Greetings! The second of back-to-back four-game weeks brought mixed results, and the slate was, in fact, pretty interesting. Let’s examine what happened:
Hawks @ Wizards — Tuesday, December 18th — Win (100-95 in OT)
It’s really a good thing that Washington is as bad as they are. Atlanta managed to squeak out an OT victory despite some wholly underwhelming play in this one. The Hawks did manage to hold the Wizards to 37.9% from the field, which proved to be the biggest key in this one. Former Hawks guard Jordan Crawford had the best game of his career, posting a triple-double with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists as the biggest bright spot for the Wizards, and he frankly did whatever he wanted for much of the night. For Atlanta, Lou Williams led the way with 24 points (including 10-11 from the line) off the bench, and Josh Smith added 17 points and 13 rebounds despite just 5-10 FT. Kyle Korver also helped the cause with 3 triples and a 16-point, 7-rebound night. Al Horford struggled mightily from the field, shooting 2 of 11, but did add 11 rebounds and 6 assists in the win. Not the prettiest victory, but a “business trip” that was a success.
Hawks vs. Thunder — Wednesday, December 19th — Loss (100-92)
Kevin Durant stole the show in Atlanta on Wednesday. 41 points including 28 in the second half, and 18 in the fourth quarter alone will do that, but Durant also added 13 rebounds, and this was basically an example of his overall excellence. On the Hawks side, ugly shooting marred the night as the team shot 38% overall, and guys like Horford (5-14), Smith (8-19), Korver (3-10), and Williams (5-15) struggled to get their shot to fall all night. It is a credit to Larry Drew and the overall team defense that this game was as close as it was, but in the end, Kevin Durant was too much, and Russell Westbrook wasn’t bad either with 27 points and 11 assists. There are worse losses.
Hawks @ Sixers — Friday, December 21st — Loss (99-80)
Ugh. This was easily the low-point of the week, and really may have the worst performance in a month. Philly shot 51% on the night to Atlanta’s 39%, the Sixers out-rebounded the Hawks by a 45-37 margin, and Atlanta committed 17 turnovers to just 12 from Philadelphia. Another rough game from Al Horford set the tone for Atlanta, as he shot just 2-10, and on a night where Atlanta had just 3 guys in double-figures, and no one with more than Josh Smith’s 17 points, there was more offense needed. Philly’s balanced scoring was led by 21 from Evan Turner and 18 from Thaddeus Young, but there was no reason that the Sixers should’ve cruised to this easy of a win. It was a lackluster overall performance from Atlanta, and Larry Drew spoke of “change” after the game.
Hawks vs. Bulls — Saturday, December 22nd — Win (92-75)
For as bad as Friday night was, Saturday night was impressive. Atlanta rebounded in a huge way, both literally and figuratively, as the Hawks dominated the glass 45-31 and beat up on the Bulls. After an ugly session of opening minutes on both sides, Atlanta opened things up tempo-wise, and things resulted in a 36-16 advantage in the 2nd quarter that blew the game wide open. Al Horford came back strong after a bad week, with a 20-10 on 9 of 12 shooting, Lou Williams added 16 points in his 1st start as a Hawk, and Kyle Korver shot the lights out again. Defensively, Atlanta clamped down on the Bulls on the perimeter, holding them to 42% shooting, and outside of Joakim Noah inside, no Bulls regular had a particularly good night. As a side story, it was also the first time that Jeff Teague and his younger brother, Marquis, have faced off in an NBA game, and because of the score, Marquis actually played 16 minutes and faced off with brother Jeff on a few occasions. That was really fun to watch, and this was a great night overall for Atlanta.
Prior to the week, 2-2 wasn’t a desirable result, but that is what transpired. However, Atlanta did manage to win both of the games that they were favored in, and without an outright outburst from Kevin Durant, they may have stolen that game as well. Beating the teams that you are “supposed” to beat isn’t always easy in the NBA, but this version of the Hawks has been able to hold serve in these situations. At 16-9 and currently holding the #3 seed in the East, it’s been an impressive 25-game stretch, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue on some level.