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Hawks vs. Pacers...Down Goes Horford

Hawks: Super Joe, Bibby, Williams, Horford, Pachulia
Pacers: M. Daniels, T.J. Ford, Granger, Troy Murphy, Nesterovic

If you just look at the rosters and the starters, the Hawks should have beaten the Pacers tonight. The pre-game was warm and fuzzy. Coach Mike Woodson was back in his native Indiana. The Hawks made shots in warm-ups, but the first play of the game was an omen of bad things to come. The Pacers won the tip and on their first possession T.J. Ford broke down Bibby off the dribble for a lay up. The defense never recovered. On the Hawks 2nd offensive possession, Joe Johnson ran the point and initiated the offensive set? Why? Bibby has to be able to handle the basketball against some pressure. Early in the game in transition, Horford ran hard, but he did not post up hard against Troy Murphy. It looked like Horford already was injured at this point, because Murphy should not be able to keep him off the block on the move.

The Indiana crowd was totally dead in first quarter, but the Pacers played hard and played with energy. Greg Foster came off the bench and gave them a spark. With 5 minutes left in the first quarter, Horford headed to the locker room—terrible news for Hawks’ fans. Losing Horford at the beginning of this week will be tough for the Hawks to overcome. Right before the buzzer, Foster, a 6’11 post player, hit an improbable 3 point shot to put the Pacers ahead 32-25 after one quarter. Foster has not hit a 3 pointer since the economy was running smoothly. Nothing was going right for the Hawks and the adversity showed in their lack of intensity.

Defensively, the Hawks’ were not executing. They could not contain dribble penetration. Their help side rotations were late. Even if the Pacers drove and missed shots, they rebounded and scored on second chance opportunities. A great example of the defensive breakdowns happened in the second quarter. The Hawks switched and Flip Murray was beaten on a back door cut for a lay up by Nesterovic of all people. On another typical poor play, Murphy just posted Marvin Williams right under the basket and scored easily.

Coach Woodson tried to adjust and play the match up zone, but immediately the Hawks gave up a 3 point basket, and then another. Here are three big problems for the Hawks. Joe Johnson had to guard Danny Granger. Johnson has to be able to concentrate more on the offensive end. Put Evans on Granger. Coach Woodson needs to play Evans and Johnson together more. Granger had 14 first half points. Secondly, the Hawks were killed in transition. When the Pacers rebounded the basketball, the Hawks’ players challenged the rebounder. That is a basketball cardinal sin. At one point in the first half, the Pacers had 30 points in the paint to only 6 for the Hawks. The Hawks were killed on screen-roll plays and hand-offs. The Bigs had to help too much, and then their men scored on the roll play. The Hawks were down 13 points at half, and the Pacers shot a blistering 63% from field.

In the 3rd quarter, nothing happened except that Coach Woodson finally played everyone on the bench when he put Acie Law into the game with under a minute to play. In the first part of the 4th quarter, Law keyed a 15-5 Hawks’ run with 7 points and 2 assists. Benching him might have made him mad enough to play better. Super Joe missed a huge open 3 point shot in transition off a shot fake. That shot would have closed the gap. The Hawks really needed that basket.

Here is a microcosm of what is wrong with the team right now. With 4 minutes left in the game and down by 11 points, Coach Woodson called a time-out. Out of the time-out, the shot the Hawks got was a Solomon Jones spinning hook shot with the shot clock running down. That shot probably was not what they talked about in the time-out. Then, Danny Granger finished this game for the Pacers. He had 34 points on 13-18 shooting—a monster game. Tonight, he was the best player on the floor. The final score was 113-96, and the Hawks’ losing streak continues.

*Offensively, Super Joe caught fire in the 2nd quarter. He carried the Hawks’ offense for most of the night. He not only made shots, but he also created shots for everyone else. Horford never came back into the game. He has a right ankle injury. Joe would have to score 40 plus for the Hawks to get a win right now.

*Dominique took the night off from his color commentary duties. Is he already bored and tired after 9 games? I would do these games for free, okay maybe per diem money and travel expenses. Steve “Snapper” Jones filled in pretty well. He used to be great on NBC when teamed with Bill Walton. “Snapper” was the voice of reason to Walton’s zany comments.

*Every basketball fan is a little sadder today, because of the passing away of coaching legend Pete Newell. Newell was a master teacher of post play, and he was an influential mentor to Coach Bob Knight.


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