Thursday, April 29, 2010

Game 5 - Hawks/Bucks (or the culmination of every bad habit)

Preamble Ramble

Disclaimer: I'm angry right now. I know I've spent my entire HawkStr8Talk blog career trying to explain why this isn't an organization that has been committed to making championship moves, employing a championship strategy, and having championship heart. But it doesn't feel good to be right about anything. It was the first time I've bought fantastic seats for a Hawks game in over 3 years. Sat right behind the bench and ended up just continuing to verify in my mind that it's not just the coach - it's the psychological makeup of this team that allows a team to implode, so we won't talk tactics and game breakdown - we'll leave that to the more talented at breakdown folks from Hoopinion, Peachtree Hoops, Soaring Down South, AJC Hawks' Blog, etc. We'll also blame The Vent for abdicating her responsibility as a fan. It's to our angry blog....

Game 5 Recap - Bucks 91, Hawks 87

Overall Observations:
  • Brandon Jennings is the best player in this series. He is more poised and more explosive than any other player playing right now. So much for rookies shrinking in the playoffs (or as Mike Woodson would call it if he played for us 'throwing him to the wolves')
  • Of the many things, we didn't expect in this series - near the top was Marvin Williams having a great game and the Hawks losing in spite of it.
  • There were many things discussed this offseason that the Hawks needed this offseason to help us make the next step. Those were rebounding, physical/mental toughness, veteran leadership, and heart. Forget the talent, forget the tactics...just give us a team that plays hard all the time and I'll accept the outcome. As a fan, there's nothing more I can ask of a team than to do the best it possibly can do. Right now, that's 75% of my disappointment..nope, anger at this squad.
  • From my 2nd row seat, I can say for certain...there was very little team togetherness, hand slaps, encouragement throughout the game. It could be like that all the time, but it certainly looked like the team was pressing and tight all game long.
  • In the category of leadership, as soon as it looked bleak and the Bucks took the 4th quarter lead, both Josh Smith and Joe Johnson went to the opposite end of the bench and said NOTHING instead of encouraging and exhibiting the togetherness that they have always said they have. Most culpable was Josh Smith - he was visibly arguing and complaining during the final timeout while Coach Woodson was trying to design the play WHILE sitting on the courtside press bench instead of with the team.
  • Defensively, Coach Woodson is supposed to be the guru. It's telling that the Hawks are one of the worst remaining in the playoffs AND he has no backup defensive plan (no zone, no press, no man to man) to change up the strategy. Gurus have backup plans.
  • Offensively, there hasn't been a change in the offense this season. Adjustments matter in the playoffs.
  • Those two points do speak to tactics and our coach. Oops, I said I wasn't talking about talking about tactics.
  • The fact that we were talking about home court advantage as if it was a crutch for this team is also both deflating and indicative of why we are not championship ready. Again, psychologically - we have hunkered down on a home court will save us for the first round mentality when the championship is built through having to win at a bare minimum THREE road victories. How does that happen?
  • Losing Joe Johnson was not why we lost - spending all season focused on iso plays down the stretch with only 2 players then leaves you in a panicked state when players (fully capable of scoring) are faced with unfamiliar situations could be. So, as a point, it's not just Jeff Teague who will look bad when they are first faced with a situation that they've ever seen #reasonswhyyoudothingsintheregularseasonincaseyoufacethemintheplayoffs
  • Leaving the hot hand of Marvin Williams for the cold in the playoffs Jamal Crawford does speak to a coach who feels comfortable with what he's comfortable with and never leaving the box he's used to. And that speaks to the psychology that is passed down to the team. More plainly, it's why the post game rants of the coach and players after losses that say 'we've got to figure it out' can't do that. If you ONLY do the same things over and over, then how can you figure it out. Doing different things is how you figure out what the team is capable of. Who thought that Tony Parker (Finals MVP) could be an awesome 6th man and George Hill could be a more than viable starter until ... they actually TRIED it.
  • Ok, enough of the psychology, simply put - the Hawks haven't looked championship ready since the 1st 2 months of the season. Been saying that for months and, unfortunately, a less talented team is beating us because they have continued to fight and claw their way to victories and ours hasn't. Said it for 2 postseasons in a row - heart matters. Teams that fold don't make championship runs...
  • One last BAD indication - the players declining to go to the podium to accept questions from the media and only taking them from their locker room. You have to be a man and stand up to the effort you put on the court. That's why you get paid millions. So, it says nothing positive that you can't give full account for what you put out on the court. Like I said, this speaks to who our team is and that's very disconcerting.

Str8 Butter Award - Child please!

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Thanks! Still lost...moving on..
* Osh Smith - All the sniping that is usually directed at the refs - you gave it good to your teammates. I'm actually sorry that I sat so close to the bench because I saw what everyone has said negative about you in action. Coasting, sniping at coach and teammates, and simply a dog like effort to go along with poor shot selection.
* M. Bibby - Would have rather seen Jeff Teague than you...again, if we're going to lose - let Jeff get the playoff experience that Brandon Jennings is getting.
* J. Johnson - I haven't said much about you getting your money this offseason and I don't care if you get it - just not in Atlanta. If we're giving away max money, sign and trade for D Wade. Period. I don't care for a max player who has a lot of mouth in the post game comments, but doesn't have that mouth during the game OR doesn't show and prove on the court to justify it.
* A. Horford - Until you take the leadership reigns, I really can't call you a cornerstone for this team either. Harsh, but true.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* J. Crawford - Whenever you want to be 6th man of the year, it'd be nice. Maybe this is why you haven't been to the playoffs.
* J. Teague - Might as well not have played...
* M. Evans - Might as well not have played...
* Joe Smith - Might as well not have played..
* Z. Pachulia - Do you see a pattern here?
* R. Morris - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* M. West - DNP

Coaching Kudos/Smackdown

I've said enough about Woody and I'm not going to go overboard. The postseason exposes everyone. So, Woodson's offensive and defensive strategies have long been questioned by me as not awful for the regular season (I've often said that you can win against the average to bad teams with our tactics), but straight up killer in the postseason. It's been exploited to blowout effect in several postseason games and now for the 2nd straight game - we've been outgunned and outgutted because there's been no adjustments to the things the other team is doing well. So, no in-game adjustments and a bad, static, unchanging method of playing basketball is choking the life of yet another season.

And why is there some part of me that says - let's lose another game. Because losing could be winning. Remember that the goal is winning a championship, not winning more games each season. Let's not forget - we're playing a team without its best TWO players. They aren't complaining about it. We don't hear the complaints from the Bucks after each game about what they don't have. That is an indictment on you, Coach Woodson. Sure, it's an indictment on the players as well, but you can't fire all of the players. So, sometimes, you have to shuffle the deck and if that means that Joe Johnson doesn't come back - so be it. If that means you don't come back, so BE IT.

Str8 Talk Love

Did I mention that I'm furious...I'd give updates and shouts and notes, but I can't for the life of me even remember any of that. I just remember that I bought 2nd row tickets for a playoff game. We had it won and yet, we lost. That's all you get from me.

Playoff Prediction
I said in my last blog that the Bucks made us HOPE to win the series and now, I don't know whether to hope we lose, so that ownership and management will shake this team up or to hope we win and see if this is some Lakers/Rockets '09 or Hawks/Celtics '08 situation. Seriously, don't have an idea of what to think and yet, I keep saying - we're SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE BUCKS!!!! That just can't be understated. If anyone has a better answer, leave it in the comments.


Gilley said...

Enjoyed the read and I agree wholeheartedly. I was at Philips yelling and I was disappointed. Now all I have is a hoarse voice.

The Casey said...

I say let 'em go ahead and lose in 6 and hope management/ownership makes some moves. I just hope ownership is willing to part with the money to do something.

Ron E. said...

What to hope for is easy. The Hawks will go down without a fight in game 6 because they suck on the road and Woody won't even try to make any adjustments. So you might as well hope for the loss and the shake up that should follow it.

Xavier said...

First ATL I will admit you were right and I was wrong concerning Woody and the probable outcome for the Hawks. I still think and hope we can pull this series out. And even if we do, I think Sund should have an indication that changes are needed.

CoCo said...

Hey! It's not my fault! I'm glad I chose to be among friends last night. I don't need to be getting all worked up all the time!

The Casey said...

Honestly, I'm going to be surprised if Game 6 isn't a blowout. The Hawks, as a team, don't really handle adversity well.

Also, for someone reportedly coaching for his job, Woodson has done surpisingly little. I'd rather lose my job making the wrong adjustment, but at least trying something different, than lose it because I couldn't be bothered to make an adjustment.

That said, there's no guarantee if Coach goes that the next guy's going to be an improvement.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Well, let me say a few things (writing this is to help me get over last night):

1. I don't think effort is going to be a problem tomorrow unless they want Woodson to get fired. I don't think that's what they want, so I expect them to fight. Now, I can see them imploding in the 2nd half, but I can't see them giving up. Just can't...doesn't mean we'll win, but giving up - I'll be stunned if that happens.
2. One of the things I will say is that I think the biggest sign of Atlanta's readiness for a championship is their fear of what a coaching change would mean. It's a legitimate concern to worry about whether we have the finances to continue to change coaches if we pick the wrong one, but if you are looking for success at the highest level - you don't worry about choosing wrong. My analogy for this is in the workplace. If you know that your VP is not making the numbers you require to be the #1 company, but has decent numbers - you can fire him b/c you want to be #1 and the next person provides no guarantee that he'll be #1 either, but you still hire the next person. Too often, we are worrying about whether we will lose meaningless ground in our quest, but to me - moving on is moving FORWARD regardless of the fact that we may not win 53 games next year due to a change. We could win 14 games and it wouldn't change the fact that we aren't winning a title with Coach Woodson. Period. It's the crux of my argument for starting Teague. It wasn't to say that we'd immediately be better. It was to say - I know I'm not winning a title with Mike Bibby as the starter, so let's go ahead and see if our point guard of the future can begin the process of taking us to a title. That's been my whole point since last year.

Guess what the Bucks know - that they aren't winning a title this year, but they are certain that they have a star who won't blink when the lights are brightest. What do we know about the Hawks - to me, not much about whether it's the players, the coaches, the management, or all of the above.

@Xavier, I get no joy about my belief that Woodson is the wrong coach for our team. I don't even blame the coach - he is who he is. I do blame the ownership. Trying to win a title isn't cheap. It's like I said - he was right for the first 3-4 years, but then we grew up and need another coach to take us to the next level. That's not an indication that he never should have been hired, but simply a point that says sometimes a coach can only get you so far and that's ok. I just hope we now determine to find the final coaching and player pieces to win a title (or least try hard to attain that)