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.


Ron E. said...

1) The Hawks came out flat
2) The Hawks didn't move the ball around well on offense
3) The Hawks were afraid to foul (because they knew they would be benched due to their coach's foul-out-phobia)

It all adds up to: bad coaching. Somehow the Hawks overcame Mike Woodson's crap for 82 games to win the 4th season, but now their karma has come due.

Jason Walker said...

Ron, good points---and I think that Woodson's comment when returning from the half was telling:

"I didn't want to come down too hard because I thought they would get tight" or something to that effect.

It may lend some insight that Woodson treats them all like kids and doesn't raise the level of expectation on them--it also may indicate that he doesn't trust the guys not to foul out.

It all adds up to a lack of mental toughness---someone has to put that expectation on there, and if there is no veteran to do it (Bibby, Joe), then the coach must.

CoCo said...

Our guys were intimidated. I saw it up close and personal. Very disappointing.