The Hawks Are In Survival Mode
Is Brian Snitker's job in danger? College Football Goes $$$. Some Links To View.
The moment looked too big for the Hawks.
And then the Philadelphia 76ers looked really, really too big for the Hawks.
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night, the Hawks were jittery from the start with poor passes and poor shots and more turnovers than field goals in the opening minutes. State Farm Arena was jacked up and it was hectic and noisy. The Hawks looked unglued.
The Sixers, meanwhile, went old-school on the Hawks to take a 2 games to 1 series lead with a 127-111 win. Philly attacked the rim in the third quarter, which is anathema in this era of long distance three-point shots. I mean it was dunk, dunk, tip, layup, dunk. Up 20 and on the way to another 16-point win.
Philly overwhelmed the Hawks inside, but it wasn’t exclusively with the 7-foot All-Star Joe Embiid scoring. The Hawks blitzed Embiid with a second defender and limited his shots so he turned into a facilitator and had eight assists throwing over top of the defense.
Embiid also became a force on screens out front. The Hawks were forever running into his big body and they lost dribblers and shooters in the chaos of cuts. The Sixers shot 58 percent from the field and 47 percent from the 3-line (10 of 21), which is death to the Hawks’ fast break offense.
The statistics say the Sixers outscored the Hawks by just 66-58 in the paint, but it seemed more convincing than that. Philly’s 6-foot-11 point guard Ben Simmons punished the Hawks inside and also pushed the pace and got his team in a third quarter rhythm.
Philadelphia got to the foul line 39 times with its aggressiveness.
The Hawks looked so disjointed on offense they made just 6 of 23 three-point attempts and the only way the Hawks are going to beat this bigger team is with a torrent of 3s. The Sixers’ Simmons literally blocked Trae Young’s view of the rim. Young made just 3 of 6 three-point attempts.
Game 4 is Monday night.
What Are The Braves Overlords Thinking? Is Snit Toast?
The Braves are under .500. Still. It’s already June.
They have played one more regular season game than their magical 2020 season, but the results have been far different (29-32) and now there is a three-game losing streak.
The question now is whether Terry McGuirk, the CEO, and Alex Anthopoulos, the General Manager, think they are a better team than the record. If they do, they may be willing to fire manager Brian Snitker.
They shouldn’t, not by any means. The Braves are missing three key players expected to fuel a run at the World Series: left fielder Marcell Ozuna, catcher Travis d’Arnaud, and centerfielder Cristian Pache.
Ozuna is hurt and was arrested for assaulting his wife and is probably finished for the season. D’arnaud and Pache are also hurt, but could be back.
The result has been a fitful offense that is burdening the pitching staff, particularly the relievers. The Braves are five deep in hitters and using a rookie catcher, William Contreras, and there is no offensive consistency.
It is dumbfounding to watch the calamity in the bullpen. Will Smith throws well for three stints, then bam, he gives up the game. Tyler Matzek throws well for four stints, then bam, he get beats late. A.J. Minter can be dominant, too, and then one pitch gets too much of the plate and he fails.
The Braves have arms out there in the bullpen. And they have starting pitching. But none of that matters because there has been a consistent lack of offense and it puts way too much pressure on the pitching staff.
Will that be draped around Snitker’s neck at the All-Star break?
The Braves are five games back of the first-place Mets now. Is this who they are, a .500 team, or are they going to pull it together?
The pitching suggests they can rally, but the lineup says this may be as good as it gets.
College Football Overlords Say ‘Screw It’ Let’s Make More Money
The College Football Playoffs are worth an estimated $600 million a year to schools, mostly the schools in the so-called the Power 5, the major Division I schools. This week a committee decided to rid itself of all pretense that college football is amateur sports. It recommended the CFP expand to 12 teams by 2023.
Early estimates are that schools could start dividing up $1 billion a year in revenue when the playoffs expand.
You know I have some thoughts about this:
There are three programs that just dominate the whole deal in the current four-team playoff. Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State. We are now talking about adding seven or eight teams that have no chance of winning the title. What sense does that make?
Teams play 12 regular season games. What if you are a team that plays in the conference championship game? That’s 13 games. Then what if you are one of the 12 and you keep winning. That’s four more games. That’s 17 games! College kids playing an NFL schedule.
The expanded playoffs mean we will get some good regular season out-of-conference matchups as coaches will be less afraid to lose, but there is no question the regular season will be diminished. A three-loss team can get into the playoffs, especially a three-loss team from the SEC or Big Ten.
The teams from the smaller five conferences will get a team in the playoff, and I can’t wait to see an undefeated team from the Mid-American Conference get trashed by the No. 3 team from the SEC in the first round.
The Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl has been able to snatch the fifth or sixth or seventh best team in the country for its bowl game here in Atlanta. Forget that now. The matchup is not going to be as intriguing with fourth place teams.
And now we will have college football going until the end of January, imposing on college basketball and taking away some of the spotlight from a shrinking sport.
What happens to all the bowl games now, all 42? My feeling is they lose prestige and draft-eligible players start opting out in bigger numbers once the regular season ends.
The Ball Atlanta Weekly Read
News out of China was tragic enough. Twenty-one runners died during an ultra-marathon because of weather conditions. Then, a race official under investigation, apparently killed himself this week.
Mets slugger Pete Alonso charged this week that Major League Baseball doctors the baseball depending on the upcoming free agent class. If it is strong group of hitters, Alonso suggested MLB deadens the baseball so contracts can be held down on the sluggers. New York acting GM Zack Scott took issue with Alonso. Major League Baseball, of course, would not comment.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host the largest soccer crowd in the world so far this year when Mexico plays Honduras on Saturday. A crowd of over 70,000 is expected. Good for our city. We’re ready.