The Atlanta Hawks snapped a two game losing streak with a 104-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday afternoon at Philips Arena. Emerging from a players only meeting on Saturday, the team came out with a more energetic approach and dare I say took the ball inside for a change. The challenge for this team is to now show more of this inside-out balance against a good team. They will get their chance on Tuesday night when Chicago visits Philips Arena for the final time this season.
Atlanta recorded 36 points in the paint which by itself isn't that impressive especially when it is compared with Detroit's 48. The proof of the Hawks being on the attack comes in the form of 31 free throw attempts in the game. Go a little deeper and Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia attempted 19 of those free throws of which they combined to make 17. When the Hawks weren't scoring inside they were entering the ball into the post and kicking it out. The ball movement was there to the tune of 25 assists on 37 made baskets.
Zaza Pachulia continued his strong play and Marvin Williams returned to the starting lineup with each player scoring 13 points and five rebounds. Joe Johnson had a strong game of 17 points and eight assists where he also went on the attack a little more and wasn't seen hesitating and was more assertive.
Kirk Hinrich shot the ball well and I liked the way he pushed the ball in transition finding Joe and Marvin for threes off of the break. Hinrich finished with 15 points and six assists while throwing his body all over the floor defensively. Before he joined the Hawks, I never appreciated how hard Kirk plays and it seems that I like him more every game he plays in.
Atlanta clearly played better in this game and overtook a Pistons team that played pretty well I thought. There was still a couple of negatives to point out in my opinion. Larry Drew once again went with Jamal Crawford at the point rather than electing to use Jeff Teague who received a DNP-CD. Jamal is still clearly out of sync offensively and always struggles defensively. Jamal's nine points and two assists pales in comparison to Rodney Stuckey's 22 points and eight assists. A lot of Stuckey's damage was done with Crawford guarding him.
Perhaps Stuckey would have scored on Teague as well but the second year guard has done little of late not deserve playing time. Coach Drew was asked about the decision after the game (audio coming soon) and his reply was that he went with Jamal because he is trying to get him to snap out of the funk he is in as the Hawks will need him in the playoffs. That is your classic veteran player over the young player debate and I am not sure that argument holds water in this instance. Drew went on to say that Jeff will see time the rest of the way but if Sunday's game is any indication that playing time will be sporadic it appears.
This debate isn't really about what Jamal gives you but is rather about what he can't give you. If he is making shots, then there is the possibility that his offense will off set his defensive liabilities. However, when he isn't hitting shots he becomes as a big a weakness as Mike Bibby was viewed on this team. While Teague isn't as likely to go off offensively, he provides defensive energy and has the ability to turn defense into offense. He needs time but at this point it looks like he could be waiting yet another season for the opportunity.
To sum this game up, the Hawks clearly looked better and appeared to have more of an idea about what they wanted to do on offense. Some will point out that they made shots tonight and that was the only difference. I would argue that they looked inside and then made jump shots after making the appropriate pass. That is very different from what has become the norm post All-Star break for this team. Once again though, it was done against a Pistons team that has too many problems to list and isn't going to the playoffs. Atlanta has to prove they can get this type of performance against a good team. They will get a chance on Tuesday.