On this young season, the Hawks are coming into the Blazers game 3rd in the league in pace behind only perennial run and gunners Golden State and Phoenix. The Blazers are 27th.
We are so early in the season looking at trends is a bit ridiculous. The Blazers were dead last in 2008-2009 so their numbers are no aberration. They execute and enjoy playings in a very slow, half cout style. However, the Hawks are up almost 12 possessions per 48 minutes. Part of that is playing other faster teams (the Pacers and Lakers are in also in the top ten), part of it is turning it over too much or getting turnovers, and part of it is the Hawks have actually picked up the pace. So yes, it remains ridiculous to categorize the Hawks as a certain style, but I think one of the keys to the game will be the Hawks keeping up the trend they have set so far of playing at a faster pace.
The Hawks have never shown any ability to stop Brandon Roy. Actually, Josh Smith guarding him in the fourth quarter of the first game last year made it abundantly clear they don't even know how to stop him. And with Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla guarding the rim, the offensive and defensive end could be very difficult for the Hawks to invade the paint with any effectiveness. It could quickly move to that bogged down half court game we love so much full of one on one basketball. Unless Atlanta can get Portland's bigs in foul trouble, I could easily see a slow game turn into the Hawks settling for jump shots, and Atlanta is simply not good enough in their offensive sets to get good looks that way enough times down the court.
Really though, beyond speculative mathups, a slowed down pace might work for certain guy on Atlanta, but we know it works for Portland. It is their style. If the Hawks can disrupt that rhythm, it seems only logical. And disrupting rhythm is what you want to do on the road.
The problem is I am not sure the Hawks can run. They have done it sporadically with mixed success over the years. But the key for them is always on the defensive end. They have to make stops and then push the pace. Atlanta is not good enough offensively to simply outscore anyone. And they have just never been a team that seems to be able to combine both elements on a consistent basis. For every Wizards game, there is a Lakers game.
The make up of this team with Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson may not lead to running every game. We may not have the discipline on both ends of the floor to make that the team's go to style of play. But for this game, a game that is not a must win or even an expected win, I would love to see a commitment to setting the tone with a fast pace. If the Hawks want to win on the road, they do not need a specific style of play above another, but they need a commitment to some style every night.
With Portland, it makes sense to clamp down, grab the board, and run your guts out for four quarters. We will see if the Hawks have any interest in either of those things tonight.