Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 100, Raptors 87
There was no stopping J.J. (AP Photo)
- Perhaps the Hawks lose tonight to a better opponent than these downtrodden Raptors. Chances are it wouldn’t have been so easy to score against a team that actually can play defense. And Atlanta’s half-quarter of respectable D wouldn’t get it done against most teams since they have better offensive talent than the Barbosa- and Kleiza-less Raps.
- From an aesthetics standpoint, Atlanta’s offensive performance (especially J.J.) was a pleasure. Needing a big third quarter from Mo and a fantastic final period from J.J. to win a game in which the Hawks couldn’t have been much better on offense doesn’t do much for their credentials in the big picture.
- “We played very unselfishly,” L.D. said. “The offense was there. The defense was non-existent in the fist half.”
- J.J. was superb. It’s fascinating to watch him work when he’s going like this. He was in complete control, getting to the places he wanted on the court, passing when he should, making tough shots when he had to.
- Interesting, though, that the first thing L.D. said about Joe’s game was: “He’s got to pick up his rebound total.”
- “But he’s playing very unselfishly,” Drew said. “He’s getting into a rhythm. I think we are doing a good job moving him around to different spots offensively. And I think our guys are reading defenses. We put him in the post and they play him on one side, we are getting the ball to him on the other.”
- Remember when opponents still were doubling J.J. even though he couldn’t make shots? Now it’s a sound strategy, especially when you have the likes of Sonny Weems trying to keep him away from the basket. J.J. had eight assists against two turnovers.
- “I think everybody on the team understands if I am getting doubled and they are open I am going to make the extra pass,” Joe said. “Tonight I was just trying to get into the teeth of the defense and when I got double teamed, I was just trying to find the open man.”
- My blog people know that it’s not always like that with Joe. But it’s fair to say it rings more true now than at any point in the recent past.
- J.J. on playing fewer minutes (and games) this year: “It has helped me in a lot of ways. My body is feeling pretty good and it makes me be more aggressive when I am in the game knowing my time is a little limited.”
- Both of Atlanta’s starting big men were facilitators. Al needed 13 shots for his 12 points but had 14 rebounds and seven assists. Smoove was making his jump shots early, missed a couple late, but was 9 of 14 from the floor and had 11 rebounds and four assists.
- Bibby still is good at slipping into spots to get his shot. He’ just not making them nearly as much as he once did.
- Zaza had six points on two shots and six rebounds in 17 minutes. If only he could finish more of those chances around the basket. He works hard enough to deserve them.
- Mo started in place of Marvin had 10 of Atlanta’s 21 points in the third quarter. Poor Raps. They finally controlled Joe, Josh and Al, only to have Mo go off.
- Jamal only took six shots in 28 minutes. L.D. wanted him to focus on getting dribble penetration and finding open teammates and he did so while recording four assists with one turnover. He also got three free-throw attempts, which in this game tied him for the team high.
- Neither Josh nor Al attempted a free throw despite 27 shots between them. Bibby, Mo, Teague and Damien also didn’t get to the line. That’s five Hawks players playing a total of 130 minutes combined without attempting a free-throw.
- The 18-6 advantage on free throws is one way the Raps stayed close despite Atlanta’s sizzling shooting. Another was the 11 offensive rebounds for 13 second-chance points.
- The Raps were within 84-78 with 7:30 to play because they kept getting extra possessions. The Hawks kept them off the boards over the next three-plus minutes, made four of their five shots (all assisted with two each from Bibby and Smoove) and were up 96-78.
- “We were giving up too many offensive rebounds early on,” Josh said. “We was able to limit them to one shot, make them work at their end and we was able to get out and have fun.”
- Toronto actually had five offensive rebounds over the final seven minutes (though two were team rebounds in garbage time). Just goes to show you that the Hawks really only played defense for short spurts and won only because the Raps couldn’t stop them.
- L.D. seemed particularly mindful of not having too many bench guys out there at once.
- “I wanted to establish some type of rhythm with the rotations tonight,” he said. “I wanted to keep a couple of the starters out there with three of the reserves. Tonight I was able to do it because we didn’t get into any kind of foul trouble. That’s pretty much what I’ve always tried to do but sometimes fouls and [injuries] dictate that.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat