Initial Reaction: Hawks 95, Bobcats 90

Quick Thought: Joe Johnson is back. 

Summary:

A streaky game and not the kind you would expect from the Hawks with JOE JOHNSON back in the lineup, at home, against the now 9-17 Charlotte Bobcats.

The Hawks came out scoring in transition on their first 8 points and struggled in the halfcourt. For the rest of the game, the Hawks scored (19) more fast break points and moved in and out of the motion offense. When the Hawks worked the ball around, inside to out, they got great shots, made the extra pass, and scored. When they didn't, they isolated and forced shots, leaving the offensive production uneven in terms of efficiency. 

Johnson was indeed back, as we were reminded ad nauseam, and he quickly acclimated himself to playing major minutes, playing (37) of them while taking a team high (14) of them, making only (5). He struggled to make outside shots all night, but made it to the line to shoot (6) free throws, helping him get to (16) points on the night.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats, at times, looked nothing like a Larry Brown coached team. They are last in the league in turnover rate, but had only four in the first half, (3) of those occurring in the final minute of the half. They also committed (3) shot clock violations in the second half, as a result of the ball stopping for too long. On the other hand, besides those infractions, they committed (12) turnovers overall and they used a manic offensive rebounding campaign (18 in total) to keep the game close despite their poor (38) percent shooting night.

In the end, the Hawks starters made enough plays down the stretch, thanks to their transition game and two fantastic plays from Bibby-Horford and Joe-Josh, and not the stagnant, iso-heavy offense played for most of the quarter, to overcome the bench leaving the scoreboard alone for the first 3 1/2 minutes of the final quarter and win the game.

The Stars:

Al Horford:

It's easy to single out Al---he is uber-efficient, even when taking the far majority of his shots from the outside tonight, and still going 8-12 for 16 points. He added 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 assists as well. 

Larry Drew:

For one reason and one reason alone. With 7:18 left in the first quarter, Al Horford picked up his second foul. Normally, this is the kiss of first half death for Al, and we were starting down the barrel of almost 19 minutes without the big fella. So imagine our surprise when the second quarter started and Horford was back on the floor. Drew played him (37) minutes and the Hawks needed every second of him to win tonight. Drew's reward? Not just the win, but the knowledge that Al ended the game with a total of (3) fouls. It's not hard, LD. Give in. Trust. It made you a winner tonight.

Also:

Hey, it's better to have Joe Johnson this season than to watch Mo Evans and Damien Wilkins try to fill that void themselves, and he did add (8) assists and (5) rebounds against a single turnover. And you have to factor in that the man had surgery on his elbow two weeks ago and he is back in the lineup. Tough guy and dedicated. Welcome back, Joe!

Jeff Teague had (2) blocks, a three, and a buzzer beater to go with (4) assists. He turned it over a couple of times on impetuous plays, but Drew has to keep him backing up Bibby even when Jamal gets back, doesn't he? Please?

How Josh Smith stays as efficient as he is when he is so bizarrely in and out of position, jacking shots even when he doesn't have it, is a modern marvel. He helped deter more than a few shots tonight, but at the expense of actually covering his man. He did rebound (9) defensive rebounds (11 total), which is a welcome outcome of him not playing small forward. Another reason to be thankful Joe is back.

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