Tonight the Atlanta Hawks came out and looked like a focused and determined team that was headed into the playoffs playing their best basketball. They completely dominated the Detroit Pistons taking a 69-41 lead into half time. Two things I have been clamoring for are defensive pressure and ball movement. I got both tonight. They built that lead due to a relentless defensive pressure that enabled them to force turnovers and get out and run for easy baskets. They also built that lead with a crisp ball movement and great passing on their way to 35 assists for the game.
Never mind that the defensive pressure disappeared to start the second half, this game was over long before that and it has been a long time since I have been able to write a completely positive post. Josh Smith continued his outstanding play and flashed his overall game all night. He finished with 18 points, a career high 11 assists, 4 rebounds, 5 steals, and 1 block. He is certainly deserving of all the praise and has Hawk fans everywhere looking to the future with enthusiasm. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 26 points on 10-15 shooting and added 5 assists as well. Jamal Crawford scored 18, Al Horford 15, and Marvin Williams added 12 to round out the Hawks that scored in double figures.
In reality the Hawks could get any shot they wanted tonight. The Pistons were going to offer very little resistance. However, the Hawks won this game on the defensive end. That was never more clear than in the third quarter when the Hawks stopped defending and the Pistons went on a run and finished with a 36 point quarter. The Pistons showed then that they were more than capable of having a good night offensively. In the first half though the Hawks simply wouldn’t allow it. They contested everything, played in the passing lanes, forced turnovers and converted. Offensively it was also a thing of beauty watching the ball movement in addition to cutters diving to the hoop. It is amazing how those three pointers are made with a higher percentage when the ball is passed through the post. Everything was working, set plays, iso’s, straight post ups, and out of bounds plays. The beauty of it was that it was all set up on the defensive end.
Detractors could point out that the Hawks were outscored in the second half by 15 but I would still remind them that they won by 13. In all reality it didn’t matter. They snatched control of this one early and were able to clamp down when the Pistons would get close. It was the most encouraging basketball I have seen played since the All Star break and it was a welcome sight. It would be wise for the Hawks to take advantage of the momentum and continue to play this way. Its true the Pistons are not a good team, in fact they could be classified as a mess. I would also point out that they are no bigger a mess than the Knicks or Wizards whom the Hawks have struggled with in recent days. As I said in an earlier post, I am not looking at opposing teams records anymore. I am only looking at results on the floor. Tonight I liked what I saw.
Recaps from the Hawks Blogosphere:
And from the other side: