- Created on 30 April 2013
The four-game series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers has been as disjointed and schizophrenic as any in the 2013 NBA playoffs. There has been one constant, though: the dominance of the home team.
In Monday night's 102-91 victory it was the Hawks' turn to get the home-court boost and they took advantage, riding the tidal wave of emotion from the Philips Arena crowd to a series-tying 'W.' After losing two games in Indiana in unimpressive fashion, the Hawks have tied the series 2-2.
"We're definitely feeding off the crowd," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "That's why home court is so important. It's a great feeling when the crowd is behind you and into it. In the fourth [quarter] the crowd was really into it and our guys fed off it."
The crowd may truly have swung the game on a few occasions.
Before the start of the game, Philips Arena was around half full and by tip-off, the arena was still filled with open seats. The lack of fan support seemed to take the air out of the Hawks. They let the Pacers jump out to a 21-14 lead in the opening period before closing the gap and eventually taking the lead into the second, 22-21.
By the second quarter the full 18,241 had taken their seats and the Hawks kicked it into gear. Josh Smith, who got the start at small forward on the evening, seemed particularly motivated by the energy, leading the team with 10 points in the quarter on 4-6 shooting, and pulling in five of his 11 rebounds for the evening.
The Hawks cruised through the second stanza with 35 big points, almost double the Pacers output. Smith and the hot-shooting Kyle Korver scored as many points (19) as the entire Pacers team that period to take a 57-40 lead at halftime. Korver was red hot from beyond the arc and finished with 19 points and was 5-8 from three-point range for the game.
The third quarter again showed the impact of the fans, but on the other end. As the crowd slowly crept back into their seats, the Hawks quickly lost a grip on the lead.
A "hot seat" fan promotion inside Philips typified the Hawks' troubles. One fan was set to win $250 if a Hawk scored a three pointer within two minutes, starting at 7:13 in the quarter. Not only did the Hawks not hit a three-pointer, the team didn't even score a field goal until the 1:34 mark of the third.
Atlanta went 3-20 shooting in the quarter, 0-8 from beyond the arc and 8-16 on free throws. It was painful to watch.
"We were very, very stagnant in the third quarter," said Drew. "Didn't execute our offense and we became our worst enemy. I was happy to see that my guys maintained their composure, but it was nothing they were doing, it was all us."
The Pacers used the Hawks abysmal quarter to get right back into the game, wining the quarter 22-12 and knocking what had been a 17 point halftime lead down to a manageable 69-62.
While the run allowed the Pacers to get back into the ballgame, it proved not to be enough.
"The third [quarter] really should've been a 30-35 point quarter for us," said Pacers forward David West. "We gave them too many opportunities so we were fighting uphill, spending a lot of energy trying to get back in the game."
That uphill battle in the fourth quarter on Atlanta's home court proved to be too much for the Pacers. West and company were stymied by an impressive defensive run led by Smith, forward Al Horford and Korver, who picked up his first block of the postseason, and the team was able to turn offense into defense.
After letting Indiana get within 5, at 92-87, the Hawks got a 19-foot jump shot from Horford and a breakaway dunk on a fast break from Smith to put the game out of reach with 1:07 remaining.
After the thunderous jam that forced Pacers coach Frank Vogel to take a timeout, the College Park native remained on the court and urged the Atlanta faithful to get on their feet. They obliged him.
"I don't think they realize what they do for us," Horford said of the crowd. "Josh played big minutes for us and I can tell you that he was tired, but when the fans are supporting us it makes it easier for us to go through it. The home fans have been a big part of [the past two games]."
Smith had a career high with 29 points and added 4 assists and 3 steals to go along with his 11 rebounds.
The series continues with Game 5 Wednesday in Indiana. Game 6 will be back in Atlanta Friday.
- Created on 29 April 2013
The following statements are from Atlanta Hawks Managing Partner/NBA Governor Bruce Levenson and President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Danny Ferry on behalf of the team:
"We have great respect for Jason and his message today. Creating an environment where we support, respect, and accept our players' individual rights is very important to us," said Hawks Managing Partner and NBA Governor Bruce Levenson. "Jason represented everything that we look for as a member of the Atlanta Hawks and we are proud he wore our jersey."
"Our focus will always be on bringing in players that can contribute to the greater good of the Atlanta Hawks and ensuring that we create the most accepting, respectful, and productive environment for players to succeed," said Hawks President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Danny Ferry.
- Created on 29 April 2013
The Georgia Innocence Project (GIP) has announced a donation from former NBA All-Star and long-time GIP supporter Joe Barry Carroll that will help the organization's efforts to exonerate wrongfully imprisoned Georgians.
Carroll funded the salary of Melissa Arends, a newly-hired administration/operations manager and GIP's second full-time staff member.
"Funding this salary is an extension of my past work with the Georgia Innocence Project in making financial contributions and assisting exonerees on the practical issues they face as they attempt to reconstruct their lives," said Carroll. "I remain excited about the work that GIP is doing with the use of DNA to provide justice for the wrongly incarcerated."
He continued, "It breaks my heart that innocent men and women continue to be incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit. Much of this tragedy is preventable. Funding this staff position is my effort to help. I am hopeful that others sensitive to our cause will join in and make a contribution of cash, talent, or other resources."
Prior to Carroll's offer to fully fund the position, GIP's only staff consisted of an executive director and a part-time administrative assistant. The staff collaborates with attorney volunteers and law student interns who help process cases. Since its establishment in 2002, GIP has received more than 5,400 requests for assistance and is currently investigating over 200 cases.
Aimee Maxwell, Georgia Innocence director and chief counsel, said, "I am thrilled with Joe's contribution and what that represents. By totally funding the salary of a full-time office administrator, he has changed the landscape of GIP and potentially the lives of Georgia families. We are currently investigating over 200 cases and this donation is invaluable in helping us provide justice that has been denied."
(Photo: Pictured, from left, is former NBA All Star Joe Barry Carroll with Georgia exoneree and GIP board member Calvin Harrison and Texas exoneree Ronnie Taylor.)
- Created on 29 April 2013
Longtime journeyman center Jason Collins, who played for the Atlanta Hawks from 2009 - 2012 and with the New Jersey Nets when the team lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals, became the first active NBA player to announce that he is gay.
"I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore," said Collins in the open letter.
Collins, a 12 year NBA veteran who played for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards this year, penned an open letter that will appear in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated, announcing that he was gay. Sports Illustrated released the letter on their website today.
A portion of the letter from Collins is below:
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.
My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.
I've played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you're in the league, and I haven't been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates' teammates. Or one of your teammates' teammates' teammates.
Now I'm a free agent, literally and figuratively. I've reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.
Why am I coming out now? Well, I started thinking about this in 2011 during the NBA player lockout. I'm a creature of routine. When the regular season ends I immediately dedicate myself to getting game ready for the opener of the next campaign in the fall. But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided.
- Created on 29 April 2013
Mike Tirico, 46, known throughout the sports world, is perhaps one of ESPN's most versatile personalities. Joining the four-letter network more than 20 years ago, Tirico has handled broadcast duties for ESPN's Thursday night college football, PGA golf, U.S. Open tennis, NBA and college basketball, but he is perhaps best known for handling play-by-play duties alongside the colorful John Gruden for the network's signature Monday Night Football telecasts. The Daily World caught up with Tirico at the Masters earlier this month.
ADW: I've tried on several occasions to chat with you at Augusta National. You're a moving target! How many Masters Tournaments have you worked now?
MT: Oh my. What, nine or 10?
ADW: As a youngster, could you even fathom broadcasting from the hallowed grounds of Augusta National?
MT: Well, I'd say as a kid I didn't ever envision calling golf, as I wasn't playing golf as much as other sports. But golf on television didn't really boom until the early 1990s, so there wasn't really this big pool of jobs available to call golf. Before that, there were only three networks calling golf, and only well-established people doing it. So I was doing more traditional stuff, like football and college basketball. But I loved the sport, always appreciated it, and the job opportunities evolved over time.
ADW: It's a bit of an homage to you that the bosses at ESPN decided upon you for Monday Night Football play-by-play, but also saw a role for you broadcasting golf.
MT: Well, I think being a "Sportscenter" anchor early on in my career, where you touch all the sports and understand the innate differences, helped prepare me for that. It's so hard to compare TV today to TV 20 years ago, when very few games were broadcast. Now literally every game is broadcast, and there are a dozen different networks with broadcast teams. There are critics out there combing through everything you do and say. So much has changed, and I'm just fortunate to have rolled with the punches.
ADW: Allow me to switch gears a bit. You wear so many hats at ESPN, what do you do to relax?
MT: Well, it's great to be busy. I spend time with my family. I have two children. We take vacations here and there. I get to actually play some golf. To spend time doing the things you love away from work are so important. It starts and ends with my family for sure.
ADW: What do people most admire about you?
MT: Most definitely they tell me how lucky I am to have the job I have, to go to so many different places, and [to be] a part of so many diverse sporting events. Not a week goes by that someone doesn't bump into me and say, 'You've got the greatest job in the world.' I agree with them.
ADW: So 10 years from now, will you be taking over for Al Michaels at NBC?
MT: Al's got a great job at NBC. I love my job. I love what I do. I will serve as long as they continue to ask me to. I love the opportunity to be a part of so many different things. I worry about today a lot more than I do tomorrow. If this is the top of the mountain for me, I'll walk away from this business quite pleased.