Hope you got to enjoy Friday night’s game. Wow. That stretch in the third quarter, I think it was one of those times where you didn’t really have to be a Hawks fan to appreciate what was going on. You just had to be a fan of the game, period. It was just five guys losing themselves in the flow of the game, totally committed and executing at a near flawless rate.
This is probably a stretch, and please don’t take this to mean I’m saying the Hawks are as good as the Michael Jordan Bulls, but I grew up watching that team and, particularly when they had Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen teamed up with Jordan – I remember assistant coach Johnny Bach called them Doberman pinschers – that team could turn it on defensively like nothing else.
The Hawks looked something like that against Utah in the third quarter. Josh Smith was unreal rebounding, blocking and altering shots and even that behind-the-back bounce pass to Al Horford on the break. Passes got deflected, Jazz cutters were covered, Joe Johnson swallowed up Deron Williams. That Ray Lewis comparison that Jamal Crawford made with Smith looks a little less lopsided today than Friday.
The crazy thing is how it followed a pretty rancid first half. If you remember, Horford tried to start a break by throwing the ball backwards over his head. Mike Bibby’s layup. A couple wild outlet passes by Smith. Typically level-headed Mo Evans turning to yell at a ref while the ball was still in play.
Watching all this, it certainly seemed like the Hawks were off their game and were headed to a loss, just because no team can keep up the kind of mojo they’ve been having (to wit: Boston against Philly. Did you know the Celtics are 3-4 on Fridays, including the Hawks’ win over them last month? They’re 17-1 the other six days of the week. Strange.)
But, heavens, what a turnaround. You’d have to think the Hawks will win again tonight. I’d hardly call it a sure thing, though, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they lost. It seems to happen enough in the NBA. But it makes me wonder how long they can keep playing like this and what it’ll take to stop them. Denver looms large, obviously – second game of a back to back at altitude, for whatever that’s worth. And then Cleveland, certainly.
But, anyway, I am on the flight to Chicago and am going to have to shut down the laptop pretty soon. So, some links, and I think that’ll do it.
Enjoy the game tonight.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s take.
“I think more than anything their length just hurt us,” Deron Williams said. “They switched everything. We didn’t really have an answer for that. We didn’t have a game plan against that. They played great basketball tonight.”
The Jazz lost the third quarter 37-17, giving up a 16-0 run in which they were held scoreless for 5:13 and suffered a complete meltdown.
From Jazz beat writer Ross Siler’s blog:
The funniest thing in there is that Deron Williams left about 40 tickets for the University of Illinois basketball team (where Williams played) because they’re in Atlanta playing Georgia at Gwinnett Arena, I think. Because of traffic delays, the team got there in the third quarter. Bummer.
Carlos Boozer quotes:
“They’re one of the fastest teams in the league at every position and they exploited that tonight. They played fast with layups and dunks and transition. They just kicked our butts in general.”
“It’s almost like we played right into their hands. Whatever their scheme was worked.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Bulls page.
The nuttiest stat I’ve seen today, from espn.com’s Daily Dime courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau.
The irrepressible Elias Sports Bureau might have outdone itself with this one involving Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Cleveland’s two centers produced near-identical lines in the box score in Tuesday’s win over New Jersey: Both scored 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting with five rebounds and three blocked shots. How hard is it to produce a line with those specifics? Elias says that players have recorded more than 750,000 box-score lines since the NBA began keeping track of blocks in 1973 … and only two other players in all that time went for 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting with five boards and three swats: Cavs swingman Jamario Moon in April 2008 (with Toronto), and Portland’s Greg Oden earlier this season.
A page I’ve now bookmarked, because Elias Sports Bureau does a great job of digging up stuff like this – plus stuff that has more meaning, is Elias Says.