Game 41 Preview: Blazers vs. Hawks

A Look at the Hawks

As most people who watch the NBA with any eye for detail know, this is not your older brother's Hawks team.  The perennial losers stand at 18-19 and own wins this season over the Mavericks, Suns, Magic, Jazz, Wizards, and Nuggets.

As has been their habit the last couple of seasons the Hawks are led by Joe Johnson.  His 22 ppg average is slightly off of the 25 he registered last season but he can still fill it up.  Somewhat shockingly after seasons of shooting 46%, 45%, and 47% Johnson is averaging only slightly above 41% this season.  His three-point percentage is also as low as it's been in four years.  Averaging 41 minutes per game for his third year straight may be taking a toll.  Johnson's rebounds and assists remain as high as ever and he's certainly a major threat.

The other guy who grabs headlines for the Hawks is Josh Smith.  The hyper-athletic fourth-year forward is fulfilling the promise he showed early to the tune of 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2 steals, and 3.3 blocks (!!!) per game.  He is literally a one-man wrecking crew and he will get nasty all over you if you don't watch him carefully.

Forward Marvin Williams and rookie center Al Horford are also having fine seasons, Williams averaging 16 and 6 and Horford flirting with 10 rebounds per game.

As a package the Hawks lineup features plenty of athletes who are all but happy to ram it down your throat.  Unfortunately when they can't accomplish that they often have trouble scoring.  They have a couple of high percentage guys but most of the lineup ranges from pedestrian to downright bad.  They are generally poor from range as well.  Because of the physical nature of their attack they do draw fouls.

The Hawks' defense is not fantastic but they do the job.  As with their offense they tend to run hot and cold, sometimes holding opponents in the 80's and sometimes letting them fly into the 110's.  As with most young teams you can force your tempo on them with the right application of energy.  It's not iron-clad but in general they tend to prosper more in a faster, prettier game.

What I'd Like To See

  1.  Patience will be a big key today.  We need to make good passes and get good shots without being rushed or at all spastic.  This is not to say we should slow down or pass up shots, but we had better not cough up bad shots that allow easy, long rebounds and running opportunities.  Plus a little patience will confound their opportunistic defense.
  2.  Speaking of running opportunities, we need to get back in transition.  That means if guards are taking corner threes they need to hit them and if they don't our forwards better hustle back.
  3.  We had less intensity than usual in the Miami game and ran a major intensity deficit against Orlando.  That needs to stop now and it better stop right at tip-off.
  4.  Whoever Joe Johnson is guarding needs to run him around and try to burn his energy defending.
  5.  We really need to force Atlanta to shoot jumpers...the farther away the better.  They really, really have trouble when they can't attack the rim.
  6.  And by the way, when we force them to shoot over the top...REBOUND THE BALL.  Nothing is going to be worse than watching them clank jumpers straight up off the rim and then seeing Marvin Williams, Horford, Josh Smith, and company ram them back home.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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