Perhaps the craziest thing about this game is that the Hawks were up 12 at one point. It’s almost unbelievable given the way the second half played out. Which, as you know, probably even better than me, is how a lot of second halves seem to play out.
Al Horford: “We’ve just got to share the ball. I think at times we do it, at times we don’t.”
Jamal Crawford: “I think we have to learn to handle adversity. I think that’s our final step in becoming a great team. … We have to learn to take a team’s best shot and bounce back and withstand whatever run they have and come back and win.”
Josh Smith: “Sometimes we fight back, sometimes we lay down. I think it’s too late in the year to be inconsistent. We’ve got to know what we’re going to get from each other. We’ve got to play hard every night.”
- Team Jump Shot collapsed against Denver, which kind of plays like you’d hope the Hawks would play – moving the ball, transition game, putting pressure on opponents defensively, several players who can score (maybe this is where the Hawks are not so much like the Nuggets).
The Hawks didn’t make jumpers and failed to re-direct their focus on getting better shots. This might explain it. The Hawks took 19 shots in the paint before halftime. They were down four points and Larry Drew felt they were fortunate to do so.
“It’s plain and simple, which I told them at halftime,” Drew said. “We can’t come down and take a bunch of long shots. We have to establish an inside game.”
With that message ringing in their ears, the Hawks took 21 shots in the third quarter. Two of them were closer than 10 feet. It bears mention that they actually shot really well in this quarter – nine for 18, including three of seven from 3-point range.
It’s kind of the trap with this team. Periods or games like that serve to reinforce the notion that they can thrive as an outside-in team.
- Smith missed seven of his first eight and was pulled. I don’t know that I’ve seen that happen this season that quickly.
Drew: “Their game plan, obviously, was to give us the perimeter shot, but we have to establish ourselves more in the low post.”
I asked Smith if he was surprised when Drew took him out in the first quarter. He said no.
“When somebody comes and gets me (to take him out of the game), as a teammate, I just sit down and understand what I’m doing wrong and try to correct it when I get back in the game.”
Smith’s shot selection (4-for-16) was the most obvious thing about his game. I think it should be pointed out that he also got to the line more than any of his teammates, had nine rebounds and three blocks. And I think his knee is limiting him. All that to say, he is more than his shot selection, but his shot selection certainly is a considerable part of his game.
- Zaza Pachulia continued to earn extended minutes. He got 33 minutes and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, both team highs. It’s the first time he has led the team in scoring all season.
“Zaza played a [heck] of game,” Smith said.
- The team made little effort to push the ball. The Hawks had 21 fast-break points against Milwaukee and 13 against Denver. In the Lakers game, the last one I covered, it seemed like the team was intentional about pushing the pace – running hard up the court – with every miss or turnover. I saw little of that effort against Denver.
Offensively, the ball just didn’t move well. When it did, getting out of double teams into rotations, the shots missed.
“We became pretty easy to defend,” Drew said.
Horford: “I think that when we play the right way, like yesterday, everything was great. Today, we get away from things we’re successful with and we struggle.”
- Defensively the Hawks gave the game away in the fourth. Shortly after getting to within three points, the Hawks allowed Denver to score on 11 of 12 possessions, a lot of them on secondary-break situations. A lot of open looks on 3-pointers. Drew called it “poor.” I imagine you all might have other words, but poor is a good start.
- Three players scored in double figures off the bench – Pachulia (19 – he was a ridiculous eight for nine), Crawford (6-for-13 for 13) and Marvin Williams (four for 10 for 10). Hawks only used nine players – Hilton Armstrong, Jason Collins and Josh Powell all received DNP-CD’s.
Regardless of how the Hawks played, the Nuggets are quite a team. They’ve got scoring options all over the floor and are on a remarkable hot streak.
“This is a team that’s playing rejuvenated,” Smith said. “You really don’t know where the offense is coming from because they have eight guys scoring in double figures and they look like they’re in sync right now and they’re definitely playing defense and helping each other out.”
Asked what would happen if the Hawks played like the Nuggets, Horford replied, “then I feel like we would be a better team and we would be playing like that.”
Miami comes to town Friday. I suppose if you are a glass half-full sort of person, then perhaps you think the best thing about the Hawks’ inconsistency is that they can win after stinking up the joint. The Hawks have beaten Orlando (twice), Chicago, New York and Portland after losses.