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now you know…


Mike Bibby had his defining game as a Hawk Tuesday vs. Chicago

Mike Bibby had his defining game as a Hawk Tuesday vs. Chicago

ATL 105 CHI 102: If you wondered why the Hawks traded for Mike Bibby right before last year’s trade deadline, now you know.  If you wondered if the Hawks need to resign the veteran point guard after this season, you better know.  Mike Bibby was up to his old tricks Tuesday night in Chicago, single handedly willing the Hawks to a victory over a young but competitive Bulls squad.  Bibby poured in 31, a sizeable amount of which came from the outside deep down the stretch.  Bibby nailed four of the Hawks last five baskets, all clutch jumpers which he created nearly by himself.  Perhaps Bibby has slowed since his Sacramento days, but he still has that magic and veteran savvy this Hawks team not only craves but needs. 

Anyone could see it in his eyes down the stretch: Bibby knew he was having an “on” night and he was conducting his teammates to simply move out of the way.  Bibby put the final dagger in the Bulls with 18 seconds remaining, driving hard on Joakim Noah only to step back and drop a deuce right in front of the UF alum.  Not only was the point guard  rainbowing jumpers from outside, but he was also exceptional on the defensive side of the basketball.  Bibby had five steals, three of which came from “laying in the weeds” as Bulls announcer Stacey King so aptly put it.  Bibby baited two outlet passes and one pass across halfcourt, only to “jump” and intercept them.  His halfcourt steal was the largest, as it occurred in the waning moments of the fourth when the Bulls could have cut the lead further or tied. 

With the injuries to Horford and Williams, the Hawks needed a big night from their backcourt and they got it.  It was clear from the start that both Bibby and Johnson wanted to assert themselves on the offensive end.  Johnson proved relatively ineffective, finishing the night 5 for 18 and missing some wide open jumpers he typically can be relied upon to make.  (Johnson, however, did well hounding Derrick Rose on the defensive end, who had a relatively quiet night when it was all said and done.)  Bibby, on the other hand, got hot early and never stopped.  He dropped 17 in the first half and kept the Hawks in the game as the Bulls started to pull away with a small lead in the middle of the second.  Until the injuries to the Hawks’ key players heal, the team has no choice but to rely on heavy minutes from their backcourt and Josh Smith.  Bibby will need more games like Tuesday for the Hawks to weather the current storm, but if his performance against the Bulls was any indication, perhaps the Hawks are equipped to ride out the current injury bug smoother than in year’s past. 

PACHULIA CHIPS IN: Although the Georgian back-up had a brutal stretch in the middle of the fourth in which he blew an easy dunk, almost was charged with an offensive foul and then travelled (this all in two possessions), Pachulia for the most part played an outstanding game.  The center dropped in an efficient 18 and 4 in 39 minutes and was the Hawks second leading scorer on the night.  Aside from a rocky start to the season, Pachulia has been a relative model of consistency.  Perhaps this wouldn’t seem surprising to the average fan, but Hawks fans definitely have to be pleased.  While Horford’s return is imminent, Pachulia will continue to play a big role down the stretch and he must remain consistent.

GARDNER NOT CONVINCING:  For the second game in the row back up guard Thomas Gardner earned playing time and for the second game in the row he put up an airball.  This time it was from a three at the top of the key, which badly missed.  Although replays showed that the ball was not tipped, it badly missed the rim by a solid two feet.  Gardner partially redeemed himself by hitting one three in the game, but his comfort level is clearly not there.  In his defense, however, there has been an extreme pressure to perform and Gardner has to know his window of opportunity is just a sliver wide.  

PLAYING FOR THE BULLS?: Oh boy.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Chicago Bulls television announcers Neil Funk and Stacey King won’t be petitioning for the team to bring in Flip Murray at the end of this season.  The tagteam announcing duo kept asking “which team Murray was playing for” after Murray went on his typical mind-numbing rampage of poor shots, horrendous fouls, and turnovers.  Murray finished the night 4 for 13 with a +/- of -13, including a crucial missed shot with 3:15 remaining in the fourth that he had no business taking.  Ouch.  Murray’s worst play of the day?  His inbounds pass with 3.5 seconds on the clock, where he tried to loft the ball over Ben Gordon to Maurice Evans with the Hawks up 105-101 and the game seemingly in hand.  Woody looked as if he was about to blow a gasket on the sideline after the errant pass and stormed off the court after the game.


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upper echelon?


The Hawks still won despite an off night from Mike Bibby.

The Hawks still won despite an off night from Mike Bibby.

GS 99 ATL 115: It wasn’t the prettiest game ever, but the Hawks took care of business against the defensively challenged Warriors on Friday night.  This was my first real look at the Warriors and I was amazed with their non-chalant approach to playing the game.  They take poor shots, play absolutely no defense, and rarely try to contest shots.  

Despite the Warriors poor play, the Hawks were still scratching and clawing their way to the victory mark late in the third quarter before making a breakaway.  A breakaway that was in fact fueled by a bench player.  (Surprise)  Flip Murray came off the bench to drop 20 and help push the Hawks to a 16-10 mark. 

The Warriors were fielding what looked like a JV team Friday.  Starters Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette were out of action due to injury and former starter Monta Ellis is still recovering from a devastating off-season injury.  That left heavy minutes for the likes of Marco Bellinelli, Kelenna Azubuike and Anthony Morrow.  Bellinelli and Morrow played surprisingly well, each showing strong outside shooting.  Bellinelli dropped a game high 27 points, but didn’t do it solely from long distance.  He was able to attack the rim and in one instance went right at Marvin Williams for a one handed reversal. 

Perhaps the Warriors remind some of the Hawks of old, but I’m not sure I quite see it.  Even in the first couple of years of the rebuilding process under Woody, the Hawks at least tried to play defense.  Moreover, the Hawks had a go to offensive player in Joe Johnson after the Phoenix trade.  I’m not sure the same can be said of the Warriors, although Stephen Jackson could arguably come close.  My point being while the brand of basketball the Warriors play may be fan pleasing and exciting to watch, I question whether it can ever be successful long term.  The Hawks are finally in the upper echelon in the East; I doubt we will the say the same of the Warriors in three years. 

RONDO’S LEGITIMACY: Watching the Hawks-Celtics game Wednesday night, the one player that really stuck out at me was Rajon Rondo.  He is a game changer and a humongous part of what the Celtics do on both offense and defense.  Although the big three are clearly aging, they have received a strong boost from their young point guard, whose uncanny ability to attack the basket on offense and disrupt plays on defense remains a perfect fit for the defending champions.  The Celtics are definitely beatable this season.  But they have all the makings of a seasoned, playoff tested team who can will themselves to win – on the home or on the road.  The last three minutes of Wednesday’s game resembled a boxing match in the 12th round, with each fighter exchanging blows again and again.  Kevin Garnett was nearly unstoppable, while Joe Johnson nearly proved to be his equal match until his final missed free throw.  Say what you want about Joe missing that shot, but I wouldn’t want anyone else on that line.  I guarantee you Joe will be back on the line in the final moments of another game this season: he won’t miss that same shot again.


Filed under December (Atlanta Hawks)

playing with fire

It didn’t make headlines, but Zaza Pachulia’s DNP on Saturday night vs. the Wizards definitely bears at least a blog discussion. For those who missed it, Pachulia logged his first DNP of the season, even though the Hawks were still without the injured Josh Smith. That’s right, Zaza played exactly zero minutes. What makes Woody’s decision even more confusing is that Zaza was coming off arguably his best game of the season, logging 17 rebounds vs. the Raptors. (I wrote about Woody’s decision not to play Pachulia in the fourth quarter of that game, which also did not make sense at the time) Zaza dominated against the Raptors, piling up more than half of his rebounds on the offensive end.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into Woody’s decision to sit Pachulia in favor of Solomon Jones and a smaller line-up against the Wizards. (Sekou Smith disagrees with my take) But, really, are we supposed to believe that it’s just coincidence Pachulia got benched for five consecutive quarters? It’s not like Antonio McDyess was playing in front of him. It was Solomon Jones – a guy who has been a benchwarmer for most of his time in his league and although more effective this season, still lacks the necessary seasoning to see regular minutes.

Adding more fuel to the fire is Woody’s already dicey relationship with Pachulia. The two have not agreed on Pachulia’s inconsistent minutes, and it showed in the big man’s at times lacksidasical performances last season. Pachulia was able to turn it on in the heat of the playoffs, but that fire was missing for the better half of the 07-08 season.

Even if I’m wrong, and Woody really just wanted to play the matchups vs. the Wizards, doesn’t this seem like an odd coaching move if not for anything other than pure chemistry reasons? Pachulia has already proven that he needs positive reinforcement from his head coach to maintain his fragile psyche. But what does it say to a player when he comes off a dominating performance only to ride the pine for an entire contest? While I’m not the biggest Pachulia fan, so long as the Hawks roster doesn’t change, he occupies a large role on a squad which simply put, lacks depth. Woody may be getting a little too cute for his own good and soon could start to lose the confidence (and loyalty) of a key player.

BIBBY MAXING OUT: Lost in the Hawks 11-6 start has been the improved play of point guard Mike Bibby, who in a contract year is seeing his dollar figures rise by the minute (Bibby might not get $14+million/year again, but the dude can try can’t he?) Bibby never seemed to fully get it together last year, struggling soon after his trade to the Hawks and into the playoffs. Perhaps his reduced output had something to do with a multitude of injuries, including a sore thumb which kept him out for months in Sac-town and a bruised heel which he suffered in his first game as a Hawk in a blowout loss to the Lakers. Bibby’s injuries and lukewater play were exposed vs. the Celtics, where the “longer” Rajon Rondo (along with the Boston crowd) terrorized the playoff vet.

After using the off-season to recuperate, however, Bibby has come back blazing. He’s shooting 47% from the field and almost 45% from behind the three point arc. Moreover, he has significantly reduced his turnovers, averaging nearly one less a game in the same amount of minutes (2.5 vs. 1.5 a game). Bibby has been so strong at the point, in fact, that only five in the league rank ahead of him according to Hollinger’s PER (one being Jason Terry, who is more of a SG than a PG). Paul, Parker, Harris and Billups all rank ahead of Bibby, and all – except Harris – are considered “elite” point guards. (People – including the point guard’s own GM – are starting to take notice of Harris’ play by the way, who torced the Hawks in back to back nights.) While Bibby may never be considered a “true” point, perhaps it wouldn’t be out of the question to categorize his play as “elite” this season.

NFL PICKS: This blog isn’t about the NFL, but I thought I would throw out some picks for this Sunday’s games. I put some money down in Vegas on the following three games:

Baltimore -6 OVER Ravens

NY Giants -8.5 OVER Philly

New England – 4.5 OVER Seattle

And just for good measure, let’s not forget about those Falcons, who are rising from the ashes to alleviate all the pain from seasons’ past. They are three point dogs in New Orleans, and at this point, isn’t it hard to bet against Matt Ryan?

Atlanta +3 OVER New Orleans

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