Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pressure Applied

We don't have to look at a box score to know that the Atlanta Hawks took on a Tim Duncan-less San Antonio Spurs team and completely wilted under the heat of a strong team approach to the game to the tune of a 102-92 loss at home.

We notice that, when times are good, you may not really see the true nature of people---it's when pressure is applied or when times and situations go awry that you begin to see of what character someone is made.

When watching the Hawks Wednesday night, against the push of a team that rarely gives any ground, we saw some true core behavior from the squad.

And Now It's Time For----Authentic HHB Insight!

RFM was on early--continuing his hotness from the game before against Minnesota. We're not sure what San Antonio did to cool him off (halftime flowers?), but Murray bricked his second half shots as the pressure got tighter and didn't seem to be able to get inside as much as before.

Maurice Evans and Zaza Pachulia played solid games, but Evans played (22) minutes while Zaza participated in about (15). Pachulia played well against the Spurs second unit up front (which w/o Duncan looks an awful lot like their first). In fact, his (7) rebounds and tough play made us wistful that he played instead of someone who got more than twice the minutes as he. Evans was perfect shooting, with a couple of threes and an impressive rebound-jam.

But this game wasn't about the bench, considering each of the (4) main starters played about (40) minutes. If this were about trying to evaluate playoff readiness--playing the starters that many minutes against a team without their top talent, well---you would have thought a better results were in the offing. Back to the show---

Josh Smith played a game that can only be tastefully described as sloppy. If this were a game to see how Smith would respond to playoff pressure, he failed. He dropped all inhibitions and played like he seems to want to play---taking chances, out of position on both sides of the floor, wild shooting and ball handling. He fills a box score, but as many times the ball was in his hands and with the number of decisions he was aloud to make on the court, Smith should have been the player of the game. Instead, he posted (12) points, turned the ball over (4) times with his (5) assists, and offered (0) blocked shots on a night where we had identified that he might be key in deterring Tony (42 points) Parker inside.

If Smith were playing baseball, getting excited about his statistics would be equivalent to coming up with the bases loaded four times and getting a couple of RBI while making multiple errors in the field. Smith's "efforts" really cost the Hawks a chance to win against the Spurs.

Al Horford, meanwhile, played hard, but showed that he still rushes his shots under pressure. Horford was a miserable 2-9 from the field, rushing all sorts and manner of shots. He was content to sit in the background a bit in this game. Even with his activity (13) rebounds on the defensive glass, that's something he has to overcome in the heat of the playoffs.

Defensively, due to the inane TLC-Switch defense the Hawks seem contractually obligated to play, Horford and Mike Bibby kept getting switched, leaving Tony Parker being defended by Al. No disrespect to the Gator, but Tony Parker looked like he was taking family pictures by the amount of times he had to smile at that matchup. That the Hawks continued in this manner, offering little adjustment, speaks to how Parker piled up the points and how the coaching held up to the glare of this matchup as well.

Bibby was steady at the point, but he took some quick shots also, and was abused defensively (and physically by Matt Bonner, who left Mike with stitches above his left eye). The Hawks are going to have to gameplan to this defensively somehow, but now almost into April, the team seems to have employed the "cross your fingers" defense to account for Mike's inadequacies on that end and will now hope for the best.

That leaves Joe Johnson. When pressure is applied to Joe, he reacts in a consistent pattern on the floor. He wants to put the team on his back and carry them offensively. Against the Spurs, with Horford cold, the perimeter tight, and Josh Smith too loose, it was a good strategy. Joe had (30) points on 13-23 shooting, continually subjecting himself to a pounding inside and working extremely hard to get in a position to shoot. Yes, sometimes he passed up passing up the ball to a more open teammate, but with the team wilting, Joe was the Hawks only hope. It just wasn't enough to make up for a player(s) not getting it done on the defensive end.

From the Eternally Obvious

To put it bluntly, the Hawks won't win any meaningful (read: playoff games) using this approach to the game. The coaching staff didn't do the team any favors by not adjusting for Parker's dominance and for allowing Josh Smith to play ridiculous minutes when squandering so many possessions on each side of the floor.

Fortunately, it's one game, and the team can use this as a mirror to see how they responded to the storm that passed through the arena Wednesday night. That's the thing about pressure situations, as one passes, there is time to reflect, adjust-change, and get ready for the next one.

On the Hawks schedule, it's the rainy season, offering plenty of chances to shine.

The HHB recognizes the bump in the road to (50) wins---We're stopping the bus so that some can get off, but we won't change the destination on the front---Condolences to our mental health can be left in the Comments Area.

1 comment:

CoCo said...

"The Hawks are going to have to gameplan to this defensively somehow, but now almost into April, the team seems to have employed the "cross your fingers" defense to account for Mike's inadequacies on that end and will now hope for the best."