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.