Saturday, November 8, 2008

Everyone Is Taking Notice of the Hawks

Watching PTI after the Hornets game (HHB Tivo'd that as well), we were treated to a segment of their "Over/Under" game which posed the question of whether the Hawks would be over or under 41 wins for the season (to those of us who went to the University of Florida, that would be .500).

Both Tony and Dan Le Batard said that, based on the Hawks finish last season, their run against the Celtics, and their impressive wins on the road at Orlando and New Orleans, that yes, why shouldn't they be a good bet to do this.

Also, Tony added that while the Hawks did lose Josh Childress in the off-season, "He's not Magic Johnson." More ESPN love.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors and their new shiny Twin Towers frontcourt of Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal rolled into Philips Arena and got treated to the new and energized Hawks. The same defensive effort, the physicality, and the hustle was on display for the Raptors, who got frustrated by the fact that, surprisingly, the Hawks were allowed to play as Physical As They Wanna Be, though not cheap shots, and before they knew what hit them, the Hawks were up 12 at the half.

Unfortunately, during that first half, the Hawks watched as Josh Smith came down wrong on his ankle, rolled it, and is now going to miss a month with the dreaded HIGH ankle sprain.

Now, immediately, Hawks fans had to wonder how the team would respond to their game changer on defense not being able to return. After all, as the fine research at Peachtree Hoops (also linked in the HHB Bird Feeds area) has shown, the Hawks have been a very good defensive team thus far (Top 5 in fact), but they are sinister when Smith is in the game---top of the line good defensively. And there is no doubt, as the HHB has written already, that the key to this good start has been 100 percent related to the defensive effort. Even in the PHL game, when the Hawks were sloppy defensively was when they got down, and it took them the whole game to get back on top after just ONE poor defensive effort.

Now, with Smith out, what would the Hawks do? If one quarter of poor basketball with Smith was enough to drop the Hawks 20+ points behind the Sixers, what would the team do with Smith now out?

The verdict was this: Though the Hawks definitely missed Smith's shot blocking presence, the combination of extreme effort and taking care of the defensive boards kept the Hawks afloat, even with both Horford and Pachulia limited by foul trouble. Solomon Jones and Randolph Morris (still with that new player smell!) picked up the slack, though their +/- numbers were alright at best, and the Hawks ended up cruising to a fairly uncontested 110-92 victory.

Afterwards, everyone took notice. ESPN, NBATV, and even the Official Dad of the HHB sent an email to jump on the bandwagon, demanding a Hawks hat while remarking "4-0!!".

Smith will now be out a month's worth of games, though if we know him, we believe he'll make the usual youthful error of trying to come back too soon, but in the meantime the Hawks have to try and rise up, even in his absence.

HHB Prediction? The team will valiantly try to perform to the same levels as they have with Smith, but will fall short a few times. It's only natural. Josh Smith, who has had plenty of detractors, is a game changing force for the Hawks, and no amount of heart, which this team definitely has shown thus far, will be able to replace that.

But still----4 and 0---they have that going for them, which is nice.

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