The Hawks took to the practice floor Thursday after a gritty, 14-point comeback win over the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night. Coach Larry Drew had the players go through plays and sets to refocus as they prepare for the Heat Friday night. Drew said today was more of, "a mental and recovery day," and that the first half of practice was spent watching film before the guys got out and went through plays. Some of the players that haven't seen the floor as much played some two-on-two and three-on-three before film, but other than that it was a lighter practice with limited contact to allow guys to recuperate.
Looking back at the first week, the Hawks identity has clearly changed, and this team has a very different feel than in previous years. The team concept has been universally accepted, as Josh pointed out last night, "nobody's bucking the system," and the Hawks have a lot of trust in each other at the end of games. Jeff Teague talked about the team's chemistry this year, and how the belief they have in each other on the court stems from a better bond with one another off the court.
"We've got a chemistry now, guys like each other. I mean guys stay after practice, hang out with each other, shooting around, playing games. That's something that since I've been here we've never had and it's a little different, well, it's a lot different. I think everybody's buying in...I think [the belief] comes from off the court. Hangin with each other, we started liking each other and we believe in each other now because we became friends not just teammates. That's the biggest thing, I know when I see DeShawn open or Lou open or one of those guys I have confidence in them to make the shot, not because I've seen them make plenty of shots, but because we're friends off the court and I believe in them. Like last night, Smoove came up to me and said, ‘I believe in you, and that's why I kicked it out to you," and that's just a great thing."
That chemistry can be seen every day after practice when almost every player on the roster stays after to work on their shots with each other. Korver and Morrow almost always are the last ones in the gym having competitions on the far end of the floor(full story on that to come next week), while DeShawn, Jeff, and Lou have the most entertaining three-point competitions on the near court (their trash-talking is hilarious/can't be repeated). The big men work on one of the side hoops on both inside and outside game, while the rookies are on another (Scott and Jenkins have become very good friends).
As for their game against the Heat on Friday, the Hawks have to refocus after playing a physical battle against the long and tall Pacers. The Heat present a very different challenge as Drew noted, because of their speed and one-on-one ability on the outside, but he felt that the Hawks actually matchup better with the Heat than the Pacers.
"Well their speed and quickness [present issues], matching up when they go small, especially with LeBron at the 4. A lot of good one-on-one ball players, a lot of guys that can break you down off the dribble, and their big, particularly on the road, with momentum plays. It's very similar to our thought process against when we played Oklahoma [City], we have to try and limit as many momentum plays as we can, but with that being said, we can't respond to a run in a negative way. We have to match runs and maintain our focus...That's kind of what we are. We are more of an up-tempo team with our traditional lineup, we match up I think a little bit better with their lineup, but they're as good as there is in the league in the open court."
Drew would not say what lineup he will go with against the Heat, and did not rule out the possibility of the big lineup, but it seems more likely that he will start a group that looks more like the opening night lineup of Teague, Harris (possibly Stevenson), Korver, Smith, and Horford against the smaller Heat.