Hawks Insider: Energy missing in listless loss
Was it jet lag?
Something went terribly wrong for the Hawks in their first game home from a successful (4-1) five-game road trip -- namely, the Memphis Grizzlies.
But it was more than just the opponent that seemed to do whatever it wanted against the Hawks at Philips Arena. The Hawks were certainly willing to fight to keep from losing a second home game this season, and they even did so deep into the first half. But they couldn't sustain the energy needed to stave off an ugly 96-77 beating at the hands of the Grizzlies.
If there is a compassionate bone in coach Larry Drew's body, he will chalk this one up to his team simply being out of gas after a long road trip.
But coaches are a notoriously unforgiving sort, and Drew is no different. When he sees his team hit the floor without the requisite energy and resolve, no amount of excuses will suffice.
"When you come off a road trip like that, the tendency is to have a letdown. I was afraid that would happen," Drew said. "We weren't sharp tonight, but I'm not going to blame it on the road trip. Everybody else has to do it. They go off on long road trips and come back home and play. We can't use that as an excuse. It started in the first quarter. That team just manhandled us. They played with a physicality, and we were a step slow on everything we did."
The Hawks led 13-6 early, but it was pretty much downhill after that with their two biggest stars (Joe Johnson and Josh Smith) both struggling to find their range against a deep and talented Grizzlies team that ended their three-game win streak.
The Hawks were listless and clearly exhausted from the grind of that trip, which sent them on a whirlwind tour, five games in eight days, without time for any significant rest.
But they are playing the same sort of schedule every other team in the league has been forced to play because of the lockout and the abbreviated season.
All of the ugliness that comes with that was on display in the Hawks' performance against the Grizzlies.
"We missed shots. But you're going to miss shots, and that's no excuse to give up easy baskets. They got to loose balls, and we were a step slow," Drew said. "We didn't get loose balls, we didn't box out, we didn't put bodies on people, and we played with no physicality. Teams that scrap like that, you have to match their physicality. If you don't, you're going to be in for a long night, which we were."
-The family reunion for the brothers Pargo was as surreal as it was rewarding. Big brother Jannero suited up for the Hawks and little brother Jeremy was in town with the Grizzlies.
It marked the first time the brothers had faced each other as professionals. And they had a few minutes late in a blowout game to stage a bit of a throwback game of driveway hoops in front of the scattered crowd that stuck around Philips Arena to watch the end of the game.
"It was fun. I would have liked it more under different circumstances," Jannero Pargo said. "But it was a fun moment to play against him and one that will last a lifetime. All summer we worked out together, and to come here and play against him in this arena in front of thousands of people, it was a dream come true."
When it was over they stood near center court with their arms draped around each others' shoulders, both of them beaming with pride at their accomplishment. It was not lost on Hawks vice president and Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, who had the pleasure of experiencing the same thing during his playing days with his brother Gerald in the league.
"There is absolutely nothing that tops that feeling," Wilkins said as he watched the brothers Pargo embrace. "Just making the league is the greatest achievement in your life a lot of times. But to be able to share that with your brother ... it's a truly unbelievable experience."
-The Grizzlies' ability to stymie the Hawks wasn't all catching a tired team in a trap game. They came into this one with a clear-cut plan for slowing the Hawks' big guns, and it worked.
Coach Lionel Hollins and his staff decided that the only way to take the Hawks out of the rhythm they were on during that road trip was to throw a few curves at them and see how they responded.
"It was a team effort. The defense was good from the start. Our effort and energy was good," Hollins said. "We turned the ball over three or four times early on and they got some baskets from that, but then we settled down after that. We put Dante Cunningham on Josh Smith and that took away the run-outs, and then we started executing. Our defense just took over after that. We got good shots, and we ran the court tonight. We had 21 fast-break points and 13 second-chance points, but that all came through our defense."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"We're not making excuses, but we just didn't have the size to match up with Gasol. We put (Zaza Pachulia) on him, and he did a good job, but it takes a team effort. We'll see how (Jason Collins') injury is and try to move forward as a team. But it's definitely a tough loss if he's out." -- Hawks guard Willie Green on the Hawks' depth issues in the frontcourt now that Collins has joined the injured list.