Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Though most of the NBA teams have played twenty or so games to this date, the Atlanta Hawks took the weekend to wrap up their first two games, giving us an opportunity to see what we think we learned over the weekend.
The home opener showed to us our fears about the team. Josh Smith still shooting long jump shots, a struggle to defend from the wings and poor defensive rebounding.
About Al Horford:
Seeing him early on in the Thunder game was a vision into what the Hawks feel Horford can do against a similarly sized defender. Horford has long struggled with scoring against seven footers from the post -- he simply gives up too much size to be effective or confident -- but against same-sized opponents Al can be very effective. Against the Thunder Horford went low, high and pretty much drilled every jump shot he took.
That he did that wasn't as encouraging as the way he did it, especially early on. Horford has looking for the ball inside, calling for it, and this version of the Hawks was ready to feed him early and often. It was a recipe for getting out on the Thunder early and establishing that Atlanta could more than hang with their hosts.
About the bench:
After starting against the Rockets, Devin Harris came off the bench against the Thunder. I really liked the impact Harris had while playing with Louis Williams on the second unit -- and it was obvious that Drew liked it too, going with Harris and Williams down the stretch to seal the deal in OKC,
Meanwhile, Zaza Pachulia showed his usual game -- turning in a mark-of-the-beast like six point, six rebound and six assist game. Having Zaza in while playing with Horford provides Al with that kind of matchup, described above, that can make him even more effective.
And Lou Williams -- hoooooooo yes. While already establishing himself as a scorer in the ATL, Lou gave us a look at the two traits that gets us excited about him being a Hawk. One is the obvious ability to score, either off motion or on his own. It's not entirely easy to find someone who can do that while maintaining the efficiency he has established over his young career. The other is the ability to draw fouls.
Looking at that deeper -- I am not entirely sure why, but Lou took the ball in just like Joe Johnson did all those times he was a Hawk but Williams seemed to get the whistle that never, ever came for Joe. Maybe it was Joe's size working against him or Lou's slighter frame working for him -- or both -- but 6-7 against HOU and 8-9 in OKC is a nice start in showing that Williams will be helping the Hawks from the line this season.
We know Drew is going to use many, many combinations this season, so it's no use trying to get a bead on rotation this early in the season, but when you put Ivan Johnson's huge 12 minute contribution in there against OKC and Anthony Morrow's 13 minute, 2-2, one three and three steals and consider that these guys didn't play against HOU at all, and you can see that this has some real potential to wear out other team's second units.
About Jeff Teague not finishing the game on the floor:
With Lou Williams closing out the upset, Drew stuck with the bigger Harris to defend and you can't argue with the results afterwards. Things stablized defensively with Harris in with Williams and Devin turned in a team high +14 as a result. Teague was one of two Hawks to turn in a negative +/- while playing excellent offensively. We've talked about Teague's propensity for occasionally sloppy defense and taking risks --- and with the Hawks taking control with Williams/Harris in the backcourt why risk introducing that unless the other group starts breaking down?
Teague will be finishing many games this season and was fantastic in the offense last night, including two thundering dunks while being challenged by Durant and Ibaka. Clearly, Drew will ride the hot hands though down the stretch and with Lou playing well with Harris and not wanting to take Williams out of the game, Teague was left on the bench.
About Josh Smith:
The elephant in the room after the win in OKC was that the Hawks pulled the upset off without Josh Smith. It's not the first time nor the last time that a team pulls it together to win on the road after losing a key rotational player, but you knew a few people might point to this as possibly being a reason why the team turned around their fortunes as compared to the opening night loss to Houston.
Josh Smith was not the reason they lost against the Rockets or the reason the Hawks won against the Thunder. Smith was a huge reason the Hawks won the last time the good guys trumped OKC and that was without Al Horford. The team is hoping Josh will be back on Wednesday and so are we.
What we think we know about the team (in bullet form!):
The team will have trouble against good shooting guards, especially in the pick and roll.
The team has many good offensive parts, and we haven't even seen close the best Kyle Korver shooting yet.
When the team seems soft inside, it's a good idea to play Ivan Johnson and Zaza Pachulia together.
Lou Williams is a gifted scorer who will remind us what it looks and sounds like when a referee calls a foul when we're shooting the ball.
Jeff Teague has hops and doesn't care who is around when he decides to use them.
Al Horford is indeed Boss.
DeShawn Stevenson has a lot to provide this team with his toughness and range -- much more than was thought of when he was included in the Joe deal originally.
What's coming up:
Wednesday at home against the Indiana Pacers
Friday at home against the Miami Heat
Sunday on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers
What did you think you learned over the weekend?