Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 90, Blazers 83
Hawks have gotten defensive since adding Hinrich. (Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)
Portland–Watching the Hawks these last two games, I kept thinking back to what some All-Stars on good defensive teams said in L.A: It’s difficult to stop NBA players one-on-one but you can do it as a team if there is a real commitment to the system.
- I don’t know if the Hawks can become that kind of team. I do think it’s more realistic for them to do so now that Hinrich and Teague are playing most of the minutes at point guard. It made an obvious difference at Golden State and again tonight.
- There no longer is an easy swinging gate open to ball-handlers. That had led to breakdowns and obvious frustration as the Hawks were forced to scramble and cover for the guards. They don’t have to do it so much now and it seems to have had the effect of lifting everyone’s defensive level.
- “Obviously during a game you are going to have to help but when it’s limited to a minimum that makes it that much better,” Smoove said. “I think this team can be known as being scrappy and a team that gets after it defensively. That’s what we’ve been the last two games. I think we are finding an identity.”
- “We don’t have to help as much,” Al said. “It takes a lot of pressure from Josh and myself. The guys are really doing a good job getting over screens and staying aggressive. Now we have to keep it going because we look good when we play like that.”
- And the Hawks don’t look so good when they lose focus and nearly squander big leads. They were in total control from the second quarter until they got sloppy with six turnovers in the final four minutes (a couple of them courtesy of flops by Batum, but still).
- “That was really rough,” L.D. said. “We took a lot of ill-advised shots, and then their pressure sped us up and we turned the basketball over. You just can’t do that but hopefully we’ll learn from it.”
- “We’ve been getting big leads but we still have some room for improvement in closing out games,” J.J. said. “But for the most part a win is a win. We’ll take it.”
- It would have been a shame if the Hawks blew this one because they looked like an inspired ball club in stretches. None more so than that 14-1 run in the third quarter when they challenged shots, rebounded, made the right plays in the open court and got easy chances to score.
- “When you do those things, get a lead and make a run, everybody feeling good about themselves on the fast break, a lot of guys who can finish with dunks and layups,” Zaza said. “It’s just fun to play like that. It’s fun to be part of a basketball team when you do those things.”
- Jamal and J.J. each scored at least 20 points for the first time since Jan. 12 at Toronto. They combined for 45 points on 29 shots.
- It turns out that Jamal’s recent struggles may have been related to grief over the death of his friend and mentor Paul Lawrence.
- Teague held up relatively well in his assignment against Andre Miller, who never consistently backed him down. Whenever Miller started to post Teague, help was quick to arrive and then quick to recover once Miller gave it up.
- The same thing goes for Atlanta’s work against LaMarcus Aldridge. He was doubled when he caught in his sweet spots, was never allowed to get comfortable and was challenged constantly at the rim by Smoove.
- It’s easier to help in those predictable, planned situations as opposed to scrambling because of breakdowns.
- “From a bigs standpoint, it was like me and Al had to pick and choose because we didn’t want to get in foul trouble helping every night,” Josh said. “Kirk is a hard-nosed defender. And you have definitely got to tip your hat off to Teague, who was definitely thrown in the fire after really not playing a whole lot. He’s really been handling it well. Whenever you can limit the help on the perimeter it makes the team that much better.”
- Aldridge had 12 points on 12 shots through three quarters.
- “They tried to take away LA and made the other guys shoot the ball,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “We’ve seen that [before] with some of our guys on the floor, they’re not going to let LaMarcus play and they’re going to clog and they’re going to force you to make perimeter shots.”
- The Blazers couldn’t do it. A fair amount of their 17 missed 3-point shots were open but credit the Hawks for not making anything easy for long stretches.
- The Rose Garden was hyped for the return of Marcus Camby and the debut of Gerald Wallace. They were peeved by all the foul calls against the Blazers in the fist half, then turned on their team when the Hawks took control in the third quarter.
- Hinrich now has more road Ws in the last three days than he did in 48 games at Washington. “I can laugh about it now, I guess,” he said.
- Hinrich said he felt more comfortable on defense than offense.
- “Since I’ve been here we’ve talked about defending and bringing the energy,” Hinrich said. :And when we do that we can be a tough team because of the talent we have and athletes and the shooters. If we can lock down on the defensive end, it will make the game a lot easier for us.”
- Zaza, fresh off his benching at Golden State, came into the game and immediately started thrashing the Blazers on the boards. That was a big reason Atlanta forged a 48-36 halftime lead despite Al playing just 10 minutes.
- “The last two games I couldn’t waste my energy, anyway,” Zaza joked. “I just did the things I was supposed to do and rebound was my No. 1 goal. Bottom line that’s what the coaches want. After the last two games I want to do the things that coaches expect from me.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat