More after the jump:
Quick thought: Admit it, you thought that fourth quarter seemed awfully familiar.
Ok, two games, two road games, to start the season, and the good guys are 2-0. No complaints, right? Awwww---you know me too well---shucks.
The Hawks got behind 11-2, took a timeout, and then regained control throughout the first half. It was Al Horford in the first quarter, Jamal Crawford in the second, and the Hawks led by (10) at the half.
Despite looking more talented, bigger, and more athletic than their hosts, the Hawks frittered away points in the worst ways possible---the transition game. Too many times the wrong guy had the ball and made a bad decision or the right guy had the ball---and still made a bad decision.
After the Hawks built their buffer zone, they played sloppy--it's that simple. And the (20) turnovers that resulted supports that claim.
The fourth quarter offense was a throwback---to last season. Very little motion, a lot of standing around, turnovers, and forced shots. Then, when the offense went bad, the lack of transition defense took over. We've seen that strategy in the fourth quarter, guys, and we like the motion/good shot offense better, thank you!
Josh Smith was infuriating and exasperating on the offensive end, but ultimately he was difference making on the defensive end. In the sequence just before he hurt his ankle and had to leave the game, I could swear the Sixers were retreating out of the middle faster than Brave Sir Robin. Six blocks and nine rebounds in (26) minutes were on the plus side of the ledger for Smoove---as was the team high +11.
If you are a Sixers fan, I have bad news. Your team committed (11) fewer turnovers, had your best player (Andre Iguodala) go for 27/6/10, got every single bounce to fall to you, made many circus shots, and you still only were in the game in the first couple of minutes and the last possession. At home. Might be a long season for the Sixers.
1. Al Horford
Horfy bounced back from a foul plagued off-night against Memphis and scored (13) points in the first quarter. They got the ball to him early and it paid off. Horford ended up with 20 points and 12 rebounds and was a beast defensively.
2. Jamal Crawford
Jamal took over where Horford left off by scoring 19 points, distributing 5 assists, and registering a surprising +7 for the game. Crawford feasted on the young Sixer guards, getting open often with his dribble and also getting (7) free throws--of which he made also seven.
3. Joe Johnson
Too many turnovers, yes (he had six) and too much ball holding in the fourth quarter. But Joe had 22/5/5 and once again made his way to the free throw line to go 9-12, which has to be positively reinforced here, even if two of those misses coming in crunch time.
Most Honorable Mention: Zaza Pachulia
With more minutes tonight (and would have liked to have seen him get those minutes instead of handing eight more to Josh Powell), Zaza might have scored another bench double-double. In (14) minutes, Zaza played rough, effective basketball, going for (7) points and (7) rebounds, while posting a +7 along the way.
The Hawks, once again, took advantage of another weak front court, outrebounding Philadelphia 46-36.
The Sixers stayed in it so long despite their team (41) percent shooting because they got to take an additional (15) shots more than the Hawks, thanks to that 20-9 disparity on turnovers.
I liked the way Jeff Teague played offense tonight, playing under control and being effective when in the game, but he was fooled time and time again by Louis Williams' pump fake, which launched Teague into the air, and led to some easy points for Lou (12 of 13 from the free throw line, accounting for almost all of his 16.)
Josh Powell is a bigger, stronger, inside playing Mario West---who can make free throws. At least from what I can tell.
2-0 and headed to the Highlight Factory for the opener tomorrow night against Washington! Great start for Larry Drew and the Hawks!