Hawks 89, Magic 87 (OT)
Orlando–Before getting to everything the Hawks did wrong while blowing a lead before pulling out the W, let me take a minute to point out something that’s pretty remarkable.
- After a period in which it seemed as if the Hawks would never beat the Magic as long as Dwight Howard was around, it’s now to the point where the Magic can’t want anything to do with the Hawks. “I don’t think anyone in this locker room will ever forget what Orlando did to us in the playoffs a couple of years ago,” Marvin Williams said.
- The Hawks seem to have solved the Magic riddle and it’s really something to see. This time the Hawks beat Orlando without All-Star Al Horford, Magic slayer Jamal Crawford and Dwight stopper Jason Collins. They have two centers who have proven to frustrate Dwight. They give Orlando problems with their size all over the court, which Stan Van Gundy noted pregame is what tends to happen to his team. They outplayed Orlando when it was small vs. small, too.
- And now the Hawks win regularly in Orlando. Maybe it’s the new building. “Early on in my career the margin of defeat here was probably 30 or 25 points,” Josh Smith said. “Being able to get established here and be in every ball game of late, it definitely shows you the growth of this basketball team.”
- I think that’s a perfect segue into all the things the Hawks did wrong after they took the 78-70 lead with 2:26 to play. The Hawks had four more possessions in regulation and each one of them involved lots of dribbling and no clear plan of attack. This came after three straight possessions in which Josh scored two baskets and earned two free throws by aggressively driving to the rim.
- Jeff Teague actually shook free for a decent look that missed but only after a confused possession. On the next trip down, Teague rushed a 10-footer after a similarly scrambled possession. Joe Johnson then missed a challenged Iso jumper. And, finally, Josh missed a 20-footer after a timid attempt by Teague to run a pick-and-roll with him.
- “I thought we had some good looks,” Larry Drew said. “I think maybe one play we just didn’t execute it very well. We probably lost a little bit of our aggression when they made a run, particularly off the dribble on the attack. I thought we kind of settled toward the end of regulation. You have got to keep your aggression.”
- While Atlanta was squandering those possessions, Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson were easily getting to the basket for scores. And then Drew used some strange strategy on Orlando’s final possession of regulation.
- Drew subbed Willie Green for Zaza Pachulia, who had done an admirable job tangling with Dwight. He also swapped Tracy McGrady for Teague and, anticipating a Nelson-Howard screen-roll, put Johnson on Nelson and Smith on Howard. Not only that, Drew had Smith and Johnson switch on each screen.
- Nelson, not surprisingly, got by Johnson. That forced Smith to help, leaving Howard to dunk home the miss as there was no other Hawks player capable of sliding over to keep Howard away from the basket.
- Drew: “Jameer had gotten away from us a few times and we wanted to try, if be in a switchable situation, we put Josh on Howard and put Joe on the ball so it’s a bigger guy to wrestle Howard into the paint area. I thought we did a good job with it, we just didn’t finish it up. You take some gambles. I thought for the most part our coverages were good.”
- Smith: “We just knew that Dwight was going to come up for screen-and-roll and we didn’t want Teague rolling down on Dwight. That would have been just an impossible matchup to even contest if they threw it down low to Dwight. Jameer did what he had to do. Jameer got it up on the rim and no one came over to push Dwight under the rim and he got the tip dunk.”
- Give the Hawks credit for recovering from that sequence of events to win even after Turkoglu opened the overtime with a 3. Joe’s runner and turnaround J were the daggers. Or at least they could have been if he hadn’t later missed on a bad iso possession, Smith hadn’t turned it over under the basket and Marvin and Zaza had made both free-throw attempts on trips to the line.
- The Hawks won, though, to improve to 5-7 vs. opponents with winning records and 11-5 without Al. “I was a little concerned I thought our guys would come out flat for overtime,” Drew said. “They proved me wrong.”
- Josh had 23 points but needed 22 shots to do it. It was his rebounding that carried the Hawks. He really did a good job sealing off the glass for 19 boards and got his hands on several other misses.
- Every player has weaknesses. It just so often seems as if Smith’s twin bugaboos of suspect shot selection and looseness with the ball come at the worst times. And so it goes that he led the Hawks to victory at the same time he helped them nearly give it away.
- “I was getting some play calls tonight,” he said. “I wanted to be efficient down low on the block. I think I did a good job with that. I took what the defense gave me tonight.”
- Actually, he took what the Magic didn’t want to give him before being enticed into settling for what they wanted him to have. He also let Ryan Anderson get loose. But, in the final analysis, Josh was The Man. “When you see a stat line like that, it speaks for itself,” Marvin said. “Without him, we don’t win this game.”
- Josh was done talking about the All-Star snub. He said earlier today it doesn’t motivate him but I don’t think anyone is buying that. Drew: “This kid has had a remarkable first part of the year. He just impacts the game on both ends of the floor. He should have been there. It’s unfortunate the voting went that way. He’s a guy who if he just keeps playing the way he’s playing, it will happen. They passed him up this year.”
- Zaza was excellent: nine points on six shots, 10 rebounds, no turnovers. Like Collins, he figured out that sometimes the best way to defend Dwight is to back off a bit and let him start his move before poking at the ball.
- Joe didn’t shoot it well. He was good when he made quick decisions and passed out of double teams.
- Marvin played 35 minutes did what he should do: Make the open shots when the ball swings around to him. He also had six rebounds, three assists and no turnovers.
- Teague (13 points on 11 shots) was in scoring mode most of the night. He played spirited defense on the ball most of the way (three steals) but his intensity appeared to wane down the stretch.
- Tonight it was Tracy McGrady, Scorer (9 points on 7 shots). He spent a lot of time frantically waving for his teammates to throw him the ball in the post so he could abuse Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson.
- Erick Dampier had two rebounds in 1:46. He sealed off Dwight for both of them. That’s a successful debut.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat