Final Score: — Hawks: 101, Pacers: 96 —
The Atlanta Hawks beat the Indiana Pacers for their third straight win on Tuesday night.
When your closing lineup is a rotation of the following seven players, winning seems less likely than the making of a fourth Godfather movie: Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, Zaza Pachulia, Marvin Williams, Tracy McGrady, Jannero Pargo, and Jerry Stackhouse.
T-Mac? Pargo? Stack? Closing the game? What? Why are there so many question marks? Marvin Williams is alive?
The last three guys on that list of seven are all over-the-hill players who are largely ineffective and struggle whenever they hit the floor. Yet tonight, they gutted out, what was in my mind, a brilliant win. Josh Smith, who carried the Hawks for the first three quarters didn’t score a single point in the fourth quarter, and on top of that, he took several atrocious jumpshots, a well documented issue of his.
Yet still, this team found a way to win with their best player killing offensive possessions and hardly contributing on the offensive end at all in the fourth quarter. This was largely due to the fact that Tracy McGrady was able to dole out six fourth quarter assists and work a successful two-man game with Zaza in the crucial final 7-5 minutes of the game.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind about Tuesday’s win:
- Josh Smith set an appropriate tone for the Hawks early as he made all of his first six shots. He finished the game with 27 points, 9 boards, and two assists. He stooped to jumpers again, but he was making them in his 11-point third quarter.
- A big reason that Smoove was able to start out 6-6 is because Jeff Teague found him for a few quick dunks. Teague hasn’t always been the best passer, but his court vision was on full display tonight as he flipped Smoove a nifty pass in transition for a slam, and tossed him another bone in a half court set for another slam.
- The fourth quarter is when things got pretty interesting: Jannero Pargo scored 11 points in the fourth, going 4-9 from the field and canning three three-pointers. Pargo has shown he’s a high-volume, streaky shooter who can fill it up. When he’s hot: ride him; when he’s not: sit him. The Hawks saw he was making ‘em, so LD kept him in for a good chunk of the fourth. With no Joe Johnson or Willie Green, we’re seeing Pargo quite a bit.
- Tracy McGrady had six assists in the fourth quarter. I know I mentioned that earlier, but my goodness was he making plays. The Hawks offense turned terribly stagnant in the last five minutes, but before that he was facilitating like a mad man. He found Zaza for a nice and-one, and Zaza found him for a nice slam in a quick stretch.
- Zaza had six points and four boards in the fourth quarter. He was active on both ends of the floor and scored some key buckets down the stretch. All six of his points came off and-one’s; one set up by T-Mac, the other by Teague. Pachulia has been showing that he’s a great backup center. Even after a few great games from him (12 and 10 tonight), I’m not sold on him as a starter in this league. He’s one of the best backups if you ask me, though.
- The turning point in the game, or at least the play that really gave the Hawks the upper hand, occurred with about 5:20 to go in the game. T-Mac penetrated the lane and kicked the ball to the opposite corner to Teague. Teague pump faked to shake George Hill, then took it in where Hibbert picked him up. Teague then nicely skipped a pass to Zaza who caught Hibbert in a tricky situation as he was late recovering. Zaza shot a weird looking and-one fallaway (did not classify as a fadeaway. It was ugly looking.) that pushed the Hawks lead to eight. From there, it was just a matter of protecting that lead.
- After that Pachulia bucket mentioned above, the Hawks only scored six points the rest of the way. Two of those six points came from Jerry Stackhouse, who entered the game with 23 seconds to go. With the Hawks up one after a Danny Granger and-one layup, they fouled Stackhouse who calmly sank two big free throws. Hat’s off to you, Stack. Even if you’re older than your grandmother’s first car, sinking two free throws should never be outside your capabilities. The athleticism goes away, but the shooting stroke never does.
Smith was most definitely the catalyst for the win. He was all over the place defensively, stuffing Paul George and clobbering Roy Hibbert late in the fourth. When he wasn’t wreaking havoc on the helpside, he was raining jumpers in the third quarter and making Indiana pay for sagging off on him (I can’t be the only one who cringes every time he makes one. For every one he makes comes 2o more). He got out in transition early and led the Hawks to a nice and cozy four-point lead at the half (felt like it should have been a little larger).
For all of Pargo’s inefficiency, I was pretty pleased with his output tonight, especially in the fourth quarter. Our offense needed a facelift with Smoove shooting jumpers and Pargo was the spark that ignited the win. Without him, we lose this game. He can be all over the place at times, but he did his thing in the fourth quarter tonight.
A big problem for this Hawks team without Johnson, and even with him, is that you never know what you’re getting from your bench. Some nights these veterans come to play, sometimes they just don’t have it in their legs. We go through a constant reintegration process with veterans returning and exiting with injuries and it messes up the lineup, which LD has never been good at setting in the first place. Even with Joe back, the bench is still too much of a variable and you never know what you’re going to get. I’m fine with that, but it’s a little underwhelming when your bench scores like 10 points as a whole. Thankfully, that didn’t happen tonight as some of the veterans really stepped up.
Game Ball: The Game Ball should probably go to Josh Smith here. He was without question the man for this Hawks team tonight, going off for 27 and 9. Yet, I’m not going to give it to him because that would reward him for taking/making jumpers, something I will never do. So in a dead-heat battle between Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia, I’ll give the game ball to Teague. He really passed the ball well tonight, and his dish to Zaza in the fourth has been well documented within this post as the game changing play. He made some highlight plays in the first quarter and tallied four rebounds as well. He may have only shot 3-10, but it’s rare to see him see the floor like he did tonight.
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