Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hawks 99, Bobcats 90

Weird game. Strange game. I woke up this morning confused and hazy about last night’s loss to the Hawks, similar to the way I used to wake up disoriented after an all-night drunken pub-crawl. A lot of occurrences seemed jumbled and nonsensical: Atlanta’s Joe Johnson was both breathtaking and horrible; Derek Anderson played significant minutes for us, and I didn’t realize he was even on our team; we were losing by 24 but we also couldn’t quite pull out the victory in the end; Okafor only played 15 minutes despite having no injuries or foul trouble; the Phillips Arena seemed to play only Muzak versions rap songs like “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and “Lose Yourself”—all in all, it was a dreamlike affair.

The start to the game was perversely fascinating: we didn’t score for the first 6:25 of the game, and we didn’t get our first field goal until just 4:10 remained, yet the 1st quarter ended with us only down 19-16. As it turns out, we were historically bad: by missing our first 13 shots, we set the NBA’s record this season for worst start to a game. And I’m not sure which is more depressing, setting the record or that when I found out, I could swear we’d had a much worse start in an earlier game this year.

We continued our putrid dreadfulness in the second quarter, and yet we managed to suck in a completely different way. When it comes to sucking, there really are no limits to our innovation. Actually, we put up 25 points and had only a couple turnovers, but no one will remember that, because this will go down in history as the quarter when Joe Johnson scored 21 points in seven minutes.* I’d probably spend longer reflecting in awe over such an accomplishment, except it’s not the first time it’s happened to us. In fact it isn’t the second, third, or fourth time (see Mike Miller, Wally Szczerbiak, Rashard Lewis, and Peja Stojakovic).

I will say this, though: a lot of people—including me—owe JJ an apology. Remember the belly laugh we all got when the Hawks acquired him at the beginning of last season? How soon we forget that before all the “Isaiah Thomas, Worst Executive in the History of Civilization” stories, the Atlanta Hawks had sole possession of being the NBA’s Most Farcical Franchise. Every article that wasn’t about how Atlanta had massively overpaid for JJ was about how their front office was all suing each other over the deal. And then, just for variety, there’d be an article about how stupid the Hawks were to pass on Chris Paul in the draft. Well, for laughing then, I guess I’m crying later…

Anyway, in the third quarter things fell apart for the Hawks, primarily due to the play of Raymond Felton (21 points, 7 assists), Sean May (21 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks), and…Othella Harrington and Derek Anderson? Huh? Anderson checked in from the planet Neptune and promptly launched an air-ball, causing color commentator Adrian Branch to chuckle and say, “I like what I’m seeing from Derek right now; even though he just shot an air-ball, you have to like his confidence.” I absolutely need more people like Adrian in my life; the man could find the bright side of a nuclear holocaust. But Adrian was onto something, because Anderson’s defense eventually not only shut down Johnson, it got in Joe’s head. Johnson began turning the ball over at a prodigious rate, became visibly frustrated, and by the fourth quarter we had gotten to within one point.

That’s when the Hawks’ other hero, PG Tyronn Lue, just took over. Despite not starting, Lue finished with 25 points and killed us in the end with his slashing drives. After our huge comeback, Lue’s dagger-in-the-heart performance was a morale-killer—the crowd was so sparse, it couldn’t even drown out the sound of Brevin Knight’s swears. Meanwhile, Gerald Wallace sat down dejectedly with a bruised hip, and Derek Anderson had this what-I-can’t-guard-everyone look on his face. I can only imagine that Nets coach Lawrence Frank went sleepless last night after he heard about how we played in this game. He probably thinks of his team's loss to us the night before as a bad dream.

*This, of course, is assuming one day someone rights a book on “Great NBA Quarters in History”—ball’s in your court, David Halberstram.

No comments: