Greetings! As the Hawks head into the All-Star break, the “week” is officially over after a 2-game stretch against Dallas and Orlando. Let’s take a look at what went down on the road trip.
Hawks @ Mavericks — Monday, February 11th — Win (105-101)
Two of the biggest plays of the game involved Josh Smith taking, what the play-by-play refers to as, “25-foot three point jumpers”. He made them both and converted both free throws in the final seconds to lead Atlanta to a 4-point win. In total, Smith made 4 of his 5 three-point attempts, finishing with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 assists for the undisputed “line of the night”. It was a really nice performance from Josh, and while five three-point attempts is a bit aggressive, the rest of his game showed up on this night. Al Horford (21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) and Jeff Teague (20 points, 9 assists) were also huge on this night, as Atlanta’s leading trio performed about as well as they could possibly be expected to. Larry Drew chose (again) to start Anthony Tolliver and was rewarded with 24 minutes of scoreless basketball (0-4 FG), but since the result was a win, it was all but assured that Tolliver would continue to see minutes. For Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki showed signs of a return to full-strength with 24 points and 7 rebounds, but the Atlanta defense was able to limit Darren Collison, Shawn Marion, and OJ Mayo to a combined 17-43 shooting. That defensive effort combined with a 48-37 rebounding edge sealed a really nice road win for Atlanta.
Hawks @ Magic — Wednesday, February 13th — Win (108-76)
This was one of Atlanta’s more dominant performances of the season, and the margin of victory (the largest of the year) told that story. Josh Smith had a fantastic night in the box score, scoring 30 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and dishing out 5 assists in only 30 minutes of floor time. I would stop short of saying that his performance was fantastic overall, simply because he elected to attempt a staggering amount of jump shots (10 in total) from 15-21 feet. Alas, they decided to go in on Wednesday night. Al Horford was at the top of his game in Orlando as well, scoring 26 points on 16 shots, grabbed 12 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists. Both Smith and Horford were +30 on the night, as the front-court duo played out of their minds. As a whole, the offense clicked from the jump, and even assisted on 32 of 41 converted field goals, but Atlanta’s defense was even better. Orlando managed to shoot just 41% from the field and 21% from the 3-point line, as the Hawks’ defense swarmed their perimeter scores, and Horford did a number on Vucevic all night. In a “hilarious stat that means nothing” reference, Devin Harris managed to be a +24 on the night despite shooting 0-6 from the field (all threes) and turning the ball over 3 times in 25 minutes. It didn’t even matter. It’s tough to get overly excited about a win against a hapless Orlando team, but 30+-point road wins are few and far between in this league, and it was an impressive send-off to the break.
With two road wins on the way to the All-Star break, “momentum” seems to be the word that I’m hearing most. While I don’t necessarily believe that momentum is the driving force (with a full week off before seeing Miami on Feb. 20), it is certainly better to send this roster to a mini-vacation coming off of two wins. Enjoy the break!