The Hawks extended the Pistons losing streak to eleven games with a 91-85 victory Saturday at Phillips Arena. The victory was the Hawks 32nd of the season at home and 49th overall putting them one shy of 50 for the season. The victory also extended the Hawks lead for third in the Eastern Conference to a game and a half over the Boston Celtics who were idle tonight.
Joe Johnson sat out the game with a sprained thumb which he suffered in the Hawks victory over the Lakers Wednesday. Without Johnson the Hawks pounded the Pistons inside who were missing much of their front court due to injury. Ben Wallace, Jason Maxiell, along with Richard Hamilton all missed the game for the Pistons. Al Horford had 20 points and 14 rebounds, Josh Smith tossed in 13 points and 14 rebounds. The Hawks pounded the Pistons on the glass winning the rebounding battle 50-34.
Jamal Crawford had a huge night off the bench with 29 points and 6 assists. Mo Evans got the start for Johnson and scored 10 points giving the Hawks four players in double figures. Offensively the ball movement was very crisp through the first two and a half quarters which led to some high percentage shots for the Hawks and eventually a 14 point lead. At the point the Hawks got a little complacent and let the Pistons claw their way back into the game eventually tying the contest at 74 by the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter saw a resurgent Hawks defense and some extremely cold Pistons shooting. Despite only allowing the Pistons eleven points in the fourth quarter the Hawks were unable to gain much of a cushion due to their own offensive problems. Turnovers and a lack of ball movement derailed any offensive rhythm that the Hawks could muster. Jamal Crawford is a wonderful talent and I have not seen him miss many good shots this season. I define a good shot as one in which he is open without a defender within arms reach. His corner three from which Josh Smith zips the pass to him from the opposite box is usually unguarded and is close to automatic.
If only Jamal and Joe Johnson would realize that by going inside with the basketball they will be set up with so many more easy shots. Coming down the stretch of games the Hawks have a tendency to over dribble and it leads to their stagnant offensive fourth quarters. Tonight was no different just with Crawford stepping into Johnson’s shoes.
Also of concern of late is Josh Smith’s free throw shooting or lack there of. Josh has been streaky all season but of late has struggled mightily. He is just 12-24 over his last five games and 5-15 in his last two.
It wasn’t a flawless game for the Hawks but it was a needed win following the loss in Cleveland. The Hawks will now have two days off before traveling to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats in a potential playoff preview. All indications were Joe Johnson would be expected to return to action in Charlotte.