The Hawks overcame injuries, though not as severe a situation as their opponent, and a large deficit to win in Atlanta 104-96 over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Hawks-Timberwolves game was played without the services of Lou Williams, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy, and Malcolm Lee. To make up for these losses, some of the most important players today were on 10 day contracts. For the Timberwolves, a pair of recent pick ups, Michael Gelabale from France and Chris Johnson from the D-League, combined for 5-5 shooting, 17 points, 5 points, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals in 28 total minutes.
However the big story was the return of Jannero Pargo to a Hawks uniform. Pargo was a member of last year’s team and had arguably his best season in the NBA, at least in terms of shooting percentages. Jannero started the season with the Washington Wizards, as they needed point guard depth without John Wall. He was waived in November and was without a team until today, when the Hawks desperately needed a familiar guard to come in on short notice. Pargo proceeded to fill up the scoreboard with a number of jumpshots as well as provide an emotional lift to a Hawks team that had lost 8 of their past 10 games.
Down by 18 points at one point in the second quarter, the Hawks relied on aggressive transition offense and ball movement to find open three pointers to spark a major comeback.
Because of the lack of pure ball handlers, the Hawks had a major turnover problem. Atlanta had 8 first quarter giveaways and 22 for the whole game. Also an issue was the free throw shooting (12-21), which reflects a more disturbing trend that has persisted all season long. As of yesterday, the Hawks were the third worse free throw shooting team at 70.2% and must improve on that number as the season progresses. However, the Hawks were able to stay aggressive and put away an injury-battered ‘Wolves squad.
The Hawks had a fantastic second half offensively after starting slowly in the first half. They assisted on 32 of 41 buckets, meaning despite the many turnovers they were intent on not playing much isolation ball. Their 57.7% shooting was the best output of the season, even though the score doesn’t quite reflect that because of the slow pace and multitude of turnovers. All in all, it was a win that could potentially start a new winning streak, especially with the Bobcats on tap next.
1. Al Horford: Horford had a monster game with 28 points and 10 rebounds. He was the focal point of the offense due to the injured ‘Wolves starting frontcourt of Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love. He helped contribute to the 50-34 margin in points in the paint.
2. Kyle Korver: Korver helped fill in for the lack of shooting guards by playing 35 minutes tonight. He also helped defending Andrei Kirilenko and hit big shots when the offense was struggling.
3. Jannero Pargo/Mike Scott: This isn’t lockout basketball anymore but it was a throw back to last season. Pargo hit contested shots as well he did open ones and finished with 16 points, powered by his 4-5 mark from beyond the arc. He looked to have chemistry with players he played with last season (Smith, Horford, Teague, Zaza, Ivan) and well as with the new faces in Atlanta uniforms.
I had to give Mike Scott some love as well. He provided a boost on the offensive boards and got some easy buckets for a struggling Hawks offense in the second and third quarter. He finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. He set a career high in points, rebounds and steals tonight.