Greetings! With the way that Atlanta has been playing, 2-2 weeks don’t get anyone excited, but that was the result from the past week. Let’s take a look at how things transpired…
Hawks @ Heat — Monday, December 10th — Loss (101-92)
On a normal night for the Hawks, shooting 19-20 from the free throw line, battling to a 32-32 draw on the glass, and getting a push in turnover margin would be a recipe for a win, or at the very least, an ultra-competitive game. Unfortunately for Atlanta, these stats didn’t produce that result against the defending champs. Miami was able to shoot 58% from the field on the night, shattering the season-long streak of holding opponents to under 50% shooting, and the Lebron James/Dwyane Wade duo basically did whatever they wanted throughout the night. Lebron cruised to a 27/7/6 line, and while that is honestly a ho-hum evening for Lebron, it was the 11-13 FG, 26-point night from Wade that likely did the Hawks in here. I didn’t think that the overall defense was particularly horrible on this night, but in order to compete with an offensive juggernaut like Miami, the Hawks must deploy their top-flight defensive game, and they fell short here. Al Horford’s 20 points and 11 rebounds were the brightest spot for Atlanta, and other than Al, there wasn’t a particular performance that stood out in a positive light.
Hawks @ Magic — Wednesday, December 12th — Win (86-80)
In the preview to the week, we discussed Orlando’s inability to create offense, and that certainly held true on this night. This game wasn’t as competitive as the final score indicates, as the Magic were held to 38% shooting by a combination of themselves, and a nice defensive night from Atlanta. Josh Smith’s five blocks and a 13/13 night from Al Horford keyed the front-court, while Jeff Teague scored an efficient 16 points on 7-12 shooting to lead the guards. It seems that every time Orlando is the opponent, the resulting play is predictably ugly, but it’s a match-up that continues to be a winning one for Atlanta, and road wins are always at a premium in this league.
Hawks vs. Bobcats — Thursday, December 13th — Win (113-90)
Dominance. That was the word of choice on Thursday night, as the Hawks basically toyed with Charlotte for all 48 minutes. This may have been the best night of the season from Devin Harris, who shot 7-11 from the field and 4-8 from 3-point distance, to finish with 20 points and 4 assists in just 24 minutes. Other standout performers included Ivan Johnson, who scored 16 points and grabbed 8 boards in 28 minutes, and Lou Williams, who scored 13 points and dished out 9 assists in 25 minutes of play. Overall, the Hawks shot 57% from the field, converted an absurd 14-29 from 3-point distance, and never looked back after a 30-point opening quarter. None of the offensive numbers are particularly shocking against the league’s worst defensive team in terms of efficiency, but it was nice to see the Hawks dispose of an opponent in systematic fashion from the opening tip.
Hawks vs. Warriors — Saturday, December 15th — Loss (115-93)
Yikes. This was a tough one to watch, and it turned out to be very fortunate that most of Atlanta couldn’t see it, as the game wasn’t televised locally. Atlanta competed very well in the 1st quarter, finishing the frame tied at 26, but in the 2nd quarter, Golden State’s offense took over. Allowing 36 points in one quarter is certainly not a recipe for success, and after that explosion, the Hawks never recovered. Golden State shot 49.5% from the field on the night and, to make matters worse, also managed to dominate the boards by a 54-45 margin and assist on 32 of their 49 field goals. One important note to watch going forward for the Hawks defensively was Golden State’s repeated isolation of Kyle Korver in the half-court, and they were able to take advantage of the Barnes/Korver match-up at a huge clip. I don’t believe that Korver is the defense weak-link that some have felt that he is, but Barnes is the type of match-up that can cause severe issues for Atlanta’s defense. On the Hawks side, Josh Smith was an abject disaster offensively, shooting 1-of-12 from the field and scoring just 3 points on the night. This output was a product of repeatedly settling for jump shots, and he finished 0-7 on shots outside of 10 feet. Al Horford was the best player on the floor for Atlanta as he finished with 17 and 9, and while that’s no surprise, the only other bright spots were Ivan Johnson (15 and 9) and Lou Williams (16 points on 13 attempts). Although the overall numbers weren’t as bad as they were against Miami, I actually felt that this was the worst defensive game I’ve seen from the Hawks in weeks, and while the Warriors’ offense is a stout one, Atlanta did their part in making Golden State look good in this one.
Overall, a 2-2 week isn’t a disaster, especially when considering that Miami (on the road) was on the schedule. The Hawks won both games that they were “supposed” to win, lost the one game they were supposed to lose, and also lost the more “toss-up” match-up with the Warriors. If there is a takeaway, I would suggest that the potential defensive shortcomings that we’ve been screaming about since the preseason in this space may be rearing their ugly heads a bit on the wing. Stay tuned.