The Atlanta Hawks bounced back last night with a 116-96 victory over the Washington Wizards that snapped a three game losing streak and showed that this team is still capable of playing winning basketball. Now the challenge going forward for Larry Drew and company is to come up with that same effort consistently on a nightly basis. Make no mistake it was not easy getting back there as the Hawks circled their own wagons with a players meeting on Wednesday morning.
Instead of getting into what the Wizards didn't do in this game lets talk about what the Hawks did. First and foremost they controlled the boards from the outset. Don't let the final rebounding margin of 49-38 fool you because it wasn't that close. Washington racked up some offensive boards in garbage time to help trim that gap. In reality this Hawks team controlled the glass from the outset and raced off to the tune of 16 first quarter fast break points. When the Hawks are rebounding the basketball they can score in transition even when they are not necessarily looking to. Al Horford and Josh Smith combined to grab 27 of those 49 rebounds but make no mistake that it was a collective effort on the boards with even the likes of Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford throwing their bodies into Wizards players in an attempt to block out.
In addition to the rebounding, the defensive effort was much stronger in that the Hawks still got beat on a perimeter drive many times but the help defense was sound and the rotations were much more crisp where the Hawks were able to at least get a hand in the area of a Washington shooter.
Offensively the motion returned and so did the ball movement. Also absent was the hesitation in making moves or passes. The Hawks got the Wizards back on their heels and never stopped attacking. The ball movement was crisp and as THHB pointed out in the IR post, that tends to help drive up shooting percentages. The afore mentioned Josh Smith and Al Horford turned in double doubles and another workmanlike effort but this was a more vintage looking Joe Johnson in this one. Just how much that banged up hand has affected him only Johnson knows, but with his struggles Joe has looked tentative during the Hawks skid. Many times when a players shot is off it is up to that player to just quit thinking and go play. During the struggles of the last week it looked like Joe was really fighting himself but that was completely absent in last night's game. Johnson finished with 21 points on 8-16 shooting but maybe best of all was the 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
With the Hawks on the attack most of the night, Jamal Crawford looked much more comfortable in scoring 15 points on 4-9 shooting. He is still not shooting the ball well from three point range (1-5) but got to the line seven times where he made six.
Now I don't want to diminish the one game euphoria that this game was. It was a whole lot more enjoyable watching the Hawks bench jump around waving towels instead of wearing them to hide their faces. The Hawks were ready in this game and now going forward it is up to them to prove they can be ready consistently. They have to prove that the chemistry issues that they buried can stay buried and that they can keep that focus over a multi game setting rather than one isolated incident.
Another thing we will be keeping an eye on in the coming days is the role that Jeff Teague plays. As THHB pointed out, Teague didn't enter until garbage time. Basically Mike Bibby, and Jamal Crawford shared point guard duties much of the night with Jordan Crawford also bringing the ball up the court at times. Now I don't think it is important to make a big deal of this quite yet and here is why. Drew may be trying to reach Teague and this may be how he gets his attention. Also Jordan Crawford could be really pushing for playing time in practice and really this is the only logical way to get him on the court. I talked about it back in the preseason that Teague might have to look over his shoulder at Crawford at some point during this season. Lets take a little more time and see how the situation plays it self out in the coming week.
It is great to get a win and look good doing it.