The HHB saw this during the entire recent 7-1 homestand---long before attending the 106-102 loss to the Southeast leading Orlando Magic—we saw that the Hawks were “pacing” themselves in games, keeping things close, and then clamping down in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Even before the game, the HHB caught up with Coach Woodson and asked about this phenomenon, to which he replied, “I wish we could jump out early and keep a team down,” before allowing that---yes, indeed---that was the Hawks current MO.
So it didn’t surprise us when the Magic jumped all over the Hawks by bombing the Birds to the tune of nearly 60 percent first half shooting and putting the Hawks into a 15 point halftime hole.
The break didn’t do the home team any good as they allowed the Magic to stretch the lead to as much as 21 point, before settling on 20 as the fourth quarter began.
Then, just as all games before, the Hawks shut down the pesky visitors and, despite throwing away possessions offensively when making a valiant run, the Hawks got the lead down to a couple of possessions.
Unfortunately the Hawks night was not meant to be, symbolized by the breakaway layup by Mike Bibby to move the game to a single possession deficit---only to miss the uncontested bunny---and the Hawks never moved closer save for the free throw endgame.
Afterwards, the team acknowledged their ineffectiveness (read: comatose) effort in a surprising number of amens from the congregation:
Orlando is one of the best teams in the league and you can’t spot them 21 points and think you are going to come back and win. We made plays in the 4th quarter but you can’t wait 3 quarter to decide you want to play. I thought we were awful the first 3 quarters.
We were very, very flat and it showed in our effort in terms of defensive effort and offensive effort. Towards the latter part of the 3rd and 4th quarter we picked it up.
They were able to move the ball wherever they wanted.
First time I’ve seen it here in our building---when we didn’t pull 2 or 3 good quarters together—we only played one good quarter tonight.
After the 3rd quarter we knew it was a long way—about 18, 19 points (it was 20 actually).
We fought back---I missed my layup---we have to start playing in the 1st quarter instead of the 4th. We played a lot harder in the fourth than we did in the first---
We’ve played a lot of games in our house like that (Waiting until the fourth to close games)---you don’t want to play too many.
We played one quarter—We had no energy---we had some good looks offensively, even with Dwight back there making things tough—but it’s on the other end where we’ve been making our name and we didn’t do that tonight.
The thing that hurt us was that we didn’t start playing until the fourth quarter. We didn’t pick up our intensity until then so we got back in the game, but we just can’t wait until the end.
Besides the obvious lack of effort defensively in the game, another sore spot on the team was their abysmal free throw shooting---Already one of the league’s worst, the Hawks, led by Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Joe Johnson, combined to miss 11 of their 25 attempts (that’s 56 percent!).
“I think what hurt us tonight was the free throws,” said Williams. “We got some good free throw shooters here---including myself---I missed three of them---just one of those nights---“
Added Smith, “Free throws definitely hurt us---if we had made half our free throws (that they missed), we’d have won this game.”
Other Quick Passes:
While the Hawks were making their run in the fourth, the HHB noted that coach Woodson stayed with Solomon Jones and Flip Murray a couple of minutes too long before re-inserting Al Horford, who had 13 rebounds and had his hands full with Howard (23 points, 19 rebounds) and Mike Bibby.
The Magic did a nice job of overplaying the perimeter and funnelling players towards Howard, who was tough inside. He had no blocks (hmmm), but was effective in making baskets hard to finish around the basket.
The overplay at the perimeter caused problems shooting for Johnson and Bibby, who combined for 11-34 shooting.
If you needed more evidence of how flat the Hawks might have been tonight during minutes 1-36, please consider that JJ Redick made his way into the paint to score on at least two occasions--uncontested.
Yes indeed---the point is made---the Hawks have been playing with fire with their “keep it close then close it out” intensity philosophy---and tonight they got burned.
The HHB took it all in tonight and turned in two entries (whew)---See our trek inside the mind of Coach Woodson as it pertained to the playing time of Acie Law--Comments, witty or otherwise, are always welcome in the Comments Area