Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 116, Bobcats 96
Charlotte–There’s been some talk about whether that other school could beat the Bobcats. That is, of course, preposterous. Not only does Charlotte have more pro players (not going to make the easy joke here) but there also is a human factor involved: No self-respecting NBA team, even one that is purposely stripped of talent to rebuild like Bobcats, is ever going to let some not-even-rookies beat them.
- But we saw some compelling evidence over the last four night that perhaps Atlanta’s second unit could beat the Bobcats more times than not. The Bobcats play hard but they are no match for a team with Atlanta’s talent.
- On a night when the starters other than Joe Johnson seemed willing to coast from the jump, the reserves came on to give them a 12-point halftime lead. The starters showed their appreciation–and most likely their desire to make quick work of Charlotte so they can chill on the bench–by burying the Bobcats from there.
- “We started off flat in the first quarter, then our bench did a good job and gave us some quality minutes,” Larry Drew said. “That’s what it’s going to take down the stretch. Some nights the starters won’t have it and the bench will have to carry us. Other nights the bench won’t have it and the starters will have to do it.”
- The Hawks handled their business against the Bobcats and Pistons and with nine games to play are just a half game behind Indiana for third place in the East. That really is quite remarkable considering the very real impact of their injuries.
- “We’ve been bogged down by injuries and yet still we are in position for a good spot to try to make a good run for the postseason,” Joe said.
- Yes, you can go down the list of games the Hawks blew that would have them realistically in position to challenge Miami for No. 2 in the East. (I won’t go down the list because my blog people know it.) But the Hawks, riddled by injuries and ground up by the schedule, are in prime position to earn home-court advantage in the playoffs and perhaps even be favored to win their first-round series.
- That’s not quite as impressive as what the Bulls have done but then the Bulls have two things the Hawks don’t: a superstar player and a single-minded commitment to a style of play each and every night. The Hawks can’t do much about the former (unless Joe or Josh Smith do something we haven’t seen before) but Joe thinks developing the latter is the next step:
- “We have got to develop some kind of consistency, what we want our identity to be. Whether we will be a hard-playing team, a team that really moves the ball and shares the ball and makes everybody better, ow what have you. We show glimpses of different parts of our games. One stretch we will be a great defensive team, next stretch a great offensive team, next stretch we do both. We have just got to find our identity.”
- Joe looked determined to manhandle the Bobcats from the start and had an efficient 22 minutes: 18 points on 10 shots, one assist, one turnover. He had his familiar fadeaway working and made 2 of 4 3-point attempts.
- Like Joe, Jeff Teague made the most of his short night: 11 points on eight shots, five assists against three turnovers. Not quite as aggressive as last night but he didn’t have to be.
- Josh Smith didn’t look very engaged in the first quarter while taking and missing jump shots and letting Byron Mullens go around him for scores and rebounds. He was much more energized while leading the game-deciding run to start the third quarter. Bobcats fans murmured nervously each time he came racing down the open court.
- Zaza Pachulia, unleashed from foul trouble tonight, responded with 12 points on six shots and 16 rebounds (five offensive). He also had three assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Zaza was the only Hawks starter to play significant minutes alongside the reserves and is perhaps second only to Josh in his ability to mesh with whichever teammates take the floor with him.
- Kirk Hinrich hasn’t been playing well–his shooting slump is exacerbated by his troubles keeping his man in front of him without fouling–but Drew says he still plans to stick with him as the starting two guard for now. More on that topic in a blog to come soon.
- Is there any doubt that Marvin Williams is best deployed as the sixth man? I still don’t think he’s crazy about it, but Drew said Marvin is “comfortable” with the role and that’s all that matters as long as Marvin produces.
- Ivan Johnson postgame was even better than during the game (17 points on 10 shots, six rebounds in 31 minutes). His take on the Hawks when asked by a Charlotte media type: “We are in playoff mode before the playoffs even come.” Ivan can be forgives for four turnovers in 31 minutes because they are less of a problem now than earlier in the season.
- When I say Willie Green is having a career year, I mean that in the context of his designated career role as a scorer. Defensively he has some of the same issues as Hinrich: not quick enough to stay in front of athletic foes, not strong enough to hold his ground against bigger foes, and in real trouble against opponents who are both.
- Jannero Pargo is kind of fun to watch in these blowout games when he can just zip around the other team’s 10th man and make things happen. His ability to shake free and get his own shot is valuable particularly because he, like Green, is having the most efficient scoring season of his career.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat