As I said in my preview yesterday that in the grand scheme of things a loss to the Knicks only mattered if the Hawks still have the goal to finish higher than fourth in the Eastern Conference. The way they are playing defense right now looks like they are completely happy with maintaining that fourth spot and have no intention or capability to reach any higher. I have said many times that when this team defends it is capable of competing against any other team in the NBA. Conversely it is also capable of losing to anyone on nights when it chooses not to defend as last night’s 99-98 loss to the Knicks entails.
The offensive problems were still there although not quite as prevalent throughout the whole game. Josh Smith did touch the ball enough to get off 22 shots on his way to 25 point, 10 rebound, 6 assist, and 3 block night. It was however his dunk attempt that was blocked at the end of the game that sealed the victory for the Knicks. Al Horford scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Whatever feel good story Marvin Williams was at the beginning of this month has virtually disappeared the last two games. In his last two games Marvin has attempted nine shots total. Joe Johnson tossed in 22 points on 8-17 shooting. Jamal Crawford chucked up 5-16 shots on his way to 16 points but was only 2 for 8 from three point range.
The Hawks lost this game by allowing the Knicks to shoot 50.6% from the field and 66.7% from three point range. They lost because they allowed Danilo Gallinari to score 27 points on 9-14 shooting when his only offensive weapon is to catch and shoot. The Nets held the Knicks to 0-18 shooting from three point range on Sunday largely because they contested most of those shots. I can’t say the Hawks contested more than two or three of the Knicks 15 attempts on the night. That kind of effort defensively is not going to get the job done on a nightly basis particularly on the road against any team.
I’m growing tired of the roller coaster ride that this blog has become riding high after Hawks victories and falling off the cliff after losses. I am trying to look at this game simply as one of eighty two and nothing more. Still all of the problems that have plagued the Hawks over the last few games are still present. Lack of ball movement, lack of commitment to the inside game, questionable shot selection at key points throughout the game and now you can add another one that has become a trend. The Hawks look completely clueless against a zone defense right now. As Michael Cunningham pointed out in his pregame blog yesterday:
There’s even less player movement than normal, there are pointless passes around the perimeter and there are rushed shots. Woody has said most opponents back off the zone once the Hawks shoot them out of it. But what about those games like the two recent losses where they don’t shoot them out of it? Then it’s another “We missed good shots” lament after a defeat.
Clearly the Hawks have to figure out something else. So what exactly is the plan vs. a zone? “Good ball movement, attack the defense and penetrate and dish,” J.J. said after the loss to the Mavs. Sounds good. Now maybe the Hawks should try doing it.
To read that Coach Woodson said that opponents tend to back off the zone when the Hawks shoot them out of it clearly signifies our plan against the zone and really our offensive plan against any defense. What happens when those thirty footers don’t go in? Is there a back up plan? For some reason playing through Josh Smith in the high post is the back up plan. Odd since we completely dismantled a very good Utah team on their home floor while utilizing that strategy when they had switched to zone.
The Hawks have a couple of days to work on some things and will try and bounce back against the Wizards on Thursday in the make up from the game that was snowed out. It is a much needed rest and I hope they as a team will look to shore up some of these areas of concern before they head back out on the floor. Its true that the remaining games on the regular season schedule probably won’t make or break the Hawks down the stretch. They will win enough to hold their position in the East but it is crazy to think that they can continue into the playoffs and have these same breakdowns and expect to be successful.