Hawks coach Mike Woodson has been preaching it since the day he took over nearly four years ago. Defense."That is the key," Woodson said. "If we plan on making the playoffs, we better get back to defending and rebounding."
If the Hawks plan on holding onto their postseason grip in the Eastern Conference standings, they'd be wise to heed Woodson's words.
"Every time that we get a chance to position ourselves to go up on a team a game or two, we always tend to take a step backward," said guard Joe Johnson, who scored 28 against the Rockets in 45 minutes. "Somehow we have to find a way to separate ourselves a little bit and really try to get a spot in the playoffs."
Since the All-Star break, the Hawks have been hemorrhaging points on uncontested lay-ups and from behind the three-point line. Before holding Houston to 83 points Wednesday, they had given up 100 or more in nine of 13 games. One of the low points was yielding an embarrassing 74 points in the first half against Orlando on Monday.
With 17 games left, Woodson's tune hasn't changed. He's still preaching about defensive stops as the way to the playoff promised land.
"All of the teams that are in the playoff hunt and are playing good basketball, that's what they are doing," Woodson said. "I know, just from past experience, you win -- especially when you get in the playoffs -- with your defense and rebounding the ball. We've had some slippage in terms of our defense and rebounding.
"We've been trying to outscore people, and that's not good."
HAWKS 117, CLIPPERS 93: Defense and rebounding finally showed back up for the Hawks Friday night.
But they didn't stop their high-scoring ways against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Hawks, fighting for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, came out as the aggressor and cruised to a 117-93 victory on Friday at Philips Arena, which suffered some wind damage in the fourth quarter from what the National Weather Service said was possibly a tornado.
The teams' practice facility had some fallen tiles as a wind blew threw the arena. But that wasn't nearly as furious as the way the Hawks blew through the Clippers.
The Hawks' margin of victory was their largest of the season. The previous best was a 21-point win at Chicago on Jan. 13th.
"We're on the road for three games," Woodson said. "This was a must-win for us to stay in the hunt," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.
Led by some deft passing by Mike Bibby and strong finishes by Josh Smith, the Hawks opened a 20-point second quarter lead and went on to rout the injury-ravaged Clippers.
"We needed a game like this to get our confidence up," said Bibby, who dished out a season-high 14 assists. "We had to show ourselves that we can play like this. Forty-one fast-break points, that's a lot."