Nine games in 12 days. Seven of the first 11 games on the road.
What did the Hawks do to deserve this sort of schedule? Hawks coach Larry Drew couldn’t care less about the circumstances. He only cares that his players find ways to combat the fatigue that will accompany their every move during this compressed NBA season.
So on those nights like this one, when the Hawks can’t seem to find the energy to compete against a Houston Rockets team that outslugged them 95-84 at Toyota Center on New Year’s Eve, Drew is simply asking the requisite effort from his team.
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“They came out and played at a higher level than we did,” Drew said of the Rockets. “We didn’t fly around and contest shots. We reverted back into short closeouts. Our shot selection was not very good, either. The timing of shots were not good. It was just an off night all around. And we can’t have those.”
It certainly doesn’t help when one of the Hawks’ best players, Josh Smith, is enduring a mini-crisis of his own. Smith’s shooting struggles have lasted through the first six days of the regular season — he’s making just 37.5 percent (15-for-40) of his shots from the floor.
“That’s the least of our worries,” Marvin Williams said. “He’ll be fine. Our issues are bigger than any single one of us. We have to stick together through all of the ups and downs we are sure to experience. We do that and we’ll be fine.”
That pesky schedule notwithstanding, of course.
The Hawks kick off the New Year with a bang, facing games at Miami (Monday) and Chicago (Tuesday) before they’ll be allowed to even contemplate what comes next.
F Vlad Radmanovic has gotten off to a red-hot start, but he cooled considerably against the Rockets. He missed all five of his shots and played just 15 minutes in a game where the Hawks could have used an energy boost from their bench. But the Hawks knew he was a streaky performer when they signed him, so there should be no hard feelings.
G Jeff Teague was limited to only six points one night after he scored 22 in a win over the Nets. Teague will have to learn how to be effective on those nights when his shots aren’t falling and things aren’t going his way.
C Al Horford is four games into this season and is still searching for a signature, breakout moment. He played “OK” against the Rockets (15 points, 6 rebounds) but certainly was not the dominant inside-out presence the Hawks need him to be on a nightly basis.