What a week! 4-0 weeks are hard to come by in this league and no matter what the schedule entailed, a sweep is a sweep. Let’s take a look at the action that transpired:
Hawks vs. Magic — Monday, November 19th — Win (81-72)
This was a really, really ugly basketball game. Neither team cracked 40% shooting from the field, and both converted just 20% of their three-point attempts. Orlando’s offense is very shady (as previewed earlier in the week) and they didn’t disappoint here. The defensive effort from the Hawks forced contested jump shot after contested jump shot as the shot clock ran down on Orlando, but the defense was certainly aided by the fact that no one on the Orlando squad can create their own shot via the dribble. At any rate, that’s the positive from this one. On the negative side (as negative as one can be in a win), the Hawks offense was fairly dismal here. Al Horford was the only starter that played a good game (in relative terms) finishing with 15 points and 9 rebounds in just 25 minutes. Ivan Johnson (9 points, 8 boards) and Zaza Pachulia (8 points, 11 boards) sparked the bench with solid production. Wins are wins.
Hawks vs. Wizards —Wednesday, November 21st — Win (101-100 in OT)
Going to the wire with a team that was previously 0-9 is troublesome… but again, this is an NBA win. Josh Smith had his best game of week, scoring 25 points, grabbing 12 boards, and blocking 4 Washington shots on the night. The offense was much better as a whole, shooting 43.5% FG and 36% from downtown. This was also another great night from Al Horford, who nearly notched a triple-double with 15 points, 10 assists (!), and 9 rebounds. Clearly, the biggest issue on Wednesday night came on the glass. The lowly Wizards out-rebounded Atlanta 58-37 on the night including grabbing a crazy 19 offensive rebounds. That’s simply an unacceptable total in any game, and the only reason Atlanta was able to overcome it was because of the Wizards’ offensive inefficiency and the fact that they committed 20 turnovers. Not exactly Atlanta’s finest hour in a victory.
Hawks @ Bobcats — Friday, November 23rd — Win (101-91)
This was a much, much better performance for Atlanta. Al Horford was the best player in the gym, scoring 26 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, while Kyle Korver added 16 points (including 4 triples) and 6 rebounds. The Hawks shot nearly 54% as a team while holding Charlotte (on the road, no less) to just 37.3% from the field. In addition, the Hawks were able to overcome a lackluster effort from Josh Smith that saw him shoot just 4 for 12 including a dismal 1 of 9 from outside of 7 feet. Defensively, the effort level was very good and the whole roster was flying around on this night. This resulted in a crazy 15 blocked shots for a season-high in that category. Deshawn Stevenson played 36 minutes in this one (we’ll come back to that) despite there being no major wing scorer for the Bobcats, but that was the only glaring deficiency in this one. Charlotte battled gamely, but it wasn’t enough on a night where Atlanta had it going.
Hawks vs. Clippers; Saturday, November 24th — Win (104-93)
In what should’ve been the toughest game of the entire week, the Hawks actually had the most comfortable win. Atlanta led by as many as 26 points in the 2nd half before surrendering a 33-point 4th quarter to the desperate Clippers, but the defense was very good prior to that on this night. The entire supporting cast for LA (namely, everyone except Griffin and Paul) was virtually taken out of the game, and LA finished with sub-43% shooting despite an early jump-shot barrage from Blake Griffin. Zaza Pachulia and Jeff Teague were the co-players of the game for me, as Zaza went for 19 points (on 7 of 9) and 12 rebounds in a starting role, while Teague scored 19 points and dealt 11 assists. Every player for Atlanta played reasonably well, with the exception of Josh Smith, and in Smith’s case, his talent level is so high that he can play “badly” for virtually all of his 24 minutes, and still finish with 17 points simply because he elected (thankfully!) to not shoot jump shots on this night. In reference to the rotation, Deshawn Stevenson went from playing 36 minutes the previous night in Charlotte to playing exactly zero minutes here. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to his deployment at this point, but it is a positive thing to see those minutes dispersed between an uptick in playing time to Teague, and 25 minutes for Anthony Morrow. This was a very impressive performance from the jump, as beating a high-level Western conference team like the Clippers can’t be ignored.
In the weekly preview, it was suggested that this was a week desperate for a 3-1/4-0 showing and the Hawks did just that. It wasn’t without its ups and downs, but the results speak for themselves, and our Atlanta Hawks now stand at 8-4 on the season as they look up only at Miami and New York in the standings. Wins are wins!