Game Recap: This is what being a playoff team is all about: destroying the inferior opponents and competing with the upper echelon teams of the league. While we still have a ways to go in the latter qualification, we’re making significant strides in the former.
After pathetically being pummeled by the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night, the Hawks have responded with two consecutive dominating wins over teams considerably worse than them: the Raptors on Monday night and the Pistons on Wednesday night. The best part about the 32 point victory over Detroit? It was a blowout from the start.
After Brandon Knight sunk a three-pointer to tie the game at five points apiece, the Hawks took complete control of the game, never to trail again.
Jeff Teague penetrated the lane early and often en route to creating several looks for open teammates, including… wait for it… Jason Collins! The big man wasn’t completely terrible on Wednesday night (trending upwards) as he scored seven whole points.
Greg Monroe paced the Pistons with 17 points, but on a night like this, it didn’t really matter. He couldn’t get by Josh Smith in the first quarter when the Hawks stretched their lead to 19. By the time he was scoring, the game had long been decided and he was going to work on Vladimir Radmanovic and the rest of the Hawks’ front court bench. Rodney Stuckey was unusually terrible on Wednesday, which came as somewhat of a surprise after he torched Atlanta for 27 points earlier in the season.
But really, this game was just a track meet for the Hawks. So many highlight plays, so many dominant performances, and so many points for a team that is looking for every win they can get in hopes of securing home-court advantage in a likely play off date with Boston. It’s incredibly beneficial to put the game out of reach by mid-way through the second quarter. Now, the starters can be well rested for Friday’s showdown with the Celtics in Philips Arena, a game which will ultimately put the winner in the driver’s seat to host the opening round.
It was nice to be on cruise control for the night and watch guys like Pargo, McGrady, and Green do their thing.
Player Grades: Each player is given a grade on an A+ through F scale based upon their game performance.
Joe Johnson: B+
He played 22 minutes, scored 13 points, and shot 4-9 (44%) from the field. It was a nice night off for JJ, who got some well-deserved rest and helped knock the Pistons out of the park early on by getting a few early buckets. He also had an absolutely dazzling reverse layup in the first quarter and made an open three, but unfortunately missed four others. It’s not like it mattered. He was efficient and did what he needed to do in a game that he was able to sit almost the entire second half.
Josh Smith: A-
Like the rest of the starters, Smoove played very little as he allotted just 19 minutes. It’s what he did in those 19 minutes that is A- worthy, though. He scored 12 points on 4-8 (50%) shooting, while also pulling in 9 boards and dishing out 3 assists. He made life hell for Greg Monroe early on and rebounded most every shot that caromed his way. Unfortunately, he took some of those ill-advised jumpers, but you can’t tell me you haven’t seen more of them start going in. His jump shot has definitely improved leaps and bounds when compared to last season and while it isn’t ideal for him to be shooting those, at least he’s gotten better. He is truly having a monster season, though, and it’s time more people give him his due.
Jason Collins: C
I guess it was a night to remember for “Twin.” Collins scored seven points for a season high and had a pretty impressive catch out of a Teague pick-and-roll in the first quarter that he converted for a layup. He had one rebound in 15 minutes and for a guy that is close to seven feet tall, that’s inexcusable no matter how sessile you’ve become. But don’t let the haters bog you down, Jason. Bask in all the glory of your season high!
Kirk Hinrich: D+
Even when we romp the Pistons, not everyone can have a good game. Hinrich made an open three-pointer assisted by Teague in the first quarter, but after that, he was largely unheard of for the rest of the night. A few scrappy defensive plays here and there, but for the most part, pretty irrelevant.
Jeff Teague: B
The stats won’t wow you from tonight’s game: six points on 3-6 shooting (50%), five assists, and three boards in 21 minutes of action. It looks like one of those games when Teague is able to the ride the coattails of Johnson and Smith, but it wasn’t. He was the main source of offense in the first half of the first quarter, dishing out three assists pretty early and getting into the lane whenever he wanted. Neither Stuckey nor Knight could stay in front of him and he let that be known as he frequently broke them down. He was a willing passer tonight, maybe even too willing as he passed up a few open layups on the break in hopes of creating a highlight play. But hey, when you’re winning by 30-something points, why not go for a few extra highlights?
Jerry Stackhouse: D
Every time I give a bad grade to a player that hardly got any minutes I feel bad because they never really got a chance to do anything. The bottom line, though, is that they didn’t do anything. Stackhouse did make a three-pointer in garbage time, but he missed all three of his other shots, one of which was an air ball. Again, whatever, we were winning by 40-something at the time.
Tracy McGrady: A
A vintage T-Mac performance on a little bit of a smaller scale. He played only 17 minutes, scored 17 points, grabbed 4 boards, and doled out 4 assists. He was also the composer of several highlight plays, one of which was a behind the back pass to Pargo for a jumper in transition, the other being a sweet no look to a cutting Ivan Johnson for a violent slam dunk. He was on fire as he swished fadeaways, attacked the hoop, and even had a one-handed slam. He brought everyone back to 2003, if only for a little bit.
Vladimir Radmanovic: D+
Again, a case of a bench player who comes in and doesn’t do much because it’s mainly garbage time. He made a three-pointer, scored 7 points, and had 4 rebounds. Cool. Moving on.
Willie Green: B-
Usually, when Willie Green is missing shots, it’s bad news for everyone involved. He starts turning it over, falling asleep on defense, looking at the floor for extended periods of time, all that stuff. This time, though, he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but still had several nice passes. Maybe it was in honor of his new baby boy, Mason, but Willie Green had his eyes peeled for any and all cutters. He fed Marvin Williams for a nice dunk as he drew two defenders and later had a brilliant penetrate and kick to Marvin again for an uncontested jumper. He never really found his groove from deep, going just 1-5, but he did score 10 points and positively impact the game for Atlanta.
Jannero Pargo: B+
He scored 9 points and had an off night from deep, going 1-5 just like Willie and Joe, but like Green, he found solace in the art of passing the ball. He had 8 assists as he routinely found McGrady (and McGrady routinely found him) and others for open looks. His sweetest pass of the night was one he slipped between two defenders running down the court to T-Mac who rattled the rim to give Atlanta a 49-26 lead early on in the second quarter. He stepped out of his usual “chucker” mode and distributed the ball nicely.
Marvin Williams: C
Just your run of the mill, average night for Marvin Williams. Marvin had a nice hammer-home, made some mid range jumpers, and pulled down seven rebounds. It’s what we should get from him every night. We aren’t always so blessed.
Ivan Johnson: A-
Ivan continued his tear of great play as he topped 13 points for the third consecutive game, scoring 16 in this one. He grabbed 10 rebounds as well for a double double, while also having quite a few hellacious slams that brought the fans in Philips to their feet. If he can continue this steady play into the playoffs, the Hawks will have a great shot at either Boston or Indiana. Johnson is proving that he can be more than an end-of-the bench player. He’s showing that he deserves minutes, and he’s made the most of them in the last few games, albeit against terrible opponents. After Boston comes to town on Friday night, we should have a nice benchmark of where he really stands moving forward.
SDS Plays of the Game:
With the game knotted up at 5-5, Josh Smith’s 20-footer ignited an 11-0 run and gave the Hawks a 16-5 lead with 7:33 to go in the first quarter. The Pistons never got it close again as the Hawks continued to pull away and eventually stretch the lead past 40 points.
Like I said, it was a blowout from the beginning as the Hawks came in and took care of business. This is how it’s supposed to be.
SDS Player of the Game: Tracy McGrady
As I said earlier, McGrady had a vintage T-Mac performance. He was the playmaker that he used to be, setting up teammates in transition, in the half court, scoring, rebounding, and everything else you could possibly think of. He did it with flare, too, whipping behind the back passes and sweet no looks, all the while maintaing the lazy, old McGrady facial expression that has defined his career.
It was a night when Josh Smith and Joe Johnson were able to stand up and wave their towels and stomp their feet as they watched McGrady go to work like he was side by side with Pat Garrity. He was relentless, smothering an inferior team with superior play. It’s not what we expect from him anymore, and it’s a shame injuries took that from us, but every now and again he’ll give us a night like this one. We should hold onto it for as long as we can, too, because we don’t know when or if the next one’s coming.
I’ll keep it brief.
We took care of business by dismantling an awful team. It was great to get the starters some well deserved rest and it was even better to see the bench players rise up to the challenge. We know they can beat teams when they’re down, but can they show up against teams with real defensive prowess? That’s what we really need to look for.
We gained a one-game lead on Orlando in the playoff race as they lost to Boston, so let’s hold onto that.
We’ve got the Boston Celtics on Friday, and to sum up how important it is: it’s huge. Don’t doubt for a second that there aren’t serious consequences for losing this game. We can win without home court advantage against Boston in the playoffs, but it sure won’t be easy. Not only is this a rivalry game, but it’s a tone-setter. It’s a feeler. We’ll see where they are and they’ll see where we are just a week or two before the playoffs begin. Hopefully we come out and assert ourselves like we did in the last game, but deliver a knockout punch instead of letting them claw their way back into the game. Without Zaza on Friday, we might be a little in over our heads as their front court is pretty strong with the likes of Stiemsma, Bass, and KG. Also, we won’t have anyone to headbutt Garnett, so that isn’t quite as fun. Either way, we’ll need Ivan Johnson to play a man’s game like he has the past three times out, and we’ll need Joe Johnson to shoot better than 5-17 from the field.