Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 103, Bulls 95
Chicago–It’s not hard to figure out why lots of people don’t like the Hawks.
- The numbers guys disdain them because they don’t compute on some things they hold sacred, like victory margins and inefficient shot selection. Old school fans don’t like the Hawks because of the way they’ve dogged it at times. Those who like their offense fluid scoff at Iso-Joe.
- I’ve been as hard on the Hawks as anyone. They deserved the scrutiny with so many home beatdowns. They don’t play to their strengths often enough. Some of L.D.’s ’s tics are hard to figure, like the two-foul rule and the banishment of Teague and Zaza to the end of the bench.
- But, at some point, don’t the Hawks deserve some credit? If one of the knocks against them was that they too often lie down, then why don’t they seem to be getting any Ps now that they keep rising up?
- “People talk about Boston, Miami, Orlando and Chicago in the East and nobody talks about the Hawks,” Jamal said. ” We kind of like it that way. We don’t get the glory. We just come out and try to win.”
- Truth is, the Hawks didn’t give anyone much good to talk about until they flipped that switch in Game 1 at Orlando. They’ve won 5 of 7 playoff games since then, though, and yet it seems people still don’t know what to make of the Hawks.
- “If you looked at us in the regular season, we are a roller coaster,” Al said. “We come out and play great, the other game we get blown out by 50, and so people are saying, ‘Same Hawks again.’ And I can understand that. But I think the guys have come to realize we have an opportunity to do something special. We are just embracing our chance to still be in the playoffs.”
- After the game, the questions for the Hawks from Chicago media types were along the lines of: “Now that you’ve got the Bulls’ attention, how do you expect them to react?”
- I would have thought the Hawks beating the Magic in six would get Chicago’s attention even with Hinrich out. And if it didn’t what does that say about the Bulls, who had an excellent regular season but have proven even less than the Hawks in the playoffs?
- The Hawks scored 103 points on 89 possessions against the best defensive team in the league. That’s with Al scoring just seven points on seven shots and Josh skewing the numbers with an assortment of poor shots (but making a key jumper and getting a key block late).
- The Hawks shot just below their average on long 2-point jump shots but got more baskets from 15 feet and closer.
- “We did a much better job in our shot selections,” L.D. said. “We had some moments where we started playing too much isolation basketball and it gets us in a bit of trouble but we played out of it.”
- Teague was thrust into what looked like an impossible situation and flourished. He’s almost as quick as D-Rose, might be even more athletic and showed no fear.
- “Jeff was absolutely phenomenal,” L.D. said. “He played like a seasoned vet. His aggression, his attack state, his ability get into the paint–he played like a kid who has been playing a lot of minutes for me. He really stepped up big with the assignment he had and having to deal with the pressure of being in the playoffs.”
- Teague’s speed makes Atlanta’s half-court sets more dynamic. He turns the corner so fast he demands a hedge from the big and tonight he was good at threading the traps with his passes.
- Teague also looked for his own shot and was much more assertive with the floaters and runners. “I think that’s how I play,” he said. “L.D. came to me and told me to play my game and don’t just focus on guarding him. Make him guard, too.”
- “On the offensive end, not being shy, not being timid and just playing the way I know he is capable of playing,” L.D. said. “I told him, ‘I want you to play like Jeff Teague.’ I don’t want you to bow down to anyone you are playing with, I don’t want you to bow down to your teammates. You are just as important.”
- D-Rose was strangely passive at times. Perhaps he was trying to get his teammates involved but have you seen some of those teammates try to score?
- Rose was 4 for 9 at the basket, 7 for 18 from 3 feet and out and didn’t attempt a free throw.
- “The game plan was to just try to contain him,” Drew said. “We didn’t want to trap him off the bat to open things up. I think my big guys did a really good job at showing out on the screens. Our guards were good as well at corralling.”
- Al and Josh were strong on the boards and with protecting the rim and combined for eight assists against just one turnover. That’s a testament to Atlanta’s sharp ball movement through its big men.
- Zaza, Damien and Twin didn’t play much but made their minutes count.
- Damien was energetic and had a couple steals and baskets. Twin helped the Hawks get through foul trouble with five rebounds and two made jumpers.
- Zaza had some garbage buckets around the basket to keep the Hawks afloat in the second half and finished with five rebounds.
- “We were kind of dead in the water,” L.D. said. “He got his hands on a couple balls around the basket. They were a couple busted plays but the ball was in his hands and he laid them in. Zaza is my energy guy. I need his physicality. He’s a banger and when he plays like that it just makes us a better ball club.”
- I know what you are thinking: The Hawks tried to trade Zaza and Teague was buried on the bench behind Bibby. Better late then never, I guess.
- The same thing can be said for all of the Hawks.
- “We came together before the Charlotte game,” Smoove said. “We had a team dinner and we was talking amongst ourselves about how talented this ball club is and what we are capable of doing. We understood and knew the focus that we had to have to go into the postseason. Guys are playing all out for each other. We are playing with nothing to lose.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat