Before we get too far into this recap it is fair to point out that New Jersey without Brook Lopez is probably not a great basketball team. Heck they may not even be with Brook Lopez but that shouldn't put a damper on the Hawks's performance in their season opening 106-70 win.
We heard Larry Drew talk about defensive effort a lot this preseason and I like most of you rolled my eyes because that along with promising to run more is exactly what coaches do in the preseason. Rarely have we seen those things materialize in the preseason. Tuesday night those things were on full display with Atlanta virtually contesting every attempt by New Jersey. In addition, Atlanta mixed in a half court trap that caused the Nets problems and all added up to one of the most solid defensive efforts that I have seen from this club in recent years.
Now the question is can they sustain it? I'm not sure that they will ever be as good as they were Tuesday night but if they can somehow come up with this kind of effort consistently then we may have to re-write the book on this club.
Atlanta wasted little time in putting New Jersey in a hole Tuesday jumping out to a 28-11 lead. The pessimist in me kept waiting for a New Jersey run to close the half to get the score more manageable but it never came thanks in large part to the fine play of the Atlanta bench. The Hawks came out in the third quarter and pushed the lead to as many as 29 points before coasting home in the fourth quarter.
What is not to like about a balanced scoring attack where no player takes more than 11 shots? Marvin Williams ended up 3-9 from the field but looked solid and most importantly confident. Williams finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Jeff Teague hit 5-7 attempts including 3-4 from three point range while finishing with 13 points and three assists. There were stretches in the game where things got a little ragged but that is to be expected with the shortened training camp. The most important thing for the Hawks was that the ball movement and player movement (23 assists on 38 made baskets) was there and they could essentially get any shot they wanted against the Nets.
As I said before, this was one of the best efforts I have seen from this team defensively in recent memory. To go a little deeper Jeff Teague once again held his own against one of the top point guards in the league holding Deron Williams to just 10 points, one assist and six turnovers. Teague probably shouldn't get all of the credit for Williams' performance but it is nice to see the Hawks not getting torched by some of the top point guards in the league. Teague's reward on Wednesday night is a match up with John Wall.
Much has been made of how the Hawks would possibly replace Jamal Crawford's production off the bench. Don't expect Tuesday's performance by the bench to be the norm but the Hawks may have a more balanced second unit. Vladimir Radmanovic ended up leading the team in scoring on Tuesday with 17 points while Zaza Pachulia logged a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Tracy McGrady also chipped in 12 points in the win.
The Atlanta Hawks went out and won their season opener by 36 points and that should be reason enough for jubilation from their fans. I am not sure any of us could have dreamed that things would go as well as they did on Tuesday. No starter played more than 26 minutes on Tuesday night so they should be well rested for the home opener on Wednesday.