Saturday, January 2, 2010

Al Horford is Good Enough To Do the Hawks' Laundry, But Not Good Enough to Eat at the Dinner Table

If the Hawks haven't learned by now, after losing three straight games in a similar manner, we can't hope they ever will.

The Hawks' isolation, jump shooting approach to the end of games does not work. Period.

We're not saying it will never work---but as a method of winning close games of any circumstance---and certainly in the playoffs---it doesn't scale.

Once again on Friday night the Hawks build a lead by getting into the paint and scoring---and once again the Hawks fritter that advantage away by shooting jump shot after jump shot down the stretch. Whether this is an homage to Joe Johnson or Mike Woodson simply doesn't trust Josh Smith or Al Horford at the end of games, one can only guess, but the fact of the matter is that the league knows what the Hawks will do in fourth quarters of tough games, and what the eventual endgame will be--and it isn't good for the ATL.

Al Horford was magnificent again, but apparently his effectiveness doesn't count in the eyes of Mike Woodson or his veteran backcourt because Horford, who scored (20) points on 10-12 shooting in a variety of ways in the paint, wasn't allowed to get the ball in the fourth quarter despite no inside presence that could stop him without a double team.

It's as if that fourth quarter offensive cabal pats Al on the head and says, "Thank you for participating in the game up to this point, but now it's time for the grownups to play."

"Hey, if you get the offensive rebound, make sure you toss it back to the big boys because they know better than you how to score in the fourth quarter. Oh, and come up here and get me a pick, alright?"

It's disappointing in that this team has become much more than just one player---and nobody learns from this though we have watched time and again the futility of passing the ball among the guards and watching contested jumper after jumper even though the team is much better served, and has proven throughout the same games, moving the ball inside-out, making the defense move, and getting better shots.

Joe Johnson is a marvelous player, but that (nor his All-Star appearances) does not lend itself to solely depending on him in the last half of an entire quarter. No ball movement, no variety, it's "Here Comes Joe!" and the rest of the team is supposed to watch and wait. Joe is not good enough to beat teams one on three down the stretch---and the shame of it is the Hawks don't have to.

Nate Robinson had an amazing night, but would it have been as much if the Hawks had simply stuck to what worked against a team with no shot blockers and pounded the ball inside? Would any team with a talent like Horford have ignored him completely for the last (14) minutes of the game given his consistent proficiency inside?

The Hawks have some serious questions to answer about this---the franchise has moved beyond the point where they need to cross their fingers and hope Joe can win games on his own. We wonder if Mike Woodson, Mike Bibby, and Joe Johnson will ever acknowledge it--and if they can change their habits in time to move this team forward when it matters.

Party Favors

Josh Smith + Al Horford = 19-28, 8-12 FT, 46 points

Joe Johnson = 12-30, 4-13 on threes, 0-1 FT, 28 points

We mean, c'mon--Just sayin', right?

The Hawks continue to stink when launching 21 or more threes. Friday Night's Epic Fail sent them to 2-6 on the year.

Nate Robinson will (deservedly) get the headlines, but Wilson Chandler played a fantastic game (10-19, 24 points, 17 rebounds) and was another steady force that kept the Knicks within striking distance. Unlike some of his teammates, he didn't always settle for the long shot and his aggressiveness paid off big for the Knicks tonight.

THHB wishes all a Happy New Year and shamelessly asks that you check out the End of the Decade Hawks Recap available on this blog now. Discussion and easy to point out omissions can be left in that posts Comments Area.


rbubp said...

Mike Woodson may well be the most strategically inflexible professional coach I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

yeah, you're right on in your comments about our fourth quarter offense. I love watching us play on offense through the first 3 quarters, when everyone is getting involved. Why wouldn't this offense work in the fourth quarter too? If Woodson has any kind of basketball mind at all, adjustments have to be coming, what with three straight blown games by horrible fourth quarter offense. Woody, its time to put up and run some offense through Josh and Al late in the 4th, or its no extension for you

Jason Walker said...

Anonymous and rbubp---you both provide very valid observations and reasons why Rick Sund is waiting to see if this team can improve and take things to the next level before committing any longer to Coach Woodson.

CoCo said...

Sigh. Jason, you had me at hello (hello being the title) No one has stumped harder than I for Al to become a focal point in the Hawks offense. Will he have his struggles against some of the bigger teams in the league? Perhaps, but we all know the Knicks front court is absolutely no match for him. The only problem is none of us are in a position to make his teammates realize this. January is a brutal month and they've started it off with a loss to a team they should have beaten. There's no excuse for losing to the Knicks who had just lost to a team that hasn't won 5 games yet. This is why I felt like contract year Joe Johnson might be a bad thing for this team. He's had a few nights already where he has successfully shot the team right out of games. The sadder part is that they're all content in letting him do so.

Jason Walker said...

CoCo--I just hope it doesn't influence Horford when it's time to decide where he plays his next contract.