Sunday, January 10, 2010

Same Time, Next Year

On January 9th, 2009, the Orlando Magic pasted the Atlanta Hawks 121-87 in Orlando.

On January 9th, 2010, the Orlando Magic pasted the Atlanta Hawks 113-81 in Orlando.

You can go ahead and get out on that limb that says THHB wishes not for a Trilogy.

Simon: Gentlemen, I'd like you to meet your captain, Captain Oveur.
Clarence Oveur: Gentlemen, welcome aboard.
Simon: Captain, your navigator, Mr. Unger, and your first officer, Mr. Dunn.
Clarence Oveur: Unger.
Unger: Oveur.
Dunn: Oveur.
Clarence Oveur: Dunn. Gentlemen, let's get to work.
Simon: Unger, didn't you serve under Oveur in the Air Force?
Unger: Not directly. Technically, Dunn was under Oveur and I was under Dunn.
Dunn: Yep.
Simon: So, Dunn, you were under Oveur and over Unger.
Unger: Yep.
Clarence Oveur: That's right. Dunn was over Unger and I was over Dunn.
Unger: So, you see, both Dunn and I were under Oveur, even though I was under Dunn.
Clarence Oveur: Dunn was over Unger, and I was over Dunn.
So, to be clear from this weekend's Hawks hoop activity---the Hawks match up well with the Celtics (especially without Kevin Garnett) and do pretty well with this season's Cavaliers, but with Orlando....not so much.

Orlando, once again, demoralized, discouraged, dismantled, and disassembled the Hawks with an aggressive mindset from the beginning and continued great shooting throughout.

On the first Hawks' possession Joe Johnson drove into the lane and offered a very high floater toward the hoop. Alas, it was not high enough as Dwight Howard soundly altered the flight path, showing that the Magic--who like the Hawks had played the night before---wanted to finish their back to back with a bang. It just so happened that bang was the good vibrations from the Birds' strong win over Boston the night before crashing to the ground.

Whereas the Hawks had the fabled "deer in the headlights" look from the Howard block on for the entirety of the game, the Magic treated Atlanta as their personal chew toy, attacking the rim with no negative consequences and then using that torture to free up a cavalcade of open three pointers, which they were in turn very efficient in completing (12-28)..

When the Hawks are interested in winning, their trademarks are energy and athleticism. Under this category falls such effective techniques as ball movement, defensive rotation, steals, blocks, fast break points, and points in the paint. That Atlanta all but vacated these against Orlando tells as much of the story as the final score.

Early on it was clear that Howard picked up on items that THHB (among many others) have been discussing and advancing---such as that the Hawks don't even think about Al Horford in the half court offense and love, with any amount of encouragement, to go one-on-one.

Saturday night was no exception as the Hawks were strictly a one-pass-and-go-one-on-one offense and didn't ever seem to break pattern until they accidentally got the ball into Horford in the third quarter and he drew fouls inside on Howard--while scoring. Novel!

With Howard free from worrying about either Horford or Pachulia being a factor (since they presumably won't appear at the top of the key and try to break down an entire half court defense), this defensive juggernaut was free to assist in deterring shots such as the opening effort by Johnson.

The Hawks were ill-equipped mentally for the task of energizing their production as they hung like wallflowers still basking in the "glory" of a regular season home win over the Celtics. Their demeanor was one of "Hey, wasn't that win great last night?" rather than "Let's do it again!"

The ball didn't move, the Magic--without Hawk Hater Vince Carter either--rammed the ball down the Hawks' throat, passes whistled by unsuspecting teammates, players dribbled the ball out of bounds, there was a ridiculous attempt at a frustration foul (yes, Josh Smith, the officials didn't see it but we did) and so on. When you look like clowns on the court, you get clowned on the court. For one night, all that was missing for Atlanta were the red rubber noses.
It's too bad because such an approach and "effort" in a game such as this shows just how far mentally this team has to go to win further in the playoffs. Such a mentality was on display in the first round of last year's playoffs when, despite the fact (OK, it's our opinion) that the Hawks far outtalented the Heat, that series not only went to seven games, but that the losses incurred were ugly, passive losses such as the one Saturday night in Orlando.

Taking nights off from playing the right way becomes habitual--and teams can't just decide before the playoffs that they will give good effort every night starting then. It can only come from being practiced in the every game grind known as the regular season.

There's still plenty of games left to get into that habit--and they've shown they can do it--hopefully they'll get it done sooner rather than later so we won't have to watch this game again on January 9th, 2011.

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