Greetings! The Hawks finish up a road trip with Monday’s game in Denver, but the story of this 4-game week is the higher level of competition. Let’s take a look at the slate to come.
Hawks @ Nuggets — Monday, March 4th — Loss (104-88)
Even before the notice that Kyle Korver, Zaza Pachulia, and Deshawn Stevenson would all be out of the lineup, I wrote about the severe difficulty of finishing a back-to-back in Denver. After the announcement? Fear ensued, and it was warranted fear as Denver dominated this one. The Nuggets dominated the glass (48-35), shot 54% from the field, and rode a 22-point night from Corey Brewer (off the bench) to aid in the win. For Atlanta, Al Horford was typically awesome (18 points on 9-16, 13 rebounds), but outside of his solid performance, no other Hawk stood out with positive play. Both Jeff Teague and Josh Smith shot 6-17 from the field, and it’s very, very tough to win a road game against a quality opponent when your 2nd and 3rd best players shoot 35%. This isn’t a “bad” loss by any stretch, but it would’ve been nice to see a better performance across the board.
Hawks vs. Sixers — Wednesday, March 6th — Win (107-96)
In the first 5 minutes of this game, it was looking like a “same, old Hawks” kind of night, as they came out flat against a wildly overmatched opponent. Atlanta started the game by missing their first 6 shots and committing 4 turnovers, which left them in an 8-0 hole, but after that, it was a fairly dominant effort. The only weakness on the night was the lack of rebounding (losing the battle 48-38), but the Hawks made the Philly defense look foolish at some points during the night, and points were easy to come by in the last 43 minutes or so. Anthony Tolliver scored a season-high 21 points (7-10 FG, 5-7 threes) in a shocking outburst, and he was electric offensively. Al Horford put up a suddenly ho-hum 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Jeff Teague had an outstanding game with 27 points (10-15 FG) and 11 assists. When we look back on the season, I’m positive that this is the “Anthony Tolliver game” but it was a nice effort across the board from the Hawks.
Hawks @ Celtics — Friday, March 8th — Loss (107-102 OT)
Doesn’t it seem like there’s a higher possibility of a wild game against Boston than every other team? This one qualifies, and while the Hawks lost in OT, it was a crazy finish. Atlanta trailed by 12 points with 6:35 left in the 4th before mounting a giant comeback to force overtime. Josh Smith finished with the impressive line of 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists, but he needed 27 field goal attempts (including a ghastly 9 three-point attempts) to get there. Also, Smith made two crucial turnovers in the final minute of OT and finished with 5 on the night. It was a classic good Josh/bad Josh game, and while the good outnumbered the bad on this night, it wasn’t without a fight. Elsewhere, Al Horford was (again) brilliant with 22 points (9-16 FG), 13 rebounds, and 5 assists while Jeff Teague had his second straight great game with 26 points and 9 assists in 44 minutes. Former Hawk Jason Terry and Paul Pierce combined to sink the Hawks in OT, as each hit a three (along with one from Jeff Green) and both guys had above-average nights. On to the next…
Hawks vs. Nets — Saturday, March 9th — Loss (93-80)
Until Saturday, no result could be considered surprising. Then, the Nets came into Philips Arena and absolutely hammered the Hawks for the first 3 quarters. Yes, it’s not shocking that Brooklyn would win in Atlanta as they are the better team in the standings, but when the score is 76-57 after 36 minutes in your own building, it’s an issue. Atlanta committed 17 turnovers to just 9 from Brooklyn, and that was honestly the difference in the game as the Nets grabbed 20 points off of those 17 turnovers. Al Horford was the only Atlanta star who had even a solid game (15 points, 12 rebounds), as Josh Smith (5-12 FG, 12 points, 6 rebounds) and Jeff Teague (2-9 FG,7 points, zero assists) struggled mightily. Joe Johnson, who is always a focus in Philips Arena, was held to 4-13 shooting, including 0-5 from three, but the Nets got 18 points each from Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche to lead the way to victory.
I said before the week that “2-2 may be a desirable outcome”, and it turned out that 2-2 would’ve been a Godsend. The lack of a complete “no-show” keeps the week from being an utter disaster, but it certainly wasn’t a good effort from Atlanta on Saturday at home. That’s the difference between an upper-echelon team and a mediocre one, and the Hawks lean toward the middle at times. At any rate, it’s on to the next one…