Quick Thought: Resilience, persistence, and jump shots.
Once the Hawks figured out that a: Kevin Love needed to be doubled because there's no Al Horford to keep him down and b: that Ivan Johnson guy should be in the game, things started to get better for the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks were resilient against an improving Minnesota team in overcoming, at one point, an 18 point deficit to win this game late. But that lead wasn't singularly the obstacle to push past for the win.
There were 19 turnovers, including two should-have-killed-them late in the game, after the starters had finally been placed back in the game. The Hawks were foolish with the basketball throughout. Some of which, I suspect, will hamper most teams that try to match the passing stylings of Ricky Rubio.
There was the matter of the rude guests who dared to shoot the lights out in the first half (50 percent) before finally coming back to where the Hawks were most of the night. The Wolves shot a mere 39 percent in the second half, but they seemed to get every bounce and shot to go their way as they built that 18 point lead and held the Hawks by a pretty solid margin for most of the first three quarters of the game.
Finally, there was the matter of shot selection. When the Hawks attacked the basket, they usually had good things happen. Yes, there were layup that rimmed out, two point blank shots from Marvin Williams that somehow missed, and bang bang plays that ended up as turnovers instead of foul shots, but compared to the brutal shooting the Hawks employed from the outside, the drives to the hoop looked like Nirvana. Still, in trying to recover from the early blitz Minnesota presented the Hawks with, Atlanta stunted their own attempts to comeback with some truly bad shooting. Through three quarters, the Hawks were 1-12 from three point range.
Then there was the fourth quarter. Three point shots went down, Kevin Love went scoreless, and there was Ivan Johnson.
Ivan Johnson had eight rebounds --- in that fourth quarter. Four of those eight were offensive. He made two very clutch free throws after his own offensive rebound kept the Hawks with the ball for a final shot and bailed out a terrible sequence where Joe Johnson seemed to be Iso-Joeing for the final look, but then flipped it out to an understandably open Josh Smith, who didn't come close on the three.
Josh, however, made a fanastic read after the attempt to force feed Joe in the post was doubled, Ivan flashed to the top of the circle. Josh made a quick pass to Ivan, who immediately drove and drew a shooting foul with four seconds left. After making both throws, the Timberwolves came out of a timeout and had a curious ball exchange outside that resulted in Kevin Love having to attempt a very difficult and certainly challenged three point attempt that fell short.
Ivan Freaking Johnson: 10 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, and 8-8 from the free throw line in 25 minutes. He was Boss for a day.
Joe Johnson woke up in time to make three of his eight made field goals for the game in the 5+ minutes he worked in the fourth quarter. His eight fourth quarter points, which also included two of his three 3-pt makes for the game, contributed to a team high 25 points and, considering the context of the rest of team extraordinary, zero turnovers.
Jeff Teague attacked, attacked, attacked and for the most part showed why that strategy was successful against a team that had no dominant shot blocking presence or weak side helper. Despite rimming out a couple of easy buckets and not getting some benefit of the doubt foul wise on others, Teague managed to put 20 points and 10 assists on the board.
It's tough to leave Willie Green off the game ball list, considering he led the team with 10 points in the fourth quarter, of which he played every minute and hit two huge threes to hyperwarp the team back into the game.
Let me say it again --- Teams are going to turn the ball over more because the style that Ricky Rubio presents causes opponents to want to join in and do the same. Behind the back may be the norm for Rubio, but likely not for the other team, so when they do it, it's likely to start registering careless turnovers. Consider the Hawks and Jeff Teague guilty of this phenomenon.
Kevin Love played the entire second half and was great through three quarters, obviously enjoying the absence of Horford against him. Love had a career high against the Hawks of 28 points by the time the third quarter ended (previous high was 22).
Love's stat line through three quarters: 12-21, 28 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists.
Love's stat line in the fourth quarter: 0-5, 2 points, 3 rebounds, and zero assists.
The Hawks doubled Love and didn't give up an assist to the excellent passing big man -- that was successful.
Josh Smith took bad jump shots again and only made a couple. He also, I thought, showed some fantastic energy after the team's initial malaise in the first quarter, jumping around for loose balls, etc. He had a four blocked shot game, five turnovers, and eight rebounds. He gives, he takes. The end.
Marvin Williams also had eight rebounds --- in almost 19 minutes. Marvin wasn't the problem tonight, and the team honestly could have used him late for rebounding and defensive purposes, but he'll have to settle for the same eight point, eight rebound night Josh had -- just in 16 fewer minutes.
It will be interesting to see how much longer the Hawks can keep up pulling together to replace the production on both ends that Al provides. I am guessing it will be hard for this team, over the very long haul this is going to be, to be a .500 team without Horford. Joe Johnson and a lot of commentors say otherwise.
I hope I'm wrong -- and tonight makes 2-0 without Al in the lineup. Let's Go Hawks!