A very disheartening performance became a lot better when the Hawks were able to overcome a 9 point fourth quarter deficit and turn away the Los Angeles Clippers. The team came out slow and let the Clippers dictate the pace due to a lack of commitment to defend. Instead the Hawks were able to use two different spurts one late in the third quarter and another in the fourth to steal the win away. To win was great, but this team must realize that it can’t just flip the switch against a quality opponent and hope for the same result.
Joe Johnson turned in another outstanding performance scoring 34 points on 11-21 shooting. Joe’s game when under control and flowing is something beautiful to watch. In the last two games he has shown more of a desire to take the ball to the basket and it has paid off with him making 17 of 18 free throws in the last two games. Taking the ball inside allows for easier shots and thus easy points. Jamal Crawford had another nice game off the bench tallying 22 points and had yet another 4 point play which gave him 24 for his career and tied him with Reggie Miller for the all time lead. Three different Hawks recorded double doubles on the night, Al Horford 16 points 10 rebounds, Josh Smith 15 points 10 rebounds, and Marvin Williams 10 points 10 rebounds. They needed every one of those rebounds as once again the Hawks were out rebounded as a team due in most part to Marcus Camby’s game high 20 rebounds.
It was particularly encouraging to see the Hawks go inside to Al Horford late in the fourth and for him to either score or get to the line. Coming out of a time out, the Hawks ran a Bibby/Horford pick and roll play that clearly caught the Clippers off guard as they were probably expecting for the ball to be in Joe Johnson’s hands which resulted in a Horford 3 point play. That is the kind of structured offense I like to see coming down the stretch of close games to insure that you get a quality shot or a trip to the free throw line particularly coming out of a time out situation.
You could analyze this game a hundred different ways but the important thing is that the Hawks escaped with another win. Granted some of the warning signs that we are starting to see creep in need to be addressed. Our rebounding was a strength early on in the season but it has now slipped to being a problem. You can’t lay that on any one player as that has to be a commitment for the team as a group to box out and rebound. D.J. Foster over at ClipperBlog has a great recap of last night and discusses the Hawks use on defense of switching screens. I have seen that strategy play out many nights successful and I have seen it fail. It all leads right back to effort. When the Hawks bring it then they cause offenses the problems that Foster describes in his post, and when they don’t it leads to mismatch opportunities for the opponents that result in points against or foul trouble.
Next up is an ESPN game against the Bulls from Phillips Arena on Friday. The Bulls have been playing better of late. I will have a preview of that game up on Friday.