Quick Thought: The Hawks Tebowed the Pistons.
Up to every point of the game until Joe Johnson hit a fall-away three pointer that would send the game to overtime, the Hawks were outworked, outhustled and outplayed by the Detroit Pistons. It was as if the Hawks saw the Pistons on DVD, knew they were not a particularly strong team, and proceeded to play down to that level and settle in there.
Even when the Pistons frontcourt worked over the tired remains of Jason Collins, the Hawks didn’t perk up. Not even when the Pistons lead seemed to hover between seven and 10 points did it seem to grab the Hawks attention. They played as if they had never ever seen each other before, staggering around the offensive end, losing players on the defensive end, and looking generally sloppy overall.
Jeff Teague showed why the attacking aspect of his game is so critical. Teague attempted one shot in the first half with the offensive gameplan seeming to be handoffs early in the shot clock and then the Hawks look around with the ball before hoisting long, contested jump shots. Even when that plan didn’t work, the Hawks never investigated a drive and dish approach, as Teague continued to occupy floor space without using his primary weapon.
Teague played poorly, not showing the defensive acumen we’d seen in previous games and carelessly flipping the ball around when passing, accumulating three turnovers to go with his three assists. Teague’s drive to the cup in the third quarter (finally!) yielded points, but an rolled ankle as well. Given the fresh option of Kirk Hinrich to run the point and Teague’s poor play to that point, Larry Drew was hip to rest Teague and give Hinrich the reins.
The Hawks turned the ball over eight times in the 12 minutes of the first quarter, and eight more in the 41 minutes that followed. That helped, but they were still getting skewered by the Piston front court, who took advantage of some lenient officiating inside (for both teams) and pounded the Hawks.
Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe combined for 53 points and 11 offensive rebounds. Larry Drew overreacted to a dunk play by Ben Wallace and inserted Jason Collins in the game to defend. Collins, who showed in Philadelphia that he no longer even rebounds well or catches the ball consistently when it falls down to him, didn’t help stop the Pistons and may have even hurt the Hawks by keeping Zaza Pachulia out of the game.
The Hawks, for all the struggles in the game, kept on after it, and eventually the Pistons let the Hawks back into the game. They inexplicably left Marvin Williams open for a three late, the missed their last shot and then failed to double team or foul the only threat the Hawks had on the court to tie the game in isolation, Joe Johnson. Joe even held the ball and dribbled across the top of the key, almost inviting a foul though the Hawks were down three at the time. Alas, Joe was able to rise up and hit that fall-away three that sent the Pistons packing for the game, even though there would be overtime.
In overtime, the Hawks hit first --- and then second --- and then third. For a change it was the ATL that was unstoppable in overtime, getting out early and hitting free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
The Hawks scored more points in the last six minutes of this game (26) than they did in the first 17 minutes of the game.
Without Teague to take it down the lane, Joe Johnson took over. He stopped settling for the long jump shots he exclusively clung to in the first half, where he went 1-9 from the field, he made an effort to loosen things up by attacking and found he had some room for pull-ups after converting a few. He was hot in the third quarter when few Hawks were even warmer than ice and scored 28 of his game-high 30 points after halftime. After that dreadful shooting start, he was 10-14 in the second half/overtime.
The only other Hawk hotter than Johnson from long range was Marvin Williams. Scoring 22 points on 9 shots and hitting 5-6 from three point territory, Williams hit them when the counted. He added eight rebounds and 5-8 from the line as well. Defensively, he found himself matched up on Rodney Stuckey a few times as Stuckey struggled on a 4-13 shooting night.
Josh Smith joined Joe Johnson in playing the entire 29 minutes after halftime. Smith wasn’t at the very best of his game, but he chipped away at it and hustled his way to a 19 point, 11 rebounds, eight assist and three blocked shot night. He gave away weight to Maxiell and Monroe, but he kept at it and also made a couple more key free throws in the fourth quarter.
After Teague’s injury, Hinrich played the rest of the game (~21 minutes) at the point, collecting nine assists and hitting a big three in the fourth quarter as well.
Tracy McGrady was enjoying his return to Detroit and played well, scoring seven points and grabbing five boards to go with three assists, but Williams was hotter for sure and he got the overtime minutes.
Teague was cleared to return to the game but, as mentioned before, Drew may have decided the risk of playing him and the fact he wasn’t playing well that night anyway probably anchored Teague to the bench, though one wonders if anyone knew if Hinrich could handle playing that many minutes so early back from injury.
Zaza was 8-12 for the game and dunked three times. I swear, he wasn’t even looking for contact on any of those. I know, I was surprised, too – though he did look sad afterwards.
Atlanta has always beaten the teams they "should have" this season and, even with so many things off Friday night, they pulled it out anyway. Much needed as they are in the middle of this weird North-South road trip. It’s fun to have been the team that comes back and steals the win. Just like when Miami took it from Atlanta though being down four with 12 second left, this time Atlanta got to be that team. Whew.