Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks Defeat Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in Game 7

Atlanta is a star obsessed city. When Fortune 500 CEO’s, Hip Hop and R&B royalty, and numerous athletes across the sports spectrum call a city home, the residents become numb to celebrity. That being the case, it takes the biggest, brightest and most amazing to bring Atlanta’s influential out of seclusion and into daylight’s gleam. Dwyane Wade is a star. There was a fair number of Miami Heat #3’s in the crowd, and for good reason. The Olympian, All Star, and MVP candidate is one of the premier players in the league and he flashed that talent many times over. This game, and ultimately this series however, belonged to someone else.

Joe Johnson claimed his spot amongst the league’s elite Sunday afternoon and showcased a skill set that makes him the kind of singular talent teams long for.

Johnson showed basketball nation that Atlanta has regained her status as an NBA town. He made it apparent the lineage of Atlanta Hawk All – Stars like Lenny Wilkens, Lou Hudson, Zelmo Beaty and Dominique Wilkins is alive and well. He put himself on center stage and performed with grace and distinction.

When traveling from one place to another, there must be a goal. The voyage would be pointless without the benefit of a destination whereby progress could be measured. These Atlanta Hawks named securing home court advantage for the playoffs and advancing past the first round as goals before this season started.

The season long direction of PG Mike Bibby did wonders for this team. Coach Mike Woodson and Joe Johnson raved about the Arizona product and NBA veteran.

MW: “Mike’s a huge difference maker for this team. He’s our quarterback out there and he makes us go. He just does so many good things for us from an offensive standpoint. He promised me that he would be in great shape for training camp and he’s been excellent for this team from the beginning of the season until now.”

JJ: “He’s been great. From training camp to now in the playoffs he’s leading us. He’s a great teammate and a great friend.”

The exponential growth and maturation of Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Al Horford cannot be understated. The off season acquisitions of Flip Murray and Mo Evans also made a world of difference in the bench play (Murray) and defensive identity (Evans) of the squad. The seasoning of the Coach Woodson and his staff bears mentioning as well. I asked Woodson to comment on the growth of this team.

MW: “First I want to give credit to every player in that locker room because we’ve grown as a team. I go back to the Boston series last year because they taught us how to play playoff basketball. We had a bitter taste in our mouths after losing Game 7 in Boston last year and we knew that if we got another chance this year that anything was possible. This team set goals and they came true. That’s huge for this team.”

As important as those factors are, this voyage from obscurity to the second round of the playoff does not happen without the leadership of Joe Johnson. I asked Joe to comment on this series in retrospect…and went on to address a great number of positives for this team.

JW: “You guys won a first round series; you won on the road and played very well at home. What did you learn about your team from these games?

JJ: “Well to me it means we grew as a team. We responded when our backs were against the wall. Even when they won a game here we were able to go down to Miami and get a win to regain home court and then close it out here in Game 7.”

JW: “Joe you played like a star defensively. What does this kind of performance mean to you?”

JJ: “It means a lot. It’s tough guarding a guy like Dwyane because he put so much heat on us the entire series. I just tried to be aggressive with him and make him take a lot of tough shots. I was able to do that and get some steals and get the crowd into it. That also helped us.”

For all of the credit Atlanta deserves for progressing to the second round, the Miami Heat deserve just as much credit for being a worthy foe. Coach Eric Spoelstra expressed optimism for this team’s future in spite of the disappointing loss.

ES: “This series will only benefit our team. It will help the young guys. We start a rookie point guard (Mario Chalmers) and he just got better month to month. Michael (Beasley) as well. The fact that we were able to turn around a 15 win team and win 43 games this season says a lot about the guys in that locker room.”

No player has done more to command the respect and admiration of a fan base this season than Dwyane Wade. From the Olympics, to an MVP caliber season, to a grueling first round playoff series, Wade has repeatedly showcased his immense physical skills. He re-established himself a bona fide superstar. Don’t call it a comeback people; he’s been here for years. Wade talked about his ridiculously lengthy 2008 – 2009 season in retrospect.

“It’s definitely been a long season. This week makes a year that I started working out for Beijing (and the 2008 Olympic Games). I’ve been going strong since then, first, trying to win a gold medal and then to exceed the expectations that people had for me and for my team. We’re very encouraged by this season. We won 15 games last season and we came back to win 43 games and took Atlanta to seven games. We definitely have something to build on.”

The second round brings none other than LeBron James and the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers. As one MVP candidate retreats back to South Beach, another waits on the shores of Lake Erie. The Hawks are aware of the challenge that awaits them and they welcome it. From Boston last year in seven, to Miami this year in seven, the Atlanta Hawks have proven that they will not back down from a challenge. Instead they have shown the propensity to rise up and be counted. Success is sweet but exceeding expectations are what people remember. I think Joe Johnson’s words express it best.

JJ: “I envisioned that we’d be playing in front of a packed house and the crowd would be going crazy (when I signed to play here). I wanted this when I came here and it’s good to see it happen.”

Do not doubt these Hawks. They have a star and when you have a star you have a chance.

4 Responses to “Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks Defeat Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in Game 7”

  1. Patrick says:

    ….”The exponential growth and maturation of Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Al Horford cannot be understated….

    Josh Smith has been up and down, but he has showed the most growth among the three aforementioned… Al Horford is only in his second year, but he needs to improve his offensive low-post game.

    However, the growth and maturation of the younger Hawks players has been over-stated, and one the bigger disappointments is Marvin Williams.

    Marvin Williams has regressed in my opinion. The former second overall pick was picked in the same 2005 class of Chris Paul and Deron Williams and other players such as New York’s Nate Robinson, Indiana’s Danny Granger and the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum. The aforementioned players have had more of a ‘exponential’ impact on their respective teams than Marvin Williams.

    Williams is not a leader, but more of a follower. Paul is a leader. Deron Williams is a leader. Even Nate Robinson is very vocal on the court with strong leadership qualities.

    Williams does average double figure– a modest 13-14 points a game, but he rarely plays out of his comfort zone. Marvin often disappears in games and only in this past 2008-09 season, he started shooting three pointers. Marvin is a limited player (right now). He still has potential, but he has been in the league FOUR YEARS and its time for him to show his potential and play up to his draft status.

    It may seem that I am overly critical of Marvin, but when people talk about the youth movement with the Hawks, the success or failure of Marvin Williams or the growth of Marvin Williams is essential if the Hawks are to continue growing with the current group of players they have now.

    Williams has the best offensive skillset outside of Joe Johnson and when you mix in Marvin’s 6’9 240 pound frame, he should be emulating the things that Carmelo Anthony, Danny Granger or David West are doing.

    Right now that’s not happening.

    Josh Smith shouldn’t be shooting three’s, that needs to be Marvin’s job. However, Marvin is too tentative, yet is very capable of making the shots. Josh has no conscience in shooting threes, but he needs to focus on rebounding and blocking shots and perfecting his low-post moves.

    Marvin may say the right things to the media, but its put or shut up.

    Joe Johnson has been silent for most of the Miami series, but Marvin has to really step up (if he can) because he is injured–again.

    The Hawks need a Carmelo Anthony-type performance or even a JR Smith type performance from the former UNC one-year star to provide validation that he is a true franchise player and that he is a legitimate cog in the youth movement in Atlanta.

    Marvin has to show up in the Cleveland series, and then we can truly judge there is “exponential growth”…

  2. Temple3 says:

    So is ATL “star-obsessed” or “numb to celebrity”?

  3. Temple3 says:

    Patrick, I couldn’t agree more — except that I’d be happy if neither Williams nor Smith shot a bunch of threes and they just worked on their post game and mid-range games to drill teams to death. They could make the game beautifully easy if they hone their craft from 8 to 18 feet. It will make the dunks easier and the 3’s easier. It will make passing easier.

    Mentioning Anthony, Granger and West is right on target. All are lethal mid-range players that make defenses play on their heels because their tool kits have so many gadgets.

  4. Miranda says:

    T3…the marketing of the Hawks in Atlanta consists of……………

    nothing.

    The coverage of the Hawks by the AJC and local sports radio is………..

    nil.