Grading the Hawks: Each Atlanta Hawks player is given a grade on an A+ through F scale upon completion of the game.
Joe Johnson: C+
Joe was off the entire night, missing all five of his three-point attempts and going 5-17 for the game. He made some tough shots down the stretch of regulation, including a jumper that tied the game with 46 seconds to go, but he ultimately squandered several opportunities in overtime as Pietrus smothered him defensively. He was clearly the focal point of Boston’s defense, and they limited him to 14 points while forcing him to get rid of the ball when he wanted it most. A big-time jumper and a fancy first quarter floater was about all that Joe showed off tonight. Everything else, unfortunately, was a little bit all over the place.
Josh Smith: B
Here’s what you need to know about Smith on Wednesday night: he shot 14 deep jumpers, not including a half court heave at the end of the second quarter. He made eight of them, and often found the bottom of the net without even grazing the rim, but the Celtics were willing to live with a few outliers going in so long as he was kept out of the paint. With Kevin Garnett abusing Ivan Johnson all game long, Smith came in and provided some much needed defensive relief, which included a few huge blocks, the most notable a stuffing of Rondo’s blow-by layup off the glass. He had huge turnovers in overtime (six on the night) and missed a crucial free-throw in final three minutes, but on the bright side he was the catalyst of the SDS play of the night. With 3:07 to go in the third quarter, Zaza Pachulia stole an errant Rondo pass and moved the ball to Smith who started the break. He shook Rondo with a behind- the-back dribble and froze Pietrus in transition with a behind-the-back pass to the cutting Teague who laid it in uncontested. It was open-court beauty.
Zaza Pachulia: B
It’s becoming a classic Zaza Pachulia night. Some gritty rebounds and a few putbacks and free throws to go along with an unappreciated craftiness around the hoop. Smith set Pachulia up for a nice dunk when he took KG off the dribble and drew Bass away from Zaza so he could flip a slick pass behind him for an easy jam. As usual, he flailed his arms and had accidental tip ins, but like Smith, he missed a crucial free throw in the waning minutes of the game. While he didn’t headbutt KG like it was 2008, he did get in a little bit of a tangle and act like it was an accident.
Kirk Hinrich: C
Kirk hasn’t been playing well all season, and tonight wasn’t anything new. He was, however, our only spark in overtime, so it’s only right that I at least tip my hat. He made a jump shot with 2:22 left in overtime, our only points of the extra session, and followed that up by deflecting a pass off of Brandon Bass to get us the ball back. Too bad no team could score after that, but at least he tipped the momentum scales our way. While being double teamed by Rondo and KG, Smith found Hinrich on a beautiful cut through the lane as he finished with an and one. It was one of many heady plays from Hinrich on the night.
Jeff Teague: A-
The biggest catastrophe of this game was that the Hawks refused to run their late game offense, or overtime offense I should say, through Teague. Teague, apart from Rondo, was the best player on the floor all night, attacking relentlessly and finding open teammates. He had five turnovers, but was the main source of offense the entire night. His steal on Stiemsma’s inbound pass for a dunk was one of the highlights of the night, but he topped that when he sized up Paul Pierce with a between the legs hesitation move and swished a fadeaway jumper in his grill. When the Hawks trailed by 5 in the middle of the fourth quarter, Teague scored six unanswered, putting them up one with 6:32 to go. When Joe Johnson was double teamed on the final play of the game and whizzed the cross court pass to Smith, Teague was wide-open in the corner with plenty of time to put the ball on the deck or at the very least shoot it. Smith opted to take the three pointer instead, going for the win. And just like that, we lost the game.
Tracy McGrady: C
McGrady came out attacking in the second quarter, getting to the line twice where he went 3-4. He scored one other time and did a decent job of running the second unit offense for a few possessions. In terms of what we generally expect from McGrady, this was about an average performance, so a C seems to fit the bill.
Willie Green: D
I’ve made it known I’m a huge Willie Green fan– for some unknown reason I always have been, and I often blindly defend him. There’s no defending him, here. He came in the game and missed two quick threes, and then never made a shot the rest of the night going 0-4. He was a mess to start the fourth quarter, throwing an errant pass and then getting burned and faked out by Pietrus for an open jumper. He got bailed out with a foul on the following possession when he was clearly about to cough the ball up, too. When Willie is making his open shots, he’s a huge asset to this team, but he’s relatively one-dimensional, and that was on full display tonight as he was in over his head.
Jannero Pargo: D
Same story as Willie Green, although Pargo was a little more shot happy to start the fourth quarter. It was then that Boston made their run and took (kind of) control of the game.
Marvin Williams: C
Offensively, sometimes I wonder if he’s even on the court. He had a nice hook shot, followed by a sweet fadeaway in the second quarter, but that was all she wrote in 29 minutes of action. He air-balled a three and missed on a few other opportunities. Still, I’m giving him a C for his defense on Pierce. He covered Pierce for a good majority of the game, and although Paul was forcing things, Marvin was forcing his hand to force things, so at least there’s that. It’s a pretty generous grade, but I’m feeling nice right now.
Ivan Johnson: D+
Unlike Green and Pargo, he at least contributed with two buckets and some attempted scrappy defense on KG. The only issue was that Garnett is just too long and too tall, and he went to work on Ivan multiple times in the second quarter. It wasn’t a fun match-up for him, and he’d probably be better off guarding Bass. Speaking of Bass, I’m not sure if it was Ivan or not, but I’m going to have to re-watch the game and see how Bass was able to get so many wide open jumpers.
Larry Drew: C-B Range
It’s hard to gauge how much of this was Drew’s fault. The main issue with tonight’s game from a coaching standpoint was an inability to handle lineups. Does he realize he’s allowed to integrate the first and second unit? I swear it feels like every time Pargo is on the court, he’s on the court with T-Mac, Green, and Ivan. To start the fourth quarter, Drew needed someone who could run the offense or someone who the offense could run through, especially in a game like this. That is not Jannero Pargo, and it never will be Pargo unless we’re up by 60-something points and there are four minutes left in the game. Rotations is what I really had my eye on, and I know it’s not how he drew it up, but that last play of regulation was absolutely atrocious in every form of the word. Johnson with a desperation pass from being trapped at half court to Pargo (?!) so he could have a contested three at the buzzer? LD, you can’t be out-coached that badly in the last minute of the game. Late game execution is key.
Just worth noting, Rondo went off. I mean absolutely off. Teague was able to keep him in front of him, but he was not able to stop Rondo from distributing. Rondo finished the game with 10 points, 20 assists, and 10 rebounds. Ho-hum. Anyway…
This was an incredibly important game, and you’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise. This wasn’t just another regular season game. This was, A) a preview of our likely first round playoff opponent, and B) the game that would decide the tie breaker. So because of Boston’s win tonight, if we end up with the same record as they do at season’s end, then we do not have home court advantage. You know what that means? We can’t lose six in a row to end the regular season like we did last year. We need to stay focused, and the schedule only gets tougher as we move forward. There are a few gimmees, but we have Orlando, LAC, Boston again, and Dallas all before the post season. The three seed is still in sight, but it’s fading in the distance at the same time. Our next game against Boston, which is next Friday, will likely have huge implications. Both the Hawks and the Celtics are 34-24 after tonight, so that game could end up giving the victor a one-game lead heading into the last week of the season. If you read the game preview, you’d know I hate the Celtics more than any other team, but I’m proud of the Hawks’ effort tonight. The execution wasn’t entirely there, but the will to win was. We’ll see them again soon, and more than likely in the playoffs. If tonight was any indication of what the post season will be like… Well then, buckle up.
Topics: Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Doc Rivers, George Stiemsma, Ivan Johnson, Jannero Pargo, Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Drew, Marvin Williams, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Tracy McGrady, Willie Green, Zaza Pachulia