Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 107, Pistons 101 (OT)
Auburn Hills, Mich. –This was similar to the Milwaukee game: Awful start, great finish. “I wish it could be a little earlier,” Josh Smith said. “I would rather have the lead than try to claw back into it and do it the way we did it. But a win is a win. I’ll take it.”
The Hawks did it behind Joe Johnson’s 28 points after halftime. There are times when Johnson doesn’t have it and focuses on drawing doubles and swinging the ball. This time, he just kept doing his thing until he found his rhythm.
“The second half I just wanted to be aggressive,” he said. “It was do or die. We had to put up or shut up. Guys came out and made big plays and gave ourselves a chance in overtime. I just wanted to validate that and be aggressive and make plays not only for myself but my teammates.”
For the second time in three games Larry Drew didn’t take Joe out after halftime (Josh didn’t get a break, either). “You have got to understand where he’s coming from when you’ve got a guy who is getting into a rhythm, rolling, getting other guys involved, knocking down shots,” Joe said. “You do want to ride him, regardless of who it is. Tonight I was that guy. I told the guys to be ready.”
Joe’s steal and tying 3-pointer were just two of several big plays for the Hawks down the stretch. Marvin Williams, Kirk Hinrich, and Josh Smith all made important 3-pointers as Detroit stumbled.
Marvin’s 3 late in regulation came after a sweet sequence in which Joe attracted a double and swung the ball to Hinrich (who was frantically waving his hands) who then whipped it to Marvin in the corner. Even thought he had it rolling, Joe became a playmaker when the Hawks needed it.
“It was kind of a carbon copy of the Milwaukee game,” Drew said. “He struggled the first half but I elected to ride him in the second half to see if he could play his way out of it. He had some bounce in his step.”
It hardly mattered that Josh was missing Js since he also earned eight free throws (making six) and had 11 rebounds, eight assists (against one turnover) and three blocked shots. Like everyone else save for Tracy McGrady, he was much better after halftime than before.
It’s been a while since Jeff Teague was this passive. He didn’t seem interested in attacking the basket and, like at Milwaukee, sometimes dribbled wildly into traffic. Teague didn’t provide much defensive energy, either.
Drew didn’t have an update on Teague’s sprained left ankle and I didn’t see Teague in the locker room. “I thought he was going to be able to go back in,” Drew said.
Hinrich replaced Teague with 3:48 left in the third and didn’t come back out. “I was just gassed,” he said. “I just didn’t have any legs. Offensively, I think I’ve got a little ways to go obviously.”
Hinrich couldn’t find his shot but he had nine assists, including five over the final quarter and OT. Five of his assists resulted in scores within six feet of the basket and two others led to 3s.
Hinrich also took some pressure off Joe defensively. “He played with a lot of intensity, a lot of energy,” Drew said. “He got on the floor for some loose balls. He gave us a big lift.”
Not a strong game for Drew as far as feeling out who needs minutes when (riding Joe notwithstanding). T-Mac was one of the few guys to have going early but Drew sat him for Marvin (he’s still not playing them together). McGrady appeared to be laboring late but Drew waited a while before putting Marvin back in. And Drew was back to using Jason Collins in a major role (16 minutes).
It seems like Drew is getting quicker with pulling out Ivan Johnson when he misses jump shots.
Marvin came off the bench and made the big 3-pointer but Drew sent him in for defense. “I wanted to get more active defensively and they were scoring with posting [Greg] Monroe,” Drew said. “We were going to double team him and getting into rotations, and I wanted someone a little more mobile out there.”
Marvin played 35 minutes and delivered with his best game in a while: season-high 22 points on nine shots and eight rebounds.
Zaza Pachulia was jumper happy early (just two free-throw attempts) but started cutting to the basket late. Defensively he’s rarely out of position. He’s not athletic enough to get to all those shots he challenges but he’s by far Atlanta’s best healthy center.
More evidence of Atlanta’s lack of depth in the front court: Monroe, Jason Maxiell and even Austin Daye gave the Hawks problems in the paint. There were times the Hawks cross-matched Josh on Monroe and Twin on Maxiell. That’s just not a good situation.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat