Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 108, Kings 102
Sacramento–The Hawks were having a great time. They were defending, rebounding, and running while overwhelming an inferior opponent. All the starters except Josh were chilling on the bench as the Hawks took a leisurely 22-point lead.
- The Hawks were up 92-72 after Jamal’s jumper. Josh went to the bench with the Hawks ahead 94-74. Then things got chaotic and Josh, Bibby, Joe, and Al were back off the bench.
- “I thought we would do a better job finishing up,” L.D. said. “I wanted to give the starters some rest but we just let our guard down. We stopped defending. We stopped executing. We stopped running. They made some shots.”
- Damien Wilkins traveled and DeMarcus Cousins scored. Carl Landry stole it from Zaza and Tyreke got an and-1. Cousins got an and-1 against Zaza. And then Cousins took it from Jamal, who seemed to be simply inattentive, and Tyreke scored again.
- Suddenly the Kings were down 94-82 less than two minutes after being down by 20. The Hawks had to make 10 of 10 free-throw attempts in the final 45 seconds to win a game they dominated.
- “It was a little frustrating,” Smoove said. “We were up 20 with four minutes to go. We have to go to a tough environment at Utah on a back-to-back in a mile-high road game. We could have used that rest.”
- Jamal’s finish kind of summed up Atlanta’s night. He was brilliant (again) for most of the game, then had that head-scratching turnover. “They sped the game up and started trapping,” he said. “They junked it up and it gave them some life.”
- Joe, too, was great for most of the night before making a late gaffe. His turnover led to Tyreke’s layup that cut the lead to 98-93 in the final minute.
- The Hawks regrouped and managed to avoid what would have been a devastating loss. “Everyone has games like this,” L.D. said. “This is the NBA. These things happen.”
- Joe made a couple classic iso jumpers to hold off the Kings. “We made them put their starters back in the game and Joe Johnson just kept making play after play, big shots,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said.
- J.J. did it after sitting from four minutes of the third quarter until joining the rescue squad. “It happens that way sometimes,” he said. “You always have to stay ready.”
- “He came in with a cold body, we put the ball in his hands and he gave us a lift,” Drew said. “I’m seeing him start to get a rhythm.”
- J.J. got a lot of his 18 shots within the flow of the offense. He was working hard to get to the basket and was effective with his floater. “Joe is fine,” L.D. said. “I know he’s been criticized for being in a slight slump. But I’m confident once the elbow is 100 percent he will find his stroke.”
- The quicker pace suited Jamal, who was explosive off the dribble. Once he got in the lane he made sound decisions on when to shoot or pass and also threw his body around to earn nine free-throw attempts. “I definitely feel healthy,” he said. “I’ve got my legs back underneath me and I’m just trying to be aggressive.”
- The Hawks forced the Kings to take long jumpers early and they were making them. Eventually (and inevitably) they stopped going in, the Hawks rebounded the misses and were off and running. It was a devastating display of open-court basketball.
- “It was fun,” Smoove said. We were able to get fastbreak points and not always depend on our halfcourt offense. It makes it easier for us.”
- Smoove was (10 defensive rebounds and energetic defense) was a big reason they could run. Bibby (seven defensive rebounds) got it on it, too, snagging long boards, taking a few dribbles and then throwing it ahead.
- Running like that seemed to give the Hawks a jolt. “It picks up our energy on defense because we can’t wait to get out and run on offense,” Jamal said.
- Drew normally doesn’t like to push the pace on the road but he said he decided to unleash the Hawks when he saw the Kings weren’t getting back on D. “We got out on the run early and got some easy baskets,” he said. “It all started with Josh and Al rebounding.”
- Early on, it seemed like the Kings took every ill-advised Hawks shot or pass and scored. Then the Hawks started moving the ball for good shots: They had 14 assists on their first 18 field goals.
- “They have some real tough matchups for us with size and experience,” Westphal said. “Their backcourt was terrific. Bibby seemed to hit every open shot when they needed. Crawford and Joe Johnson, we just could never really get them under control at all.”
- The Hawks ended up with 23 assists on 40 field goals. And their 20 turnovers allowed the Kings to stay in it: Sacto scored eight points off four in the third quarter and 11 off eight in the fourth.
- Al effectively checked Cousins and Jason Thompson but couldn’t find his offense. He badly missed some open looks from his sweet spots.
- Once the Hawks decided to run, Twin wasn’t much of a factor. Zaza was effective and physical while making his five fouls in 18 minutes count. DNP-CD for Josh Powell.
- On to Utah for the Hawks, who won there for the first time in 15 years back in February. “They run their sets and are very fine-tuned,” J.J. said. “We’ve got to do the same and have energy and effort for 48 minutes.”