Running with Zaza

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10 Observations While Watching Hawks vs. Spurs

1. The Spurs are aging quickly. The Spurs are older than Bob Rathbun’s analogies. These guys are like the old guys with knee pads that come and play pick up at the playground. At one point, Michael Finley, Drew Gooden, and Kurt Thomas were all on the floor at the same time. I know Roger Mason is still pretty young, but he looks old. If Tim Duncan, Gnobili, and Parker, play great basketball, the Spurs can make it back to the Finals, but the championship window for this version of the Spurs has been slammed shut and painted over.

2. Hawks’ guard Flip Murray is on fire. His confidence level is at a season high. He was attacking Gnobili like Manu just arrived in the States with a knapsack and Marta card. Over the past three games, Murray is averaging over 20 points per game. Murray has been up and down a little this season, but he gives the Hawks a spark off the bench that they did not have last season.

3. The Hawks overall roster is much better than the Spurs right now. I especially like the Hawks young forwards. If they can re-sign Marvin Williams to a reasonable contract this summer and Josh Childress makes the obvious decision to return to the NBA, the Hawks have four young and talented front court players.

4. Here is one of Coach Mike Woodson’s biggest problems in a nutshell. Joe Johnson had to start the game guarding Tony Parker, because Bibby cannot guard Parker. It is a good thing that the Eastern Conference is devoid of attacking point guards. Bibby can guard Rajon Rondo, Rafer Alston, and Mario Chalmers. I would be worried about Moe Williams of the Cavs. Parker still has 20 points and 5 assists at halftime.

5. Josh Smith has no low post game. Also, he is not a very good jump shooter from outside of 5 feet. The Spurs started the game with Matt Bonner guarding him. Smith should dominate Bonner, but he has no offensive package of moves. The Hawks cannot take advantage of the mismatch, because Smith is so limited offensively. The Hawks threw him the ball on the right block and he took a terrible fall away jump shot. Note to Josh—develop a left-handed jump hook. A shot based maybe on Tayshaun Prince’s move. Left-handed players are tough to guard, but the way to guard J-Smoove is to just let him shoot the basketball.

6. The Spurs are one of the best teams in the NBA at executing out of bounds plays for scores. At the end of the first quarter, Popovich called a beautiful play side out of bounds play for Ginobli to get a lay up. Over the course of a game, those extra points add up to wins.

7. Manu Gnobili is not healthy. This is his first game back after missing 19 games. He missed 12 games earlier this season. He looks slow and the explosiveness off the dribble are not there. The Western Conference teams are fairly equal talent wise and only 2.5 games separate five different teams for playoff spots. If Gnobili is not 100% for the playoffs, the Spurs are going to have an early exit this year.

8. Mike Bibby got a sweet cut right in the middle of his forehead courtesy of an elbow from Matt Bonner. Bibby was the victim of a bush league play that happens all the time in the Association. Bonner flailed his arms after the whistle. Kobe Bryant does this all the time. It should be a technical foul.

9. If Joe Johnson gets hurt, the Hawks can’t win a first round playoff series. When Super Joe went down with a twisted ankle on the very first play of the game for the Hawks, I actually started righting the Hawks 2009 season obituary. Without Johnson’s all around game, quiet leadership, and offensive fire power, the Hawks will not beat the Heat.

10. Al Horford is the key to Atlanta’s playoff destiny. He brings energy, rebounding, and defense. He will set a solid screen which is a sacrifice that some are not willing to make. Coach Woodson has to have the confidence the isolate Horford some on the low block. Last season, he was able to score on Kevin Garnett in the playoffs. In a potential 1st round match up, I like Horford versus Jermaine O’Neal of the Heat.


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