After a fast start, the Hawks withstood a less than stellar third quarter to hold off the Knicks 99-90 and captured their tenth win of the season. The Hawks used a 32 point first quarter to take control of the game and at several points in the first half looked like they might run away with it. After a 56-38 half time lead, the Knicks came storming back in the second half but never could completely wrestle control of the game away from Atlanta.
The first half of this game was a continuation of the good play that the team exhibited on Thanksgiving day against Washington. During that first half, the defensive intensity was there as was the ball movement on offense. The Hawks had an exceptional day taking care of the basketball by only committing six turnovers as a team. Conversely the Knicks committed twelve. The Hawks also took advantage of the Knicks' reluctance to challenge shooters. I thought it was interesting that New York finished with 48-28 advantage in points in the paint yet the Hawks never lost control due to some strong outside shooting and some less than stellar Knicks perimeter defense which was more than willing to give up wide open looks.
Despite the early dominance, this game didn't turn into the cake walk for the Hawks. The Knicks came roaring back in the third quarter as their offense seemed to get in gear which was also bolstered when Josh Smith went to the bench with foul trouble. Anyone that questions the value of Josh Smith to this Hawks team need only watch the third quarter of this game as the Knicks attacked the basket routinely after he exited. Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia were slow in rotating and otherwise incapable of covering up for some of the team's perimeter defensive deficiencies.
Things looked rather bleak for the Hawks for a period with Smith out and the Knicks offense now rolling. Joe Johnson was struggling shooting the ball yet the Hawks didn't panic and they also didn't force feed the ball to Joe whom the Knicks were not going to give an opportunity to get rolling by sending double teams almost every time he touched the ball despite his 3-15 shooting. This time Jamal Crawford and Al Horford were able to come up big offensively and otherwise never allow the Knicks to make the game any closer. Crawford finished with 21 points and 3 assists on 8-18 shooting. It wasn't a complete clinic for Crawford but many of the shots he hit were big as they stopped New York runs.
Al Horford finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds in 42 minutes of action as he filled in for Josh Smith and spent quite a bit of time at the Power Forward position as he was on court alongside Zaza Pachulia. Mike Bibby was also huge down the stretch going 4-5 from three point range and finishing with 14 points. Marvin Williams had an outstanding first half and finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds in the game.
Now lets talk about what we didn't see which was any of Jeff Teague in this ball game. That may be more of a trend as coach Drew has shortened the rotation in the backcourt. Teauge had been losing playing time of late to Jordan Crawford but today both logged DNP's for the Hawks. Also Josh Powell only logged three minutes in today's game as the Hawks essentially went with what amounted to an eight man rotation. Again I am not ready to say that it is a good or a bad thing at this point and am interested in seeing how it plays itself out. Clearly we can draw from this that coach Drew is losing confidence in Teague as now it appears that he isn't going to be guaranteed minutes.
We also didn't see the excellent shooting from Joe Johnson that we saw against Washington. Joe was terrible shooting the ball today going 3-15 and finishing with seven points. Johnson did help out in other facets by grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing a team high seven assists.
The Hawks are back at it again tomorrow in Toronto with another 1:00pm matinée start time.