Greetings! I trust that everyone has eaten copious amounts of food in the past holiday week, but as long as it was surrounded by a 3-game slate of Hawks basketball, all is well. Let’s take a look at what transpired.
Hawks vs. Pistons — Wednesday, December 26th — Win (126-119 in 2OT)
After blowing a massive 22-point lead in the fourth quarter, Atlanta rebounded to win a 7-point decision after a 58-minute game. Much of the credit for blowing that lead can be attributed to a 62-47 rebounding disadvantage to the Pistons on the night, and the fact that the Hawks allowed Detroit to shoot 14-27 from long range, but offensive execution also had a lot to do with it. Josh Smith “led the way” with 31 points on the night, but he had 30 points midway through the 3rd period before utterly disappearing from the offense, and when he did show up, he was taking bad, contested jump shots. Jeff Teague scuffled for the majority of the evening, but did make a couple of plays when it mattered in the overtimes to finish with 17 points and 11 assists. Will Bynum led the Pistons with 31 points in 36 minutes off the bench including the fact that he put on a show in the 4th quarter, doing whatever he wanted against Teague and Williams. Overall, this isn’t a “good” win, but it is encouraging that this team didn’t fold up shop after surrendering the big lead, as previous Hawks teams certainly would’ve lost this game by 8 points in the first overtime. Wins aren’t easy to come by, and this is one of them.
Hawks @ Cavs — Friday, December 28th — Win (102-94)
It took a 27-14 fourth quarter domination in order to secure a win in Cleveland on Friday night. Defensively, the Hawks buckled down in the final frame, and it was enough to secure a victory, even without Josh Smith in the fourth quarter. Apparently, Smith exited with a hip injury, but he was woeful before leaving the game, as he shot 2-12 from the field and committed 5 turnovers in 27 minutes. That said, he was the lone negative on this night for Atlanta. Jeff Teague had his best game in weeks, scoring 27 points and dishing out 8 assists, while Al Horford (14 and 11), Kyle Korver (11/5/3/3/2), Lou Williams (16/5/4), and even Anthony Tolliver (13 and 4) contributed in a big way in the win. As a team, the Hawks drained 13 of 24 threes, assisted on 27 of 38 baskets, and even won the rebounding battle on a night where Anderson Varejao wasn’t available for Cleveland. This is the type of grinding win that encourages me, as the Hawks trailed late in a road game that they should win, but rose up and took care of business with a barrage in the fourth.
Hawks vs. Pacers — Saturday, December 29th — Win (109-100)
Without the services of Josh Smith, Anthony Morrow, and Devin Harris, Atlanta shot 55% from the field and 50% from 3-point distance in beating a solid Pacers team. All five starters for the undermanned Hawks went for 15+ points, and the balance was key throughout the night. Lou Williams notched a career-high 12 assists to go along with a team-high 21 points on this night, and he was the best player on the court for much of the night. I really enjoyed Lou’s aggressiveness throughout, and he seems to relish the role as a primary scorer. Zaza Pachulia was also huge in Josh’s absence, getting the start and going for 17 points and 14 rebounds in 38 outstanding minutes. Overall, this was a stellar but unexpected offensive explosion against one of the better defensive teams in the league. The 3-point prowess of Williams and Korver had a lot to do with it, but Atlanta also assisted on 26 field goals on the night, and even got a shocking 10-point barrage from John Jenkins in his 17 minutes. Defensively, the Hawks weren’t tremendous on this night (allowing 100 points and 48% shooting), but it was enough for the win despite having no answer for David West. Really an impressive victory with the roster that was available to Coach Drew.
3-0 weeks in the NBA are an absolute luxury and this was one of them. It certainly wasn’t how Larry Drew constructed it, with the huge blown lead on Wednesday, followed by the need for a 4th quarter comeback on Friday, and the Josh Smith injury hole on Saturday, but the fact that this team was able to grind out three wins is impressive. At 19-9 and just a game out of 1st place in the Eastern conference, it’s been a tremendous 2012, and 2013 looks bright.