The Fast Break: Horford Helps Hawks Remain in Hunt
Posted Jun 16 2011 1:08PM
"The Fast Break" is a weekly NBA notebook column that features interviews, insight, international news and more. New every Thursday on NBA.com/fastbreak.
Secaucus, N.J. – The Atlanta Hawks have stood at the bottom of a hill each of the last three seasons. The mound in front of them is large and in prior years they’ve been tackling it like a Dodge Neon driving up Mount Everest at one mph. There’s not much luck in that approach. That aforementioned hill is the Eastern Conference semifinals, a series the Hawks were swept out of the two previous campaigns.
“In the past, we’ve been very prepared to be in the playoffs, but this year, it’s different,” said Hawks center Al Horford. “We’re looking for more as a team, and we’re really buying into what coach (Larry Drew) is preaching to us as far as our game plan – as far as how to attack certain teams.”
Drew’s approach is working in his first year at the helm. The Hawks knocked off the Chicago Bulls, 103-95, in Game 1, and then fell to them, 86-73, on Wednesday. Chicago, which finished the regular season with an NBA-best 62-20 record, picked up two of those victories against Atlanta. The wins weren’t close either: March 11, 94-76; March 22, 114-81.
“You can’t get caught up in the score,” Horford said. “That was great for our team, when we got blown out in Orlando and we stayed focused and were able to finish the series at home. I think it’s all about not getting caught up in the game. Whether you win or lose, you have to be able to move on and get ready for the next one.”
If you pull back the curtain to reveal what’s behind the Hawks’ successful playoff run this season, you’d learn it’s their experience. Forward Josh Smith, guard Joe Johnson and Horford have played together for four years. The team has been in the playoffs every one of them. As Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said recently, “Teams that have been together, the balls finds the right place.”
“It definitely pays off,” said Horford, who also credits teammates Marvin Williams, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague. “We just have the same chemistry – we know what certain guys are gonna do. It’s really helped out the team.”
Horford averaged a double-double (12 and 10) in Atlanta’s first round series against the Magic. Against Chicago, however, the University of Florida product has been more focused on defense than offense. He had nine points and 13 boards in Game 1, then six and 14 two nights later. Hidden by the numbers is the fact that Horford has been tasked with guarding two of the best centers in the league.
“(Dwight) Howard is more about power; Joakim (Noah) is more a player that hustles,” he said. “Noah’s an energy player. You have to be able to match his intensity to be able to compete. It’s about not letting him out-hustle you.”
That’s exactly what the Bulls did to Atlanta on Wednesday night. Time to pick up some speed.
Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings is taking over where Dwight Howard left off. Jennings will visit India from May 13 to 18 to promote the game of basketball…Celtics coach Doc Rivers added guard Carlos Arroyo (Puerto Rico) to the active roster for their series against the Miami Heat. Arroyo, who was held out against the New York Knicks, hasn’t made an appearance yet…San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter (Brazil) had a solid series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Splitter posted 6.7 ppg and 4.7 rpg in three appearances off the bench...Spurs guard Tony Parker (France) said he'll play for his home country in this summer's EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania...Luol Deng (Great Britain) scored 21 points with six rebounds in the Bulls' Game 1 loss to the Hawks...Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins (Latvia) will complete a physical and mental training program this summer in preparation of next season. Biedrins averaged five points and 7.2 rebounds in 59 games (55 starts) for the Warriors in 2010-11...Miami coach Eric Spoelstra is sticking with Zydrunas Illgauskas (Lithuania) as the team's starting center against Boston...The Gasol Brother Playoff Stats: Marc - 14.8 ppg, 12.1 rpg; Pau - 13.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg...Reports out of Detroit say Jonas Jerebko is ready to hit the floor again after seven months of rehab on a partially torn right Achilles...Houston Rockets reserve center Hasheem Thabeet (Tanzania) has been nominated in his home country for top athlete with a pro career outside of the Tanzania. The award will be handed out on Thursday...We now see how critical Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands) is to the success of the Spurs. With that, we also see how his age (Duncan turned 35 last month) could be coming into play. Duncan finished the Grizzlies series with nightly numbers of 12.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. That point total is about half of his career average.
Fire & Ice
•Zach Randolph: The Grizzlies center has been repaying them big time in the playoffs after they opened up their wallet for him last month. In Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, Randolph dropped 34 points and nabbed 10 rebounds. More impressively perhaps was that Randolph went 9-for-9 from the free throw line and made the only 3-pointer he took.
• Derrick Rose: Rose became the NBA’s youngest (22) Most Valuable Player on Tuesday. Rose picked up 113 out of 120 first place votes thanks to season averages of 27 points and 6.8 assists. He also has his team in the conference semifinals. If you haven’t seen Rose’s acceptance speech yet, it’s a must.
• Blake Griffin: Congrats to Griffin on taking home the 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year honor – as if it was even a contest. Griffin received all 118 first place votes, while Washington Wizards guard John Wall finished runner-up.
• Boston Celtics: Boston cruised into the semis by sweeping through New York. Now they’re in danger of being taken out in four games by the Heat. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have totaled 123 points in the series’ first two games, while Boston’s Big Three (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett) have 86.
• Ron Artest: Artest was going to be here even before he clotheslined J.J. Barea, possibly resulting in a suspension. In Game 1, Artest had just one point on 1-of-8 shooting, including 0-for-3 from downtown.
• Los Angeles Lakers: Center Andrew Bynum says the team has trust issues. So a team shooting for its third straight title has finally lost faith in one another? That sounds like a bad Vince Vaughn movie. The Mavericks are just running all over this team.
NBA StatsCube Cruncher
29- That’s the shooting percentage (2-7) of the Boston Celtics with LeBron James on the bench. They’re averaging 51 percent (24-47) with the former NBA MVP on the floor. (StatsCube Index)