Joe Johnson led the Hawks with a team-high 28 points as teammate Josh Smith posted a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds in Atlanta’s 109-102 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
Point guard Jeff Teague poured in 21 points in 29 minutes of action for the Hawks and reserve swing man Marvin Williams chipped in with 11 points.
The Clippers were led by the dynamic duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin who combined for 70 of LA’s 102 total points. The other three starters for Lob City combined for 13 points.
Paul scored 34 and added eight assists and five boards in the game. Griffin finished with 36 points on 17-of-23 shooting and corralled eight caroms in the contest. No other Clipper was in double-figures.
It was a back-and-forth game with neither team leading by double-digits until Atlanta went on a 15-2 run to close the third quarter and finished the period leading 85-72.
In the final 12 minutes, Los Angeles fought their way back and cut the deficit to 100-96 with just one minute left to play.
Johnson hit a pair of trifectas down the stretch, but the basket that really stood out came with 38 seconds remaining in the game.
Johnson had the ball along the sideline of the Clippers bench, 30 feet away from the hoop with time winding down, and hoisted a desperation three-point attempt as the shot clocked expired that miraculously hit the middle of the box on the backboard like a bulls eye and banked in to put Atlanta up 103-97.
“The craziest [shot] I ever hit in a game” was how Johnson described the circus shot to the AP in his post-game comments. “I had no clue how much time was left or what even happened,” he said. “I just heaved it up there. I wanted to at least hit the rim. I accidentally made it.”
Teague then sank six straight free-throws down the stretch to seal the 109-102 victory for Atlanta.
The Hawks can wrap up home-court advantage for their opening-round series against Boston by winning the regular-season finale against Dallas on Thursday. They’ll also clinch it if the Celtics lose that same night against Milwaukee.
Los Angeles is trying to hold on to the fourth seed — and home-court — in the West. The Clippers go into Wednesday’s finale at New York tied with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Player Grades: Each player is given a grade on an A+ through F scale based upon their game performance.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Chris Paul: A
CP3 went off in the second half scoring 20 points to give him a total of 34 for the game on 50% shooting overall. Griffin cooled down after halftime and Paul was forced to pick up the slack on the offensive end and showed why he is one of the most complete point guards in the NBA by getting to the foul-line 11 times (made 10), dishing out 8 assists and grabbing 5 boards while shooting 67% (4-of-6) from downtown.
Randy Foye: F
Foye was terrible. Played 20 minutes, only took three shots and he missed all of them. It’s funny because he got the start at shooting guard…
Caron Butler: C-
Butler is supposed to be a good defender but he had a hard time keeping up with Joe Johnson who exploited him for a Hawk-high 28 points.
CB finished with nine points, on 4-of-11 shooting, and seven rebounds for LA in 31 minutes of action. He had more turnovers (2) than three-pointers in the game (1… on 5 attempts).
Blake Griffin: A
Blake was certainly the best player for the Clippers tonight as he finished with 36 points and 8 rebounds. He was on fire from the opening tip scoring 16 of LA’s first 21 points in the contest including a streak of seven consecutive baskets in a row.
The Hawks wouldn’t let Griffin into the paint, making him settle for jumpers — he made Atlanta pay by knocking down 16-of-23 attempts overall.
Deandre Jordan: D-
The Hawks had no big men in the game — starting center Jason Collins only played 20 minutes… that breaks down to just 5mins a quarter — how ‘Dre didn’t take advantage down low is beyond me.
Jordan tallied a grand total of four points in 32 minutes of action. 4 POINTS! … against a team with that had no depth at the center position.
It’s also worth noting that DJ was the only starter for the Clippers with a negative +/- in the game (-17). Disgraceful.
Mo Williams: D
Mo was the top scoring threat off the bench for LA with seven points — that’s more than half of the scoring output posted by the other three starters for the Clippers (Jordan + Foye + Butler = 13pts).
Williams finished 3-of-8 from the field overall in 28 minutes of game time.
Jeff Teague: A
Even though he wasn’t the highest scorer for the Hawks, Teague played the best overall game. He’s really becoming a factor on both sides of the ball in just his third year in the NBA.
Teague was at the center of things coming down the stretch as the Clippers tried to close the gap. First, he leaped outside to block a 3-pointer by Caron Butler ending the ball flying into the seats. Then, winding up in a mismatch with Griffin, Teague managed to hold his ground, knock the ball away and draw a foul on Griffin as they battled for the loose ball.
He also made all six of his free-throws in the final 32 seconds to seal the victory. Teague finished with 21 points in 29 minutes.
There is one negative however… he only had two assists in the game. Scoring 20+ is great, but a point guard’s main job is to distribute the ball and get players open shots. Teague needs to improve on that if Atlanta has any real shot of making noise in the playoffs.
Kirk Hinrich: C
Man, I’m starting to get frustrated with Hinrich lately. His stat line in the game wasn’t bad — eight points on 3-of-5 shooting while recording two rebounds and two assists — but that’s not the type of game you want from a starter. A reserve, sure, but not a starter.
He matched up with Foye who was held scoreless, so that’s a plus, but he needs to step up his game in the playoffs big time.
Kirk’s my favorite player on the team — he has the ability to average 15 points, 5 boards and 5 assists every night but that hasn’t been the case.
Joe Johnson: A-
What more could you ask of from the quietest superstar in the NBA in Joe Johnson. The guy is a constant scoring threat, the most consistent on the team, and frequently knocks down clutch shots with ease.
He lit it up from long-range draining six 3-pointers and grabbed seven boards in the game while handing out three helpers.
Joe is simply one of the best all-around players in the league. Period.
Josh Smith: B+
J.Smoooooooooooooove arguably had the best game for Atlanta. As a 6’9” power forward — who is really more of an athletic 3 like LeBron — Smith led the Hawks in rebounds (10) and assists (5) against the Clippers while dropping 18 points.
My only knock on Josh is it took him 17 shot attempts to get those 18 points — not good. He needs to stop settling for jumpers and take the ball strong the hoop. I know he falls in love with his shot sometimes because he has that naturally sweet lefty stoke, but he has the ability to be a great back-to-the-basket scorer — and with Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia possibly inactive for the 1st round of the playoffs against Boston, he really needs to be more efficient and play a power forward type of game like Tim Duncan instead of trying to play like Dirk.
Jason Collins: D
Jason Collins…. 19 minutes, 3 rebounds, 3 personal fouls, 2 assists and 2 points.
That’s disgraceful when an 11-year veteran center has the same number of assists than your full-time point guard. Step it up Teague!!!
Marvin Williams: C-
The “X-Factor” had a drop off in production since his rare start against the Knicks on Sunday — maybe we should tweak the line-up and swap Hinrich for Williams, put him at small forward and move Joe Johnson back to shooting guard. But I guess that would eliminate Atlanta’s main scorer off the bench.
SDS Plays of the Game:
The turning point in the game came on Jeff Teague’s block of Caron Butler’s 3-point attempt with two minutes left in regulation.
The Clippers were down 97-91 and had a chance to cut the lead to three points as Butler received a cross-court pass behind the arc but Teague hustled from the left side of the court to the right wing and blocked the three-point attempt.
On the very next possession, Tracy McGrady drove into the lane, made three defenders collapse the paint, then kicked it out to Joe Johnson as he buried a shot from downtown to put the Hawks up 100-91.
LAC came within four points, 100-96, but Johnson hit a circus three-pointer as the shot clock expired to ultimately seal the victory for Atlanta.
SDS Player of the Game:
The Hawks got an early lead and were in control for most of the contest however terrible late-game execution almost cost Atlanta the game.
Los Angeles was poised to make a run and tie the game after scoring five straight points to cut the deficit 100-96 but luckily for the Hawks, Joe Johnson heaved a three-point attempt as the shot clock expired and banked it in off the glass from 31-feet out with just 38 seconds left in the game.
With the Clippers bubble now bursted, Atlanta held on to win 109-102.
Jeff Teague was huge in the game on the defensive end as he got the better of fellow Demon Deacon Chris Paul and blocked a couple of key shots in the contest including a Nick Young three-pointer after sprinting from the left side of the court to the right wing to make the rejection.
Next up for the Hawks are the Dallas Mavericks as the two teams square off in the final game of the regular-season. This is the only meeting between the two clubs this season. Dallas swept Atlanta (2-0) in the 2010-11 regular season and the Mavericks have now won 9-of-12 and 19 of the last 25 meetings with the Hawks overall.
With the 98-93 victory at Atlanta on 11/20/10, the Mavericks have now won eight of the last 12 on the road against the Hawks. Dallas began their season-high 12-game winning streak in 2010-11 with a victory over the Hawks on 11/20/10. The Mavericks have taken 11 of the last 13 matchups against the Hawks in Dallas.
Dirk Nowitzki averaged a team-high 20.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.5 apg and 36.0 mpg in two games against the Hawks last season. Jason Terry averaged 16.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, a team-high 9.0 apg and 30.5 mpg.