(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Atlanta Hawks 108 Sacramento Kings 97

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(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

While the Hawks got a much needed win over the Kings and successfully bounced back from the loss to the Thunder, this game still just makes me pause. The Hawks appeared to come out sluggishly or perhaps it could have been the Kings that came out determined. The team always kept the Kings at arms length so not to let them run away with the game but they never really did start to take control until the 3rd quarter.

Prior to the game yesterday there was much talk about Al Horford and the Hawks seemingly unwillingness to throw the ball into the post and play inside out basketball. Jason Walker of THHB put up a post on his blog and later discussed it on the Bill Shanks Radio show that basically said that the Hawks should trade Horford if they were not going to use him to the maximum of his abilities. While I think the suggestion to trade Horford was more tongue in cheek I agree wholeheartedly that the Hawks need to use him more and play through him as well as Josh Smith. Last night it seemed early own the Hawks were intent on doing just that and attacking a Kings team that is not blessed with outstanding interior defenders. More so to me in the first half I saw Joe Johnson backing down Kevin Martin into the post and I saw us dishing to Al Horford on drives so I am not ready to commit to the idea that the Hawks made a concerted effort to get the ball inside more. I just think that was the flow of the game and how it worked out.

Now in the fourth quarter once Horford and some of the other starters were reinserted it did seem that we were intent on going inside. I thought Jason Walker gave an excellent description on the Bill Shanks show yesterday of how going inside will open up things more so for Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, and Jamal Crawford. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but it isn’t that hard. It is one of the first things you learn when you start playing basketball. I could understand it a few seasons ago when we had no interior presence (even though then I thought we should post Joe more) but now it appears the only issue is about trust. We have to trust that Smith and Horford can get the job done, that they can make the decisions and deliver. So far the numbers dictate that they can. I agree with Jason when I hear him say that if we have hopes of moving past the second round of the playoffs then going inside with the basketball and playing through the post will absolutely be key. History shows that you are not going to win in the playoffs against the good teams playing outside in.

This all falls back on Mike Woodson in my estimation. While he has stated repeatedly that he doesn’t spend much time on the offense and that we can score enough points to win on a nightly basis our recent 4th quarter struggles against good teams suggests otherwise. Joe Johnson is also key to a lesser extent due to the fact that he is playing with the added pressure of being a free agent at the end of the year. As I suggested yesterday though I think Joe is worth a lot more to Atlanta if he averages 20 points and 5 assists and the Hawks win 55 games than him averaging 25 points 4 assists and the Hawks winning 47. Free Agency will work itself out for Joe. There is going to be someone that will miss out on Wade, Bosh, or LeBron and will throw a major offer at Joe. No matter what though the Hawks can pay him more than anyone else. Will they choose to? I think a lot of it depends on how the season plays out.

Now back to the Kings game, it wasn’t all negative as wins usually aren’t. Josh Smith got banged up early suffering a leg contusion but returned and didn’t appear to be favoring the leg at all. The bench once again came in and did an excellent job actually running the lead into double figures late in the 3rd period. I must say that I am a little concerned about Jeff Teague. Tonight he looked a little unsure with himself and just didn’t look comfortable. I have been able to say that a lot this season as I have thought that even if he played 3 minutes that those 3 minutes were productive. That is why I question the use of Mario West at Teague’s expense. Teague tonight looked too much like Acie Law to me and he is much too talented to have that look to him in my opinion. I’m not suggesting he play 15 minutes a night although I haven’t seen anything prior to tonight that makes me think he couldn’t handle it. However, I question giving a guy on a 10 day contract minutes over our lottery pick and point guard of the future.

Let me say this about the Kings. I don’t know if it is going to work with Martin and Tyreke Evans in the back court together but Evans is a beast. I watched him at length last season while he was a freshman at Memphis. I liked him but I didn’t think he could come to the NBA and have this much impact. I didn’t think he could shoot well enough. While he is not shooting well from the outside on the season he is making it work by driving the basketball and finishing at the rim at will. That is hard for me to fathom considering that everyone he plays against has to know that it is coming. I questioned Mike Woodson inserting Mario West to guard him knowing that Mario likes to body up to everyone he defends. The smarter strategy against Evans is to lay back a little and try and take his drive away. To me the Kings looked a lot better with Beno Udrih and Tyreke in the back court than they did when it was just Evans and Martin. I like Martin a lot and love how he gets to the free throw line but I am not so sure that he and Evans will ever work well together.

Next up for the Hawks is the Charlotte Bobcats to close out the current home stand. The Bobcats are rolling winners of 6 games in a row and come in having completely destroyed the Heat last night. With that victory Charlotte leapfrogged Miami into 5th place in the Eastern Conference. You have to like what Larry Brown has going for them right now. I am not a Stephen Jackson fan but he has give that team a lift that they needed. It seems like they always play the Hawks tough no matter what their record is. It would be nice for the Hawks to stop the Bobcats winning streak and finish the home stand 4-1 before heading to Texas on a road trip.

Tags: Atlanta Hawks Sacramento Kings

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