Monday, May 09, 2011

Best of Three

Last night's performance by Josh Smith both encapsulates everything that I love about Smith and this Hawks team and also everything about him that drives me crazy about them. Smith was great in the fourth quarter. Look at his shot chart for the fourth quarter. He didn't take a shot outside of three feet from the hoop. It's probably unreasonable to expect that he will always been able to get so many shots from so close, but it's a worthwhile goal. When it's this obvious where Smith excels and where he struggles, how is it that a guy who just played his 573rd game in the NBA has to be reminded? Why can't he play like this all the time? I accept that the performance of athletes varies. Even the best players will have good games and bad games. That said, the gap between good and bad is SO pronounced for the Hawks generally and Smith specifically. How does Smith go from Mark Bradley writing with some justification:

As it is, Josh Smith at 25 is on his way to being one of the league’s least respected good players, and I hate that. He’s a nice guy, and he’s capable of so much more. If he would play to his strengths — and he has many — he would get his numbers without damaging his team.

With Smith at his best, the Hawks can take the Bulls. “We’ve got to be confident,” he said after Game 2, “and that team over there knows we know we can beat them.”

Then he laughed. “The media might not know. But that’s OK.”

Being a member of the media, I’m privy to press room conversations. I hear what famous writers say about the Hawks. And the first thing many of them say is, I’m sorry to report, “What is Josh Smith doing?” For that I have no answer.

to dominating the fourth quarter of a do-or-die playoff game against the team with the best record in the NBA, the MVP, and the Coach of the Year? Going forward, anything is possible for this team. They could get blown out in the last two games (I'm hardly the only one who watched the game on Friday night and said to myself "same old Hawks") or they could knock the Bulls out and then pose a threat in the NBA's final four.

Other random thoughts:

  • Welcome to the series, Al Horford! Horford is my favorite Hawk, but he was killing the team in the first three games. The team has no chance to win if he doesn't win the matchup with his college teammate Joakim Noah. Through three games, the team's best player had scored 25 points total on 12 of 31 shooting and had shot a grand total of two free throws. Last night, he scored 20 on nine of 11 shooting and was a major part in the run that won the game in the fourth quarter.

  • Far be it from me to criticize the reigning MVP, but Derrick Rose didn't make good decisions in the fourth quarter last night. He went from being a point guard to attempting an imitation of Allen Iverson, circa 2001. Rose ended up taking more shots than the rest of the Bulls' starting lineup combined. Carlos Boozer showed signs of life in the third quarter, but Rose barely looked his way in the fourth. Luol Deng also faded into the background. When the prospect of the Hawks in the Eastern Finals was a ludicrous proposition, I was prepared to root for the Bulls as an acceptable alternative to the Celtics and Heat, but if they are going to imitate the '01 Sixers, then I'll just root for a meteor.

  • The crowd was great last night. That said, if the Hawks do somehow win Game Five, every Hawk fan who lived through the 80s with be thinking about one game when the teams come home: Game Six against the Celtics in 1987. Let's keep Cliff Levingston as far away from Philips as possible.


Ryno said...

Time to pay Jeff Teague and extend his contract - eh Michael?

I might consider buying a Teague jersey in the offseason. Love the guts he's shown so far in this series.

James Sinclair said...

Few athletic feats are more baffling to me than Josh Smith attempting only seven 3-pointers—all of which, according to the game logs, were in end-of-quarter desperation situations—over the entire 2009-10 season. How did that happen? Was he under some kind of restraining order?

And yeah, Jeff Teague has been outstanding. I can't wait to find out who the Hawks are saving for round three!