Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Woodson's March to Chris Paul Continues...

I'm not sure what it says about me that I've been to three straight home games of the worst team in the NBA. Either I'm taking this whole "paying dues" thing too seriously or I have a bona fide mental condition. I'm not even a huge NBA fan. I just enjoy going to sporting events and the Hawks are the only game in town right now. Plus, it's hard not to have a good time at Philips, although I'm sure I would have felt differently back in my college/law school days when paying $7 for 24 ounces of beer really offended me.

The Golden State game was a blowout, which I suspected it might be beforehand after the Hawks got off the schneid with a win in Toronto the night before. G-State has been playing some good ball since trading for Baron Davis, which gives Hawks fans hopes that our team can also right the ship. Of course, having Jason Richardson as a building block helped. Josh Chidress has a ways to go before he gets to that level.

Golden State rained down three all night on the Hawks, coming up one short of the NBA record. It wasn't hard for them to do so; their offense consisted of a player beating his man off the dribble from one side, getting into the middle of the defense, and then kicking to an open shooter on the opposite wing. The Hawks were never able to adjust, mainly because:

1. They don't have a shot-blocker in the middle, so they have to help from the perimeter. (I guess that's where the Sam Dalembert rumor comes in.)

2. They don't do a very good job of defending on the perimeter. Tyronne Lue is a nice player and all, but he was unable to keep Derek Fisher or Baron Davis in front of him and that's where some of the defensive issues came from. Similarly, Josh Childress could not stay with Richardson, which was evident from the first possession of the game. Those three Warriors combined for 16 assists.

Against Detroit on Monday night, the Hawks continued their pattern of getting the ideal result: a close loss against a good team. They've done this on a number of occasions over the past month and it's perfect for their long-term goals, certainly in comparison to last year's 6-5 hot streak to end last season that cost them a better shot at Ben Gordon or Shaun Livingston. Al Harrington played a fantastic offensive game, lighting up a very good defensive player (Tayshaun Prince) by hitting a bevy of difficult shots. Tyronne Lue was also useful offensively.

The bad part was that the Hawks were completely unable to defend a mediocre offense. Anytime the Pistons did anything organized on offense, the Hawks were unable to stop it. I suspect that Mike Woodson and Herb Brown have a good understanding on how to stop the Pistons' offense, so I'm going to put this one down on execution. The Hawks just don't understand defensive basketball right now, especially against one of the few teams in the league that runs actual plays. The good news was that the Hawks played better defense as the game went on. The bad news was that they couldn't get a defensive rebound when they really needed one. Such is to be expected when you're rolling Ekezie and Collier out as your starting centers.

The Hawks also seem to have taken my suggestion that making the rest of the season a paean to Googs is a good idea, because he played a major role. He's the best shooter on the team, which helps when the offense is designed around driving to the basket and kicking if the defense collapses too much. Googs also made two terrific outlet passes to Harrington for easy dunks. In fact, even before Googs hit a three to send the game to overtime, my friend Daniel and I agreed that resigning Googs for a year at about $1M might not be a bad idea. He clearly seems satisfied that he's finally getting some playing time and he gets to mentor some young players. That's more satisfying than wasting away on the bench.

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