Perspective check - we're tied for 5th in the NBA record wise..#1 in the Southeast Division..6th best road record..4th in several Power Rankings...yes, these are heady times for our Atlanta Hawks. I have to say that so that when I provide my critique for games like this one - we all continue to see this through the prism of 'postseason concerns'. There's no shame in losing at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder who happen to have the 'now' 5th best road record and are doing well in a loaded Western Conference (uh, only 4 teams are below .500), but there are some themes that are increasingly more disturbing if not for the fact that they are happening, but that they are not even being acknowledged as problems (see Peachtree Hoops for more details) by the Hawks staff or players.
Finally, we'll give our final rant on Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson's 'rest' now that we are clear that what I said from day one would happen - Jeff's not playing and by my crude estimation - Joe's not resting.
Game Recap - Thunder 94, Hawks 91
- I've always marveled at how bad Bibby was as an on the ball defender, but the first 4 minutes of the 3rd quarter showed that if a coach decides to simply focus on whatever player he's guarding - you can get a great shot vs. the Hawks EVERY SINGLE play. Watching Bibby directly or indirectly lead to 10 straight points was pretty much all Sund needs to see in order to go sign or trade for a perimeter defender before the season is out.
- Josh said it all in the post game summary. "We should have kept going inside-out. It would have opened up the 3-point shot." Well, we still want the question asked...is it the players NOT executing an inside out plan OR is it the coaches not making it a point to play inside out? Watching the 2nd half - it's almost laughable to watch Joe and Jamal go one on one for stretches while ignoring an effort by Josh Smith to actually dominate the Thunder interior?
- Joe Johnson - we implore you to stop passing up easy open jumpers in order to dribble and shoot contested ones. Also, let me praise you some - it can only be for lack of praise or envy at the praise given Jamal Crawford that makes you shoot some of the shots you shoot in the 4th quarter (esp. that last shot to tie the game). That was the single worst shot I've seen taken all season (and that includes any shot by Josh Smith from outside 16 ft no matter where we are in the shot clock).
- Jamal Crawford - Now, for you, we have different but equally important advice - you sir need to stop reading press clippings. Now, there's a reason wins after being down by 4pts inside 10 seconds happen only every 10 years and it's because you don't normally hit those kinds of shots to win or tie games. What made you think that moving backwards to 35 ft was increasing your chance to make that last shot. And Woody - what happened to calling plays to create room for your best shooters?
- Finally, how great was that Jeff Green dunk? For that matter, how great was Russell Westbrook's dunk? Finally, how great is this Oklahoma City Thunder team? They look hungry, have players at every position, play defense, and I could easily detect that the coach made adjustments (i.e. attack Bibby wherever he is on the defensive end) at halftime. And it only took 3 years compared to how long in Atlanta...sigh!
- Does it take 12 missed 3pt shots for the team to figure out that the jump shot isn't working?
- Is anyone willing to say that every jump shot (made or not) taken isn't necessarily good basketball? Have we figured out yet that sometimes teams are GIVING us jump shots to keep us from going inside?
- And for the record, I retract everything I ever said about Josh and Al bringing the ball up the court. Not because I think it's a good idea, but because I realize now that they do it because they can't be guaranteed to get the ball when logic dictates it, so you gotta get yours when you can. I get it now...carry on, Josh and Al - all turnovers on account of this will be assessed to Joe and Jamal in my brain from now on.
Starter Kudos/Smackdown -
* M. Bibby - I know Woody doesn't believe in Teague right now, but I can't be convinced that Teague is worse as an overall player than Bibby on any day when Bibby's shot doesn't go down.
* J. Johnson - I could repeat what I said last game, but I think I'll let JJ's last shot function as my only thoughts on JJ now. And let it also be the final straw on whether or not I trust Joe in the 4th quarter - as a note, I now do not. Give the ball to Jamal or Al or Josh...thanks Management!
* A. Horford - I need to see you flip out on the backcourt or Coach Woodson just once making the point that you want to touch the basketball at least every 2-3 possessions. Just touch it - not always shoot it. I just trust that you will make a good basketball decision.
* J. Crawford - Shot selection of nothingness...yes, we said it.
* J. Teague - Sorry for ever believing that what was said in the preseason and early parts of the season were true - you and rotation player don't go hand in hand. See you in 2010-2011.
* M. Evans - Now, I think it's ludicrous for you to have 8 minutes and Mario to have 7, but that would mean that you would have to put in the defensive effort that he does. Capiche!
* Joe Smith - Again, not sure why you have 5 minutes and Mario has 7 minutes, but you have an album coming out, so there's probably bigger things for you to do than oh..play meaningful reserve minutes.
* Z. Pachulia - Welcome back, Za. Offensive rebounds abound when you are focused on it...thanks for the focus.
* J. Collins - Inactive
* M. West - We don't want to belabor this (though we are probably going to), but we don't really believe in you. Any time you spend on the court is wasted on us, but use this as fuel to prove me wrong - maybe there's a Bruce Bowen in you that I can't see. If so, show it and the Hawks management that they messed up by not signing you. Ok?
Another game where the game screamed for an adjustment - an offensive adjustment. One that said - please stop shooting outside shots and go inside, particularly in the 4th quarter. Now, that's not new, so let me spend my time on the Teague question...
I've spent an enormous amount of time discussing Teague and it's important to do since our lack of a point guard has always been a problem for this team, so once Bibby came on board - it was predictable at how much better we look on the court. In the offseason and preseason and early this season, we doubted the words of Coach Mike Woodson as he discussed wanting to play Teague and when he discussed his desire to rest Joe Johnson. We said then that self interest (i.e. need for a new contract and wanting to win every game in order to post a better record if not a better postseason result) would render those words meaningless.
We opined that it's in THIS SEASON's interest to play Jeff Teague (or you sign a backup point guard that you are willing to play) in order to help this team reach its potential. Well, here's the article we said to everyone who would listen was coming, click here. In a nutshell, the article says - Teague ain't playing this season. For some reason, Woodson thinks playing a few minutes a game to spell Bibby and reduce the point guard minutes of Joe and Jamal is throwing Teague to the wolves. Let's discuss what we consider a major flaw in Woodson's thinking here:
- Joe Johnson's minutes - Remember that reducing his minutes was a goal for the season, right? Well, I checked the game logs and Joe's non-blowout minutes average (covering 25 games) - 41.1 minutes per game. Overall, it's 37.7 minutes per game. The only things affecting that is keeping Joe Johnson from running Joe into the ground are blowouts. In those 25 games, Joe Johnson shot over 50% only 8 times. Now, this is crude math, but this would suggest that 1 - Woody ain't resting Joe and we need to pray for more blowouts AND 2 - that an unrested Joe doesn't shoot well in the 4th quarter (since he doesn't get to the line and his shooting hasn't been that great this year). There's a reason you rest your stars during the games and that's so that they can produce for those 9 minutes a quarter you play them. Kobe and Lebron rest at the beginning of most 4 quarters, so they can be ready to do yeoman work in the final 8 minutes of the game. Please clue our coach in on that.
- Bibby's defensive liabilities - You should be preparing Teague to play defense in this league because if Bibby's not hitting his shot, he's terrible on defense. There's no way that Teague as a rookie is worse than Bibby. It wasn't possible that Law was worse than Bibby either, so the point here - if you want a stop, get Teague in the game over Crawford and Bibby. I'm not saying he's a STOPPER. I'm saying your best defensive backcourt is Johnson and Teague. From a defensive perspective and with a 'defensive' coach, it would stand to reason that he simply needs to let him play minutes as a distributor who plays when Bibby can't. Instead, Woodson has gone with the 'Bibby/Crawford outscore 'em' method. Yes, Teague will make mistakes, but no more than the 10 straight points Bibby's going to give up on sheer inability alone.
- Your postseason may depend on it - Watching all of the other rookies get better sure bodes well for their future productivity in the postseason...James Harden,, DeJuan Blair, Ty Lawson - all look like they will be able to provide contributions should their starting counterparts go down...if Bibby goes down, that's the season. Why would we not be preparing SOMEONE for that possibility (if the rest reason wasn't worth it alone)?
- Our shooting guards are: Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson. Part of the reason we have our 4th quarter woes is because we have guys who have the talent to score are also bringing up the ball...they aren't point guards. They are conditioned to believe that once they get the ball - they can score it. Point guards are conditioned to score when necessary, but to find the BEST option and go to that option to score depending on what's working, the matchups, etc. To date, we have no evidence that Joe or Jamal are able to discern what the best option is come the 4th quarter other than themselves. Watching them play catch with each other screams for a POINT GUARD!!!!! Having Teague ready to deal with that scenario is something we should be working toward.
- What if Bibby gets worse? It keeps getting said that shooting is the last to go. Really?!? Well, ok - we'll go with that, but is Bibby really even shooting now. He's getting like 6 shots a game and sitting as soon as he gets killed on defense. It's become the Jamal and Joe show. I like that show, but I don't love it. I love a point guard learning how to mesh with the shooting guards. And I'd rather that happen now when the stakes aren't as high (and to be clear - they will be higher next season when we are expected to take that leap to contender). Let's figure out if we need to get another player at a trade deadline or offseason or through the draft, but as it stands - we don't know what Teague can do and not only that we don't trust him to be better than Mario West on the court.
Str8 Talk Love
To Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr for his inspiration and to the Haitian people...stay strong and give long!
Dance Team/Game Ops update - N/A
Shout Outs - See above
Final Notes - Sorry for the long post, but it has been burning in my heart to say these things. Now, on to other topics...