Man, what a bad night in Toronto. For the Hawks, of course, but also for me. They blew a lead and I nearly choked on deadline. I didn’t file a postgame blog due to technical issues with my aircard in Canada and also time constraints after clearing customs and hopping the Hawks’ flight. Then I got home at 3 a.m. today and immediately collapsed on my bed. Then today I had to go to the office and. . . aw, forget it, I’m here now.
I missed Woody after the game (like I said, bad night) but apparently he was upset the Hawks didn’t block out when Turkoglu missed that free throw. Mo and Jamal thought Marvin didn’t step out of bounds when he corralled the ball and quickly threw it to Horford.
“I feel like they got rescued when they shouldn’t have had an extra possession,” Mo said.
I didn’t see the play live because Woody was blocking my view and I never saw a replay that was conclusive. The Hawks still had a chance to win if they got one more stop but of course Bosh hit that sweet stepback jumper over Al, whose defense on the play wasn’t that bad (”Great play,” he said). It looked like Jamal’s final shot attempt may have been deflected by Sonny Weems but Jamal said he didn’t think it was. He said he just couldn’t get a clean handle on the ball.
Mo thought the Hawks should have went to Al more because the Raptors couldn’t handle him. But Jamal said the Raptors started fronting Horford to make straightforward entry passes more difficult, and Al said he had no problem with the Hawks going to the pick-and-roll because that was working, too.
But that game is over and the Hawks move forward. The Hawks were off today and offered no update on Joe Johnson. He remains questionable with the sore Achilles’ tendon and Mo is listed as the probable starter against Charlotte tomorrow night.
So how did the Hawks look in their two road games without J.J., one against the worst team in the league and another against a desperate opponent?
“Of course can’t wait for him to come back,” Jamal said, “but we almost went 2-0 without him.”
“I think we did good,” Smoove said. “I think it shows the maturation and growth of the team. When someone goes out–especially Joe Johnson, our leader–then other people have to step up.”
Those other people were Jamal, Mo, Bibby. Teague added his name to the list in Toronto. Jamal especially looked much more aggressive without Joe out there.
On the one hand, you might say the Hawks could have used J.J.’s closing ability against the Raptors. On the other hand, would his presence have meant Jamal wouldn’t have had as many opportunities to explode off picks and make plays? Would Al have been free to catch the ball in the high post and go to work?
Then again, the Hawks only scored 19 points in the fourth so maybe those questions are kind of besides the point. Or maybe Woody didn’t use his bench-guys-other-than Jamal enough in the second night of a back-to-back, particularly after his main guys used so much energy rallying in the second quarter (man, Jamal was fired up during that spurt).
Defensively, the Hawks definitely missed Joe. The Raptors made 11 of 19 shots in the fourth quarter. Weems made a couple big shots. Turkoglu bullied his way to five free-throw attempts in the fourth. J.J. could have helped with those guys.
In the big picture, the Hawks clearly are a much better team with J.J. out there. They need him back, and fast. The Hawks are four games back of Orlando with 15 to play and tied with Boston. But we’ve seen a glimpse of what the Hawks looks like without J.J. and it wasn’t too bad.