Memphis– Smoove said it before and I didn’t believe him. After what has to be considered a smashing debut for L.D.’s Hawks, Josh said it again: “Preseason is preseason. That’s what people have got to realize.”
– It didn’t take long for me to get the message. I think it happened around the time I realized J.J. wasn’t hitting, Al hadn’t scored and yet the Hawks were in control. On the road, even.
– “Give credit to the Atlanta Hawks and our coach,” J.J. said. “We were poised tonight. We made plays when we needed to.”
– Everyone who played for the Hawks did something good. That’s what it tends to look like when the bench has 50 points, 19 rebounds, 12 free throws and makes 18 of 34 shots. It looked like a bona fide 10-man rotation for the Hawks.
– The starters got to chill for long periods because the bench was beating the Grizzlies. “It’s outstanding any time they can give the starters a rest and be focused,” Josh said.
– “There are going to be games where the bench has to pick us up, like tonight,” J.J. said. “They did that, and we were able to come in and finish them off.”
– J.J. was only 6 of 16 from the field but that wasn’t because he was forcing things. “I got a lot of wide open looks,” he said. “I just didn’t make a lot of shots. At times I was a little too excited. For me to not have a great shooting night and for us to win big like this tonight, it’s perfect.”
– Seven assists and 11 free throws for Joe. The former is no surprise because he will share the ball but the latter was a change. I even saw him barking at officials a couple times.
– Josh had five blocked shots. Eventually the Grizzlies were looking for him when they went to the basket. “He bailed us out of a few plays with some blocks,” L.D. said. “When he plays like that, we are a good team.”
– There was one play in the first half that sent an early message that Zaza was going to outwork the Grizz. He was trying to work a pick-and-roll with Al but tripped and fell on the roll. By the time J.J. shot and missed, Zaza had picked himself up, collected the rebound and scored.
– It got to the point where Grizzlies fans booed each time Zaza pushed their team around. I guess seeing an athletically limited, 6-11 reserve center take it to their 7-foot-3 No. 2 overall pick made them a bit grumpy.
– “The reaction felt good,” Zaza said. “You want to keep that going. It’s all about helping the team.”
– Mo soared past Thabeet for a baseline layup. No signs of the knee slowing Mo, who made all three of his field-goal attempts and was active defensively.
–Marvin locked up Rudy Gay, made 5 of 6 shots and was strong on the boards.
– Jamal’s on-ball defense wasn’t the best and he tended to give up at the first sign of a screen. But his anticipation led to three steals. The Hawks are going to get baskets out of the motion but when things break down, there still aren’t too many better than him at putting the ball in the hole.
– Josh Powell had eight points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. He’s aggressive and showed good footwork in the post.
– You still can’t leave Bibby open. He made all four 3-point attempts, including back-to-back daggers in the fourth in case Memphis had any ideas about coming back. When Atlanta’s offense is clicking like this Bibby will get his looks and he will make a high percentage.
– The Hawks scored 12 of their 26 fastbreak points in the first quarter. Al pushed the ball and found Bibby for a 3 and Josh fed Zaza for a layup.
– Mike Conley looked like he was going to bring the Grizzlies back in the third quarter. Then L.D. sent in Teague, who didn’t let him get in the lane and create havoc. Memphis didn’t have anyone else out there who could make things happen.
– “We had a few problems with Conley on the high pick-and-roll but we made a few minor adjustments,” L.D. said.
– Teague also made a nice floater with the shot clock running down during that 12-0 run to end the third quarter. “His confidence has risen,” L.D. said. “One thing I have been trying to instill in Jeff is the fact that with him on the floor, his speed, his quickness and his ability to push the ball. He can guard. We need that type of energy and he’s the only guy on our team who has it.”
– Memphis was without Marc Gasol. Then Zach Randolph went down with a back injury. Either or both of those guys might have made it tougher for Zaza to have his way inside and also give the Hawks problems.
– “We just don’t have much offense inside after the three bigs we have,” Grizz coach Lionel Hollins said. “The other guys aren’t offensive players but it’s more than just Zach going out. We didn’t compete as hard as we needed to compete early on.”
– Al picked up two early fouls and L.D. rode Zaza. “I didn’t want to put him in for the second quarter especially when Zaza was going well,” L.D. said. “I spoke to Al on the bench about that and he was fine with it.”
– Al never really got into the flow. “Zaza really played a great game just being a strong body down there,” Al said. “I think coach felt like I didn’t have to play in the second quarter. It was one of those games where I couldn’t get it going. I just have to get back focused and get ready for Friday.”
– The Hawks’ motion offense was working (witness J.J. scoring on an oop) but they didn’t stick with it exclusively. Jamal and Joe still got theirs on some good old-fashioned pick-and-rolls and isos. “I thought the mixture was pretty good,” L.D. said. “It kept them off balance a little bit. We were effective.”
– The only real negatives for Atlanta: 15 turnovers, another s off-kilter outing by Al and no one but Teague able to stay in front of Conley.
– Smoove said L.D. and his staff gave created a great gameplan for the Grizz. L.D. got the game ball. “It’s my first win so I’ve got to enjoy it,” he said.
– I predicted the Hawks would be fine on offense and that Marvin, Zaza, Mo, Bibby and J.J. would benefit from the motion offense. Finally, I’ve managed to look smart.
– But these being the Hawks, there’s always a chance I will look dumb again come Friday night in Philly (or after that but it won’t have anything to do with the Hawks). “There can’t be a letdown,” Al said.
– I’m out, Hawks fans.