Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hawks/Raptors: The Floor Experience

Preamble Ramble

I am always aware of the fortune I have in getting the opportunity to see my favorite NBA team up close and personal almost whenever I want. That coupled with this forum for expression of things that the normal fan doesn't have access to. I don't say that with any boastfulness - just gratitude, so during this game - there was no shortage of excitement when I found that my seats were going to be right behind the Atlanta Hawks bench...yep, Mike Woodson cam in full effect. So, here's what we saw as the Hawks won their 50th game and continue their run to the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.

Game Recap - Hawks 107, Raptors 101

Game Bullets:
  • I don't know the best way to prepare for a playoff series, but the fact that other teams are resting their players for the playoffs keeps me from believing that rest trumps rhythm going into the playoffs - Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby, you're on the clock.
  • It's really hard to explain how badly the Hawks started this game. Osh's energy level was particularly poor. Even Al looked like he didn't particularly care to play hard...
  • Point, Peachtree Hoops...Mike Bibby looked like the only halfway capable point guard on the team yesterday (that's me eschewing any pretense that Jamal is a point guard). Now, I blame Coach Woodson for why it's so and the lack of opportunities to make up for 3-4 minutes of poor play, but Jeff Teague looked mighty bad out there last night. I repeat - don't expect any postseason minutes for Jeff Teague.
  • Soooooo...the Raptors outplayed us for most of the game - not bad effort when without one of the best players in the NBA. Still waiting for the dominate gene to kick in for my team. Really tiring of hearing - we aren't where we need to be. At game 79, let's add the proper addendum "and that's not going to happen until tactics change or personnel changes"
  • Another 4 pt play by Jamal. I've seen some questionable ones, but that was a legit - smack the arm, make the 3 anyway - 4pt play. Yep, Jamal is a shotmaker for sure...
  • Welcome back, Joe Johnson - we missed you...
  • One more time for the energy of Maurice Evans and Zaza Pachulia
  • Interestingly enough - if Toronto played ANY defense and stopped shooting 3 pt shots - they could have won that game going away..thanks Raptors!!!!
And to the behind the bench observations...

  • I know that it's rare that you get all the players paying attention during TOs, but I thought it was telling that there seemed to only be guards paying attention to Mike Woodson during each timeout. That can't be good.
  • I noticed something that I don't think I've ever seen (and again, maybe this is my lack of NBA basketball bench dynamics knowledge), but I watched on FIVE occasions where a player was summoned into the game by Mike Woodson and they looked at the coach and....CONTINUED to sit. First, this happened with Al Horford (and most demonstrably) where he was asked 3 times to go into the game. Everyone around us looked at each other to see if we were watching Al not go into the game. Now, I don't know why and maybe this happens all the time, but it certainly was interesting to see the coach seemingly ignored. This happened in the second half with Josh and Marvin... This did not happen with Maurice, Mario, or Jeff who looked all too eager to get their minutes.
  • Why this mattered to me is three fold. First, I've never watched a player not go into a game up close and personal. Heard about it, but never seen it happen and certainly was shocked to see Al simply sit. Second, it made some sense of my assertion that the Hawks win in spite of the attempts to coach. Maybe at this level - players can manage things themselves...and that's accepted. It's not like anyone was blinking or nudging the players to go into the game from the coaching staff or other players. Third, it broke my belief that the coach is the ruler of all that happens on the sideline. My belief in a coach's power has forever been changed. Maybe Jeff Teague is getting called to go into the game in the 2nd half and he's saying - NO!
  • Other notes regarding this time behind the bench. No one talks to Jeff Teague. Throughout the game or after he makes mistakes - I saw yelling to the court, but no coaching is happening with the young man. At least not during the game...
  • It was also a little disconcerting to watch Horford have an open disagreement with Coach Woodson for about 1 minute complete with a wave off...the same wave off that Josh gave, a similar wave off that Mario West (yes, Mario West) gave after the dumb foul once he got in the game, and another animated discussion Marvin and Mike Woodson had during free throw attempts by the Raptors. Now, it is entirely plausible that this happens with all teams - it could be that the team dynamic allows for frustration and carping about things and it all going away after the game, but it didn't feel like there was a synergy for what was happening. There was just lots of frustration, very few offensive play calls, and lots of yelling that never really changed what happened on the court (save shots just falling)
The end result: more belief that this team isn't going to get better with Coach Woodson. Now, it could be my rose colored glasses about Coach Woodson, but there was nothing that said he had control of the team in tactic or simply player relationships. Maybe after 6 years - the style is wearing thin. That's how it felt. More bench watching will be coming up in the playoffs to see if I can see something to counter that belief. Simply not a team energy that looks anything like a team that believes it can contend...

Sorry, I have to say that - can we get this prediction right please? 52-30, 3rd seed...

8 comments:

Gilley said...

WOW!!!! GREAT STUFF! This needs to be addressed and analyzed. Maybe the starters want the bench players to get more minutes and feel Woodson is over exerting them but we are fighting for the 3rd seed so this game wasn't completely in vain, despite clinching the playoffs. Hmm. Its hard to not give Woody an extension when he has improved every season because it would look BAD if Woody was let go after a 50-win season but I agree, we are only as good as the head and Woody wont take us to the promised land.

Xavier said...

@ATL what other team or teams are resting their players besides L.A. and Cle. who have clinched 1st in their conferences?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

San Antonio has routinely rested its players down the stretch. The Celtics, while not sitting players, has tried to rest KG as well. The point is really not about whether all teams are doing it - I'm only concerned the teams that have players who are injured or tired to do so. So, I'd prefer for the team to care more about health and meaningless records and seeding at this point.

Xavier said...

I see ATL. Looking at the standings now and potential matchups, would you prefer Woody give the guys rest if that meant a 1st round matchup vs. the Heat or play regular minutes for everyone if that meant a matchup vs. The Bucks?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Good question. I haven't done a blog on matchups b/c I never do the matchup thing when I think we're the favorites. The Hawks are significantly better than the Heat and the Bucks. We were significantly better last year than all those teams below us. We're better than Bobcats too...now, of those 3 - I'm probably thinking that the combination of talent and coaching favors the Bobcats now that Bogut is out for the season, so honestly - I'm just saying the Hawks shouldn't care about any of the matchups vs. the injuries. I'd be VERY concerned for all of my 'start Teague, get Teague minutes' rants if Teague or Evans have to play in the backcourt OR if we have to play significant minutes without Joe or Jamal. If we're healthy and we go past Game 5 with any of those teams - something is wrong (and that's including the fact that we are below average on the road).

Now, what would change my thinking is if the Celtics were playing basketball that gave me an inkling of thought that they could defeat the Magic or Cavs. If I believed that with one ounce of my soul, then I'd have to consider that a little with regard to pushing for the 3rd seed. Since I see a way that the C's will be in the ECF, there's no upside to being 3rd with regard to who we'd play in the 1st or 2nd round. I don't see an advantage to playing the Magic or the Cavs for us. We get punked by the Magic and we can't close against the Cavs, so it's a wash to me.

CoCo said...

You really wouldn't be worried about a Hawks/Heat match up? It took them 7 games last year to beat a Heat team who was not playing well. The Heat are on fire right now and in the playoffs adjustments have to be made and that's not our esteemed head coach's strong suit. Let me put it this way, I wouldn't be surprised if the Hawks lost to the Heat in the first round. They lost 3 games to them this season and hey sometimes the regular season record is a precursor to what you can expect from two teams in the playoffs especially if all things are equal which in this case they are pretty close. Except the Heat's main guy is better than the Hawks guy. I said all that to say, I'm not totally convinced the Hawks are better than the Heat.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@Coco, I think there's a difference btw we lost in the first round and are we better than that team. We were VASTLY better than the Heat last year, but we didn't have the guts or toughness or acumen to use that talent to our advantage for large parts of that series. So, I say the same now. We should win in 5. The fact that we might not is a different issue altogether in my eyes.

So, in a nutshell, I'm thoroughly convinced we're better than the Heat, Bobcats, Bucks, and even the Celtics, just as much as I'm thoroughly convinced Georgetown was better than Villanova. Whether or not we have a better outcome than Georgetown did is up to the team to determine.

CoCo said...

If we played to our potential I'd most certainly agree with you, but as you and I both know, we have no idea what kind of team is going to come out of that locker-room each night. I hate that I have no confidence that this team will "play the right way" and let the chips fall where they may. I don't mind them losing games if they go through the whole game doing the things they do best, but when they lose games doing stupid ish, it's annoying. I'd like to think they can beat either of those teams, (although I stand by my thinking that LB would coach Mike Woodson right under the table) but this team has no one but itself to blame for my lack of confidence in them. Obviously when the playoffs start I'll be hoping they win 16 games, but looking at it realistically, I'm just hoping they win 4 before they lose 4.