Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And I Guess That's Why They Call It the Black and Blues

The crowd booed Dwyane Wade lustily.

Technical fouls were exchanged.

Fouls were flagrant.

Josh Smith tried to go between his legs on a break and slam.

Wednesday night the Hawks got their mojo back, zipped out to a double digit lead and never looked back in a 106-91 Game Five win over the Miami Heat.

Good times in the ATL.

Despite TNT's best efforts to excuse everything he did and didn't do and paint Dwyane Wade as a modern day Hercules, trying lift the Heat above all odds, the Hawks withstood this unstoppable power by using smart defense, good rebounding, and solid offense to move one more win from advancing to the second round.

The game marked a return to form for Joe Johnson, who had almost as many free throw attempts in Game Five (15) than in the previous (4) games combined. He passed well out of the automatic double team, was aggressive to the hoop, and posted a 25/6/6 effort, establishing his solid game as the pulse for the Hawks rhythmic beating of the visitors.

RFM also had his hot game going, putting up a 23/5/3 night without a single turnover---and for those who thought that his first month with the Hawks would be his best and that we would one day this season want to swap him for a bag of Fritos, the HHB has to say that those would have to be some tasty Fritos at this point.

The Hawks posted a stunning 23/5 assist to turnover ratio, led by The Backcourt (9:3) which featured (17) solid points from Mike Bibby.

While the Hawks were placing (3) players above (20) points the Heat struggled to have anyone outside of Wade make a positive impact, which is precisely what the lack of double team on Wade has wrought---Wade getting his points while his teammates can't get the open looks they need to make a difference.

We Had the Over on Bruises (+/- 100)

The story of the game won't likely be the fact that the Hawks are up 3-2 heading back for a Friday night game in Miami (nice!), nor the efficiency the Hawks used to gain such an edge.

No, the likely focus of discussion from this game will be its physical nature, as there weren't many players that escaped being fouled hard inside at some point in this game.

The HHB doesn't have a problem with this---actually, it was refreshing to see some of the efforts both teams went through to ensure that no easy baskets were scored in the filming of the evening's game. As many say at this time of year--it's playoff basketball!

Solomon Jones on Dwyane Wade, Wade on Mo Evans (TNT actually called bull on the flagrant foul called on Wade--we concur--, but missed where Wade interfered with Evans' dunk attempt by grabbing the rim), Udonis Haslem on Zaza Pachulia---there was nothing malicious about them---just the savory emotion of postseason hoops.

This Game Paid For By the Committee to Laud Dwyane Wade

Our own focus during the game was on the Hawks dominating every aspect of the game including rebounding, assists, turnovers, and (gasp!) even free throw shooting.

We couldn't help, however, being distracted by the inordinate gushfest TNT's Dick Stockton and Mike Fratello offered on behalf of Wade.

You would have thought that Wade left (6) sick grandmothers behind to participate in the game on a back held together by toothpicks and that he was saddled with a team that wouldn't be allowed to participate in NBA games if not for his gracious presence.

Yes, it was that bad.

Look, we get it, the NBA has long, long been about superstars--and Wade has every right to be included in that group---but his game (29 points in a hardly restful 39 minutes) speaks loud enough without having to create circumstances designed to make him seem even better.

But Will He Still Be Able to Play the Guitar?

The game wasn't without loss for the Birds---even though it was pictures of the aftermath of Wade's dramatic collision with Josh Smith in the first quarter that dotted the Internet landscape (he would return right away), it was the Hawks' Al Horford who drove to the hoop, got clobbered by Wade, and then landed awkwardly, spraining his ankle. His participation in Game Six was questionable at the end of the game.

The HHB is clearly jealous that Wade gets so much attention for his participation despite injury and Speedy Claxton doesn't. Other examinations into our psyche can be presented to us in the Comments Area.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Regression To Be Mean

It had to come to an end, right?

Before the game even began, we were treated to the TNT statistic of Dwyane Wade's unbelievable 3-pt shooting success in this series so far and was told that he was "simply being Wade". Well, great or not, he couldn't and the Heat couldn't possibly keep their torrid shooting numbers at the ridiculous levels they shot in Games Two and Three, right?

We mentioned in our last 'cap that the (83) games prior to Games Two and Three should surely be the true statistical indicator of the Heat's outside shooting acumen and that the Hawks should stay the course defensively and not panic--and the Heat should shoot their way back to their averages and that would give the Hawks the chance to take the home court back to the ATL.

The Hawks did just that in Game Four--and the result, save for a mind-boggling stretch that ended the first half, was a more typical shooting night for the Heat and an 81-71 road win for the Birds.

We were skeptical before the game, as things had gotten to the point of the Hawks having a players-only meeting (called by Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson as reported by TNT's Cheryl Miller) before Game Four---The playoffs are not the time and place to be sorting things out--you should be peaking as a team at this point if you want to advance. Even after the meeting, it had mixed reviews as Mo Evans didn't like the "calm" tone to the team's exclusive gathering.

Starting early though, it was clear that the ultra-aim that Wade had in the previous games had worn off. Call it fatigue, as Mike Fratello did, or whatever, but Wade launched a strangely pleasurable (4) airballs in the first half, allowing the Hawks to get out to a (21) point lead at one point.

But just as fast as you could say "lapse", the Hawks gave (17) of the points back in a bizarre three minute span at the end of the first half--a stretch that included an offensive foul eighty-plus feet from the basket on Bibby and not one, but two four point plays for James Jones.

The Hawks wobbled into halftime with that four point lead and came out for the second half determined to take back the momentum lost from their just-before-halftime gaffes.

It wasn't pretty---laws, no---it wasn't pretty, but in the end timely shooting, good defense, and Zaza Pachulia won the game for the Hawks.

Pachulia pulled down an incredible (18) rebounds, had (12) points on his usual half dozen or so offensive rebounds, and was basically the type of presence that we called out Al Horford to be before the game.

Horford sat for most of the game due to foul trouble and general lack of production when in the game. He might have been too geeked up for the game because he had as many fouls as points (4) and was once again rushing his shots inside, shooting the ball before the apex of his jump as he tends to do when overly excited. He has to step forward for the team to have long term success--this does not mean he should step up into the opposing team and draw quick fouls, however.

The offense was -eh- as The Backcourt shot OK (10-22, 3-4, 6-8), but was barely above 1:1 in assist/turnover ratio with (8) assists and (7) turnovers. At least it was on the good side in Game Four and that would be enough to allow the better defense and rebounding to take advantage of the Heat returning to a more normal shooting night.

Marvin Williams May Have Solved the Rubik's Cube in Two Minutes, But Let's See Him Solve Josh Smith

Smith was---the best word is obvious---in his efforts in Game Four. He overtly gave us everything we typically see from the young man--all in one game:

Dazzling athleticism as he goes to the hoop: Check

Game changing shot blocking on the defensive end: Check

Ability to clean the glass and keep possessions alive with his jumping abilities: Check

Early in the shot clock jump shots with three steps to the next defender who is practically begging Smith to shoot: Check

Taking unnecessary risks in the passing lane: Check

Scowling and stalking the officials after every single play, complaining over and over again: Check

Smith makes a difference for the Hawks every night--and sadly he has the power to lift up or drag the team down with him. Fortunately tonight, between his blocks, rebounding, and hustle--it was enough on the plus side to get the Hawks back to 2-2 in the series.

Caution---Items Shift When Rotating

Mike Woodson was already ready before the game to "go deeper" into his rotation, and the early foul trouble of Horford and Maurice Evans only hastened the appearances of Mario West and Solomon Jones. Can you guess in which part of the game they participated together?

Woodson was wise to once again shrink the rotation come the second half, even going so far as to playing RFM and Zaza for the final 17 1/2 minutes of the game. In the end, they played starters minutes and it was well earned.

Meanwhile, over in Miami---we have always believed that role players play best at home vs. road due to the home surroundings, etc. How odd to see the Heat bench almost contribute nothing to the team despite playing (48) of the teams (240) minutes. Daequan Cook, Michael Beasley, Yakhouba Diawara, Jamal Magloire, and Joel Anthony offered (2) points, (8) rebounds, (1) assist, and (1) steal. They did commit (9) fouls though--which was nice.

Home, Sweet Home?

The Hawks have now earned home court again and this time we hope it is treated better than it was in Game Two.

We would say it's a Best of Three series now--with two games in Atlanta, but we're afraid if we say "three" that Josh Smith will shoot again.

All the weeping and gnashing of teeth after Game Three seems considerably more peaceful now that the series has been set right, but it's going to take the same effort defensively and a much more efficient offensive night to get another game from Miami in Game Five.

We wonder if the Hawks will ever realize they have to play that way every night to win, home or away, especially in the playoffs. Until they do, their seasons will end earlier than what they should be setting as their ultimate goal for such a talented team.

The HHB called a Players-Only meeting in the Substitute Non-HD Viewing Center to get things straight---Fines and Other Penalties can be paid in the Comments Area.

Time For Horford To Step Forward

Surely by now you have read the article from Sekou Smith regarding the need for a leader to step forth (an HHB interpretation).

We believe that the leader lay already within the nest of this young team, ready to lead, ready to speak, but possibly unable to do so at this time.

This leader, as the title already informs, is Al Horford.

Horford is the player with championship experience, albeit at the collegiate level. Horford is the player with the energy, ability, and apparent desire to lead this team to higher heights.

We all remember that it was Horford who famously told Paul Pierce, the Paul Pierce, to stay down (Rated: PG) when the Hawks were taking another game from the eventual champs. Everybody around the club were raving about the rookie's obvious leadership abilities and his winning attitude.

Our question begin with where have those moments been in this series? Where has that been all season? What could have distracted Horford from taking his place as the mouthpiece for the team---to lead his teammates by example?

There have no been no articles about Horford taking the lead on this team since last season and we had to start asking---why?

In no particular order:

1. His Coaches

It has been made completely clear that the team does not value Horford as a leader on the floor, or the game would be moved in his direction considerably more than it currently does. Time after time Horford is made to "get his" by cleaning up after the mishaps of others. That we saw numerous bench players from our opponents get more plays called for them in the post than Al this season speaks to the importance the coaching staff places on such options (specifically Al's) on offense.

This is a guy that the Gators rode to back-to-back championships---he can be well trusted with the ball in the low or high posts. It's possible that Woodson is so unaccustomed to trusting a second year player with such a role that isn't named LeBron or Kobe that the idea is "he isn't ready".

2. His Teammates

And it's not like his teammates are screaming for him to get the ball--or to expand his role beyond the "good boy" submissive role he is currently asked to employ. The game can be run through him, but perhaps others aren't comfortable in such an arrangement. Maybe a similar fate befell Josh Childress when he wanted to be more than the "energy" and "sixth man" labels he wore with the Hawks.

3. Himself

Submission is a heck of a thing, and Al could be the type that is allowing the players that have been here longer (Joe Johnson, Josh Smith) to be the leaders of the team and that it's not "his place". Those players themselves might even contribute to that by the fact that they don't follow Al's lead when he begins to get vocal.

Also, he may be affected by the coaches lack of interest in giving him more of the responsibility of the game plan. Young players are prone to following a coaches opinion of a player--even one as talented as Al.

All of that needs to be rectified, because the Hawks need a leader---and Al is the only personality and talent that fit the bill. The Hawks need this to happen immediately---read: Game Four---for them to be able to get control back of this series from Miami.

Joe Johnson is a better player, Josh Smith is more talented, Marvin Williams drafted higher, and Mike Bibby is older and more experienced, but Al is the ticket---and he and his team need to bring his abilities forward so that the Hawks can take the series and fill a role that is currently vacant.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mind Games

It's important that, despite another bashing to the collective head of the Hawks by the Heat, this time in a 107-78 Game Three loss in Miami, that neither the Birds nor their watchers lose sight of the fact that it is still a long series.

The HHB has sifted through every painful High Definition frame of this game and believe the Hawks lost the game due to (2) reasons:

1. The Heat, once again, shot (272) percent from 3 point range and altogether made a metric ton of jump shots. Their less than average performance in the regular season in these areas has not been a true indicator in the series so far.

2. The Hawks were given another lesson in mental strength to start a game. Sadly, it's a class they have attended many times this season, yet they keep failing the test.The Hawks came out passive on both ends--and allowed the Heat to gain an emotional edge that they would not lose grip of despite the Hawks best efforts.

Defensively, you have to believe that keeping the Heat outside will eventually work out as sound strategy---but offensively, the Hawks have to come out stronger earlier and not hope that they will be the ones shooting the lights out from long range.

All can be changed with a single game, a single quarter even--as long as that quarter is the first quarter of Game Four. Should the Hawks come out with a purpose to be tough, be aggressive, and clean the glass, they can begin to enjoy what should be the inevitable benefits of the Heat coming back down to Earth with their jump shooting.

Of course, the Hawks could panic and begin to frisk every jump shooter with a double team as soon as they touch it, but that will only lead to higher percentage shots for the Heat and thus negate the opportunity to watch the Heat continue to jack shots from the outside and (in theory) watch them play back down to their level they demonstrated for (83) games prior to these last two.

No, we believe that staying the course defensively is the right play, but to adopt a much more aggressive mode offensively and taking care of the defensive glass are the keys to success in Game Four.

All the Hawks need is to take a single game in Miami to gain the home court back---and no amount of beating (and it was another acid rain shower of made jays) should de-focus the Hawks from that fact.

Otherwise, It Was A Great Game!

The Hawks miss Marvin Williams---The playoffs are no place to try and win these games short-handed (ask the Spurs)---and the Hawks sorely miss all the offensive weapons that Marvin can provide. Mo Evans is a nice guy and a solid player, but enough with the record when he starts--he is inferior to Marvin and we hope Marvin returns to steal one of these games away from the Heat. Evans looks like a huge upgrade to the emptiness that was the ghost of the eighth player in the Hawks rotation in Game Three.

Joe Johnson looks like he isn't sure what he should do offensively---he tries to go inside and gets swallowed--he tries outside and it hasn't been there either---The Backcourt had (6) assists and (7) turnovers, which indicts the ball movement of the Hawks completely. When the Heat double team Joe he has to move the ball faster---I know that Dwyane Wade would.

Josh Smith was terrible in the first half and the beginning of the third quarter, but seemed to wake up when he hit his first jump shot. From that point on, he got (7) of his suddenly team high (8) rebounds and was way more active defensively. Don't know what to make of it, except this team is better when he is that engaged on the glass and on defense.

The stats will show that Al Horford had a decent game, but he played small too often and let Jermaine O'Neal get the best of him. The Hawks seem afraid to get fouls, but they can't be---A more physical presence from Al is needed to help take the mojo back from the Heat.

In addition to their maddening good fortune in making jump shots (including a top of the backboard whopper of a backspin three from James Jones), the Heat were also perfect from the free throw line and we believe that the niece of Heat coach Eric Spoelstra canned a halftime half-court toss to win a free taco or something. Alright, we made that up--but it wouldn't surprise us. We wish we were making the Heat's offensive success up--but we aren't.

It seemed a bit odd to see the entire starting Heat squad out there until 3:37 left to play---especially after the Hawks had already thrown in the towel before that---pretty big risk to take and hopefully the bad karma needed to knock them off their good shooting graces that currently bless them.

Jamario Moon left the game for the Heat with an abdominal strain, which figured because he was the only Heat player with that scored a minus in the +/- category (-8).

The Heat also outrebounded the Hawks (48-35), which isn't surprising when they are hitting their shots and we aren't making ours, but there was one possession early in the fourth quarter when the Heat pulled down (5) offensive rebounds which really sealed the deal for Miami.

The HHB is at peace with the theory of the long series---even though we had predicted a much shorter series---Reasons why we shouldn't gamble can be left thoughtfully in the Comments Area.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Made You Look!

Game Two was a performance that we had seen many times before, and it's safe to say that we were disappointed to see it given the stakes. Well--disappointed and a little angry----OK---very angry.

Throughout the season you get to know when a team has it and when they don't. For the Hawks, these games are painfully obvious from the outset. It may have been a bit petulant on our part, but with 4:57 left in the first quarter when Josh Smith did a pirouette and lost the basketball, we knew. By the time that Jermaine O'Neal came swooping through the lane and the Hawks watched Dwyane Wade casually offer the ball to the suddenly vibrant center and watch him slam it home over the gawking hosts several seconds later, we were sure.

On those nights, on offense, the Hawks pretend to play motion offense, meaning whoever ends up with the hot potato on the third pass now will halt the flow of the basketball completely and attempt to break his man down one-on-one. When the Hawks best offense early in the game was Miami's Defensive 3-Second Violations, that was a bad sign.

Defensively, whereas when they win they look like they have a plan; when they are shuffling around, doubling the wrong players and leaving shooters open, they are on their way to losing.

In these games they treat the game and each possession as if all they have to do is announce their talent and that will do the work for them--or that they can flip some switch to get serious if they need to.

We found ourselves launching words like "unbelievable", "geez", and "wake up"---alas, our expert advise and sage words never made an impact. They often never do.

True, it is fair to say that, being one of the bottom ten three point shooting teams in the league means that Miami won't be hitting 15-26 from there every night, but hey, we are assuming the Hawks will stay at home better than they did in Game Two and actually work together to ensure such an occurrence has a slim chance of ever recurring.

The Hawks obviously believed everything they read in the HHB about sweeps, dominance, and talent--because they floated onto the court on our good vibes and little else. That their biggest lead of the night was a lousy single point and that occurred even before we declared it one of "those" games highlights the level of stink the team filled their arena with.

Hey, How 'Bout that Local Sports Franchise?

The Hawks had a good gameplan around "building a wall" for Wade to shoot over in Game One, but who knew that in Game Two the wall needed to be 24 feet from the rim?

That Daequan Cook fellow shoots awfully nice---seems like he could win one of those 3-pt shooting contes---wha-what? He did? Might need to cover that one, eh?

The abacus may be broken, but we're pretty sure nights that Joe Johnson has (0) assists and (4) turnovers are nights that end in recaps like this one.

We always like to say, all things good start on defense---in Game Two it all ended with the Hawks effort on that end.

We could make the obvious observation (and then the obvious observation about declaring it the obvious observation--and so on like mirrors) about Spirit the Hawk blowing it and delaying the game for while until The Falconer could get it back into the cage by cleverly tricking it with the phony "treat". What we thought was real funny was the ref giving the handler the business about why it took so long and then his sheepish reply. Hey, these are the highlights, folks.

When Others Reach for the Stars, We Cover Our Wallets

The Hawks tried moving the ball offensively and playing good man-up defense Sunday night, and they succeeded---They tried "Showtime" tonight---and failed.

We are betting for a more workmanlike effort in Game Three and getting this one back--We still believe that they are capable every night of playing as they did in Game One, whereas we aren't convinced that the Heat can duplicate the amazing shooting every night as they did in Game Two.

The HHB has had their beliefs crushed before---like when it was told that the XFL was no more---sniff---it still hurts---Flowers and Kleenex can be left in the Comments Area.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

You Can't Spell Victory Without Team

In Game One, with a 90-64 shellacking of the visiting Miami Heat, the Hawks made the HHB look gooood. Don’t believe us? Then read our Preview and listen to us on the Bill Shanks Show and see what we mean.

Hey, it’s just one game---Game 1 in a (7) game series, but it was one really good game, a game where they did everything that they needed to do, and made as strong a statement as they could have made.

We predicted sweep because we feel strongly that ---when the Hawks play together on both sides of the floor, the Heat can’t beat them. The Heat cannot execute as a team as good as the Hawks—therefore the favorable matchup.

We have long contended that the Birds are better when they trust each other on both ends of the court. The Hawks value is when they are playing together, not as a bunch of individuals, but together as a team. One could make the argument that this has been the case with any successful team.

In Game 1, the Hawks did that over and over again, and while there were times when the offense stalled because the ball did, there were more than enough times when they moved the ball and got a good shot and basket.

We were especially impressed when, at the end of the third quarter, Joe Johnson looked as if he was going to break down the defense to wind out the clock—but this time he slung the ball to a moving RFM, who got inside the defense, drew a gaggle of Heat, and then dumped it off to Al Horford, who calmly made the baseline jumper with almost no time left to go.

It's no mistake that the Hawks had (6) players in double figures while playing this trusting, efficient game.

Defensively, the Hawks had a game plan which didn't involve sending the house at Dwyane Wade, and for at least this game, it worked. Wade never made the impact most expected, instead with twice as many turnovers (8) than FTA (4), Wade was relegated to trying to win the game by himself or watch his teammates fail trying to help Wade win the game.

That the result was a (26) point pounding by the home team, the teammate scenario seems a little thin.

The Hawks made Wade try to shoot over the Hawks inside; the so-called "building a wall" defense. Wade seemed so confused at times and conditioned to meet resistance that he, at one point, passed up a sure layup or contact and tried to throw the ball across his body to the outside to James Jones.

We'll say that again---he passed up the layup attempt to toss it outside to James Jones. This was not a good idea.

Without committing double teams to Wade and creating easy shots for Miami's undercards, the Hawks energetic defense tempted the Heat to fall into exactly what their current habits are; to stand outside and shoot quick jump shots. That the team was in the 20's in 3 point rankings would seem to dissuade the Heat from this approach---but like most young teams (takes one to know one!) with any defensive resistance, their true colors will emerge. For the Heat, it's a nasty mix of quick jumpers, no rebounding, and turnovers.

This defense allowed the Hawks to run and run and run---giving Josh Smith the forum to make the case why Philips Arena is called the Highlight Factory. With Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson providing the role of the straight men---they kept setting it up and Smoove came rim rocking it down.

The only complaint we had was that the Hawks, who were enjoying a 20+ point lead even at the half, seemed to start their usual "killing them softly", (5) minutes to go offensive sets about a quarter and a half earlier than usual. This eliminated the chance to stretch the lead out to 30+ and gave the Heat a little bit of life as the third quarter wound down.

But then a funny thing happened. Just as we were in agreement in the Official HHB HD Viewing Center that if the lead should fall below 20 that a timeout should be called, Mike Woodson did just that. Then, as if hacking into our collective mindshare, Woodson proceeded to call consecutive post plays to stop the Heat momentum and to get good shots for the Hawks. Surprise! It works!

The Heat played the role of the team playing a bunch of youngsters (Mario Chalmers, Michael Beasley, Daequan Cook) significant minutes and getting their first taste of playoff basketball. Think Josh Smith doesn't care and you can take advantage--maybe in Game (52), but not in the playoffs, and not in Game (1). Lesson learned.

It's possible that the Heat will adjust in Game (2) Wednesday night. Wade could come out and try to win the game on his own. We say, great, go ahead and try, because while Wade going for 50+ may get headlines, we don't think they'll get the win. Because it takes more than one player to make it happen in the playoffs---it take a good team---and the Hawks have one that, when playing together, is much better.

Arena Cleanup

Peachtree Hoops and Hoopinion called it: One thing that last throw away game against the Heat showed was that RFM had significantly more trouble against Cook than against Chris Quinn. Sure enough, as soon as RFM checked in, there was Cook---and the 1-6 game from Murray was a good indication that Eric Spoelstra got that one right.

We were told from the time the trade was made, and the point was made again often on the TNT telecast, that Jermaine O'Neal was acquired to beef up the playoff push for MIA. We noted after the Heat benched JO for the fourth quarter earlier in the season against the Hawks that it would be a disappointment if that's all they could expect out of O'Neal. (21) minutes, (5) shots, and (5) points has to be less than even the most pessimistic could have expected.

The Hawks forward-centers (Smith, Horford, and Zaza Pachulia) nearly outrebounded the Heat 29 to 35. The Heat had (5) offensive rebounds---that trio of Hawks had (8) on their own.

The Heat played about as dismal of a fourth quarter as one can remember----They had (7) in the entire quarter--a quarter in which they would have wanted to make a push as PHL did in ORL to wash away a (16) point deficit. That (5) of the points came with less than (3) minutes left and from the shooting touch of Jamario Moon has to be even more disconcerting.

And Now For Something Completely Obvious

In short, it all came together for the Birds in front of a rocking ATL:

Mike Bibby orchestrated the team like a maestro with his (9) assists.

Joe Johnson provided some great drives to the hoop early on and then played the role of decoy as he drew the Heat and then moved the ball to get better shots.

Al Horford challenged shots inside, sent a Wade shot the other way, and ran Jermaine O'Neal to the bench---all while adding some nice jumpers, a post presence (shocking!), and a perfect night from the line---(We bet he thinks Ziggy's gotten too preachy, too!).

Marvin Williams got his feet wet and then had to come out of the pool--missing (3) free throws indicates that he needs some Rusteeze on his stroke from the line, but blowing out the Heat without him or RFM getting into rhythm is a good sign.

Josh Smith put on his usual Philips Arena playoff display---but he also added (10) rebounds and challenged shots inside, though he had no blocks. (23) and (10) with a 5-6 night from the free throw line is a very good way to start.

One hopes that the Hawks can take the picture and recreate the energy and efficiency on display Sunday night when they go to play this team again in Game (2)---Their only foe may be complacency, something that has manifested itself in this team during prosperous times.

But we're standing by the sweep--Game (1) was a good indication why--the Hawks are talented and loaded---and the Heat, even with the great Dwyane Wade, are not yet there.

The HHB is giddy--and not just about the great taste of yogurt---Streamers and confetti for the Game (1) win can be launched in the Comments Area.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

HHB Playoff Preview/Hawks Review on the Bill Shanks Show

The HHB was on the Bill Shanks Show on Fox Sports 1670 in Macon on Friday and went over the Hawks (47) win season, the key matchups in this first round series, and all things Hawks.

Listen to it all right here!

Listening to the HHB on radio can cause dizziness, fits of rage, and occasional napping. Other side effect and feedback can be left in the Comments Area.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Nostrodamus Was Just Kidding

We here at the HHB are not going to pretend to tell you what we know will happen; only what we believe ought to happen.

See, that way, if things go awry, it wasn’t the way it should have happened, so obviously somebody screwed up---and that’s where our team of experts, physicians, and undercover angels collaborate to present our usual insightful comments after the film has been viewed.

That’s right, aren’t we the clever little elves, eh?

The Way Things Ought To Be, First Round Edition

The Hawks have beaten the Heat twice under full strength, once even with Major Acquisition Jermaine O’Neal patrolling the paint for the Heat. One of the big reasons is that the Heat do not go after Mike Bibby on their offensive end, thereby ignoring the biggest Achilles heel of the Hawks defense. Mario Chalmers has been content to sit outside and take jump shots, which is just what the Hawks would hope the player that Mike Bibby is covering would do.

Another reason is that the Hawks have massively outrebounded the Heat, led by Al Horford, who had (32) rebounds in those two wins. And in the matchup with Jermaine O’Neal, the Heat threw in the towel by benching the Major Acquisition for the home stretch.

So, with the Hawks showing their strength at home and away in Miami, what’s with all this talk around the league about a Heat victory or at least a tight series?

In our ill-advised and highly questionable opinion, the Hawks ought to win this series relatively easily.

Do You Expect the M-V-P to be M-I-A in---MIA?

Dwyane Wade cannot be stopped, so it would be foolish to gameplan to overplay him and in doing so get all of the Heat role players to get easier shots, more confidence, etc—and even more foolish to think he won’t be successful.

But Wade being successful isn’t the key to the Heat winning---it’s the success of his teammates that is critical to pulling off the upset. So far, the Hawks have done a nice job in playing the Heat straight, and the results have been that the Heat have shown they do not have enough to beat the Hawks with just Wade.

Case in point, as the Hawks beat the Heat with Jermaine, Horford was everywhere O’Neal was---every juke, step through, fadeaway---there was Al, and the Heat center struggled to a 3-10 shooting night and the aforementioned trip to the bench for the fourth as they leveraged Michael Beasley at center as a conciliatory measure against Al’s work against the veteran big man.

With the Heat content to stay outside and not challenge Bibby, it helps the Hawks that much more play good man defense against the Heat.

As evidence to the case, as Hoopinion has pointed out statistically, the Heat beyond Wade don’t shoot many free throws---in large part because they would rather take their shots from a point more distant than the free throw line.

As long as the Hawks continue to execute as they have throughout the season against the Heat by playing strong, man-up defense, the Heat don’t have enough to take the Hawks in any given game.

Everybody Must Jack Threes

Actually, we mean this in jest, as the Hawks have had success going towards the hoop and getting fouls from the Heat and converting inside to boot.

Even with O’Neal, the Heat don’t have a serious threat inside defensively—and if they go small with Beasley in the middle, it makes it even softer for the Hawks to attack.

It’s important that the Hawks don’t thrust the entirety of the offensive production on Joe Johnson’s shoulders as that has been a formula for inefficiency for Joe and ignorant exclusion of what has made the Hawks a formidable team this season.

For example, having Mike Bibby available for this series and not a liability that would need to be removed defensively enables the array of superb inside passes designed to take advantage of Smith and Horford’s athleticism and finishing acumen.

If the Heat decide that Michael Beasley’s offense is too good to keep on the bench for vet (and former Gator) Udonis Haslem, then he might be shown to be a weakness for the Heat as Smoove can get by the rookie at any time.

Horford’s ability to run the floor will stretch the stamina of O’Neal---and the Hawks have just figured out how to reward the second year frontman for his court sprints.

Add in Marvin Williams and RFM’s ability to use and/or abuse the smaller Heat guards (that’s right Chris Quinn) and there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Hawks have too much firepower for the Heat.

Are You Series-us?

The point has been made that the Hawks are a good team and that the Heat have the best player. Since when has the better team not been favored in a seven game series?

The Hawks are extremely talented, represented in the fact that, despite not doing much to improve the areas that we believed needed to be addressed before the season, they improved (10) games anyway. Their strength has been when they have played together as a team, their weakness has been when they have been individually wrapped up in themselves and the team concept has been broken.

The Hawks, even with a bench that’s comprised of Mo Evans, Zaza Pachulia, and RFM, are a strong eight man unit, and they are hard to be stopped when they are together.

As long as Coach Woodson doesn’t try to make a Flubber West statement at key points of the series, the excellence that has been this (47) win season will make itself known against the Heat.

So we’re standing by the assertion that the Hawks should win—add in the flavor of the NBA sort of underestimating the Hawks in this series and there could be some major “nobody believed in us except us” vibe that could add a smidgen of tangible to the mix.

With all we’ve noted, we’re putting our ought’s where they ought to be by picking the Hawks to sweep.

That’s right Four to Oh in favor of the Birds. We just don’t see where the Heat can conjure enough to beat a fully healthy Hawks rotation even once.

Of course, that’s the way we believe it ought to be---if it doesn’t happen, we’ll be here to tell you whose fault it was.

See you in the second round.

The HHB is dizzy from the lofty prediction for the series---Dramamine and other medication can be left for them in the Comments Area.

Playoff Preview Coming Tonight

Some weekend reading coming later---hold your breath!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some Things Are Better Left Said

The HHB has to say it---yes, we know that teams are contractually required to send streamers flying from the rafters after any victory, but shouldn't the Grizzlies Wednesday night 98-90 win over the "Hawks" resound with a clunk instead of a gong?

The Grizzlies played OJ Mayo (42) minutes, Rudy Gay (38) minutes, and Mike Conley (45) minutes. I suppose when you have only won (23) games all season, you empty all barrels in making sure you get one you should get.

And they should have gotten this one by a lot more, because the Hawks countered with (42) minutes of RFM and (39) of Mo Evans and that's about it. Zaza played, but was more interested in getting his timing back and testing the resiliency of his injured back--both of which looked pretty good to us.

The Grizz went so hard after this game that they even began to double team Murray late in the game, especially after RFM seemed to start to finally hit empty on his internal combustion engine--Back to back (40) minutes games can do that to a guy.

Even still, the game was in doubt until the last couple of minutes, a testament to the fantastic effort that the Bottom Eight did against a talented young team that played their best players and played them a lot to have to put away the Hawks deep reserves.

So, in order to give the effort it's full due, we will indeed testify.

Make it Plain, Brother!

The #1 thing that the HHB took from this game, fair or not, is that Mayo, while being obviously talented, showed his back side in dealing with Flubber West.

Look, we all know that Flubber can get on your nerves---he really doesn't serve any other useful purpose than that---but the HHB, who has been highly critical of Flubber's minutes of late, was thrilled that he was our nuisance out there, especially when he very clearly got under the skin of the talented rookie.

But look, a hard foul was one thing--debatable whether it deserved a Flagrant--but to continue to burn about it, pick up another technical yapping about it, and then to take the game away from everyone else so you can deal with it your own way is when you pull down your character trousers and show everyone your rear end.

We failed to say anything notable about Othello Hunter's game against Miami Tuesday night, but we did remember one thing---something that was on display again in the game against MEM. Hunter has a nice way of not lowering the ball below his shoulders around the basket, making him play taller than he is. This is something that Horford can definitely learn from---make yourself as tall as possible around the hoop and don't let those little guys have a chance to make a play.

Our newest bestest buddy, Speedy Claxton looked better against MEM, though he did have one out of control shot---once again we believe that he showed enough to at least get him on the playoff roster.

Thomas Gardner started slow again but found his way later in the game, and we had to laugh when he was shaking his head after his second made basket because it had a "I knew I can play this game" look of relief on it. We're intrigued and would like to see more of him next summer to see if he can develop into a Kareem Rush type specialist off the bench.

Marvin Williams was consistently up and cheering on the bench guys, making him clearly the early leader for Class President on the team.

Mo and Evans were troopers out there---used to being in much more meaningful situations this season, but gave it everything---We appreciated their hard work and making this game a lot harder to win than the young men in MEM might have thought before the game.

Lunar Shuttle Tickets, Lunar Shuttle Tickets

The NBA schedule for the playoffs is out, and while you may find this elsewhere, here is everything we have on the matter---and now, it's yours---enjoy and see you on Sunday!


Game 1 - Sun April 19 Miami at Atlanta 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 2 - Wed April 22 Miami at Atlanta 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 - Sat April 25 Atlanta at Miami 6:30PM 6:30PM TNT
Game 4 - Mon April 27 Atlanta at Miami TBD TBD TBD
Game 5 * Wed April 29 Miami at Atlanta TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 Atlanta at Miami TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 Miami at Atlanta TBD TBD TBD

In addition, Hawks games will be broadcast on 790 the Zone (790 AM) and the Hawks TV Network (Fox Sports South and Sportsouth). Playoff tickets are currently on sale at and by calling 1-(800)-4NBA TIX, or at the Philips Arena Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets.

Local EDT
Western Conference

L.A. Lakers vs. Utah

Game 1 - Sun April 19 Utah at L.A. Lakers 12:00PM 3:00PM ABC/R
Game 2 - Tue April 21 Utah at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 - Thu April 23 L.A. Lakers at Utah 8:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 4 - Sat April 25 L.A. Lakers at Utah 7:00PM 9:00PM ESPN/R
Game 5 * Mon April 27 Utah at L.A. Lakers TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 30 L.A. Lakers at Utah TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 2 Utah at L.A. Lakers TBD TBD TNT

Denver vs. New Orleans

Game 1 - Sun April 19 New Orleans at Denver 8:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 2 - Wed April 22 New Orleans at Denver 8:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 - Sat April 25 Denver at New Orleans 12:00PM 1:00PM ESPN
Game 4 - Mon April 27 Denver at New Orleans TBD TBD TBD
Game 5 * Wed April 29 New Orleans at Denver TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 Denver at New Orleans TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 New Orleans at Denver TBD TBD TBD

San Antonio vs. Dallas

Game 1 - Sat April 18 Dallas at San Antonio 7:00PM 8:00PM ESPN/R
Game 2 - Mon April 20 Dallas at San Antonio 8:30PM 9:30PM TNT
Game 3 - Thu April 23 San Antonio at Dallas 7:30PM 8:30PM NBATV
Game 4 - Sat April 25 San Antonio at Dallas 3:00PM 4:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 28 Dallas at San Antonio TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 San Antonio at Dallas TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 Dallas at San Antonio TBD TBD TBD

Portland vs. Houston

Game 1 - Sat April 18 Houston at Portland 7:30PM 10:30PM ESPN
Game 2 - Tue April 21 Houston at Portland 7:00PM 10:00PM NBATV
Game 3 - Fri April 24 Portland at Houston 8:30PM 9:30PM ESPN
Game 4 - Sun April 26 Portland at Houston 8:00PM 9:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 28 Houston at Portland TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 30 Portland at Houston TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 2 Houston at Portland TBD TBD TNT

NBA Playoffs 2009 - First Round Schedule
page 2 of 2

Local EDT
Eastern Conference

Cleveland vs. Detroit

Game 1 - Sat April 18 Detroit at Cleveland 3:00PM 3:00PM ABC
Game 2 - Tue April 21 Detroit at Cleveland 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 - Fri April 24 Cleveland at Detroit 7:00PM 7:00PM ESPN
Game 4 - Sun April 26 Cleveland at Detroit 3:30PM 3:30PM ABC/R
Game 5 * Wed April 29 Detroit at Cleveland TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 Cleveland at Detroit TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 Detroit at Cleveland TBD TBD TBD

Boston vs. Chicago

Game 1 - Sat April 18 Chicago at Boston 12:30PM 12:30PM ESPN
Game 2 - Mon April 20 Chicago at Boston 7:00PM 7:00PM TNT
Game 3 - Thu April 23 Boston at Chicago 7:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 4 - Sun April 26 Boston at Chicago 12:00PM 1:00PM ABC
Game 5 * Tue April 28 Chicago at Boston TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 30 Boston at Chicago TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 2 Chicago at Boston TBD TBD TNT

Orlando vs. Philadelphia

Game 1 - Sun April 19 Philadelphia at Orlando 5:30PM 5:30PM TNT
Game 2 - Wed April 22 Philadelphia at Orlando 7:00PM 7:00PM NBATV
Game 3 - Fri April 24 Orlando at Philadelphia 8:00PM 8:00PM ESPN2
Game 4 - Sun April 26 Orlando at Philadelphia 6:30PM 6:30PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 28 Philadelphia at Orlando TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 30 Orlando at Philadelphia TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 2 Philadelphia at Orlando TBD TBD TNT

Atlanta vs. Miami

Game 1 - Sun April 19 Miami at Atlanta 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 2 - Wed April 22 Miami at Atlanta 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 - Sat April 25 Atlanta at Miami 6:30PM 6:30PM TNT
Game 4 - Mon April 27 Atlanta at Miami TBD TBD TBD
Game 5 * Wed April 29 Miami at Atlanta TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 Atlanta at Miami TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 Miami at Atlanta TBD TBD TBD

Additional scheduling information will be furnished as soon as possible
consistent with the need to fulfill league obligations.

If First Round series are completed in six (6) games or less, the
Conference Semifinals may move up to begin on either Saturday, May 2 or
Sunday, May 3.

*If necessary

All games, except those televised by ABC Sports, are available to be
televised locally.

TBD - To Be Determined R - ESPN Radio

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

You Can Learn at Recess

Our pappy always told us, "No matter where you are or what you doing, there is always something to learn."

Ok, so he really didn't tell us that---and there was no "Pappy", but we do cheerfully suggest that there are some things to learn, even in a game that featured more airballs than game balls (see how we did that? Genius.).

The "Hawks" beat the "Heat" 81-79 in a glorified---ok, it wasn't even that glorified--exhibition in front of dozens of engaged fans.

Heck, it was fan appreciation night in the home closer of the season---even if the only fans who appreciated it were the families of Othello Hunter and Thomas Gardner.

Even through the brickfest and turnover stained footage of the game, there were some nuggets of knowledge to be gleaned from the activity known as the basketball game. Let's have some fun with it and play some HHB Did You See That Too Bingo as you read along!

Here We Go:

Michael Beasley can play some offense. His shot was so sweet, it seemed the Hawks were applauding it as it ripped through the nets. He had a double-double in the first quarter and would end up with (23) points in (24) minutes. Stellar!

Flubber West and Solomon Jones with 30+ minutes of floor time don't put up any different counting stats than they do in 4-6 minutes of floor time. Seriously guys---2 for 6 in (70) minutes of game action? This is Exhibit B to Rick Sund for a better bench next year. See our previous entry for Exhibit A.

RFM doesn't like being a part of "Exhibition Night". Murray sported the old, out-of-control RFM moves on his way to a "what the heck" 5-20 night from the field. Murray earned the right to be treated like a starter, but obviously the Hawks had too few players to make that happen, and RFM shot it like he just don't care---say Wham---say bam!

Speedy Claxton may have something to offer the Hawks in the playoffs. He was rusty (airball on a free throw, shot thrown out to midcourt), but he looked good as a playmaker, especially since these were the first (7) minutes of actual game time in over (2) years. It was funny that he was winded after (3) minutes in the first half, but expected---Maybe we're just weary of our lack of point guard play after Bibby sits, but Claxton needs to be on the roster at least.

Thomas Gardner looks comfortable on the floor---but he continues to miss wildly with his shot. Gardner had (4) steals and looked good out there, except that while he looks good while he shoots, that good look only lasts until the ball radically misses the basket. Still, of the Flubber/Solo/Morris bench guys, Gardner intrigues us the most.

See, fun for the whole family, eh? How many did you get?

The Hawks wrapped up one of the most impressive home seasons we've seen in quite some time (31-10)---admit it, Hawks fans, it was nice to see the Birds yukking it up on the bench, getting some major rest as the weekend and its playoff magic edges closer.

The HHB admits it never learned much at school---heck, we went to Florida---Theorems and hypotheses can be scribbled on the walls in the Comments Area.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meaningless Is In the Eyes of the Beholder

Tonight's game may lack meaning in the standings, but if you have been following along on the Twitter conversations, it hasn't meant a lack of interest on some fronts:

Peachtree Hoops is setting lines and taking wagers on some interesting over/unders.

Hawk Str8Talk is hoping for a night to remember from pet project Thomas Gardner.

CoCo from The Vent wants to see the best of the Hawks making some kind of fashion statement.

And, of course, we want to see if our newest, bestest buddy, Speedy Claxton, will get to wear an actual uniform tonight. You know--other than for the Scott Cunningham team shots that appear on the website or the old photos from when he once played ---real, on the court threads.

According to HawksBlog's Micah Hart, Speedy participated in the walkthrough this morning and the man himself declared he is going to play, though coming off the bench!

So it's come to this: That Claxton, who costs the Hawks about (6) million dollars against the cap (since we believe they may be getting insurance to pay actual dollars to SC), can finally play when the game means absolutely nothing in the standings and the Hawks needs to rest the critical players--and even then he's coming off the bench. If it seems strange, that's because it is---we're anxious to see Claxton any which way---one would think that a veteran point guard could be helpful to the team--especially one that's talent challenged as you go deeper down the bench.

The HHB might also fall under the definition of meaningless---arguments for and against, as well as other things that might be interesting in this game can be communicated through the Comments Area.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Will Speedy Play on Tuesday?

We asked the question over on the Twitter Hitter, but we will bring it forth here:

Is there anything more compelling about the Hawks next game than the question of whether or not the Hawks will dress Speedy Claxton Tuesday night?

As you probably have read (or if you didn't, check out Speedy's Twitter alias to peruse his musings), Speedy was highly curious as to why the Hawks didn't dress him despite only having (11) healthy players.

We asked Speedy if there had been any explanation for making him go naked for the game and he graciously responded to us today, saying:

speeddeamon@THHB nope but hoping they will dress me on tues
With the Hawks already having clinched home court via the 4th place position in the East, Mike Woodson is expected to rest his starters for Tuesday's game @ home and Wednesday's road finale.

With Claxton obviously lobbying to get into the game, will the Hawks allow the veteran guard to lace them up or show him the suit?

Now, we're not sure how insurance monies work, if that even is the reason for Claxton's exile on the Hawks bench, so we don't know if playing Claxton would cost the Hawks financially, but it's clear he wants to play and, with a year left on his contract and with Speedy getting a little frisky about his role (or lack of) with Atlanta, it could be an interesting off-season and 2009-2010 season if they do not.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Home Court 'Stache

To celebrate the pending home court clinching in the first round of the playoff, the Atlanta Hawks took the wrapper off of Marvin Williams, who had missed a surprising (16) games with his injured back.

That he only scored (5) points or played a mere (12) minutes in the Hawks fourth-place clinching 122-118 win over the Indiana Pacers was almost irrelevant--the Mustache and its mystical healing powers was back.

To gauge the impact that Marvin has made on the people that watch and surround the team, one need only note that the crowd gave Marvin a standing ovation (no, they weren't shooting t-shirts into the crowd at that time) when he entered the game for the first time. That, combined with the anticipation built up from the blogs and newspapers (ok, just the AJC) and it's clear many were eager for the 'Stache's return.

All of which is a testament not only to the improvement Marvin has made from last season to this one, but also the obvious good guy label everyone has noticed and begun to embrace--he is dependable, productive, and from all forms that we have to check this sort of thing, a good teammate. The Mustache also has the power to solve a Rubik's cube in (2) minutes---don't underestimate, appreciate.

He's gone from the guy who isn't someone else to a player that the ATL appreciates for his own skills and contributions. They won't give a Most Improved Award to him this year, but this season marks a massive step forward in our books.

On the court, the Hawks did one thing a little better than in recent games in that they seemed to go at the paint a little more regularly, which allowed for a more efficient (though we will wait for the official breakdown of that when Hoopinion rolls out the statistical barrel later to know for sure) offensive night.

The Hawks attacked and went to the line for a staggering (45) free throws, of which they made (34), led by the high scorer of the night, Josh Smith. Smoove didn't completely rid himself of the many on the court demons that can sabotage his overall effectiveness, but he did have a strong night across the board, even attacking the glass on both ends. His offensive rebound late in the game helped seal the game---he hit the floor a couple of times----Josh was genuinely using his massive powers for good, and the box score filled up accordingly.

Also on the attack was Al Horford, who spent his night, as he does on most nights, sprinting up and down the court---Against the Pacers, the Hawks actually rewarded his efforts on a number of occasions, as he relentlessly raced slower matchups like Roy Hibbert and Jeff Foster and was able to cash in from a very generous Mike Bibby (9 assists) and Joe Johnson as well. Horford owned the glass, grabbing (13) of his (15) rebounds on the defensive end. In all, a stellar 22/15/5 game from Al, who proved he can--if you let him.

Someone in the Hawks blogging nation mentioned it, and since the HHB working crew is short due to the Holiday (celebrate!) weekend, we aren't staffed appropriately to figure out who (we guess Peachtree Hoops), it's fun when Joe Johnson is hitting his threes as he was against IND (5-8), including one off of a Horford pick that was so sweet we wish we had the sound on a hot key---beautiful music. Joe was so good last night that it speaks volumes that Smith and Horford seemed to overshadow the Backcourt. 24/4/4 on a mere (15) shots--he's good, he's good.

For all of the goodness that the Hawks were displaying offensively, the defense didn't seem to coincide. For every terrific shot (like the aforementioned 3 from Joe) the Pacers raced the ball back up the court and caught the flatfooted Hawks scrambling to get in transition position. There were too many open Danny Granger and Troy Murphy looks from long range---and they made the Hawks pay.

In fact, if not for an abnormally bad night from the free throw line by Granger (7-11 is awful for the 89 percent shooter), the endgame would have been different. He did, though, and the Hawks did enough to win and clinch that first round home court, which means that the ATL can now make plans to be there and be loud for Games 1 and 2.

Agate Type:

Between Acie Law and Mo Evans inactivity (Sidenote: they mentioned Evans' Family Matters so much it sounded like a TBS promo for the old sitcom), Marvin being limited minutes to his (12) minutes, and an in game injury for Zaza Pachulia---it meant seeing a starting assignment for Flubber West and more minutes for Solomon Jones.

As for West---though he made a couple of plays out there---his output does not match his energy. To play (14) minutes, including a lot with the other (4) starters and put up the line that he did seems to be Exhibit A to Hawks GM Rick Sund on building the deeper bench next year. (5) fouls, (3) turnovers, and a whopping (-8) when he was playing with the starting lineup that all had positive +/- should tell Woody not to do that anymore, or at least send Hawks fans lining up to hope that Mo Evans' Family Matters are a short term issue.

As for Jones, he gives up so much to the other team when he is on the floor, but the difference tonight is that he was able to give some of it back for the Hawks with (7) points, rather than just being a liability all night.

That the Hawks played West and Jones together for portions of the game--like towards the end of the first quarter when the Hawks original lead melted away quickly---and came away with the win further spotlights, highlights, and demonstrates just how really good Johnson, Bibby, Smith, and Horford were.

The HHB wants to hear the ATL from its comfortable Orlando HQ---just like last year---However, if you want you can leave Game 1 tickets for us in the Comments Area.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

In Their Place

And now we move on---

We saw little in the Official Smuggled Footage of the 113-105 Hawks win over the hosting Milwaukee Bucks that differed from any other Bird offering this calendar year.

First Half: Bucks take shots, Bucks make shots = 62(!) first half points for the home team against only (53) for the Hawks, who were bricking fantastically from the outside.

Third Quarter: Bucks take shots, Bucks miss shots = 12(!) third quarter points, though we really couldn't tell that the Hawks did anything different in giving up the same open shots to MIL, except now they wouldn't go in. What was different was that the Hawks finally started making their own threes, especially Mo Evans and Joe Johnson, in the quarter.

Fourth Quarter: The Bucks finally decide that the outside shot has dried up and take it to the Hawks. Result? What seemed to be moving into comfort lead territory for the Hawks, suddenly got tight, especially since the run coincided with the Hawks dribbling until they have very little left that they can attempt except for launching a highly contested shot. Oh we know, we couldn't believe it either. But on this night, Joe Johnson was hitting those shots, including a classic bomb from the top of the key (well, you would have been able to tell that's where he was if he had been closer than four steps behind the three point line) and a nifty fall away which had some killer sauce on it.

In the end, the Hawks proved they can beat a losing team on the road, which just goes to validate their place in the NBA at this time---talented and enough execution to beat bad teams on the road, but not polished enough to do the same against the best.

They have all but sewn up home court which last occurred back in 1999, when the Hawks took the first two of the five game series in ATL from the Pistons (Christian Laettner edition for DET) but needed that Game 5 at home to advance as Detroit took the two up there to force the deciding game.

(Sidenote: That Game 5 was at Georgia Tech, and it served as Pistons GM Joe Dumars' last game as a player for DET. The Hawks were overrun by the Finals bound Knicks in the second round, and one too many Ty Corbin threes (foot on the line twos) led Pete Babcock to declare the Mookie-Smitty era over afterwards.)

Not So Fast, Acie Law

In an obvious contest between the two second season guards, Acie Law's blank box 6:14 against Toronto Tuesday night was outdone by Flubber West's 7:49 minutes of "play" against Milwaukee Wednesday night. Oh sure, Flubber had a steal and a foul in his time, but watching the Hawks play four on five offensively when he is in there gives him the extra oomph to take the contest.

Sure, the Hawks bench was outscored a gazillion to 15, but the Bucks run one of those fancy "why do these guys start again?" lineups out there, especially with Redd and Bogut out. Makes the HHB wistful for the (188) game Royal Ivey era.

We don't know because we don't watch every MIL game (an easy thing to admit), but Richard Jefferson looks like the small forward version of Shareef Abdur-Rahim---yes the numbers are there at the end of the game, but you're not scared of him as an opposing fan, and he doesn't consistently have an impact.

The Backcourt had (52) points and shot (50) percent. They thoughtfully took advantage of the Sessions/Bell/Bogans/Ridnour offering as they should.

Al Horford had (19) points on (8) shots. Efficient.

Josh Smith had little interest in making free throws in the first half, but we heard he twittered himself to snap out of it (direct message!) and he did, making (9) of (10) the rest of the way. Twitter--is there anything it can't do?

Maybe Milwaukee has the same official scorekeeping standards as the ATL, because we could swear there were more than (3) blocks between the two teams. Maybe they napped.

The HHB is interested in a good nap also---pillows and blankets can be dropped off in the Comments Area.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Caution: Positive!

We could be a huge wet blanket and dwell on the fact that the Hawks needed most of the (11) threes they hit Tuesday night to take out the post season excluded Toronto Raptors, 118-110.

That they shot (50) percent from extra point, which included a buy-a-lottery-ticket (3) out of (5) from Josh Smith, shouldn't give Hawks fans any reason to believe that they have cured the checklist (collect them all!) of flaws we have listed over the course of the season and rolled up into the "Status Quo" entry from Monday.

But---even when we were in the role of the Raptors in years past, eliminated, lottery bound---we enjoyed watching the Birds win---and even in what may be fool's gold of a road win, it's always good to see.

So, we are not going to be the party poopers of the victory, instead, we're busting out the noise makers and gonna hand out gold stars to the guys for their part in the win.

We saw Mike Woodson play not one, but TWO starters with (2) fouls in the first half. Both Al Horford and Joe Johnson picked up their 3rd fouls, leaving Hoopinion to comment on Twitter that it may be the last time we see such an occurance. They also observed, quite cleverly, that it says that Woodson may care more about not giving up (60) points in the first half than about picking up those "awful" third fouls. (And it worked! Only -57- points for TOR in the first half)

We went the other way, hoping that, if Horford and Johnson didn't come close to fouling out, that it may permanently change Woodson's habits on the matter. The result? Horford and Johnson both finished with three fouls. Come on, Woody--admit it, you're cured, right?

Despite the "foul trouble", Al Horford actually looked like he drew the offensive straw in this game as his teammates looked for Al on the baseline when they drove and got a few plays in the post as well. Now, it wasn't a plethora of plays--in fact Al took just (8) shots, making (5)---but it seemed as if they weren't treating him like Mark Eaton out there---which is nice.

Josh Smith nearly pitched a complete game (46 1/2 minutes out of 48)--He was named player of the game, but we couldn't really figure out what Smith did, other than pile up numbers that came with the minutes, except that he didn't sabotage the game--though there were times that you wondered if Smith was going to blow the Hawks' chances of winning with his shenanigans. When the Hawks were making their run in the third quarter, Smith turned it over, gave up a hoop, and was complaining to the officials after a "missed" call. But sometimes it turns up good for Josh despite all that, and when he was late getting back after complaining, Joe got a quick rebound and launched to the conveniently stationed Smith, who had an easy slam. Maybe we don't know so much?

RFM and Mo Evans made the HHB forget about Josh Childress for a night. But just one, Chill---

The Hawks made (82) percent of their free throws, making it a 50/50/80 night with only (7) turnovers---and the game was still in doubt against a non-playoff team---might have meant the defense was lacking, but hey, we're wrapping it up positive here!

Zaza Pachulia can draw a foul and grab an offensive rebound. We're not saying that's the extent of his skills, but those are the ones that jump out at you immediately when you watch the guy, night after night. (11) points in (16) minutes on (3-5, 5-6) with his only rebound being offensive.

They're Not Saying Boo, They're Saying Boo-urns

Peachtree Hoops, who the HHB thought might have been trapped under furniture--turns out it's matrimony--"penned" a terrific article on being a fan of the Hawks. It's a classic tale of not wanting to settle for mediocrity, yet also wanting to maintain perspective about the road the team has travelled and wanting to enjoy that as well.

We're not saying, we're just saying---check it out.

Your Body is a Twitterland

We're gonna have to face it, we're addicted to Twitter.

Especially when you have Speedy Claxton on going off about the Hawks not suiting him up when they didn't even have (12) to play with.

Especially when the apparently fun Zaza Pachulia gets on board and reminds us he played a season in Milwaukee and says that it's hard to get a double-double in (16) minutes, but he'll take his (11) point effort and a win.

And, of course, when the Hawks Blogging Nation gets behind it and tweets, extending the intelligent (cough), witty (hack), informational (choke!) banter past even the soft lines of a blog.

Bottom line, it's good times---feel free to follow us and/or all the others in the Hawks world and beyond---it is definitely worthwhile.

The HHB offers no guarantees of intelligent, witty, or informational material--Suggestions for such content can be offered to us in the Comments Area.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Status Quo And the People Who Watch Them

It's hard to imagine that the Atlanta Hawks and those who surround it aren't listening to the people who love and watch them regarding the ongoing struggles, coaching suggestions, and feedback surrounding their victories and defeats.

Everytime we hear their quotes, see their actions, or witness anything to do with the Birds we see and hear the same stale statements, the same irrational behavior, and the same predictable outcome.

All we want is some validation and action around our amazing insights----is that a lot to ask?

Hoopinion has been asking for relief on the two foul-first half policy and the foul out fraidy-catness for quite a few seasons now---and we're not sure, but we think that, while the case has been made, the changes that would accompany have not.

Peachtree Hoops has been asking for the head of Alfredo Garcia---or Mike Woodson---and yet we see every game, except for the games where Woody excuses himself from the proceedings with a couple of points for the other team, that their request remains "Pending" in the Atlanta Spirit queue.

The Vent wants something resembling improvement and an on-again/off-again basketball romance with Josh Smith and his amazing array of jump shots---This, apparently, has been granted, as Smith loves to make CoCo happy and launch the three. Ca-chow!

As for Str8talk, well, they want the whole enchilada---compliments of the house. And, of course, that hasn't happened since they moved to Atlanta (the Hawks, that is). All that Str8t wants is to continually move towards that target---is that so wrong???

We have been asking for more attention to the post offensive strategy this season, especially in the development of Al Horford----sadly, we must not be speaking the right language because, in spite of the coach's words to the contrary, the actions (or in this case--massive inaction) speak a lot louder than words.

Slow starts, The Evening of Astonishment that is Josh Smith, weird rotational fascinations from the Head Bald Coach, and so on--are addressed only in the service of lip and then, often just as quickly, dismissed.

So as we look back to the beginning of the season and where we stand today with the good guys---we see that nothing has progressed, little has improved, and with every passing (or in the Hawks case, dribbling and draw the defense) game the hope that something might fades a little more.

They are locked into what they are---and what they are is an extremely talented team with many areas of opportunity---but little desire to change what they do in order to get there. They will be content to advance as far as this approach can take them.

We think that it can only take them to the playoffs, but not far within that particular forest, much less to emerge from it victorious. Good teams have ways of dispatching with such flawed paradigms---no matter how good intentioned or talented they are.

Are we the only ones to see it? Are we missing something that is a (shhhh!) secret inside the organ-i-zation? Or maybe it's just us---the same people that have spoken--and it's only the people that are listening.

This episode of the HHB was shot in slow motion, black and white footage---classy---calls for a colorized version can be left along with a small donation in the Comments Area.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fatally Flawed

That the Hawks lost in Boston 104-92 isn't a surprise. That the Hawks will now fall short of the 50-win mark and thus ending our blind optimism also fails to register on the shock-o-meter.

The sad part of the Birds losing again is that they lost the same way and due to the same issues that have plagued the team recently, in some cases all season and the team doesn't seem to be interested at all, from top to bottom, to fix them.

We can start with the way the offense dribbles and let's every single defense get settled--failing to move the ball around with any sort of meaning, unless the meaning is to make sure we stop the ball long enough for our opponents to catch up.

We can move to the defensive end, where as a team it has been noted that there is no communication happening. Add to that Josh Smith's constant gambling and Mike Bibby's fast decline this season and you have a formula for extreme offensive effectiveness for the team's opponents.

We can go to coaching, where the staff has seen fit to rely too long on pet projects, not set enough boundaries with some of their biggest culprits, and generally has watched the team get no better from Game One to Game Seventy-Six.

Bottom line is this team is extremely talented--it's the only way that, even with all their flaws, that they can compete in any game, any night, any place. This was a (4) point game until really late---Boston was outshooting, outhustling, and outexecuting the Hawks---yet everytime you looked at the scoreboard, it was a two possession game. This was even despite an unofficial (3) times fouling a 3-point shooter, including the groan-inducing mid-court foul with Rajon Rondo launching a prayer.

However---talent alone will not win important games---and the Hawks lack of practice and apparent lack of interest in resolving their fatal flaws to date indicate that they will take their chances with how they do things today---and hope that post game words and shoulder shrugs will overcome the very problems that are causing losses today.

Power Failures

Al Horford, Maurice Evans, Zaza Pachulia, Josh Smith, and Solomon Jones combined for a throat gagging 12-43 from the field. (28) percent shooting from your frontcourt players isn't a statistical winning indicator in our books. Combine that with the Celtics big guys shooting 25-39 (64 percent for you Florida grads) and you wonder how in the world this game was still in doubt into the fourth quarter.

Horford continues to rush shots, fadeaway, make himself small inside, and generally becoming the antithesis of the player he actually needs to be for the Hawks. We understand that he is not getting many plays called for him night after night, but now we have to admit that he isn't giving any reason for them to do it---though we do argue that it doesn't stop other player from being allowed to commit the same mistakes over and over without taking away their plays.

It wasn't just Horford---Boston's aggressiveness made the Hawks take a lot of uncomfortable shots. This is a trend that almost all playoff teams have; to play energetic team defense which lowers the potential chance for the opposition to make their shots.

The Hawks have yet to adopt this principle for their own team. In fact, the Celtics had plenty of high percentage open shots to choose from. Rajon Rondo was treated like he was Flubber West out there---now he has had issues shooting, but Josh Smith not challenging him on (2) mid range jump shots was just lazy--and Rondo made him and the Hawks pay.

Something has to change---or the result will be an early playoff death.

The HHB is going outside to practice team free throws--we are a team dedicated to fixing our fatal flaws---other areas of improvement can be noted in the Comments Area.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Inner Circle

The HHB was thankful for being able to participate with the usual Hawks great thinkers (ESPN Sensation Hoopinion, It's Not Just A Vent--It's The Vent, and the brutally honest (and proud of it!) Str8ghtTalk) in the Blogger Roundtable. So folks aren't confused--we're the ones referred to as THHB---Crazy, eh?

The Inquisition involved but a single, powerful, question---one that involved every bit of the HHB's extensive data points, film research staff, and some 88-sided dice.

The Question:

The playoffs are fast approaching - which team would you rather face in the first round, the Miami Heat or the Philadelphia 76ers?

The Answer is right here---to quote Moe Szyslack--we made our choice and we stand by that.

The HHB wonders if Peachtree Hoops was too busy sorting through all the game comments and fan mail to participate in the latest roundtable discussion---Sightings and whereabouts can be left off in the night slot known as the Comments Area.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Split Personalities

We're torn here at the HHB---We have been building and driving the (50) win bandwagon based on the belief that the Hawks are talented enough to reach that milestone.

On the other hand, there is a season's worth of proof that this team is not a team at all. Sure, there are flashes, but in the contrast of an opponent who is patient, methodical, and energetic, the Hawks, as they did in their 98-85 loss in PHL Tuesday night, the team shows it's immaturity and mental lack of strength.

It's fitting that, on the night where this immaturity was on display team-wide, that it was Josh Smith who appeared to be the most gathered, and definitely the most effective. Smith took (15) shots and missed only (2), including three no doubt bombs and all of his throws. At one point, Smith had (20) of the Hawks (45) points.

The Hawks had a crippling (19) turnovers as well--fitting that they were evenly dispersed throughout the team, as there are not enough fingers to point at the culprits.

Five, Four, Three, Two, One---Buzzzzzz

We had to laugh at IBR on the telecast, bemoaning Al Horford's "drop" in offensive production. It's hard to score when you don't get to shoot, Bob! It's reminiscent of when folks in Minnesota were wondering why Herschel Walker wasn't rushing for 100 yards a game. Well guys, when he got 3-5 carries a game, it's hard to produce---not to mention you had him away from the deep-I formation that he dominated with.

Sound vaguely similar? It should. We are barreling towards a "Trade Al Horford" entry into the HHB due to the obvious lack of development given the coaching staff. Once again we see another bench post player come in and get more attention offensively than Al.

This time it was his backup at Florida, Marreese Speights, who got to look like a polished post player, while Al was once again handed a mop and told to clean up after the guards.

It's a waste of talent, and don't be surprised if some hack blog isn't the first to feel this---if we can tell, you can bet the players do, too.

If at First You Don't Succeed, Don't Change a Thing!

The offensive policy of hoping that our outside shots fall and then shrugging our shoulders or, in this game, turning the ball over is a bit tiresome. The Sixers, who we were told often throughout the game, are not a good half court team, yet they looked like the Globetrotters compared to the Hawks in the set.

Time after time the Sixers seemed to get an open shot, while the Hawks continued to look like they are shooting hoops over the Great Wall of China.

Hmm---maybe we're getting close to another post, one that has been authored by every other Bird Watcher in the Nation---hey, we're not above jumping on the pile!

The HHB has sent the official word to hold off on the down payment for the second round playoff tickets---Arguments to the contrary can be left in the Comments Area.