Quick Thought: Hawks take out their previous evening's frustration on a lesser team -- and it feels good.
Well, after last night proved that if you want to stop the slow starts, you should probably start with removing Jason Collins from any meaningful minutes, the Hawks did indeed start Zaza Pachulia, who turned in a very sturdy 14 point, six rebound, four assist night. Moreover, unlike Collins against the Sixers, Cleveland had to keep a man on Zaza at all times, else he hurt them offensively. Doing so allowed Jeff Teague, Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson all the space they needed to move the ball, beat their man, and score, score, score.
The Cavaliers are by no means in any league like the Sixers defensively. They often fell apart after the first rotation, didn't get back as well in transition, and hardly challenged anything inside with any authority. Of course they weren't playing at home or had Elton Brand back in the paint cracking a 2 x 4 across anyone who entered the lane with no deterrent, but I am going to say that play at the Q may not have mattered much here.
The Hawks started each half well, extended the lead in every quarter, even the garbage time fourth quarter. In fact the Cavaliers could muster no better than a single 6-0 run against the Hawks until that the Hawks had emptied the bench.
The passing was contagious as Atlanta was clearly encouraged by how open teammates were getting after a single pass or two and obliged continuously, accruing 31 assists for the night against only 10 turnovers.
In having to extend the lead, the Hawks needed strong bench play and they got it, in large part to the 14 point, six assist night that Jannero Pargo had. Pargo got rolling and almost couldn't be stopped, hitting six of nine shots including 2-3 on threes. Pargo was one of those players who often found himself wide open for his shot, and he knocked them down tonight.
Joe Johnson loves to see Anthony Parker marking him on defense. You could almost hear the sound of Joe licking the proverbial chops as he back Parker down in the post. But even that wasn't as effective as simply being able to catch the ball and shoot, and shoot and shoot. Johnson clicked on 5-9 from outside the perimeter, and scored a game high 25 point as well.
The box score may not look like it with only 14 points and five assists, but it was Jeff Teague who made the night go for the Hawks. Teague constantly set the tone with easily getting by Cavs #1 pick Kyrie Irving and by having active hands on defense. I don't know how steals are scored, but only seeing two on Teague's stat sheet seems to be a crime on the level of the poor shot blocking scoring that goes on at Philips Arena. Anyway, Teague kept things moving and moved the ball on offense, setting up many of the good baskets the Hawks cashed in on throughout the game.
Irving can score the ball, whooo boy, no doubt. Irving was 8-10 from the field and I can barely recall him missing those two shots. However, as mentioned above, Teague killed him getting into the lane and Irving had the ball in his hands enough in his 27 minutes that he not only scored a team high 18 points, but turned the ball over seven times against only two assists. Plenty to learn, but scoring isn't one of the subjects.
Josh Smith is like a hotel buffet: You have to check in every night to see what's being served, you're not going to like a couple of the items, but you'll always find some entrees and sides you can be happy with.
Smith was sort of floppy tonight, like software in need of a patch. He lost control of his dribble a few times and missed some shots you're not accustomed to see him miss. He also locked down the defensive board by grabbing 10 of those, forced turnovers with his four steals and he participated happily in the team's assist-fest getting five of those as well.
Needs to be said even though we gave Pargo a game ball, Marvin Williams has found his role again with the Hawks. Marvin played only 20 minutes, but was fantastic in getting 12 points on six shots, and grabbing three more boards as well. Overall, when he gets to play, Marvin is using his length, shot and rebounding aggressiveness to make a positive difference for the team.
When Kirk Hinrich comes back, which according to the Associated Press could be as soon as this next road trip, I believe someone has to go from the Hawks roster. I believe it will be Donald Sloan and not Jerry Stackhouse. Not only does Hinrich have more of Sloan's game than Stack, but watching a single play reminded of why the coaching staff is going to keep a vet like Stack at the end of the bench over Sloan. As the Cavs ran out a fast break in the fourth quarter, long after the game ceased to be in doubt, it was Stackhouse who hustled down and forced the Cavs to be honest on their break. It was just the kind of ‘see there' moment coaches love to highlight.
Hated that the Hawks lost their way and played into the hands of a team that is currently on top in the Sixers last night. Loved that they adjusted and pounded a team they should win against the very next night. The starters all playing less than 30 minutes should help as the Hawks embark on the north-south five game roadie that starts in Milwaukee on Monday and then plays every other day in going through San Antonio, Detroit, New Orleans and finally ending in Toronto.
Jeff Teague has made it, folks. His ability to get into the lane and the rim, along with much improved playmaking/passing, has put this team in the right place in terms of offensive efficiency. All of us (okay, me) who had hoped that Teague could one day be on the same level as fellow draftees Jrue Holliday and Ty Lawson can begin to breathe a little easier. He's not on Lawson's level, but he's improving, and considering his NBA upbringing, where he is now is something close to miraculous - and the Hawks needed it.