Greetings! We knew it would be a shortened week with only two games on the schedule, but the games certainly didn’t lack any story lines. Let’s take a look at what transpired…
Hawks vs. Raptors — Wednesday, January 30th — Win (93-92)
The Hawks fell behind again in this game, trailing by 10 points at the half, but surged in the second half and held on for dear life. DeMar DeRozan’s shot at the end of the game was “blocked” (read: fouled) by Al Horford to preserve the 1-point lead that Atlanta had grabbed on a dunk by Horford with 21 seconds to go, and that was that. Speaking of Al, he led the team in scoring with 22 points (10-15 FG) and added 10 rebounds and 6 assists on the night, while Josh Smith matched him with 21 points and 11 rebounds. It was the first time this season that both plays put up 20-and-10 games, and they were difference in the result. Elsewhere, Atlanta managed to win despite getting killed on the glass (52-36) thanks to some big-time shooting from Kyle Korver (5 of 9 on threes) and a defensive effort that held Toronto to under 39% shooting. The biggest story of the game was the no-call on the final play, but the takeaway for Atlanta is that when both Horford and Smith are playing well, it almost doesn’t matter what else happens, at least against subpar competition. Wins are wins.
Hawks vs. Bulls — Saturday, February 2nd — Loss (93-76)
For some reason, Atlanta cannot break the glass ceiling against the Chicago defense. On a night where the Bulls were without Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Kirk Hinrich (this one is less important!), Atlanta still lost by a 17-point margin on at home. Offensively, Atlanta was held to under 40% shooting, and with the 3-ball not falling either (6 for 19), offense was tough to come by. Additionally, the Hawks’ free-throw shooting woes continued with yet another 8-of-15 performance, and Chicago also dominated on the glass (53-45) and in the turnover battle (14-7). The scary thing in this one is that Chicago looked to be playing with more energy than the Hawks despite having to play four of their starters for 41+ minutes while Atlanta was at near-full strength, but Tom Thibodeau had his team ready to play and they overwhelmed the Hawks from the opening tip. Josh Smith was the lone statistical bright spot for Atlanta, scoring 19 points on 9-16 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds, but he also “led” the team with a game-worst -20 rating, and no Hawk played particularly well. I’d like to write this one off to great defense, but it is a little bit disconcerting to see this type of performance replicated against Chicago.
1-1 isn’t the worst result in the world, but when you consider the roster that Chicago put on the floor (Robinson, Hamilton, Butler, Deng and Gibson), there’s no reason for Atlanta not to win both games last week.
Playoff seeding is very much up for grabs, and while the only real prize is avoiding Miami in round one, that is very much in question. At the very least, consistency of effort will be needed going forward.