The thing that makes Charles Barkley a great analyst is even when he is at his bombastic, “Oh, that’s just Chuck” best, there’s at least a kernel of truth to his words. Such was the case when Barkley said the other night that the Hawks’ proper response to Cleveland firing up three-point shots despite a 30-something-point should have been to “take somebody out.”
Chuck was wrong.
But Chuck was right.
I’m not condoning one athlete ever attempting to injure another. But I do believe the Hawks have looked soft in the postseason and need to be more physical in their play. And since some of their players like Paul Millsap and Al Horford were clearly upset that the Cavaliers were still shooting threes in the fourth, then why didn’t they do something about it?
There is such a thing as a hard foul that doesn’t qualify as a felony. We used to see them in the NBA all the time … especially in the playoffs … and especially in the Eastern Conference.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer wouldn’t take the bait on Barkley’s comments on a conference call Thursday but he allowed that it could benefit the Hawks to play with “a degree of physicality.” *(That qualifies as Budenholzer smack talk.)
Hawks players weren’t available for comment on the off day. They also weren’t available Friday morning as Budenholzer surprisingly chose not to have a shoot-around, unlike the Cavaliers. Safe assumption: Budenholzer would prefer his players not be around the media right now after the 103-98 embarrassment in Cleveland in Game 2.
Down 0-2, and seemingly going on 0-4, will we see a different Hawks’ team in Game 3 tonight at Philips Arena?
“The only concern for us is what we can control and how we come out,” Cleveland’s LeBron James said before Friday’s shoot-around. “We have to play desperate basketball and understand that we did what we were supposed to do, and that was to win two on our home floor, and now they’re going to try to hold serve on their home floor.”
When asked about Barkley’s comments and whether he believed it would impact the Hawks’ performance, James said, “That’s Chuck being Chuck. I don’t think that has anything to do with the game of basketball. That’s not for our game. For us and for those guys, we want to bring a physicality to the game. But as far as taking somebody out, that exceeds what our league is all about. We don’t want to try to jeopardize anybody being injured. So for us, we’re not going to have that on our mind. We’re going to have our physical style of play, both offensively and defensively and I think the referees will do a great job taking care of the game. That has nothing to do with the game of basketball.”
If it’s contact with an intent to injured, I agree. But if it’s contact in an attempt to set a the tone, change momentum and suggest they’re tired of playing doormat to the Cavaliers, there’s no problem with that.
This much is certain: The Hawks have lost nine straight to the Cavaliers going back to last year’s Eastern Conference finals. They need to try something different.
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