Quick Thought: Hands raised, who thinks they can just show up to a game and win in the NBA. Uh-uh, not so fast, Atlanta Hawks.
Hard for me to put my finger on how many levels of stink this game registered at, but we'll comment on as many as we can.
The Hawks played as if they were biding their time and eventually their great team would rise up against the lesser Pistons club. Problem was, the Pistons were the ones who looked like they had their crap together all night.
They constantly found ways for Richard Hamilton to score in the first half, moved the ball very effectively and took advantage of the Hawks shaky perimeter defense over and over again.
The Hawks, on the other hand, took for-ev-er to get into their sets offensively, especially when Mike Bibby left the game, leaving them little time to do more than launch contested long shot after contested long shot, predictably leaving the team rather flat on the scoreboard and trailing throughout.
They rallied in the third quarter, basically by playing the starters the whole time. But when the fourth quarter started, and more bench had to come in, it was the beginning of a typical Detroit disaster for the ATL.
That the Hawks were only down three when the quarter started and were clearing the bench a mere 9 minutes later tells the story pretty well, but not totally. The badness began when Coach Drew decided crunch time was a good time to give Josh Powell his first action of the night. Powell promptly allowed an offensive rebound, turned the ball over twice, and watched as Charlie Villanueva layed the ball in without a challenge from Powell.
It wasn't all Powell's fault....but it was just the kind of grease that the Hawks didn't need to slip off the competitive ledge they had spent the whole game clinging to by a nail.
The final total in the fourth quarter: Pistons 39, Hawks 19, with the last three Piston points coming from known Hawk Hater Charlie V. Consider the magnitude of the breakdown. Six Hawks turnovers. And Hamilton had zero of his team high (24) points in the fourth quarter and only 4 for the entire second half. That means Villanueva (23 points), Rodney Stuckey (16 points, 10 assists), and a frisky Tracy McGrady (16 points on 5-9 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, a block, all in 26 minutes) were the ones that did in the Hawks.
The Hawks must have seen the Hamilton absence as excellent strategy as Al Horford, he of the 17 point, 7-14 night from the floor, had a single shot (he missed it) in the deciding final quarter. Josh Powell took (4), as did Josh Smith.
I've lauded Al Horford time and time again, so allow me to nit pick regarding his performance tonight. Many times Horford holds the ball too long at the top of the key. I know he's looking to pass because the play calls for it, but there are times when nobody is open and his defender is nowhere in sight that he has to go to the basket with the ball. He defers way too often when he doesn't have to and sometimes it puts the Hawks in a position where there is no time left (because we initiate the play with 10-12 seconds left) and all that can be done is a long, contested, jump shot.
Jamal Crawford: 31 minutes, 2 points (1-6), 0 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 turnovers
Damien Wilkins: 32 minutes, 4 points (2-5), 2 rebounds, an assist, 3 steals
Maurice Evans: 14 minutes, 3 points (1-2), 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 4 fouls
That's an awful lot of minutes from the guards on the team without much positive production, period. Meanwhile, the last two first round picks for the Hawks (both guards, if you can't remember) played five minutes, all from Jeff Teague. Jordan Crawford continues to scratch, not even dressing with Joe Johnson still out. Me thinks we are overrating the "Proven Veteran" role a smidge.
Silver Lining: There is always a next game....and Thursday is in Boston, on TNT. So the Hawks got the nastiness out of their system and are going to bounce back, guns blazing in a nationally televised statement game......aren't they?