Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 100, Heat 92
Miami–After a bad start, the Hawks settled down behind a zone defense and better shot selection. Tracy McGrady delivered the finishing blows.
- “It feels good,” McGrady said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had that feeling. My legs feel fresh. Everything just feels good. It feels right. That’s a good sign. I haven’t felt this good in a long time, probably since the beginning of my knee injury.”
- We’ll see how McGrady holds up physically but so far he’s looking like the kind of low-cost value the the Hawks needed if they were going to improve the team without paying the tax. He scores, rebounds, passes and defends. And he still loves the big moments. “I’m a competitor, especially competing against the best, LeBron and D-Wade,” he said. “I’m always up for the challenge. Those guys, it brings the best out of you. It felt pretty good.”
- Not sure if the Hawks were lethargic early or if they just couldn’t handle the Heat’s speed and ball movement. “Early in the game we were too soft,” Larry Drew said. “We just allowed them to drive the ball to thee basket [and] not contesting shots. You give credit where credit is due, and certainly Miami is a heck of a ballclub. But you can’t come into this building and just allow them to drive it down your throat every possession and not put up any resistance.”
- The bench guys got the Hawks back in it. “We got off to a slow start but our bench really lifted us up,” Joe Johnson said. “That’s how it’s going to have to be sometimes.”
- Atlanta’s zone defense changed the pace of the game. By playing zone, the Hawks took a page from the books of Boston and Dallas in last season’s playoffs and also their W here last January. The Heat looked befuddled by the alignment. Suddenly they were stagnant instead of dynamic, settling for contested jumpers instead of attacking the basket at will.
- “They went to the zone and we got out of our rhythm and what was disappointing was it affected our concentration from then on,” Erik Spoelstra said.
- “I didn’t know how good the zone would be,” Drew said. “I just wanted to try to keep the game at a pace that would allow us to play at a speed that would slow them down. They missed some shots so it worked to our advantage tonight. Some nights it doesn’t work to your advantage.”
- “The Celtics had success [with the zone],” McGrady said. “Dallas had the most success. Teams are just taking a little bit of what they did to them. You can’t play them one-on-one, I’m sorry. LeBron and D-Wade, I don’t give a damn how good your defense is, you can’t play them one-on-one so you have got to come up with something different.”
- At the same time the zone slowed down the Heat, the Hawks stopped settling for Js.
- Josh Smith mostly stayed away from them after jacking a few early. Marvin Williams was effective cutting off the ball. Al Horford scored through high activity around the basket and also had some nice cuts. And Johnson got his in spite of Miami’s swarming defense.
- Johnson also helped harass Wade into an off night. He used his length to keep Wade off balance, scraping at the ball and forcing him into help. “You have to be ready to play him,” Drew said of Wade. “He is so good and so elusive off the dribble. I thought Joe Johnson did a phenomenal job against him. Joe to me is one of the better defensive players at that spot. He does not get enough credit for it.”
- Johnson played with a brace on his right thumb. It’s the same injury that bothered him at times last season. “As you can see it’s always swollen,” he said. “When I get hit on it it is sore for a few possessions and then it kind of goes out. For the most part I will be all right. It will linger around for the whole season but there is nothing I can do about it.”
- Atlanta hawked the ball and turned 16 Miami turnovers into 19 points. It could have been a lot more if not for Atlanta’s turnovers on the break (a big problem last season) and a few blown layups. “We did get in the open court but I don’t think we finished very well,” Drew said. “A few times it looked like we had clear paths to basket but just didn’t finish. But we did a good job in recognizing when to run and when not to.”
- Jeff Teague got to the basket and didn’t finish a few times, but he kept attacking. He lost the ball a couple times on the break but set up key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter from McGrady and Johnson. Tonight he found the right balance of attacking to score and attacking to make plays for others.
- Jannero Pargo also made a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. Willie Green (0 for 5) was quick on the trigger again and didn’t make many other positive contributions. Vladimir Radmanovic is now 0 for 10 in his last two games but he grabbed four rebounds and had three assists. Zaza Pachulia fouled a lot and tangled with Udonis Haslem.
- It’s early in the season but this was a strong, spirited effort by the Hawks against the best team in the East.
- “We came down in a hostile environment and we came to play,” Josh said. “Even though we started off struggling, we just kept fighting and playing hard.”
- “I think everybody in this locker room is confident,” Teague said. “I think we know we are a good team that can play with anybody . But I don’t think it proved anything. It’s still early in the season. It’s another game but it’s a good stepping team for us as a team.”
- “If you look at this game and the game at Houston, you see two different ballclubs,” Drew said. “We have to become a more consistent ballclub. When we reach that stage, yeah, we can start talking about statements. Right now we are just trying to find ourselves as a club and get better.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat