Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hawks/Clippers: A Disjointed Retrospective

I just returned home from the Hawks/Clippers game at Philips Arena.  (I am a diehard Hawks fan, but I refuse to call our venue "The Highlight Factory" until we can at least make the Eastern Conference Finals.)  Since I'm still recovering from a truly ridiculous weekend (Thanks Kev!), I'm not going to get into my usual protracted jaunt.  Instead, please allow me a few scattered thoughts on the evening:

1. Philips really is a great place to watch a basketball game.  It's just the right size; there's not really a bad seat in the house.  There are bathrooms located directly off of every entrance to the seating area, so you never have to wander around the concourse looking for a place to ... uh ... go.  The layout of merchandise, food, and drink vendors also renders it unnecessary to travel more than 20 feet to get what you need.  Really just a well-designed joint all around.

2.  I had never seen Blake Griffin live and in person before tonight.  If you're a (non-broke) NBA junkie who goes to a ton of games, you're probably aware of what I'm about to say already.  If, like me, you're a (broke) NBA junkie who can't afford to attend games very often, or just don't quite care enough about hoops to go to the games, let me say this: Blake Griffin is MASSIVE in person.  I mean, ridiculously, Incredible-Hulk-like imposing.  Even in the layup line, casually messing around, he's a jaw-dropping sight.  When he's barreling into the paint with a rivet-busting head of steam, you preemptively recoil at the Richter-scale chaos that's about to be unleashed.

3.  I hate, hate, hate that Atlanta sports fans take all the crap we do from the rest of the world.  I hate that there's a basis for it more.  (I haven't checked attendance figures, but the arena tonight could not have been more than 65-70% capacity.  For a game against a marquee opponent.  Sheesh.)  I hate this.  Except when I'm getting tickets, that is.  I paid $160 total for two seats tonight.  Our seats were about fifteen rows up from the floor and midway between halfcourt and the stage-left basket.  I bought these on Friday.  Killer, killer location to watch the game.  Ashamed of my city's lack of full, unconditional love and support for our team and overall not liking the NBA all that much?  You bet.  Enjoying paying a relative pittance for phenomenally good seats to a game because my city won't fully, unconditionally love and support our team and doesn't like the NBA all that much?  Hell yes.

4.  Unrelated: Chipper Jones just crushed a homer.  He turned 40 today.  Happy birthday Chipper!!!!  I'm gonna miss ya, man!!!

5.  Watching Chris Paul in person, when you can really follow him without the TV producer's choice of shot focus and camera angles getting in the way, is watching quiet genius functioning at all times.  I know CP3 occasionally gets chippy and plays to prove a point, but mostly he just goes about the business of eviscerating people in a workmanlike fashion.   You recall a few choice moments, some nice dimes, some great drives to the rack, a few beautiful jumpers, but you almost never get the cumulative, incapacitating "whoah" effect that comes from watching a Kobe or LeBron.  Then you check the final stat line you go: HUH?  He did what?  When?  I knew he could and probably would.  I know he's the best pure point in the league, but HOW?  WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?!??!  Tonight, Paul put up a 34/8/5 with 2 steals and shot the lights out.  In a completely unobtrusive manner, he devastated the Hawks.  (Though my boys still won the game, thankfully.)  Good grief it is a joy to watch that man play basketball.

6.  Is their some sort of ethical taboo prohibiting athletes in completely unrelated sports from having the same nickname?  Because, if there is no such bylaw in the sports world, we need to give Ivan Johnson the "Honey Badger" sobriquet.  No offense to Tyrann Mathieu, but Ivan really is more deserving of this.  I watched tonight as Johnson (um, Honey Badger) gave Blake Griffin all he wanted on the defensive end.  His final line (6 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks) may not look like much, but trust me, he was in # 32's grill all night.  He shoved, he scrapped, he took Blake off his spots, out of his rhythm, and generally didn't give a damn about getting down and dirty and accruing a few fouls as long as he was bulldogging Griffin's every move.  When the playoffs start, Larry Drew needs to have the good sense to unleash him on KG for 20 minutes a game.  God, I love Ivan Johnson.  

7.  It's amazing how old T-Mac looks up close and personal.  Sad, really.  I know he's loathed around The Association for his (admittedly horrible and indefensible) quitting/choking on multiple occasions, but it's unnerving and depressing to see one of the greatest pure scorers of his generation reduced to what McGrady is now.

8.  Seeing it live really brought it home: We have zero, or possibly even a negative quantity, of depth in the paint.  Injuries have ravaged this team to near ineffectualness against certain opponents.  Ugh!!! 

9.  There are plenty of less-than-complimentary things I could say about Larry Drew, but credit the man for holding a fractured and injury-riddled team together these last few months.  Despite being decimated by various ailments to pretty much every key player at some point or another, we're still locked into the 5th seed.  Tip of the cap to you, Larry.

10.  Jeff Teague briefly transmogrified himself into Dwight Howard tonight, delivering two thundering blocks that absolutely set the joint off in fits of euphoria.  Also, he finished with 21 points.  Despite a paltry 2 assists, I'm still calling this a wonderfully fiery performance.

11.  Joe Johnson's final, ludicrous banker trey was beautiful.

12.  Dear Smoove: I love you dearly, and if we ever trade you I'll be royally upset, but seriously, knock it off with the outside jumpers.  That's not your shot, buddy.  Mostly because you just can't hit it consistently, but also because it pulls you out of position to grab rebounds.  With Al and Zaza gone, deep down in places we don't like to talk about at parties, we WANT you on that glass, we NEED you on that glass.  Please stop taking those shots.  Wreak havoc in the paint; it's where you belong, my friend.  (That said, kudos on throwing up an 18/5/10.  You are a golden god.)

13.  Please let Al Horford be at least semi-functional for the playoffs.

14.  Ditto for Zaza.

15.  I am deeply exhausted and really need to go to sleep.  Goodnight, moon.  Goodnight, room.  Goodnight, readers everywhere.  Peace.    

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