The Human Highlight Film - The Sequel? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Perhaps for the first time this season the Hawks got everything completely wrong but were able to get it right in the end. Lets see if we can count the ways. The defense was terrible, offense was stagnant, and their shot selection was suspect. The Hawks looked lethargic and early on looked like this one was headed to be one of the worst losses of the season. Joe Johnson couldn't hit a shot, Josh Smith started 1-10, and Al Horford went to the bench with the now infamous two foul rule. Imagine everything that could go wrong went wrong. Yet somehow at the end of the game their was Atlanta with a nine point victory 107-98.
When I can't figure something out about these Hawks,I turn to Michael Cunningham for answers.
I concur with the real MC. It most certainly is not a winning strategy. After watching for most of this group for the last few seasons I am less than confident that they will learn a lesson on how not to do something if it actually worked. I commented in the game thread that this was like opposite world. You know that world where you cringe when Joe Johnson takes a three point shot and applaud Josh Smith knocking down shots from deep. Where we applaud a scrapping of the innovative motion offense for a return to heavy dose of whoever has the ball go scorer it iso offense. In short I would think that this was a game that would drive a coach crazy as they sealed the victory by doing everything the wrong way.
Before I get to the Hawks superlatives I want to talk about the Clippers. Particularly of Blake Griffin. Griffin finished with 31 points and 15 rebounds. Most of that damage came before crunch time when the Hawks were making their run. I am not sure that the Hawks did anything to slow down Griffin, rather it looked like the Clippers just stopped going to him. Repeatedly throughout the game, Atlanta seemed loss in pick and roll defense and much of that was due to Griffin's presence. The reality was the Hawks had no answer for Griffin on this day as he outplayed both Josh Smith and Al Horford. There were several points throughout the game where it looked like the Hawks were about to mail it in, yet the Clippers gave them life by jacking up long three point shots early in the shot clock. Many of which were usually set up by one pass on one side of the floor. Atlanta fans everywhere should be able to tell you that isn't a recipe for success.
Jamal Crawford went on the attack in the third quarter just as the Hawks were starting to raise their defensive effort ever so slightly. Crawford finished with 24 points on 7-13 shooting with most of his damage coming in the third quarter. Perhaps his biggest play was where he drew a foul from L.A.'s Eric Gordon on a three point attempt with Atlanta trailing by four points in the game. That play seemed to bring the Hawks over the hump as they immediately captured the lead and never looked back.
Joe Johnson looks like he is making a concerted effort to get out of the shooting slump that has plagued him virtually this entire season. His remedy of choice has been launching shots over the last two games at an accelerated pace. Johnson finished 7-20 from the field in this one and hit just one of his four three point attempts. Curious enough his one three point make was where he had to lift the shots trajectory to a very high arc to avoid getting the shot blocked by a Clippers defender. Johnson was 14-17 from the free throw line in this one which is uncharacteristic in itself if for no other reason than he was getting calls early in the game. Johnson set up most of those free throw attempts by going one on one with the Clippers guards whom he has a distinct size advantage over.
Coming into this one I was looking forward to the Josh Smith-Blake Griffin match-up as much as anything. Early on it seemed as if someone forgot to tell Josh that there was a game today. He started 1-10 from the field and had about as bad a shot selection as I have seen from him this year. As is usually the case, his offensive game clearly effects his defensive game and he was essentially non-existent for the Hawks early on. There were many times following a Griffin dunk that Josh and Al Horford seemed to be looking at each other in a rather confused state. For much of the first half I couldn't figure out which of the two were supposed to be guarding Griffin. Yet during the Hawks run, there was Josh Smith knocking in two three pointers at crunch time. Smith rallied to finish 5-14 from the field for 22 points and 10 rebounds. He was 3-5 from beyond the arc and at this point I am not sure whether to feel good or bad about that. Smith was also 9-10 from the free throw line. In all seriousness, it was the Hawks free throw shooting that allowed them to stay within striking distance of the Clippers in this game. Atlanta would finish 35-40 from the free throw line while the Clippers were just 20-29.
I could go on but I see no point. While we will take any victory that we can get, there is little good in my humble opinion to take away from this game. Perhaps it was a one game aberration but it probably should raise warning signs all the way across the board. The disappointing in my mind was that of the effort categories such as rebounding. The Clippers out rebounded the Hawks 42-33 including 11 offensive rebounds. At one point it appeared that the Hawks 37 point fourth quarter wasn't going to be enough because they simply could no secure a rebound. Like the Thunder, the Clippers bigs made the Hawks bigs look slow and unathletic. When you combine that with no desire to defend and you have the recipe for disaster on a basketball court.
Somehow the Hawks found a way to win, or maybe it was the Clippers who found a way to lose. I am not completely sure.