Season Series: Hawks lead 1-0 defeating the Kings 113-105 in Sacramento way back on November 4th.
TV: SportSouth Radio: 790TheZone
The Hawks look to bounce back tonight as they take on the Sacramento Kings. The Kings after getting off to a good start come in scuffling losers of 4 in a row and 9 of their last 10. It is imperative that the Hawks bring a defensive mindset into the game tonight. The Kings are not a great team but they do have a lot of offensive firepower. Kevin Martin is back from injury and rookie Tyreke Evans has played well all season in Martin’s absence and is my leading candidate for rookie of the year. Too often it seems that I write the same things over and over in these game preview posts but that is because I feel that not much changes for the Hawks from game to game. When they do the things they need to do (move the ball, defend, rebound, run) they always have a chance to win.Tonight won’t be any different.
Particularly tonight I’m interested in Joe Johnson’s play because as is nearly every night he is a key component in the Hawks success or failures. I’m only going to touch on a few things because this could be a whole post unto itself. According to the numbers Joe is playing about the same as last season. Scoring about the same, actually shooting slightly better from the field, while getting about one less assist per game than last season. To me however, a lot of it just feels forced. The Hawks have a better team than they did last season. With the additions we have made Joe doesn’t have to do as much each night. He is certainly capable of having big games like he did in Boston, but the Hawks need Joe to be even more efficient. When the Hawks are at their best they are playing through Joe and Joe is facilitating the offense. Not forcing the offense but drawing double teams and making the extra pass and punishing teams when they have to single cover him. I thought this really showed in the Oklahoma City game down the stretch when Joe attacked two or three defenders trying to make a play. Joe is in a free agent year and while points per game figures into dollars I would say that wins are even more important. That said when the Hawks send their next offer to Joe (who turned down the teams previously offered extension) I would say that they will look at the amount of wins the team had this season just as much as Joe’s individual stats.
That is something else to watch for in this game tonight. I think the Atlanta Hawks can be a very dangerous team to anyone in the league, but they have to get back to playing as a team the way they were earlier in the season. Trusting each other and sharing the ball, contesting every shot and rebounding with a purpose. Its important going forward that they establish those things because those will be the things that lead to success in the playoffs.