– Bizarre night at the Highlight Factory. Smoove gets benched in the fourth quarter and the Hawks are better for it. Jamal misses clutch free throws. Zaza grabs a key rebound. Marvin gets it done all night. Al couldn’t get anything going much of the night but owned the final moments.
– I’m still trying to figure out how the Hawks won when they basically 10 minutes of solid basketball. I suppose that’s all it takes to best the Sixers but, man, sucks for them to take it to the Hawks all night and then collapse when it counted (just one point in the final 4:57, with Lou Williams’ missed dunk on a fastbreak the low point).
– That’s not to slight the Hawks, who rallied for their fifth straight W and avoid a deflating L before heading off for the formidable Florida swing. “We got down but we were never out,” Marvin said. “A couple years back we would have folded. We are all older guys now.”
– “You’re not going to put the perfect game together every time,” L.D. said. “There’s going to be some games where you’ve just got to grind it and gut it out. I’m very proud of our team because we did that tonight.”
– Al was just 3 of 12 from the field through three quarters but he stayed involved with nine boards and five assists. Then he suddenly was everywhere doing everything in the final two minutes. “At the end I wanted us to win so bad I’d do whatever it takes,” he said.
– Horford corralled Bibby’s block of Lou Williams’ 3, made a jumper to cut the lead to 88-86, converted a 3-point play to give Atlanta its first lead, rebounded Elton Brand’s miss, and stole the ball from Jodie Meeks on Philadelphia’s inbounds pass.
– About the only thing he did wrong was try to dribble out like seven seconds on the clock. “I thought there was less time,” he said. “I would have gone up and dunked the ball. But it worked out.”
– Not to be overlooked in all that craziness was Marvin’s rebound that led to Al’s 3-point play and of course Zaza’s heads-up play to chase down Jamal’s second missed free throw. “Since I have been his teammate, I never remember him missing two free throws in a row,” Zaza said.
– Zaza slipped Brand and went across the lane to take the ball away from Iguodola. “When I saw the ball bounce kind of funny, I found position and grabbed the rebound,” he said.
– “I thank Zaza,” Jamal said. “If I would have missed those two and they wouldn’t won I would’ve walked to Miami tonight.”
– It’s not that the Hawks were stagnant on offense. Note their 25 assists on 33 field goals. It’s just that faced with a solid, scrappy defensive team, they lacked patience and sagged when they missed open shots.
– “I didn’t think we were very sharp running our offense,” Drew said. “We settled. We will do enough things to give us the movement but we cannot settle for the perimeter shot. We’ve got to get the ball inside and establish our inside game. I’ve got to give Philadelphia credit, too, because they did a good job defending us.”
– Marvin was the only guy to attack the basket all game. He was rewarded with eight free throw attempts and made them all. He had four steals, too, his constant energy in contrast to Smoove’s meandering focus.
– When Josh missed a 21-foot jumper with the Hawks down 84-72, L.D. pointedly told him it was a bad shot. When Josh jacked up a 19-footer with Atlanta down 85-74, L.D. sent Zaza to the scorer’s table.
– Before he went out, Josh forced a turnover on Jrue Holiday and then stormed off the court while shooting L.D. a scowl. The coach ignored him. “We were in a situation we had to be a little bit more focused on getting the ball inside and getting the ball to the basket,” Drew said. “He took two ill-advised shots. When the game is a grind, we can’t settle for that type shot. I explained that to him, he did it again, so I took him out the game.”
– L.D.’s decision was made easier by the fact that Atlanta’s offense was running smoother and the defense had more urgency without Smoove, whose demeanor wasn’t good much of the night. “At the start of the fourth quarter, I subbed Josh in to give Al a blow,” Drew said. “The minute I did that their lead went right back up on a couple of bad offensive possessions. I thought I have got to go with what was working, and in this particular game was Zaza and Al together with Jamal and Mike and Marvin. I went with my gut and I’m glad I did that.”
– Josh wasn’t happy on the bench for a while, standing apart from his teammates and airing his gripes with J.J., but he got back into it once the Hawks started to rally. “I’m straight,” he said. “Obviously I wanted to be in the game. I knew that my offensive game wasn’t clicking. I’ve got to thank Zaza for stepping in there. He played big minutes tonight. Every time we go to hug each other, I make sure to tell him he plays a big part in what we do.”
– The Hawks were lucky to be down only 54-46 at the half. Philadelphia shot 57 percent from the field, collected all but one of Atlanta’s 22 missed shots and turned most of those into easy baskets. “Our guys are just not defending, and I don’t know why,” Hawks assistant coach Lester Conner lamented during his halftime interview broadcast on the scoreboard.
– Zaza said the coaches showed a video during halftime. “It was obvious the energy was the key,” he said. “They were running on the fastbreak and putbacks. If we wanted to win we had to clean those things up.”
– Once the Hawks cut off Philadelphia in transition and stopped line so often, the Sixers couldn’t score under pressure. “As a coach after a game like this, I have to stay aggressive and tell our guys keep playing to win, keep playing to win,” Coach Doug Collins said. “I have to remain positive, but at the end of the day we have to make some shots.”
– They were certainly good enough defensively, at least until the Hawks turned it up at the end. “We stayed positive, we kept fighting,” Al said. “We were frustrated but have to give Philadelphia credit. The most important thing was we stayed with it and we were able to pull it off.”