Is the New Jersey Nets this year's New York Knicks as far as the Hawks are concerned? If you don't remember the Hawks lost three of four meetings to the Knicks last season including a famous explosion from Nate Robinson on New Year's Day. The Hawks clearly have the better team than the Nets like the Knicks last year, yet for whatever reason they have struggled at the Prudential Center this season.
Ugliness all around and several things that I question yet the fact remains that the Hawks didn't make the plays necessary to win the game. They started well with a 30 point first quarter with the ball movement and motion offense on full display. I noticed some comments in the game thread about the motion offense but the Hawks were running it early. If you don't believe me go back and watch it and see how many times they entered the ball to Al Horford or Jason Collins in the high post. That is the best indicator and when the opposing defense allows Atlanta to do so it looks like they are much more effective.
Turnovers played a huge part in the outcome of this game yet I did note that in the second quarter the Hawks seemed to move away from the motion. Perhaps they didn't completely but the first pass in the offense went to the wing a lot more. New Jersey also mixed in some zone defense in that second period but things clearly got stagnant for the Hawks offensively and it was something that stayed with the team the rest of the way.
Some familiar problems from the Hawks in this one and it again started with the bench. Offensively the team went south in the second quarter when mostly the second unit was on the floor. Perhaps that played a part into the starters playing so many minutes tonight. Clearly this was a game that they could have used a hot hand from the bench.
Now lets talk about the return of Joe Johnson to the Hawks lineup. First it has only been two games and we are essentially seeing the same thing we have saw from this team all season which has been inconsistency. So I am not going to pin that on Joe. I am surprised that he is back this fast just two weeks removed from surgery and how much the Hawks are leaning on him already. In two games Joe has shown that he is still probably the best passer on the team and that his jump shot still isn't falling with the regularity we have seen in the past. Joe looks great in the motion offense when the Hawks are actually running it. It takes five players to run a motion concept, it takes one to run an iso. I said it repeatedly last season that if a player goes into a one on one set, it still is not a reason for his teammates to stop moving and too often that is just what happens. Joe gets the ball and everyone else stops and watches.
Even all of this talk of offense masks what the Hawks real problem was which is an inability to defend night in and night out. I don't like Mike Bibby playing 43 minutes and I am unsure of Johnson playing 41 minutes after being out so long but can an argument really be made with the way the bench played today? Maybe Jeff Teague makes a lot of sense as Devin Harris was carving up the Hawks early but Bibby was one of the few Hawks that was making shots and coach Drew has said time and time again that he wants shot makers on the floor late.Would Teague have been able to get the Hawks into the offense?
What I do know is that this is the second stinker loss for the Hawks this week. The first came with an atrocious effort in Detroit and today wasn't much better. Give credit to New Jersey for playing well enough to win but these are simply games that this Hawks team can't afford to lose with the East Standings so tightly bunched.