1. The Hawks have defended Dwight Howard as well, if not better, than any other team in the league this season. What have Jason Collins and the other Atlanta bigs been able to do against Howard?
Honestly, I’m not really sure. Jason Collins nor Zaza Pachulia aren’t physically gifted players and they are certainly not the most athletic players, but they find a way somehow. I think one reason that they’re successful is that they’re not intimated by Dwight. Dwight is a 7 foot player who can jump over anyone, is physically stronger than everyone, and is someone who isn’t afraid to elbow you to get post position. And they’re not afraid of that. They like the challenge of having to slow down and frustrate Dwight. They love to bang with him. I’m guessing that their physical mentality and the fact that they do whatever they can to frustrate Dwight is the main reason why Dwight has struggled.
Also, it also helps that they’re excellent flopping big men.
2. Orlando’s mid-season acquisitions have gotten the hype, but the Hawks made a big move when they acquired Kirk Hinrich at the deadline. What has Hinrich brought to the team?
I wouldn’t call it a big move. Right now, it looks to be a lateral move. Kirk Hinrich obviously improves the Hawks’ perimeter defense by replacing Bibby with him, but he looks less comfortable than Bibby offensively. However, having Hinrich as opposed to Bibby running the point guard spot, gives the Hawks a better chance of winning against the Magic. Jameer Nelson had a great stretch late in the regular season and the Hawks have a better chance of slowing him down with Hinrich defending him. To answer the question, Kirk’s biggest attribute he brought to the team was perimeter defense.
3. Statistically, the Hawks have not been nearly as good as they were last season. What’s been their biggest problem?
I’m not sure if I can pinpoint one particular thing. Offensively, the Hawks are all jumpshooters, and living or dying by the jumpshot has killed the Hawks many times during the season. Defensively, the Hawks can be weak in either the perimeter or the interior defense in any given night. One night they show good perimeter defense but then the next night, they won’t. Same for the interior defense.
I guess to sum it up, consistency is probably the Hawks’ biggest problem. I don’t think anyone ever knows which Hawks team will show up. If I were a betting man, I would stay away from any game the Hawks are playing.
4. Atlanta enters the playoffs on a six-game losing streak. How big of a concern is that?
Somewhat concerned. If what a team does in the regular season doesn’t matter and if the fact that the Hawks beat the Magic 3-1 in the regular season doesn’t matter, why should the six game losing streak matter, right?
I’m assuming you’re the same way about the regular season series between the two. You recognize that the Hawks did beat them 3 to 1, but you’re probably still not that concerned about it because you know that Orlando still looks to be the better team. That’s the way I feel. I feel the Hawks are a lot better than the Hawks that played in the six game losing streak. The team just got complacent and didn’t really put any effort into the games since they already had the 5th seed locked up a long time ago.
5. What’s you key to a series victory is for the Hawks? What’s your prediction?
- It has to start with Dwight Howard, right?. The Hawks have to frustrate Dwight and let him work for every single shot and rebound. If the combination of Jason Collins, Zaza Pachulia, Al Horford, and Etan Thomas can do that, the Hawks will have a legit shot in winning this series.
- Don’t let the Orlando shooters get hot. There are a lot of Magic players that can shoot the ball and the Hawks have to limit the amount of open looks they get. Expecting every Orlando shooter to get cold from the field is a pipe dream, but if all of them are hitting jumpshot after jumpshot, the Hawks aren’t winning this series.
- Joe Johnson. We all remember what happened to Joe Johnson last playoffs vs. the Magic. He was basically shut down and put up one of the worst numbers an All-Star can put up in the playoffs. Joe Johnson can’t even think about having a bad offensive game, because if he’s struggling offensively, the whole team is struggling offensively. Joe has less offensive load to carry this season, but he’s still the key cog in this offense.
- Just show some effort and heart. That was the Hawks’ biggest problem in the late stretch of the regular season. It was a problem all season long, but it was at an all-time low during the last part of the regular season. Sure, locking up the 5th seed pretty early was probably the main reason, but it’s still a concern. I’m not sure if the Hawks will be able to just flip the switch and all of a sudden begin to play with more effort. The Hawks just have to be ready and show up and get ready to go into battle, because if they don’t, this Magic team will embarrass them two post-seasons in a row.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).
Topics: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Brandon Bass, Chris Duhon, Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, J.j. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Drew, Marvin Williams, Orlando Magic, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Stan Van Gundy