An improbable comeback results in an improbable victory. The Hawks without Joe Johnson finished Friday night's game on a 21-3 run to snatch away a victory from a Philadelphia team that had completely controlled the game throughout. Hawk's coach Larry Drew had talked many times about being able to grind out a victory and the Hawks did just that tonight. Despite trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half, Atlanta was able to hang in and ultimately win the game at the end. There were many opportunities to mail this one in but the team didn't do that this time and perhaps that is some sort of growth that is happening within this team.
Jason Walker has already highlighted the play by play from this one down the stretch so I want to highlight a few things that I saw along the way. Number one first and foremost was how this was a complete team effort to pull this win out. Al Horford made the plays at crunch time but he struggled early in this one and without some key contributions from teammates, this game would have gotten away.
Marvin Williams deserves much credit for being really the only Hawks player that was tuned in from the start. Williams finished with a team high 22 points and did an excellent job defensively the entire game. This could have been Marvin's best complete game of the season and it now looks like he is much more healthy having recovered from the knee injury that he suffered earlier in the season. Marvin probably is the most beneficial player from Joe Johnson's injury as he now moves up to being essentially the team's third option on offense. An unsung thing about Marvin Williams is that he is willing to step into whatever role the Hawks have asked of him. He took on that scoring role in Friday's game.
Now lets talk about a topic that has come up many times when watching this Hawks team and that is accountability. Such accountability was on full display tonight when coach Drew opted to go with Zaza Pachulia down the stretch rather than sending Josh Smith back out onto the floor. MC chronicles the situation in detail in his game recap, but it basically comes down to Smith taking a jump shot that Drew advised him was a bad shot. Then with the Hawks trailing 85-74, Smith took another 19 foot jump shot and Drew took him out of the game. Naturally Smith wasn't happy about going to the bench but had this to say afterwards.
"Obviously I wanted to be in the game. I knew that my offensive game wasn’t clicking. I’ve got to thank Zaza for stepping in there. He played big minutes tonight. Every time we go to hug each other, I make sure to tell him he plays a big part in what we do."
Perhaps the lesson was learned? Kudos to coach Drew for having the guts to sit one of his best players at crunch time, kudos to Zaza Pachulia for making the plays that prevented his coach from being second guessed and kudos to MC for getting the lowdown after the game.
Obviously the Hawks can't make a habit of digging themselves holes like this against any team much less one that was seeking only its second road win of the season. Early in the game the Hawks weren't intent on defending with much intensity and that allowed the Sixers to shoot 57% in the first half. The fact that the Sixers finished the game shooting 43% says a lot about their offensive execution and the Hawks defensive intensity during the second half. I don't want to call the Hawks passive on offense during that first half but everyone short of Marvin Williams was intent on settling for long jump shots. Still Atlanta ended the game with 25 assists on 33 made baskets so the ball movement is there.
In summary, this wasn't a pretty game from the tip to the final horn but the Hawks execution down the stretch on both ends of the floor is something to take away from this game as a positive as they head into a difficult Florida swing.