Greetings! Just 7 days after running down the 4-game West Coast trip that the Hawks have just returned from, it’s time to take a look at the week that was. 2-2 road trips are usually nothing to write home about, but there are some interesting nuggets of information here.
Hawks @ Clippers — Sunday, November 11th — Loss (89-76)
A visit to the Chris Paul traveling road show produced the worst offensive performance of the week. 76 points, 41.7% shooting from the field, and a dismal 7-16 output from the free throw line. That’s the short story from the Sunday game. Atlanta did a pretty reasonable job defensively, limiting the Clips to under 90 points and 46% shooting while even winning the battle on the glass 41-38. Offensive nights like this do tend to happen, but the most surprising part of the dismal game on that end was that it coincided with the Hawks worst offensive regular (Deshawn Stevenson) actually catching a DNP-Coach’s Decision. Eesh.
Hawks @ Blazers — Monday, November 12th — Win (95-87)
Speaking of dismal offensive performances! The Hawks defense (with some help from putrid offense, admittedly) held Portland to just 36% shooting on the night, and controlled the game throughout. Josh Smith led the team in scoring with 19 points despite a horrendous 9-22 shooting night that featured a hilarious number of jump shot attempts, but he did so while battling flu-like symptoms and still managed to corral 11 rebounds and post a game-best +18. This could also be the night that Kyle Korver broke out of his early-season mini-slump, as he shot 5-8 from the field including 4 triples on just 6 attempts and has had it going ever since. Portland isn’t a fantastic measuring stick, simply because their bench is legendarily bad at this point, but any time you can go into that raucous environment and control a game with a win, that’s a plus performance.
Hawks @ Warriors — Wednesday, November 14th — Loss (92-88)
This was the heart-breaker of the road trip. After a back-and-forth game that saw the Hawks make a late-game comeback, Atlanta fell one defensive rebound short as Harrison Barnes snatched the ball after a miss, and secured the game-clinching FTs for the Warriors. On the positive side, Kyle Korver continued his hot shooting (5-6 FG), Ivan Johnson had his best game of the season (15 points, 7-8 FG), and Atlanta was in the game despite the absence of Al Horford and Devin Harris. As far as negatives, Josh Smith’s shot selection led to a dismal 6-16 performance, and the Jeff Teague/Lou Williams lead guard combo combined for a wildly inefficient 27 points on 9 of 26 from the field. The biggest ongoing concern would’ve been the Warriors 44-29 rebounding edge, but I’ll chalk some of that up to Al Horford, and it’s tough to evaluate big-picture things on a night where Atlanta’s best player is in a suit.
Hawks @ Kings; Friday, November 16th — Win (112-96)
Man, Sacramento is a bad basketball team. The “Kings” got blitzed 34-20 by Atlanta in the opening frame, and despite a lackluster 2nd quarter, the Hawks never trailed. Kyle Korver was absolutely unconscious throughout this game, finishing with 22 points on 7-9 shooting and 5 for 5 from beyond the 3-point arc. In addition, Jeff Teague and Lou Williams both had it going on this night as both guards combined to shoot 12-18 from the field and add a total of 36 points. If there was a negative in this one, it was certainly the second quarter, but after the half, Al Horford took control, shooting 6 of 9 and controlling the painted area for Atlanta. This is a perfect instance of Atlanta taking care of business in a game they should absolutely win against an overmatched opponent, and while it took Larry Drew playing the Smith/Horford combo 40+ minutes each (see my latest post concerning the rotation for more details), the win is in the bank.
Frankly, a 2-2 road trip here isn’t a bad performance. Obviously, any Hawks fan would’ve liked to get a “winning” trip when 3 of the 4 opponents are lottery-projected teams, but with that said, West coast trips are generally ugly ones for Eastern Conference teams, and when you throw in the illness bug that hit the squad mid-trip, this was a positive week.