Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hawks 97 Celtics 92



Down 16-3, with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen making threes for fun, the Hawks without a field goal (Had they still failed to get a shot up to the rim at that point?) and the denizens of Section 109 begging the referees for a call, any call, to serve as intercession between one basketball team that looked powerful and one that looked weak, you could have offered me ridiculous odds, mathematically and probabilistically unsound odds, on the Hawks winning Game 4 and I would have turned you down meekly. I recognized the part of me that prepares myself for calm acceptance of an unwished for result taking control as it did when Derrick Rose banked in a fall-away 19-footer as the shot clock expired with four minutes left in that game three Mondays ago.

This part of me is having a very bad April.

The Hawks had the lead before the first quarter was over (In the first quarter, Marvin Williams: -11 in 6:04; Josh Childress: +16 in 5:56. Why in the world did Marvin play the first 8:36 of the second half? Cheers to Doc Rivers for leveling the playing field by keeping Eddie House on the court for more than half of the fourth quarter.), kept the lead through the half (Despite a lengthy appearance from Solomon Jones, who, credit due, on the final play of the first half spared the blushes of the man who is to defensive stoppers what Royal Ivey was to point guards), suffered a (familiar) scoring drought throughout the third quarter, but came out in the fourth quarter playing tremendous defense (Boston scored 5 points in the first 9:20 of the fourth) and doing something subtly different offensively.

I don't know what that difference was. Joe Johnson had the ball a lot in his brilliant fourth quarter, but he had the ball a lot in the ineffective third quarter. If anybody studied this on their DVR, please share your thoughts. Johnson, to be sure, made some tough shots in the fourth quarter but his shots were, for the most part, contested by the Celtics after he got to a dangerous position off the dribble. That's not how the Hawks offense normally functions in the fourth quarter of a close game against a good opponent. Consider this an item for further study.

A fleeting thought must also go (on this off day at least) to what degree a consistently vital home court atmosphere could help this franchise next year and beyond. I've already got the Hawks penciled in for a 2- or 3-win improvement simply from a coaching upgrade (Now that my first choice appears to be off the market, I'll throw out a crazy suggestion: Sam Cassell...the game recap will now resume.) and maybe another win if they bother to fill the back end of the bench with actual NBA players. Could a revitalized Philips Arena provide further opportunity for improvement?

Other people's thoughts from around the web...

Braves and Birds:
While the Hawks had a few terrific individual performances last night, they still don't run anything approaching a coherent offensive system. That works when Joe Johnson is absolutely unstoppable, but I'd like to see more movement and structure from this team. That said, you can't fault Mike Woodson last night for simply riding a hot hand. A lot of coaches would have screwed that up by complicating was was a very simple situation: Boston could not guard our best player, so our best player should get the ball on every possession.
Behind the Boxscore:
Listen, these Hawks are better than their 37-45 regular season record. Joe Johnson had absolutely no lift for the first 45 games of this season, and Mike Bibby's essentially average play is a huge increase over the Tyronn Lue and Anthony Johnson. Atlanta, for intents and half-hearted purposes, started playing for keeps in mid-February.

This is a pretty good team that is playing its best offensive ball of the season while slowly sneaking back to the defensive ideal that won it so many games earlier this year. I was too flip in saying that the Celtics would win "in two," and there's no shame in Boston splitting two in Atlanta.
Hawks BasketBlog:
From where we were coming home after Game 2 to where we are now, it's just night and day. I'm trying to think of an adjective to describe the win and the energy in the building, but the Thesaurus is failing me, so I am forced to make up my own words. It was spectnomenal. It was fantasterful. It was ricoculous.
The Vent:
Believe it or not ZA ZA Pachulia set the tone for this win tonight. About midway through the 2nd quarter KG elbowed him and ZA ZA ran up in his face and put his forehead against KG's forehead and let him know that it was not going to go down like that! We aint scared of the stinkin Celtics, and it's high time they realize that!
Josh Smith:
"People were acting like we were supposed to be some charity case but we felt all along that we belonged. They bested us in [Games 1 and 2 in] Boston. We can't erase that. But this is a series now, a real series."
Jeff at CelticsBlog:
As a Celtics blogger and a self appointed voice of Celtics fans everywhere, I'm supposed to have something to say about all this. But I have to admit that I'm still dumbfounded. I don't know if I'm supposed to sooth people's fears and assure them that everything's going to be alright or if I should be slamming on the panic button and declaring a threat level green in Celtic Nation.
Steve Weinman at CelticsBlog:
The stats are impressive enough -- that the man outscored the league's best team on his own in the fourth quarter, by a 20-17 count -- but the box score will never convey the feeling that came with watching Joe Johnson do his work last night.

So while we take the next day and a half to wonder what the boys in green need to do to get their mojo back, it's worth taking a few moments to pay some homage to an opponent's performance that was truly exquisite.

Heck of an effort, Joe. Just don't let it happen again, and we'll be good to go.
Peter May:
And watching Johnson slice and dice through the Boston defense is going to give Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau a couple of sleepless nights. Johnson was LeBron-esque, going around people, falling back, leaning forward, making shot after shot after shot. Where on earth was the help? Where on earth was a double-team to take the ball out of his hands? Why did the defense, when it was there, steer Johnson into open areas instead of into some guy with a green jersey, as is normally the case?

"It will be interesting to watch the film to see what we didn't do," said Ray Allen, who was charged with guarding Johnson, but more often than not was running into Mike Bibby picks when the clear-outs started. And that's what they were. This wasn't Hawks coach Mike Woodson calling plays. This was Johnson taking over.
For more Celtic-centric blog reaction, click here.

Marc J. Spears:
The Celtics arrived in Atlanta a few days ago believing they would wrap things up here in this first-round series, one step taken toward their dreams of a 17th NBA title. In a stunning turn of events, however, they leave here itching for the comfortable confines of Beantown, in a situation where they could become part of nightmarish history.
Sam Cassell:
"Basketball is a strange thing. Strange things happen."
Game 6 tickets are on sale. I'm not getting anything from posting that link. Attending last night's game was as fun and exciting as any sporting event I've been lucky enough to witness in person. If you're dithering, let me encourage you to go the game Friday night.

Ballhype: hype it up!


Drew Ditzel said...

About half way through the fourth quarter, I bit my rally towel in half.

i have decided that game was pretty sweet.

good to see you holding down the fort in the section next to me. I think i am going to buy you a jersey for fridays game...

CoCo said...

Great recap as usual Brett! That game was AWESOME!

Anonymous said...

I am tempted to pile on Marvin Williams, but instead I'll just savor what a great win these past 2 games have been (with a little luck David Stern will do the Hawks the favor of suspending Marvin for game 5 anyway for leaving the bench during the Zaza skirmish). Making the playoffs has turned out to be worthwhile after all. I never saw that coming after the Hawks couldn't beat the Celtic's 2nd team at home the last weekend of the regular season when they hadn't yet clinched a playoff spot.