Hawks beat the Heat; Josh works a flat-out wonder

Come April Fool’s Day, we’ll know if the Hawks have been fooling us these past four months. Over the 33-day day stretch that began Friday, they’ll play 18 games, 14 of them at home, 10 against teams with winning records. We’re about to learn exactly what the Hawks are, and quite possibly where they’re headed.

The interminable NBA regular season is filled with red herrings. A team can look good for a week or a month and wind up in the lottery. The Hawks aren’t going to drop that far, but for most of calendar year 2009 they’ve been running in place. It’s time now to spin things forward.

“It is a big month,” Josh Smith said, speaking before Friday’s game. “With so many home games and tough teams coming in, we want to create some separation for the fourth spot.”

Conveniently enough, Friday’s opponent was the team the Hawks need to outrun. The Miami Heat had closed on the Hawks and had made a deft trade – plying Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon from Toronto – at the deadline. The Heat was rising and the Hawks were coming off their annual lousy Western swing, and maybe this happy yarn was coming unraveled.

To this nervous premise, the Hawks snorted and said, “Ravel? He’s nothing but a dead composer.”

Let the record reflect that the Hawks handled the Heat. The first half was a wretched display – the pro equivalent of Michigan State versus Wisconsin – but in the third quarter the local team reminded us just why we came to notice it. The Hawks slammed Miami so hard even Dwyane Wade had no reply, and in so doing they banked their biggest victory since Game 6 against the Celtics.

Much of this had to do with Josh Smith, who had been playing indifferently and who was so lost in this first half he drew boos. But the observer who discounts J. Smith on the strength of a bad patch is someone who misses the bigger picture. J. Smith is a game-changer, and he changed this one.

It was 41-35 when Smith lent wings to this halting affair. He dunked off the break. He fed Al Horford – who finished with 21 points and 22 rebounds – for a jam, then Marvin Williams for a layup. And then came one of those J-Smoove Moments, the kind maybe four other players in the world could author.

Horford missed a jumper. Smith took the rebound with his back to the basket, his momentum carrying him farther away. Somehow he flipped the ball over his head – and it wasn’t a wild fling but a controlled blind shot, if that makes any sense – and into the hoop. That made it 54-43, and the addled Heat could do nothing but call timeout and watch the wondrous sequence being replayed on the matrix board.

Had Smith ever made such a shot? “Oh, no,” he said. “Never. I just reacted to the ball. I thought I had a good touch on [the outrageous shot].”

And did he sneak a peak at the replay? “You know I did,” Smith said, laughing.

The Hawks would win 91-83 – Smith stole a Mario Chalmers pass and scored to seal the deal – and thus did the big month-plus receive the needed kickstart. They lead Miami by 2½ games, and since the No. 4 seed plays No. 5 in Round 1, with No. 4 having the homecourt edge, it was the sort of game that could resonate well into spring.

The playoffs are a whole ’nother animal, but these next 32 days could tell us if the Hawks are capable of lasting beyond Round 1. Said Mike Woodson: “These are all meaningful teams coming in here with something to play for, and that’s how you want it. It puts you in the mode of playoff basketball … We’ll see what we’re made of.”

On Friday the Hawks were eight points better than their nearest pursuer. On this night they were made of mighty tough stuff.

27 comments Add your comment

Eric

February 27th, 2009
11:40 pm

WENT TO THE GAME TONIGHT, JOSH ALWAYS COMES THROUGH WITH A SPECTACULAR PLAY WHEN I GO. THAT REVERSE LAY-UP WAS SICK, JOSH CAME FROM THE OTHER BASELINE!!! WE JUST NEED TO KEEP HIM 12 FEET AND IN, NO THREE POINT SHOOTS JOSH.

Kurt

February 28th, 2009
12:25 am

Yes! Besides his occasional lack of hustle, his biggest flaw is his insistence on shooting long jumpers. Do what you do best! Drive to the basket!!!!!

Horford had a great game too. Looked good tonight.

mbradley1445

February 28th, 2009
12:34 am

Hey, it’s Mark Bradley here. On further review — after driving home, in other words — I thought the Hawks were tough and resourceful on a night when Mike Bibby (still sick) didn’t have it. And I think they could beat Miami in Round 1, Wade or no Wade.

Going to bed now. Y’all take care.

Reggie

February 28th, 2009
12:40 am

Mark

What player does Al Horford remind you of?

lawton

February 28th, 2009
1:24 am

YAAAWWWNN. 40 something years, and the Hawks are STILL rebuilding, STILL havent made it to at LEAST the Eastern Conference Finals. Josh Smith reminds me of the Jim Mora, Bobby Petrino era with the Falcons, all flash and no substance. Why am i being negative? Its because we been there, done that a thousand times. Until the Hawks field a CHAMPIONSHIP team, who cares?

mbradley1445

February 28th, 2009
7:49 am

Buck Williams, maybe? Paul Silas with a jumper?

I don’t know, Reggie. I’ll give it some thought, though.

"Over" Rated

February 28th, 2009
9:06 am

For the one or two good plays he may make in a game there of many more that hurt the Hawks. Basketball is more than Dunking or even blocking a shot or two! I wonder how many games he has actually cost the Hawks with POOR free throw shooting? And if anyone believes he plays defense doesn’t really watch the game. Allowing your man by you so you can ATTEMPT to block his shot is not playing defense! Of course he is still very young and has plenty of time to improve his game but as of today he is the most overrated player in basketball. More harm than help! By the way Hawks fans, our team can’t shoot free throws! We “may” make the playoffs but will lose in the first round because close games are won at the free throw line and playoff games are almost always close. Fire Woodson, trade J. Smith and for God’s sake re-sign Bibby!!!!

NEW CARS (FORMERLY USED CARS)

February 28th, 2009
9:23 am

Could Horford be a poor mans Tim Duncan? I still like the thought of Horford at the 4 and a real center in middle..Do we want Marvin and Smith for the next 5 years…tough choice..At least Marvin seems to put it on the floor every night, just like Horford and Johnson….Smith has to grow up quickly and undertand what’s needed of him..Quit watching Lamar Odom from 2002 and watch him in 2009…

Reggie

February 28th, 2009
12:35 pm

I was thinking a poor man’s Karl malone

RedTailHawk

February 28th, 2009
12:49 pm

When Smith takes those jumpers, he is usually “set up” to do it by the scheme. JJ or Bibby brings the ball down…watch Al and Marvin and Josh stop and spread out along the perimeter as designed…iso Joe…he dribbles for awhile….maybe pass to Bippy…no shot?…Josh is standing free at the deep elbow where he is supposed to be…he is alone…they pass it to him…his man lays off a few feet to prevent the drive…clock is low….he shoots…booooooooo…ITS WOODY”S DESIGN!!!!!

calico

February 28th, 2009
1:01 pm

Good effort from josh last night keep it up

Eric

February 28th, 2009
1:02 pm

DESPITE JOSH’S OFFENSIVE FLAWS, HE’S STILL THE MVP OF THE HAWKS FOR WHAT HE DOES SHOT BLOCKING AND REBOUNDING. REMEMBER WHEN WE HAD STEVE SMITH, MOOKIE, AND DIKEMBE. THE FANS HERE SAID THEY PLAYED A BORING STYLE OF BASKETBALL AND DEMANDED WE TRADE AWAY ALL OUR STARS. WE PAID FOR THAT, AND FRANKLY I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO WAIT ANOTHER 7-8 YEARS JUST TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. GIVE SOME DAMN RESPECT TO THE TEAM WE HAVE AND BUILD ON WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE WHICH IS GOOD YOUNG TALENT!!!

JMar

February 28th, 2009
1:11 pm

Josh is definitely a game-changer, but not always in a positive way.

nola dawg

February 28th, 2009
1:17 pm

Per the question of who Al reminds you of… I think with a bit more offensive skill, dude is Tim Duncan. Double double machine, solid post D, etc…

Agree on many of the points about about J. Smith, but can anyone disagree w/ the fact that this team will go as far as Bibby will take them. He is the difference… look at the games he has not played.

J.J.M.

February 28th, 2009
1:50 pm

“Over” Rated…. if the team is ranked 29th in the nba in free throw do you really think its all josh fault??? last time i checked joe did miss a free throw against the celtics that would have went to overtime, so dont blame it all on josh its a team game buddy.

Kurt

February 28th, 2009
2:28 pm

Its not the play design. There’s no play they have that says, “Joe runs out the clock and kicks it out to a wide open Josh Smith deep.” Joe may kick it out to Josh, but that doesn’t mean he has to shoot it. He shouldn’t shoot it. He should drive it himself.

He’s not a good free throw shooter, but he’s not the only reason for the Hawks rankings.

And if you don’t care about the Hawks until they win a championship, why do you care about the Falcons?

WAR EAGLE!!!!

February 28th, 2009
2:45 pm

Josh Smith is the heart and soul of or defense. He changes players shots if he does not send the ball into the bleachers

Darrin "The Vent King"

February 28th, 2009
3:23 pm

Reggie- I’ve been saying it since he’s days at Florida (Gator fan here baby!) that he was the 2nd coming of Karl Malone…tell me he doesn’t shoot the 15 footers just like him. The only difference- Big Al doesn’t know the meaning of “choking”.

GO HAWKS!!!

RedTailHawk

February 28th, 2009
4:50 pm

**Kurt** When Joe kicks it out to Josh 22 feet from the hoop with 5 seconds on the shot clock and NOBODY is cutting then Josh has 2 options. 1. Try to drive to 22 ft to the hoop on a defender who is playing 3 feet off of him or 2. Shoot! Josh drives OK from 5 to 10 feet out ( 1 or 2 dribbles). He is not a good enough ball handler to consistantly drive from the perimeter. The point is that Woody should not have him standing around the perimeter in the first place.

Mark Bradley

February 28th, 2009
10:09 pm

I’d say Horfy — that’s what Joakim Noah called him — is more Tim Duncan than Karl Malone. The Mailman was quicker and had deeper range.

Good observations, folks.

chris

February 28th, 2009
10:25 pm

Duncan? Somewhat, possibly, slightly, but come on, as of now they aren’t even close.

Btw, Bibby’s totally ineffective and Law gets . . . zero minutes? How does Woodson keep his job?

Mark Bradley

February 28th, 2009
10:30 pm

Kind of makes you wonder about Law’s future, huh?

And you’re right, Chris. Horford obviously isn’t the player Duncan is — at least not yet.

Malted Falcon

February 28th, 2009
11:59 pm

Nice to read positive about the Hawks but that Ravel joke was a clunker of the highest order. That was like Swingers when Mike tries to order eggs in the Age of Enlightenment. Needs work.

Najeh Davenpoop

March 1st, 2009
10:56 am

Hawks seemed under control Fri. out of the break, not because of anything out of the offensive set, but because the defense seemed to be under control. That team playing like that can go a long way.

Dr. Warren

March 1st, 2009
12:46 pm

The Hawks will get eliminated in the first round or make it to the second and then get ousted. Scenario A or B–and that’s it. We all know it. If you don’t have two superstars, you’re not gonna win the finals. If you don’t have one superstar and one star, you’re not gonna make the finals. If you don’t have one superstar, you’re not gonna make the conference finals. (And even with one superstar, it’s gonna be tough. See the Dominique Wilkins-era Hawks). These Hawks have one star and two potential stars–and we all know what that’s good for.

Dr. Warren

March 1st, 2009
12:50 pm

And by the way, had we signed Childress, we would have had a better chance to make it to Round 2. (But not win, of course).

nunna yo bizzness

March 3rd, 2009
8:14 am

woody has talent deep on the bench that he is not using..he should let the likes of gardner,hunter,west,and morris whom did a good job on shaq in a game earlier this season to get in some playing time..why??

because,he will need these guys come playoff time..

joe was tired before the all star break,and he needs more than bibby to be another go to option to free him up..

josh is not a 15 feet and out shooter..he needs to work on his game more and just be that slasher who can kick the ball out to joe,mike,or even gardner if need be..
if we play the heat in the 1st round,with the trade additions that they have recently made,we will be out in 4 games..no doubt!!!

and mark my words,we will be the 5th seed going against the heat..
the hawks are too inconsistent and with the heat bringing in o’neal,they will put together enough wins to over the hawks for 4th place in the east and will knock them out of the playoffs if woodson does not use his bence more..

rick sund is not gonna make no trade before the deadline,unless,someone wants law,then he will add claxton to the mix,but,just like sund said in the beginning of the year,it will be no reason this season,unlike lasts,that woodson can’t use his bench..

and with no trade coming,he is showing woody that he has his team,now he must use them…