– It wasn’t as seamless as it should have been, but considering the consequences had they blown this one the Hawks took the W and moved on.
– “This one was a must-win,” Al said. “I thought the same thing about the game on Friday. But this was one we had to have. I was encouraged with the way our guys came out and competed.”
– They did compete, which is not a given, and ended the losing streak at four. Playing smart was another matter.
– Smoove’s putback gave the Hawks a 97-83 lead with 5:53 to go. Less than two minutes later it was 97-92 and Atlanta had to scramble to win a game it had in hand.
– Not surprisingly, Josh was in the middle of lots of good plays and a few bad ones.
– Josh took 20 shots and made 10. He countered any critique of his shot selection by pointing out the 10 makes. “We all have our roles, but when I’m open, I have the green light to shoot,” he said.
– That’s not exactly how L.D. has explained it. True, he has gone out of his way to say Josh has worked on his shot, but he doesn’t like it when Smoove settles for long jumpers in certain situations, such as . . .
– The Hawks leading the T-Wolves 97-89 and Josh threw up a 20-foot airball that Kevin Love rebounded, leading to Corey Brewer’s 3 eight seconds later. That was after Love stole the ball from Josh on Atlanta’s previous possession.
– “We had chances to put them away but we turned the ball over,” Al said.
– Of course, J.J. didn’t help matters on the Smoove airball by dribbling out most of the shot clock before passing off to Josh.
– “We had ample opportunity to create separation but we made some bad plays and bad decisions,” L. D. said.
– At one point in the first half L.D. corrected Teague on four straight possessions. Teague seemed to be getting tired of hearing it and Lester Conner consoled him.
– Teague ended up providing a spark early in the fourth quarter with a block that led to Jamal’s layup on the break and drawing contact from Beasley and making both free throws.
– Bibby’s shot has been a bit shaky the last couple games and it looked like L.D. would leave him on the bench for the fourth quarter. But after Brewer made that 3, Bibby was back in. He missed an open jumper and one of two free throws down the stretch.
– But the Hawks made 34 of 39 free throws, including 8 of 10 in the final minute and change to avoid an awful collapse. “Well certainly take the win,” L.D. said.
– Mo looked pretty good again. He was part of the bench group that gave the Hawks a jolt in the first half and when L.D. needed someone to help guard the perimeter in the final minute, out went Jamal and in came Mo (who was so surprised he didn’t respond at first).
– “Mo gave us a huge lift,” L.D. said. “I’m glad to get him back. You know what you are going to get from him. He has that blue-collar mentality. I need more guys like that. It’s not always pretty but you know you will get the effort.”
– Atlanta’s backup bigs were just sort of out there. Four rebounds, one blocked shot, 1 of 7 shooting in 24 minutes combined for Zaza and Josh Powell.
– J.J. missed practice yesterday because he was ill. He started the game and was steady and efficient.
– Al got stitches to the back of his head but returned to the game. Facing a physical frontline, he used his quickness to get 10 rebounds and earn 10 free-throw attempts. After missing two big ones against Utah, he made them all.
– The T-Wolves lost steam when Beasley went out with two early fouls. Love collected 17 rebounds but his teammates got just 22 combined.
– Atlanta rebounded 25 of Minnesota’s 41 misses (not including team rebounds). “The Hawks sent more guys at me tonight,” Love said. “I got my shot blocked a couple times. They’re an extremely athletic team at every position. They really clamped down and made it a point on both the offensive and defensive glass to get in there and get them.”
– After playing 11 games over the first 18 days of the season, including three sets of back-to-back games, the Hawks will play just two games over the next seven days. L.D. plans to give them a day or two off and pull back on some of the physical work when they do practice.
– “I’m not one to make excuses about our team and the way we perform,” he said. “But a part of me has felt, especially after that Milwaukee game [Wednesday], I thought the season kind of caught up with us at that time with our schedule. That’s no excuse. We have to come out and we have to play because other teams go through it too.”
– “We might be a little run down,” Al said. “It’s early in the season but we got off to a fast start [with the schedule] so it will be a nice break.”
– I’m out, Hawks fans.