Quick Thought: Another glimpse of what's possible for this team and the Highlight Factory. Fantastic.
In a need to win game, the Hawks played like it, and we know what's possible when they no longer can choose whether to play at their best for 48 minutes, but when they have to.
What you need to know about the game was this: In the final quarter of a must win playoff game, the Hawks outhustled, outshot, and outdefended their Chicago visitors, with a 33-19 scoring margin to show for it, and a 2-2 tie in the series heading back to Chicago for a Tuesday Game 5.
More, More, More (How do you like it?):
I think all the yay-sayers can feel pretty confident about it: Jeff Teague has more, MORE than shown he can ball in the NBA, and should have finally put all the "consistent effort" coaching memes to rest, finally. When he wasn't chasing Derrick Rose into the Hawks front line for a 12-32 night for the MVP, or running down Kyle Korver to neuter him with an 1-8 effort, he was an offensive playmaker, going 6-12 with (4) assists, including (2) huge fourth quarter hoops. His impact could have been greater if not for a couple of failed finishes at the rim in the first half, when he started 2-8. A 4-4 second half to go with his defensive efforts was huge.
At the center of all things Hawks is always Josh Smith, for better or worse. When he came out and defiantly took outside shots and was getting beat by Carlos Boozer on the other end, it was looking like a "for worse" night. But man, did he turn things around. That he is as undefendable as he was tonight going to the hoop, you wonder why he ever lets teams off the hook by launching. Smith was unconscious on the glass, pulling down (16) for the night, including (3) offensive boards in the fourth quarter. Smith was 4-14 going into the fourth quarter, and went 4-7 in the final frame to round out his puffy box score with a 23/16 and 8 assist night.
The Hawks kept their composure tonight, moved the ball very well offensively, and got a little bit more physical defensively. If they felt the officiating wasn't going their way, they rarely let it impact their game and stayed aggressive, scoring a whopping 56 points in the paint and continuously rolled bigs over to help on Rose.
Even Al Horford was more aggressive, at one point burrowing his way down onto the baseline and then dunking while all Joakim Noah could do was wave at it. Al was also on the receiving end of two sweet passes from Smith, one on a first half alley-oop, and the other late in the game of an NBA Playbook like slip off a screen for a slam. Al was 9-11 for the night, and both misses were on his lone attempts outside of 15 feet.
Joe Johnson returned to his normal self in Game 4, and in that I mean that he played 42 minutes, shot 9-14 for 24 points, had 5 assists against a single turnover, and had to play some good defense on Derrick Rose from time to time. And he was hardly noticed.
Jamal Crawford had a couple of really nice moments offensively. One was when he was finishing a break---he caught the ball and hitched it high before laying it in with finesse for the score. And it happened in like .00012 seconds. Even when I slowed it down it showed remarkable shot control and touch. The other was the Kris Willis dagger at the end of the game. Sure, the game was pretty much sewn up at that point, but knocking down the final three was surely the key in the door of Game 4.
Can't imagine either fan base happy with the officiating in the game, but I have a real problem with when officials are noted afterwards for a single blown call, as Bennett Salvatore copped to publicly after the game. He blew an inadvertent whistle on a Derrick Rose three with Jamal jumping into him, and then later admitted he should have called a foul. It was at a key time of the game, but what about any other call he might have blown throughout the game? Refs makes mistakes, which is why I never get caught up in the blame game...the team has its chances beyond a few bad calls, how your teams reacts to them makes the difference.
Definite sour grapes (even after a win...I'm good) about Steve Kerr working the game for TNT tonight. I am sure folks will tell me its my imagination, but Kerr seemed to go on and on about Chicago all night long...almost distracting to this Hawks biased viewer. It seriously sounded like he was going to need a moment to compose himself after the Hawks pulled ahead again late. Ah, what the heck, I'm going to go ahead and send that condolences card to Kerr with a note to cheer up, I still have the Bulls winning in seven.
(Oh, and to those who'll tell me to simply press the mute button, I quote the great David Herman as Michael Bolton in Office Space, "No way! Why should I change? He's the one who sucks.")
ATLiens, take a freaking bow:
After a pretty good crowd for Game 3, the ATL stepped it up huge and proved what Ray Allen had said about 2008 in the Highlight Factory....it can get loud and tough to play in for opponents. It was so loud early on that Zaza Pachulia got a technical foul for simply finishing a play when Taj Gibson took a dead ball to the hoop. Zaza looked like he thought the game was still on and fouled hard, but a foul had already been whistled. Zaza even put his arm up as if to claim the foul, but got a "T" instead. No word on whether referee Dan Crawford came out after the game and said he was wrong.
But more about the fans....great boos for Rose after the MVP chants of Game 3, excellent noise and standing throughout the game, just looking a lot like a great NBA town, which the TV ratings in the city always prove out. To get their dough, you gotta put out a quality effort and the Hawks certainly reciprocated the crowd effort on the court tonight. There will be a Game 6, ATL, make it happen again.