Greetings! Three straight wins to finish out the week are nice, but when you remember what the roster looked like on Wednesday night? 3-1 is a beautiful thing.
Hawks @ Heat — Tuesday, March 12th — Loss (98-81)
Road games against the defending champs are never fun, and this was no exception. It was the Heat’s 19th consecutive victory, and they really dominated this game from the jump after a 26-18 first quarter edge. The craziest part of the entire game was the fact that Lebron James had a “bad” night by his standards, shooting just 3-11 from the field and finishing with 15 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds in 30 minutes…. and it didn’t even matter. Dwyane Wade was very good (9-18 FG, 23 points in 30 minutes) and the Heat caused a crippling 22 turnovers from the Atlanta offense. Against Miami (or any up-tempo team), turnovers are a back-breaker, and nine players from Atlanta committed 2+ turnovers on the night. It wasn’t at all pretty, and this was the first game in a while where it was tough to even find a player who was a “bright spot”. Miami is in a different class right now.
Hawks vs. Lakers — Wednesday, March 13th — Win (96-92)
What an absolutely wild win. Just prior to game time, it was announced that both Josh Smith and Jeff Teague would be out for this game with injury, and with Deshawn Stevenson (unavailable on a back-to-back) and Zaza Pachulia (injured) out of the lineup, it didn’t look good for Atlanta. Then, the Hawks showed up in a big way, coming out of the gate strong (leading by 7 after the 1st quarter and 12 at the half) and withstanding a massive 3rd quarter run by Kobe Bryant and company to get an unexpected victory. The “takeaway” from the game nationally was the absurdity of the Kobe/Dahntay Jones ankle incident, but I’m going to ignore that and focus on the game itself. Atlanta had six guys in double-figures on the night (and a 7th in Anthony Tolliver who scored 9 points) in a total team effort, and the energy level was through the roof from the get-go. The Hawks won the rebounding battle (52-45), outshot the Lakers (47% to 39%), and even got to the free throw line 21 times on the night. Al Horford anchored the team (as usual) with 14 points and 14 rebounds, but the contributions from unexpected sources put the game over the top. Johan Petro had his best game as a Hawk, putting up a 10-point/11-rebound double-double in 26 minutes opposite Dwight Howard, Shelvin Mack and John Jenkins combined for 19 points, and Ivan Johnson had 12 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. This was one of the more memorable nights of the season, and while it was lost in the Kobe madness, it’s a great win.
Hawks vs. Suns — Friday, March 15th — Win (107-94)
Phoenix is a bad basketball team, but it was nice to see the Hawks take care of business in a game they’re “supposed” to win. Josh Smith and Jeff Teague returned to action, and Smith led the team in scoring with 17 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Teague was brought off of the bench (curiously) and shot just 2-10 from the field, but it was a positive sign to see him back out on the floor quickly. The story of the night was the 3-point barrage for Atlanta, as the team made 12-23 attempts (52%) and Kyle Korver led the way with four triples. Even with a disappointing 20 turnovers, this was a nice offensive performance, and they took advantage of the gaps in the Phoenix defense all night.
Hawks @ Nets — Sunday, March 17th — Win (105-93)
Atlanta got revenge from last week’s home loss with a convincing win in Brooklyn. The Hawks outscored the Nets 34-20 in the 4th quarter (a crazy margin on the road) and put them away in big-time fashion. Al Horford was tremendous all night, finishing with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 steals to go along with a game-high +24 on-court rating. The craziest stat of the night was the fact that Atlanta got murdered on the glass (50-38) and still won the game going away thanks to a 53% shooting night from the field, and 30 assists on 44 made baskets. Horford and company did a number on Brook Lopez defensively, holding the All-Star center to just 7-19 shooting, and with Reggie Evans as the front-court counterpart to Lopez, it was easy to see them bring quick double-teams. With the win, Atlanta climbs to within one game of Brooklyn in the standings, and with a late-push, they could surpass them in a hurry.
After the “typical” Miami game, it was a very, very nice week. The LA win seemingly came out of nowhere (with the aforementioned personnel issues), and winning on the road in Brooklyn is huge. Let’s see if the Hawks can keep up the sudden momentum. Enjoy!