Saturday, November 13, 2010

Game Recap: Jazz @ Hawks

Preamble Ramble

So, the goal for the game vs. the Jazz should not only have been to show that they could bounce back from an embarrassing loss vs. the Milwaukee Bucks (a game that should give pause to anyone who believes that the Hawks have a tight stranglehold on the 4th seed in the East), but also to send the message that the Bucks game is not indicative of the mental toughness that the team will display throughout the season.

Game Recap - Jazz 90, Hawks 86

Overall Observations:
  • The case for bouncing back was made.
  • The case for mental toughness was a little more mixed.
  • Why is it that first and second round players for teams like the Jazz get playing time during the season vs. good teams and ours don't.  It shouldn't be lost on the front office with regard to Sund's ability to find talent or the coach's decision to use the regular season to develop players you will need to avoid playoff embarrassment when you see Earl Watson competently spell Deron Williams or watch second round draft pick Jeremy Evans provide 6 minutes of energy and production while the starters rested for the stretch drive.
  • Welcome back small forward rotation.  It was no coincidence that the team looked closer to its normal self, but it does strike us as interesting that Jason Collins can go from starter to DNP.  It probably highlights that he probably shouldn't have been playing at all small forwards missing or not.
  • I've normally used the Utah Jazz as a good barometer game for the Hawks due to the fact that you know they are well coached, won't quit, and will force you to execute in order to be successful.  Our home game vs. the Jazz in 2008 was probably in the top 4 wins of that season. So, this game should be taken with some mixed messaging. On the good side, we were back to competitive vs. a very good team and on the bad side, we were watching the type of team that executes its scheme no matter what time in the game it is vs. the occasional reverting to bad habits exhibited by our Hawks. It would be illuminating to see the Hawks not give up about 15 possessions a game doing things we aren't good at doing.
  • How refreshing to see a new end of game play being run. Let's not let the end result take away from the fact that an easy shot was created to tie the game. Kudos to Coach Drew for realizing that using Joe and Jamal as decoys can be a very successful way to create an end of game shot.
Str8 Butter Award - First Str8 Butter Award of the Year goes to Joe Johnson. Nothing spectacular, but he did provide a solid presence down the stretch.

Starter Kudos/Smackdown -

* M. Williams - Good to see Marvin Williams back to knock off some rest and get back into the process of establishing himself as a critical member of this basketball team.
* Josh Smith - Honestly, Osh has had a really good shooting season, but it will continue to vex me as to why he is allowed free reign (he's acquitted himself well enough so far this year to allow for necessary jump shots) at outside shots.  This is not Karl Malone we're talking about here.  Additionally, why is Josh continually allowed to bring up the ball.  On 3 occasions, he made bad decisions on the fast break. It's the POINT GUARD'S job to bring up the ball...
* M. Bibby - I've been especially harsh on Bibby as our starting guard and this needs to be given some context.  Mike Bibby is a good offensive presence for this team.  What he is not is a good leader or defensive presence.  When those things are necessary - he needs to be on the bench.  Unfortunately, that's not how he's seen. Guys like Mike Bibby should not be portrayed as Derek Fisher type winners for a franchise and unfortunately, that rears its head in the kinds of machinations used to keep him on the floor, which simply are not sustainable for an elite team t maintain. As long as he's starting, the Hawks will be guaranteeing themselves Pretender status (though it's reasonable to assume that starting Teague will not change that - it only removes it as a guarantee and replaces it with upside that is missing right now)
* J. Johnson - See Str8 Baller
* A. Horford - Missed FTs happen, so there's not much to take from this as an indicator for the season, so I will only say that I hope Al never has to take a desperation 3 again.

Bench Kudos/Smackdown

* Ja. Crawford - actually saw him try on a few plays of defense. Baby steps, baby steps.
* J. Teague - Simply put - he looks like a guy who doesn't have the confidence to run a NBA basketball team.
* M. Evans - Nice to have you back...
* Josh Powell - For a guy without a lot of offensive success, you sure do get up shots.  Not sure if it's the Josh Smith captaincy at work, but I've never seen more power forward jump shots for guys without great strokes ever. 
* Z. Pachulia - Not really much of a factor tonight..
* Jo. Crawford - DNP
* J. Collins - DNP
* E. Thomas - Inactive
* P. Sy - Inactive


Coaching Kudos/Smackdown


I've given Coach Drew his props for the end of game play call, but it was a little disconcerting to look at the starters work so hard to keep the lead vs. the Jazz bench.  Now, he can't be held accountable for the fact that we have such a weak bench, but I think it would be more effective to employ the strategy of win the war, not the battle (well, let's win the battle too, but not at the expense of the war).  That means - every game has to come with enough time for the team's bench.  I even made the comment at the 6 minute mark that the Jazz has rested his starters for the stretch and that may make the difference. Lo and behold...the Jazz looked fresher and executed when it mattered.

Str8 Talk Love

No love...other than to the marketing team that got us those spicy chicken sandwiches.  Gotta love Chick-Fil-A!

Season Prediction
46-36..injuries, sameness in mental makeup do not offset the change in coaching style and strategy.  I still don't see how we are a top 4 seed and I'm settling into the thought that we could be will be struggling to keep from being in the unenviable position of the 6th seed.  Again, I don't doubt the Hawks ability to win basketball games vs. teams that have less talent than we do.  It's the doubt that we spend the season preparing for the playoffs like all other elite teams do.  Unfortunately, this season - it may result in some negative regular season spill over.  Let's hope not, but this 4 game losing streak coupled with a few shaky wins isn't trending very well right now. 

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