In this game Memphis got every rebound available except the two most important ones at the end of the game. On that possession, Al Horford and Josh Smith grabbed two offensive rebounds that enabled the Hawks to run even more time off of the clock and allowed Mike Bibby to hit a clutch three pointer out of the corner that sent the Philips Arena crowd to the aisles.
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So the first game without Joe Johnson can termed a success. After learning just before the game that they would be without Johnson for a significant amount of time, the Hawks went out and put forth a consummate team effort in defeating what was a hot Memphis Grizzlies team. Statistically this game is a little bit of an anomaly. Memphis shot 52% for the game, out rebounded the Hawks 40-28, and held a 66-42 points in the paint advantage. Yet they still lost the game that had the final margin significantly reduced by a couple of missed free throws late.
Atlanta shot 53% for the game with the real difference coming in three point shooting where they only took twelve for the game but connected on seven. They were a solid 21-26 from the free throw line and only turned the ball over eleven times in the game. The Hawks simply were more efficient tallying 33 assists on 42 made field goals in the game. That was enough to overcome the large rebounding disparity and inside pounding that the Grizzlies dished out.
It didn't look like it was going to be easy in the beginning. Atlanta got off to a slow start and forced coach Drew to take an early time out. Josh Smith picked up his 2nd foul with 5:05 to go in the first quarter and didn't return until the start of the third period. The Hawks overcame that slow start and early foul trouble with some spirited play from reserve big man Josh Powell. Powell connected on 7-8 shots for 14 first half points. He would finish the game with a season high 16 points but his contribution with Smith in foul trouble was huge in the Hawks digging themselves out of an early deficit. Jeff Teague came in and played what could have been his best game of the season contributing 8 points and 5 assists in a little over 14 minutes of action. Teague looked confident in attacking the basket and had two beautiful drive and dishes for three pointers on back to back plays in the second quarter.
Mike Bibby may have hit the biggest shots of the night for the Hawks scoring 15 points on red hot 5-8 shooting. Bibby was 4-5 from three point range. Marvin Williams turned in an efficient 15 point night. With Johnson out, the Hawks turned to Al Horford down the stretch and he scored six straight points after the Grizzlies had cut the Hawks lead down to just a single basket in the fourth. Coach Drew indicated after the game that they would look to Horford more in the fourth quarter while Joe is recovering from injury. Horford didn't disappoint with his effort tonight scoring 20 points, grabbing six rebounds, and dishing out six assists.
This was a big win for the Hawks who found out just before the game that they would be without Joe Johnson for four to six weeks. They will need this type of team effort that they exhibited as the schedule turns tougher this month. If anything it seems that they have put the tough stretch of seven losses in nine games squarely in the rear-view mirror and they don't seem to be feeling any pressure whatsoever. Even with Johnson's offense missing perhaps the biggest challenge going forward will be defensively. Mo Evans got the start tonight but in all likelihood it will be Jamal Crawford that will be closing games. The Hawks defense wasn't stellar tonight but it was good enough to win.