The Atlanta Hawks captured their 9th consecutive home victory with a 103-93 victory Wednesday night over the visiting Golden State Warriors. While watching this game up close I came away with two pleasing things. First the Hawks looked to exploit a match-up inside by utilizing Al Horford, Josh Smith, and even Zaza Pachulia. Second coach Drew talked about defending the perimeter being top priority pre-game, and Atlanta turned in one of their best defensive efforts on the perimeter this season in holding Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry to 21 combined points.
I am almost certain that the game plan was designed around stopping Ellis and Curry and coach Drew probably would have been happy with just getting a hand in Dorell Wright's face. Well to take something away you have to give up something and tonight Wright benefited from the Hawks defense collapsing on Ellis and Curry drives. Wright finished with a career high 32 points. Key for Atlanta was that they did not allow any of the Warriors other scorers to get off. David Lee finished with 14 points but at 5-12 shooting was hardly a factor.
Offensively the goal was to pound the Warriors inside who were without big men Andris Biedrins, and Dan Gadzuric. The Hawks did just that to the tune of 36 shot attempts in the paint which led to 44 points. Atlanta scored countless times either off of the pick and roll where they just lobbed it to the roll man or by running some high low action. Essentially both of these plays looked the same as they resulted in a lob over a much smaller Golden State defender and a lay up for one of the Hawks big men. When Golden State adjusted by sending a double team, it really opened up the outside for Atlanta as they made the extra pass all night which usually found a wide open shooter. Essentially even when the lead shrunk the game never became in doubt as the Warriors were powerless to stop Atlanta inside.
While Al Horford came away with an excellent 21 points and 15 rebound game, I came away very impressed with the play of Mike Bibby tonight. Bibby finished with 15 points and 3 assists but I thought he had one of his best defensive games of the season. Coming into the game you had to question how effective Mike would be in staying in front of super quick guards like Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. He answered the bell tonight and arguably out played Curry who finished with just 9 points but did have 12 assists.
One thing we have learned about this Hawks team and its new offensive strategy is that they really can pile up the assists on a night to night basis. Atlanta currently ranks sixth in assists in the NBA at a little over 23 per game. They totaled 31 assists against the Warriors while only turning the ball over 13 times. Joe Johnson led the way with eight assists but six of the nine players that logged minutes in this one had at least three. On the season consider that Joe Johnson is the team leader with 5.6 assists per game but four other players are averaging over three assists per game. That is the motion offense on full display as it isn't just one player driving the offense but is being spread around too multiple players.
The Hawks are now 21-13 on the season and as I noted in yesterday's game thread, they are only one game off of their pace from last season when they were 22-12 after 34 games. Maybe that can provide some perspective in what has seemed like an up and down early part to the season. Look at it this way. If before the season I had told you that Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Marvin Williams would all miss significant time in the first 34 games and the Hawks would have one less win than they did at this point last season would you have took it? Just something to think about going forward. At any rate the team is now re-establishing some home dominance having won nine in a row at Philips Arena while being 12-5 at home overall.
The Hawks will now embark on a four game western road trip that will see them in Oklahoma City, Los Angeles (Clippers), Sacramento, and Utah.