Last nights debacle, has given plenty of reason for anger, depression, doubt, and all those other knee jerk emotions that come with your team being beat in every stage of the game and after the beating was thorough enough, getting beat some more. The phrase "reign blows upon your head" comes to mind. I have said it in jest many a time. Now I know what it looks like. So all our worked up feelings are rightfully there. If you feel reassured after this loss, there are some problems, but lets have some perspective. This is a team in the Magic that was borderline desperate, and they came out an executed like it was the case.
Check out the post game quotes,
"That's about as happy as I've been with a regular-season win in a long time," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We just needed to get a win so we can all get a good night sleep and get the monkey off our back."
"Everybody's been down a little bit," Anderson said. "We really needed that one."
Now granted Stan Van Gundy's happy is most peoples' borderline depression, but you get the point. This was a team that needed a win. They were at home, against a team that matches up horribly against them, and they hit all their shots. Throw in better execution and a better game plan, and the result is still embarrassing for Atlanta, but it is not the end of the world. If you go in expecting a loss, is it that big of a deal that you lost by 30? Maybe it is, but I don't look at point margin of one game as that big of a deal. Especially when Atlanta has one of the best in the league over the entire season. If the Hawks fall apart the next two months, make fun of me for thinking differently. Atlanta is far from a perfect team, last night that was demonstrated. But really all this game did for me was make it clear, I don't want to see Orlando in the second round of the playoffs. And honestly, I already knew that.
On our Coach
What this game does show is the Hawks still can't take a punch. The good news is they are so much better individually and as a team, they rarely take more than a glancing blow most games. But if a team comes out and executes with a better game plan, there is no semi-elite team in the league that gives up easier on their own plan than the Hawks.
This is nothing short of a Woody problem. More often than not, the Hawks do not see their game plan shut down as much as they freak out about it working and move to one on one offense with little ball movement and lots of jump shots. And when the game plan is actively stopped, there is no counter move. Ever. Ever. As in never.
Don't believe me? Cuing Al Horford,
"I think our guys got a little discouraged. They were going to the basket and Dwight was blocking their shots. We have to stay after a team and a shot blocker like that. I think the guys started to settle and take jump shots. They took us out of what we wanted to do and they went to the other end, and we couldn’t stop them."
We all knows this though. Blowouts just remind us that is the case. Some it has to do with the skill of the players around the team. Some nights they just do not have the touch and their natural ability cannot overcome cold shooting. People could argue that is a player issue for wandering from the game plan, but the coach controls the players, and I can't say I have seen anyone yanked from the game not named Acie Law or Jeff Teague for going against coaches orders.
Still, where Woodson's failure to coach in the game seriously boggles the mind is on defense. This part of the game is where he actually firmly imposes his game plan. Woody switches on every screen. At its best, the strategy forces some chaotic ball handling and over dribbling. It keeps screen and rolls covered up and takes massive advantage of the Hawks length and athleticism. It works a lot. It has worked more probably this year than any other. Shoot, sometimes it covers up Mike Bibby's defensive liabilities. Still, it is every damn time. I have used a 1,000 analogies for how doing something the same way ever time is horrible but why not another?
Greg Maddux had one of the best change ups of all time. It took advantage of his skill set of locating pitches, moving the ball, and knowing when to throw it in the count. The last one being the most important. If Maddux threw the changeup every time, his career would have lasted about 20 innings. It is too easy to adjust even when the actual strategy is an advantage.
Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post was in the post game locker and graciously passed along this snippet of a Q&A with Ryan Anderson,
"It looked like Stan wanted to get you and Rashard more involved in the post. Is that a point of emphasis with him, or is that just because Atlanta was switching all those screens?"
Anderson responded, "It was part of our gameplan, really, because they were switching. But, if somebody's goin', like if Rashard has a switch and really scoring, really putting the ball in the hoop, he [Van Gundy] likes to run plays to really send him down in the post, especially if teams are going to switch. That switch really kinda made it be easier to post up smaller guys and get open shots in the post."
You may not get Golden State in the film room figuring out the exact way to defeat the screen switch, and there might be some teams that just do not have the personnel to counter it. But you are going to have some who see the strategy and counter it. If the Hawks say, oh well that is our game plan, they are probably in for at least two more big losses to the Magic.
It should go without saying but I will say it anyway. Imposing your game plan means succeeding, not staying the course or switching for nothing at all. It means countering and trusting. Too often we see stubborn and disbelief. Many of us wonder why these kinds of losses produce the same quote book of excuses, "bad energy" and "poor focus." It is probably because it is easier on the wallet to say those than "I don't trust the offensive game plan" or "The only game plan we have is to switch on every screen."