The Atlanta Hawks weren’t able to get revenge on the rival Celtics, but at least it wasn’t a bewildering blowout like before. Winning the battle on the glass was not enough to overcome 18 turnovers and the fact that the Celtics had 28 assists, whereas the Hawks only had 16. Suffice it to say that Larry Drew’s offensive sets were hardly executed to any consistent effect.
While the Hawks predictably struggled against another good team without star guard Joe Johnson, there were other factors that affected this game every bit as much, and could continue to do so in upcoming games.
Running with the Big Dogs
- Marvin Williams. The much maligned Atlanta forward had arguably his best performance of the year on offense, scoring a team high 26 points and looking good from everywhere on the floor. What was different? Marvin didn’t hesitate and looked to be on the attack nearly every time he got the ball, whether it was slashing to the basket, hitting jumpers with a defender in his face, or spotting up from behind the arc. In short, Marvin looked like he knew the team needed his scoring, and was eager to provide it. With Atlanta’s current top two scoring options all but non-existent, Williams was the difference between a loss and an outright blowout. History says we won’t see a game like this from him again for many moons, but it’s always nice to see when it does happen. Can Marvin give us a few more good games while Joe is out (or whenever needed), or will he go back to being the daily whipping boy?
- Damien Wilkins. The man’s defensive verve cannot be underestimated or underappreciated. But Wilkins doesn’t just bring defense (though we love to see how he does it on the perimeter, and all the way to the basket), he also has some decent offensive moves, and the Hawks would do well to go to him a little more often. There’s no “inner dog” with Damien. He brings it every time, and does so without fail. It would be a pity if the Hawks didn’t find a way to hang onto him, as using him in some way to acquire or make room for another much needed and useable talent, would be the only consolation for losing him.
- Jeff Teague. This might be the best game Jeff Teague has ever played for the Hawks. Maybe his ankle simply feels better now (as was suggested by one or two of the TNT commentators last night), or maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s because Jamal Crawford wasn’t out there. The only other credible caveat would be the absence of Rajon Rondo. But if you don’t want to make excuses for Teague’s dazzling performance, then just settle for this: the second year point guard hasn’t shown this level of aggression and predatory instinct since his days at Wake Forest. Few things beat the sight of Avery Bradley totally getting lost and Paul Pierce leaning back (and out of the way) as Teague dunked it harder than any Hawk not named Josh Smith, has in a while. Whatever the reason for Teague’s level of aggression last night, somebody needs to bottle it and pour it on him for each game. Check that, enough of the external factors and jokes about them. Whatever got Teague going should have (and probably did) come from the inside. It’s up to him to bring that fire, speed, and penetration from night to night. Can he/will he do it?
All Dogged Out
- Josh Smith. Some of Josh’s deplorable outing can be attributed to Boston’s defensive scheme, but I’ll give it 30% at best. Most of this was Josh’s mental and emotional state….again. Instead of trying to establish himself inside early on not trying to get his offense going from the perimeter, Josh did the opposite and fell flat on his face. The explosive forward was a fizzling dud from every area of the floor, and while a few calls didn’t go his way, that was no excuse. Where was his newfound ability to find his way to the free throw line? Smith also was very little help on the boards and spent more time succumbing to the one thing that seems to be his self-derived kryptonite these days: despondency. No one can really stop Josh, except Josh. Wants he gets in a funky mood, he has the worst time getting out of it, and his play hurts the team. That’s the trick with Josh, you see. He can’t NOT affect a game. No middle road. The question is whether he’s affecting it negatively or positively.
- Al Horford. The All-star PF/C still shot above 50% from the field, but 4 of 7 shooting with no trips to the free throw line isn’t going to wow anybody. Horford’s 7 rebounds led the team, which is a sad commentary in and of itself. His beautiful midrange jumper looked good, but Al often either hesitated, or passed it off. It seemed like his one attempt to go directly at Kevin Garnett was a deciding moment for him. After not getting what looked like it should have been a sure foul call, Horford failed to respond to much of anything for the remainder of the game, and there were a number of times that Mike Bibby tried to set him up for scores. Whatever happened to the warrior in this guy? Am I off base for calling him out?
Doggin’ it the best they can
A shout out goes to Zaza Pachulia, Mike Bibby, and Josh Powell for their efforts last night. Bibby continues to play like a man renewed, and I truly believe he should have been named a team captain. His team high 8 assists (exactly half the team total) was an example of his effort to get teammates invovled, even as he continues to score decently, including leading the league in 3 point percentage.
Powell and Pachulia were solid off the bench, both providing some points and rebounds in pivotal minutes. You have to hand it to Zaza on that fake he put on Big Baby Davis. And did he sell that flagrant foul or what? For what it’s worth, Davis did hold onto him too long (especially around the head/neck area), I thought….
It was nice to see Jordan Crawford get some minutes, though clearly the rookie was rather jittery. Normally, his passing is more crisp, but there’s no denying his mindset when he gets the ball in his hands. The kid is a shooter/scorer predator type. No doubt about it.
Charles Barkley continues to rant (though shortly) about Mike Woodson’s lack of employment and the TNT commentary crew think Teague must be played more. I say he has to earn it and these guys haven’t been watching him play enough to say that.
What do YOU think?