Tuesday, May 01, 2012

One Game In and Already Unpredictable

By Buddy Grizzard

Hoopinion's contributors went 3-on-3 to make predictions and preview the series between the Hawks and Celtics. But thus far, much of what we have seen has defied prediction. Here's a look at some story lines from Game 1 that we didn't see coming.

1. Rajon Rondo, not the Hawks, loses composure

Mind games from the Celtics are completely predictable and, according to Ivan Johnson, already underway. Johnson called Kevin Garnett a "dirty player" and accused him of throwing elbows. However, Rajon Rondo being the one to lose his composure and hurt his team was hard to see coming. Yes, he has a history as a hot-head and served a two-game suspension this season for throwing a ball at a ref. It's just hard to imagine a point guard with championship experience and championship aspirations having a meltdown such as we saw at the end of Game 1 with the Celtics' entire season on the line.

2. Jason Collins, beasting

In my article about lessons learned from Larry Drew's first postseason as a head coach, I listed Jason Collins among a group of "scrubs and washed-up veterans." Naturally he went out and had his best game of the season. If you haven't watched the Jason Collins mixtape, you haven't lived.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Hawks beat writer Michael Cunningham, in the link in the above section, did a great job breaking down Collins' work on defense by possession. MC's data shows that Collins did his best work early and struggled late.

Drew played Collins a season-high 32 minutes, and he was visibly winded when he checked out with 4:26 to play in the 3rd quarter. Collins checked back in with 9:56 to play in the 4th and Garnett went to work, scoring 10 points as the Hawks' double digit lead dwindled to 4. Had the refs called a jump ball rather than the foul on Brandon Bass that set Rondo off, the Hawks might have let this one slip away and wasted Collins' strong early effort.

3. Larry Drew admits fault

Covering the Hawks, for those who interview Drew regularly, must be like the marriage of an old couple who complete each other's sentences. Every flaw on the part of the Hawks can and will be attributed by Drew to a lack of "energy." Perhaps the most surprising development thus far was Drew telling MC that he made a mistake taking Ivan out in the 4th for jawing with a referee:
"I probably overreacted. I grabbed Ivan after the game walking through the tunnel and told him to give me a hug. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong about something."
Definitely did not see that one coming. I've never heard Drew accept blame for anything since he became head coach. By claiming that Ivan's conversation with the ref was not as serious as it first seemed, we also see the first effort by the Hawks organization to counter prevailing negative impressions regarding Hawks players. It's great to see this unexpected tactic from Drew because the Hawks are going to need Ivan no matter how well Collins plays the rest of the way. I just wish we could have seen a similar effort during a concerted Josh Smith All-Star campaign.

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