With the Hawks dead on their feet after a triple-OT loss, and with the Bobcats pathetically unable to take advantage, Friday’s game should have been dubbed the Atlanta Zombies against the Charlotte Cripples. Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague—clearly still suffering from bite wounds the night before—was unable to penetrate, and the Hawks in general moved at an undead crawl (2 fast break points total), so their only chance of winning was going to be through long-distance 2’s and 3’s…which is exactly what they did. After the second quarter, it was bombs away for the Hawks from 15-feet and beyond. Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Vladimir Radmonovic, and most of all Joe Johnson (by the way, did you know he signed for $119 million for 6 years—119-for-6! To me, the story of JJ’s contract is like the story of Ron Paul’s insistence on returning to the gold standard: mocked frequently, yet still not enough) would love nothing better than to play this style anyway, and the Bobcats responded by doing everything but sealing off the perimeter, which is like shooting the oncoming walker everywhere but the head.
As for the Cripples, Charlotte’s entire effort was deserving of a wheelchair: three times the Hawks grabbed the offensive rebound off their own missed free throw, and all three times they scored afterward. The last time was the dagger (or perhaps the crutch-snatcher), as it led to a Johnson 3-pointer that put the Hawks up 98-91 in OT. I was also amazed to learn that the Hawks had just 8 steals, because I thought Boris Diaw threw at least that many passes to Josh Smith alone. Though our offense has shown some nice balance, the defense has been happy to let opposing teams park right in the handicap spot.
After the Atlanta game, coach Paul Silas revealed to Rick Bonnell that moving Byron Mullens to starting center was “definitely under strong consideration.” I would have preferred if Silas had used slightly more decisive language, such as “screamingly obvious.” After all, Mullens went 8-for-13 for 17 points, 5 boards, and a block in just 24 minutes against Atlanta, plus he was the only Bobcat with a positive +/- after the DJ’s, White and Augustin. Overall, he’s second on the team in FG% and fourth in scoring, despite averaging half the minutes of the other leaders. So yes, I know we’ve got a crack starting 5 and all, but I think Silas might be onto something.
Instead, it must have been Silas’s evil twin talking. Not only did Mullens not start against Indiana (Gana Diop was out there, making it look as if Pacers center Roy Hibbert was being chased by the ghost of Robert “Tractor” Traylor), his minutes actually went down. Though he inexplicably missed four shots in the paint, he still posted a double-double, and he was even the one whom Hibbert tripped on to sprain an ankle, giving the team temporary life in the third quarter. Silas was so moved by Mullens’ performance that he benched him to start the 4th for Bismack Biyombo and didn’t let him back in until the game was effectively over.
The rest of the team might as well have sat for the entire second half. Indiana recovered from an 8-point deficit at intermission to cruise to an easy 22-point win. George Hill exposed the Bobcats’ significant defensive flaws as if they were his own genitals on a cell phone. Meanwhile, Danny Granger is Exhibit A for critics who wish LeBron James would develop a post-up game. He and the rest of the wave of Indiana bigs (Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, and David West) were too much to handle.
Silas was frustrated afterward. “We didn’t play tough,” he told reporters. “They banged us and we didn’t respond.” This is technically not true. Gerald Henderson got whistled for angrily throwing a diving Hill off of his back (though I thought Pacers announcer Austin Croshere’s description of the move as a “body slam” was a bit much) and later an offensive foul for swinging his elbows. The real problem was that the offense dissolved in the form of 33% shooting overall, 22% in the second half. Honestly, I was much angrier about the Hawks game. I guess I can only get so upset at losing to the Pacers nowadays. Let’s face it: they’re a much better team. And bigger. And not just on cell phones.