Friday, January 1, 2010

Game Recap - Knicks @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

As I note after each Knicks game, I hate the Knicks. Their franchise hasn't won a title since I was a tyke and yet, their fan base is insufferable for no reason at all. And that's why on a day when a team that is 13-20, just lost to the Nets, and will likely not make the playoffs beats you at home twice - it sucks for the team AND it sucks for its fans who happen to know people from New York. So, take our commentary on this game in that vein...

Game Recap - Knicks 112, Hawks 108

Overall Observations:

The Good Stuff
  • Al Horford, Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Al Horford...what they accomplished in the first 3 quarters was noteworthy despite some ill advised Josh jumpers.
  • The 3rd quarter was one of beauty.
  • In addition to just having good games, Smith and Horford went 19 - 28 in the game.
  • Congrats to Mike Bibby on his 5000th assist.
The Bad Stuff
  • Zone or no zone - finding a way to get the guys (Horford or Josh Smith) who are destroying the Knicks is a good idea.
  • Nate Robinson went 18-24 in 38 minutes. Joe Johnson went 12-30 in 45 minutes. Which was worst?
  • Is it a player fail to determine how best to contain a player or is it a coaching fail to not command the troops to trap the ball out of Nate Robinson's hands? It's a fail - just not sure who that failure is on.
  • And maybe I'll answer that last bullet by saying - Coach D'Antoni trapped Joe Johnson down the stretch to force the ball out of his hands to good effect.
  • We have been outcoached in the last 6 quarters of Atlanta Hawks basketball.
  • Did we mention that Nate Robinson went 41, 8 and 6 in 38 minutes in his first game in a month?
  • When the question - why haven't the Hawks extended Mike Woodson or why Joe Johnson might regret not taking HIS contract extension? is asked - pull out the tape from this game and feel a little better.
  • Jeff Teague has to learn how to shoot better when he's in the game, but I think it's worth noting that when he was guarding Nate Robinson - he managed to stay in front of him. Something that Bibby, Johnson, Smith, and anyone else were unable to do.
  • That good games by Nate Robinson and Wilson Chandler are enough to beat a team having good games from Al Horford and Josh Smith.
  • Jamal Crawford has officially hit slump status. Maurice Evans has officially hit slump status.
  • When we stumped this offseason for a true point guard, here was the reasoning. The Hawks need a Billups/Kidd type point guard who actually understands how to manage the 4th quarter for the team. And by that - we mean someone who realizes when the isolation plays are effective and when the post play or transition game are the best ways to win a game. On a night when Joe and Jamal were cold by the 2nd half and the frontcourt is HOT, you want a point guard who demands the ball and makes the correct call on who gets the ball and doesn't capitulate to the comfort of the coach and franchise player's whim when it's not supported by the game conditions. Today, the Hawks lost because they left what was leading them to victory and that's accounting for a super hot Nate Robinson.
  • Again, I ask - can we go get a backup guard that can play decent perimeter defense? If you don't think Teague can do it, then get someone who can. Until then, we'll just repeat what we repeated to the screen for about the last 10 minutes of the game - TRAP NATE ROBINSON!
  • Not sure if Joe Smith would have made a difference in the 2nd quarter, but a DNP isn't the way to get him back into a groove.

Str8 Butter Award - Al Horford was the BOSS - too bad, he didn't see the rock in the 4th quarter to continue to prove that point.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

I'm too upset to do a kudos/smackdown, but it stands to be questioned Marvin Williams that either you hang your hat on defense or don't, but letting Wilson Chandler go 24 and 17 is unacceptable. And again, Joe and Jamal going 14 for 42 is a problem.

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

Ok, let's go ahead and say it...we're a little emotionally driven here, but this is the reason we're not an elite team yet. To lose to a team at home that just lost to the Nets when you're up 14 going into the fourth quarter speaks to something. It could be the lack of a defensive adjustment (like the Knicks put on us by going zone). It could be not knowing how to bust a zone. It could be just not having the basketball IQ on the bench or the inability to put the right combination in the game that would exploit the holes in the Knicks defense, but this story for the Hawks has gotten very, very old. We give credit for the fact that we're not doing the 'team not showing up in the 3rd quarter' deal anymore, but it can't be understated any longer that our implicit trust in Joe Johnson (or Jamal Crawford) down the stretch is just UNFOUNDED. There isn't enough evidence that that's our best play. We aren't building big leads that way, so why are we trying to close games out that way. Something has to give on this...isolation plays do not win basketball games with this team. And I'm going to blame the coach and point guard every time I see it from now on. And this is being said in a place where I believe in consistency and confidence building but in this instance - let's just put an end to it, Woodson.

Season Prediction

Our position has always been that games like these don't matter much regarding whether or not they impact your play in the postseason, but that is simply affects your ability to challenge for better seeding. And our recent trend is starting to look just like last year...21-11, 3 straight losses and not playing our best when a stretch of good teams is on the horizon. We can easily be 21-14 without a quick turnaround. With that said, we are finally prepared to revise our prediction of 54-28 to 50-32. No team is looking like it's going to be a 60 win team except for the Lakers and possibly the surging Cavs (the Celtics would be on this list if not for their injury woes) and there are serious questions about the Hawks ability to win against the best teams in the league in a 7 game series. You heard it here first - Hawks and Heat for the 1st round rematch in May. Mark it down...


Ron E. said...

So the big question is could the Hawks save their season (meaning getting past the second round of the playoffs or at least extending the second round to 6 or 7 games) by firing Woodson now or is it pretty much hopeless at this point?

Anonymous said...

54-28 is more accurate, teams play in streaks and if the hawks learn from these past 3 games, there looking at a 3 or possibly 2 seed.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Ron E, I don't think I'd say that it's about saving the season by firing Woodson b/c that probably wouldn't put us in position to hire a good coach at midseason.

The key to me is that we are learning how to take losses and bad play and turn it into good play. So, what I'm looking for is for us to recognize what doesn't work. Hearing Woodson acknowledge when something he normally does (like the 2 fouls and sit down or getting on Josh for jumpers or ending the reliance on 4th quarter isolation plays from Joe or Jamal when you have things that have worked ALL game. If it takes most of the season to figure that out fine...I think we can still get hot in the postseason, but only if we are recognizing those things. So far - I see us get it sometimes, but the isolation play is something that has been consistent for years and honestly, I can't see where it's been terribly effective for us. I mean everyone knew the Stockton/Malone pick and roll was coming, but it was devastatingly effective so it didn't matter. The Joe Johnson isolation is NOT even close to that effective, so why keep relying on it is what I question.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Anonymous, As for the record - you could be right, but you're 100% delusional if you think we're passing Orlando, Boston, or Cleveland without major injuries to the other teams and no injuries to ours. Our team is not good enough to win the division.

Not only that, is there anything that you've seen from our team that we are learning throughout the year. I'd say that when the other team has shown up to play and we knew we needed to show up for revenge or statement reasons - we're 4-7 and that was vs. the Celtics, Portland (2 times), and Mavs. We've won other games against good teams, but in most of those games - the other team laid down for us. I'll forgive one loss to the Knicks at home, but TWO means you have problems motivating the troops.

But we'll find out real fast whether we are pretender or contender. We play Boston 3 times, Orlando twice on the road, Charlotte (revenge/division game), Washington, @Miami, @Houston, @San Antonio, at home vs. Phoenix. Not many gimmes on the schedule, so we'll see where we are after this stretch. But you're right - teams play in streaks - let's see how that plays out, but I don't see a path to anything other than a 4th seed barring major injuries to the top 4 teams. Those teams are just better than ours and have better coaching (and that's saying a lot with Mike Brown)

CoCo said...

I don't know if this is a 50 win team. All I ever ask is that they win the games they're supposed to win and win some of the games against teams of equal or greater talent. You just can't lose to the Knicks twice on your home floor and convince me that you're a 50 win team. You just can't. They're officially now back to the courting me stage. I was all in just about ready to make them my boyfriend, but obviously they are not ready. So we're back to getting to know each other.