's like having a girlfriend and you say you want to watch the you, it means 'I want to watch the game'. To the girl, it may mean 'he wants to watch the game' or 'he doesn't want to spend time with me' or 'he wants to avoid cuddling' or whatever things that can be pulled from it. With 12 different thought processes in the room, I'm simply saying that IF that's what he preaches and believes (which is what the quote says), then that comment can falsely give the impression that the classic form of perfect (whatever they think perfect is) can cause some unnecessary pressure. I'd rather my coach say - effort is 100% non-negotiable, you may not hit all your shots, play that well, but your effort and defense will keep you in every game and staying in games will give us a chance to win all of them. Let the Boston game serve as an example. That would be a statement that can be consistently built on - playing perfect on the road vs. elite teams is something that is a clumsy statement that can be interpreted too many ways as evidenced by how you and I are looking at it.

I do hope that it is given much more context than what that quote does, but short of that - I hate the statement, period. And if you wonder why I would make the leap - several of Woodson's players have said that Woodson has not been all that good of a communicator, so that's something I take to heart when making the assertion.

Xavier said...

ATL you said several of Woodson's players have said that Woodson has not been all that good of a communicator..

That can be said of practically every coach in professional sports right? I've heard players claim "there is no or lack of communication" this season while playing on the team they are playing on right now. And ATL which several? The ones that were released or was this comment made while they were on the team?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Xavier, No - that can't be said of every coach in professional sports. Most of the best coaches may say something you don't like, but they know where they stand. So, I think that's a statement you make to cover for Woodson, but that CERTAINLY isn't true. I also say that when it is true - it's attached to a coach that's not good. Give me a great coach in the league and show me where players said - he's not communicating with the team.

As for the Hawks players, let's see - Salim, Acie, Josh, Anthony Johnson, Zaza, and Al Harrington off the top of the head said during their time that they didn't like Coach Woodson's communication style or lack thereof.

Xavier said...

Do you regard D'Antoni or George Karl as a great coach?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Xavier, I would consider D'Antoni an very good offensive coach. It remains to be seen if he has focused enough on the defensive end to lead a team to a title. I would say he's a better coach than Woodson. George Karl...he's a very good coach - much better during the season than in the playoffs. His playoff record would suggest that he hasn't figured out how to play a style that can be consistently focused on the defensive end to be successful in the postseason. So, his career in Seattle is indicative of being a great coach - his time in Milwaukee was not noteworthy, but his time in Denver is pushing him back over the top. I'd be interested to see how the Nuggets do this year to determine if he's back at the Seattle coaching level.

So, I'm rambling...D'Antoni - great offensive mind..good coach. Will see if he's great once he gets decent talent in NY. Karl - a notch above D'Antoni to me over his career, but his defensive focus doesn't equate to great coaching to me. Both would be considered better than Woodson in my mind.

Xavier said...

Well those two coaches I asked you about have been accused of having communication problems also so I don't think a player or two who complains out of 30 or so indicates bad communication. Now if a coach "loses" a team then I think that conclusion can be made. And I'd agree w/ Karl being a better coach than Woody, but not sold on D'Antoni yet being better due to the talent he had in Phx and since Gentry is having similar success as D'Antoni did w/ a worse team.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Well, I think all coaches who are successful have talent, so I don't want to ding D'Antoni for having talent. But I don't begrudge you that...I also wouldn't say that Woodson has to lose a team to call some of his tactics harmful to an individual, which can affect the team. Simply put - I'm sure Woodson has been good for certain players as well.

So, my concern is squarely on Woodson's ability to integrate Teague into this offense and to spend the requisite amount of time to end the reliance on isolation plays in crunch time. Not only that - for as much as Woodson screams defense - we still are an average defense, so should that be a litmus test for him or is that on the players not buying in. Either way, that's not a good indication on whether or not they believe in his system.