Found May 09, 2012 on
Fox Sports South:
Some coaches might have put their teams through a grueling practice. Or a humiliating video session, calling out players mistake by mistake. Or they might have done a little of both and screamed and yelled.
Not Larry Drew. Drew might be 54, but he is new school. He's also been around the NBA forever as a player and a long-time assistant and now in his second season as a head coach.
So how did the Hawks' coach get his players to respond after their 101-79 Game 4 loss to Boston in which they trailed at one stretch by 37 points? He held a meeting and he and the players talked it out.
The result? An 87-86 victory in an elimination game in Game 5 on Tuesday in which the Hawks redeemed themselves to a degree. It's a little more than a moral victory, but only complete validation will come with a series victory, which will not be easy and they still trail 3-2 entering Game 6 in Boston on Thursday.
Nonetheless, the 2009-10 Hawks, who lost by a historic margin to Orlando, would not have been able to pull this off. Marvin Williams, who earned a start and made 3-of-6 three-point shots to finish with 15 points, credited Drew's approach and said as much.
"We're not going to fold," Williams said after the game in a video posted on the team's Web site. "We folded in the past when we were a younger team, but we are a veteran team now. We've been in these situations before, so we just knew not to fold. We kept our composure.
"I think the biggest thing is coach. He keeps his composure and that really helps us, keeps us calm. So that's always good."
It seems the low-key coach must have made some points in that Monday team meeting with a certain degree of firmness but also with a level of poise and the significant absence of hysteria.
Joe Johnson complained about his lack of touches in Game 4 that resulted in his getting only eight shots. While not wanting to alienate his highest-paid player and top scorer, Drew conceded that the Hawks could have gone to Johnson a little more often and made an extra pass on some possessions. But he also said that Johnson needed to be more aggressive, a sentiment echoed by two-time All-Star center Al Horford, the team's true leader who, in just his second game back after four months off with a torn pectoral muscle, showed what he was made of on Tuesday with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting and 11 rebounds.
Johnson got his touches more than twice as many attempts, although he suffered through a poor shooting night, making 6-of-17 field goals and his 15 points were needed in a one-point victory.
After Monday's session, Drew said he was anxious to see how the team responded. He reiterated that in his pregame comments to reporters, saying the Hawks had responded to challenges throughout the season and viewed Game 4 as a "bump in the road."
Game 5 didn't start out pretty. Drew had to call a timeout just 3:51 into the game to prevent it from going off the rails, as Boston jumped out to an 11-3 lead. The Hawks fought back, but with 8:53 left in the second quarter, the Celtics led by 28-18.
Drew let them play through that sequence and the Hawks had tied the game by halftime and steadily pulled away in the second half before holding on at the end.
Again, the coach's positive message seems to have played a role.
"We just couldn't make shots and that's what I was reminding the guys every time they came to the huddle was don't get discouraged because defensively we're doing a good job, our shots will fall," Drew said. "In the middle of the second quarter, they started to fall."
Apparently, he understands the psychology of this team, which is no small feat. Coaching in the NBA is a murky mix of ego managing and Xs-and-Os. It's hard to say which is more important, but perhaps the former. Drew understood this on Monday.
This is just Drew's third playoff series as a coach. He's 1-1 so far, but last year few expected the Hawks to beat Orlando in the first round and fewer expected them to make such a competitive series in the second round against Chicago.
If the Hawks manage to come back and eliminate Boston Atlanta is the higher seed but the underdog in the eyes of many then Drew and his squad will truly have pulled off an impressive achievement.
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Larry Drew is moving Kirk Hinrich and Jason Collins to the bench. I expected Al Horford to start. Even if he's still rusty, Horford is a better option than Collins.
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Boston Celtics (3-1) at Atlanta Hawks (1-3)
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
8:00 PM ET
Round 1, Game #5, Road Game #3
TV: TNT, CSNNE, FSSO, TSN2
Referees: Dan Crawford, David Jones, Tom Washington
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