Hawks 103, Warriors 93: Initial Reaction

Quick Thought: Just enough control over the game to keep the Warriors at arms length.

Summary:

Boy. How much fun it must be to play out West and against teams like the Warriors, who dare you to be patient, take the right shots, and not want to play loose basketball with them for 48 minutes.

The Hawks, for enough of the time, held true, getting Josh Smith and Al Horford (32) shots between the two of them, and the big guys came through, making (20) of those shots (that's 63 percent, everybody). Early on the Hawks pounded the Warriors, whose biggest inside players were Louis Amundson and David Lee, nobody's defensive stalwarts, on the inside, lobbing pass after pass into Horford, Smith, and later Zaza Pachulia, with great success.

Smith was especially active, getting baskets early by preying on a couple of offensive rebounds and generally playing above the heads and shoulders of the much smaller Warriors team.

Still, the Hawks couldn't resist taking a slew of open jump shots, as the Warriors defensive strategy was "bet you'll miss and then we'll run." Golden State went to this defense after the initial inside onslaught by the Hawks, double teaming when the ball went inside which meant jump shots for the ATL. When the Hawks would oblige, they would lose their focus offensively, and when the shots stopped falling, they forgot to go back inside first, electing to pass the ball along the perimeter and then take a number of "heat checks". 

This allowed Golden State, who rode the hot scoring of Dorell Wright all night long, to hang around in the game, but every time the score got truly close, the Hawks sobered up, moved the ball inside first, got better shots, and pulled away again.

The Stars:

In a game where it could be so tempting to play without boundaries, it was nice to watch Josh Smith play with control throughout. Though he took a few outside shots, he seemed to keep his feet under him and land where he shot, helping his accuracy there. And when the shots weren't falling for the home team, Smith would take the ball inside to create better shots. He was quite the stabilizer for the team tonight, on both ends. (gasp!)

This is a game where Al Horford should have scored 30-40 points...you know, if the Hawks believed that he should shoot more than (14) times in a game where the opposition has nobody on their roster that can defend him. David Lee, Vladimir Radmanovic, Amundson....nobody could handle him. Yet, with the game still somewhat in the balance in the fourth quarter, the Hawks didn't call a single play for Al...no pick and roll, no post play, nothing. Instead, Horford gets 21 points on 10-14 shooting, grabs 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and blocks 2 shots. Alas.

Going to make it a frontcourt sweep as Zaza Pachulia played solid minutes off the bench, keeping the Hawks frontcourt advantage somewhat in play, scoring 11 points on 4-6 shooting in 19 minutes. He also added 7 boards and 2 assists, including one of assists from his Magic Johnson Collection, a behind the back beaut that Marvin Williams cashed into two points.

Also:

The Hawks held Monte Ellis, he of the 3rd best points per game average, and sweet scoring Stephen Curry to matching 4-13 nights. Curry at least had 12 assists, though most of those were likely a swing pass to the red-hot Wright, who had a career high 32. Ellis offered little after the Hawks made a point of shutting down the perimeter and was even worse on defense, where the Warriors had to double on Ellis' man to compensate for huge size advantage the Hawks enjoyed over him.

Speaking of mismatches, I believe for every one of Radmanovic's 22 minutes, the Hawks tossed the ball into whoever he was guarding. On an early play, Horford showed the ball and Vlad froze as if watching a beautiful snowflake on a silent winter morning, and then Al blew by him and knocked down a layup while being fouled. From that point on, he looked to be mostly on Josh, who by no coincidence got the ball a lot in the post.

I like David Lee, he is a Gator after all, but would you rather have him for 6 years and 80 million or Horford for 5 and 60? Boss.

The Hawks had 31 assists on their 44 field goals. No wonder San Antonio cleans up playing in the West. A modicum of fundamental basketball and you can really pile up the stats....and wins.

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