Initial Reaction: Hawks 93, 76ers 88

Quick Thought: A Mike Bibby block, a Zaza Pachulia assist, and a midcourt Al Horford steal. Ballgame.

Summary: 

Some might say that the Hawks got behind in this game because of poor shot selection or lack of energy and then simply turned it on at the end to win. I don't subscribe here. Let me share how I thought it went down.

The Hawks began the game almost matter-of-factly, as in, patient almost to a fault, and then, unlucky. They worked the ball and got open shots, and they didn't fall. Then, they went inside, as they were wise to do, and those shots wouldn't go in, either. As 'Nique always says, when the shots aren't falling, get to the line. Unfortunately on this night, the crew working the game was letting the inside guys play, and therefore, contact that might normally be called was going unwhistled. No free throws.

Meanwhile, the Sixers couldn't miss from anywhere. Outside, inside, from the rafters, they were hot. And when they missed, there were other red shirts there to get another shot at it, and it seemed as though whenever the Hawks lapsed, even for a breath, Philly was making them pay.

Still, I felt the Hawks stayed after it, save for a brief stretch of time when Josh Smith earned his fourth quarter sit-down for throwing good money after bad in terms of his offensive possessions. In staying after it, they eventually got some of those shots to fall, they got to the line, and the Sixers started to miss. Just in time, too, because even with 4 minutes left in the game, the Hawks still trailed by nine. 

Then, Marvin Williams hit one of maybe a thousand shots he hit on the night, Jamal Crawford finally got a layup to go through the hoop, and Zaza finally got a foul called and hit both free throws. Hawks now down 4 with two minutes, two minutes left to play.

Then, a miracle. The Hawks had definitely picked up their intensity on defense, understanding that the time to go to the whip was now, and no play exemplified this than when the Sixers rotated the ball to the corner and found Jrue Holiday open for three. No sooner than Holiday hoisted the shot, Mike Bibby did his best Josh Smith impression and swatted at the ball, blocking it and leaving it fluttering safely into the hands of Horford. Go ahead, picture it, it was fantastic.

Then Bibby and Al ran their pick and/or roll and Horford finally got the shot to go down to cut the lead to 2 with 1:19 left. When play resumed, Lou Williams missed a contested shot, Tony Battie missed the rebound, but Elton Brand got what looked to be a key reset. Then, Brand missed a shot in the lane, and the Hawks were poised to finally tie the game.

The play set up quick, with Al setting a screen for Bibby at the top of the key and then rolling to the basket. Bibby hit Pachulia outside the right elbow and then Zaza immediately fired the ball to the cutting Horford, who had nothing but squares and circles in front of him. Battie, hoping to make Al earn a tie from the line tried to tie him up, but Al got the ball to the rim and the ball, mercifully at last, dropped through to tie the game. One clutch Horford free throw later, and the Hawks had seized the lead.

The Sixers inbounded with a shade more than 30 seconds to play and a point down. They seemed to run a good play, with Andre Iguodala attacking the hoop and dishing down to Thaddeus Young. But the pass to Young on the baseline eluded the young forward a bit, throwing off the timing. Young controlled but was now trapped between a swarm of Hawks and the baseline, so he tossed it out to Brand, who was open, but missed his jump shot, again mercifully at last, and Horford skied for the rebound. 

With 18 seconds left, Crawford went to the line to give the Hawks more breathing room, but as we mentioned in the last recap, his bizarre late game free throws struggles stuck again as the noted sharpshooter missed both free throws, tossing the game back into doubt. However, Pachulia did what he does best---namely, getting offensive rebounds, which he did and in doing so gave Jamal an opportunity to redeem himself, which he also did. 

Jodie Meeks got his first start for PHL and had looked good early making shots. Meeks got the ball coming out of the Sixers last time out and tried to shoot before he fully had the ball. With this gaffe, the ball was loose, and Horford was the happy beneficiary and hit both subsequent free throws to give the game it's final 93-88 margin.

They played hard, stuck with it, and eventually things evened it. Boy did they. The Sixers missed their last 10 shots, scoring a single point in the last 5:26 of the game. During that time, the Hawks scored (15) and escaped with victory.

Three Stars:

1. Al Horford

It wasn't looking good early for Al. He missed his pet outside shot and then took to being bashful inside, rushing shots and trying to sneak the ball around the Sixers on another. At one point, Al was 1-10, as even when he righted his ship, the ball wasn't falling. Still, this was a game where Larry Drew rode Horford and it paid off. He played him for the entire third quarter, gave him a four minute break, and let it ride.

When Al came back into the game with 7:18 left, the Hawks trailed by 11. Al had 7 points, 4 rebounds, and assist and a steal in that last stretch of time, and hit the shots that brought the game close, tied the game, go ahead, and sealed it. 

Boss.

2. Marvin Williams

Marvin was the only consistent Hawk offensively on the night because his were the only jump shots that went in the basket. Marvin was 7-12 and 8-8 from the line. His defense was equally effective, making shooting miserable for the unfortunate Sixer in his cross hairs. He led the team with 22 points, was a team high +16, and contributed (4) steals as well.

3. Zaza Pachulia

Substituting for Josh Smith when Smoove was insistent on blowing up the offense with jump shots, Pachulia made a couple of key defensive rebound tips, a couple of free throws to get the game in reach, the pass to Horford, and then the huge offensive rebound when Crawford couldn't close the deal with 18 second left. Good to see Zaza in the mix down the stretch and responding with big plays.

Also:

As soon as Zaza went the scorer's table to get Josh out of the game after a series of bad decisions, Smith kicked it into gear, getting a steal and an assist. Right before he came out, he pestered Holiday into a turnover and walked directly to the bench. I will be curious to see 1. If anybody asked about this after the game and 2. What the response was. Smith told us after the Memphis game when we asked about the turnovers that led to a sit-down that he doesn't let himself get down when he makes mistakes, but he didn't bristle at having to sit down to gather himself from them.

Josh Powell went 3-3 tonight and I believe he has hit 11 of his last 12. Nice shootin', Tex.

The bench was problematic defensively tonight, but Jeff Teague did quietly fill the stat sheet with a 6 point, 5 rebound, 4 assist effort. 

The Hawks continue to lower their turnovers, providing only (8) for the night and are sneaking back into the Top 10 in that category.

Despite their cold shooting night, the offense continues to generate assists, getting 25 assists on 33 made shots. According to Hollinger's Team Stats, the Hawks rank second in Assist Ratio, trailing only Boston.

2-0 without Joe, can the Hawks take Miami? Let's go Hawks!!

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