ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 28: Jeff Teague #0 of the Atlanta Hawks pushes the ball up the court against the Washington Wizards at Philips Arena on December 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Hawks opened the home portion of their schedule with a 101-83 win over the Washington Wizards. The effort wasn't quite as good as it was the night before in their crushing defeat of New Jersey but lets credit the Wizards and their great athleticism for that.
After the game Larry Drew wasn't satisfied saying that he never felt like his team had a firm grip on the game even when they were up by 20 points.
"There were parts of the game where we lacked defensive intensity," he said. "You've got to put teams away, especially a team like that. They never stop playing. I never felt we had a total grip of the game even when we were up 20. A team like Washington, you have to take away hope."
Fast starts have been the norm in the first two games. Atlanta quickly jumped out to an 11-0 lead which prompted an early Flip Saunders time out. John Wall was able to keep the Wizards within striking distance as he put Jeff Teague on the bench mid-way through the first quarter with two fouls. Atlanta's bench brigade didn't find the success they had against New Jersey but they were good enough to hold the Wizards off while the starters got some rest.
Critics are going to point out two things in these Hawks victories. One, the opponents can't be called stellar clubs and two, the Hawks have been making a high rate of shots from the perimeter. Can't deny the first point but Washington does at times offer an interesting challenge in matching up for the Hawks. Josh Smith and Al Horford were giving away size all night to JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche but the Wizards couldn't capitalize.
On the second criticism, the Hawks have made a lot of perimeter shots in the first two games but many have been in rhythm and have been set up by excellent ball-movement from within the offense. If you throw out the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game, nothing the Hawks have done offensively in either of the first two games has felt forced. It has been an action and reaction type of attack with the correct player ending up with the scoring opportunity. Atlanta also piled up 36 points in the paint against Washington and got to the free throw line 35 times where they made 28.
The defense probably wasn't as good as Tuesday night and to be honest, Atlanta placed the bar very high on that night and I am not sure how often they will be able to duplicate that performance. Despite what Drew says the effort overall Wednesday night wasn't bad. Its clear that they are communicating and flying around a lot more than we saw last season. After Wall burned the Hawks a couple of times in the first quarter, he was met with much more resistance at the rim from Josh Smith and Al Horford.
It is good for Drew to harp on the defensive effort and I am sure that is going to be a reoccurring theme throughout this season. It is necessary because this group at times in the past has coasted its way through parts of the regular season. Drew seems intent on keeping them focused and that is a good thing.
Just like the defense, the Hawks bench set the bar extremely high in Tuesday night's win. So high that they may not reach that again for the rest of the season. They still chipped in 29 points on Wednesday night and no starter had to play more than 34 minutes in the game. Tracy McGrady has been the ring leader here and has been efficient in the first two games. One thing to say about the Atlanta second group is that there is a lot of experience and through the first two games that has made up for having less talent. This group has played well together and understands how to make the correct or the extra pass which has led to good looks.
After the game Larry Drew commented that neither Jannero Pargo or Willie Green were comfortable in the offense. A common theme from both games is that teams have looked to attack Pargo once he has checked in for Teague.
Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams
These two guys in my opinion deserve special mention for being factors in both of the first two games. Many expected Teague to carry over his success from last season's playoffs but many had wrote off Marvin long ago. Its only been two games and Marvin has started well before, but this is the best he has looked in a Hawks uniform in a long time. The emergence of Teague and Williams has meant that Atlanta hasn't had to force the ball through Joe Johnson, Josh Smith or Al Horford which has made their offense that much more dynamic.
Hidden deep inside, I think Larry Drew and the Hawks coaching staff have to be pretty pleased with the start from their team. People will nitpick the schedule but at times last season Atlanta struggled against lesser opponents and at home. If they can get back to dominating the home floor and taking care of business against he lesser teams then rumors of their demise may have been greatly exaggerated.