Saturday's game in Memphis started with a feeling out process. No great advantage came out the 1st quarter. The 2nd quarter saw the Grizzlies open a lead behind a rebounding advantage and slight advantage shooting from long distance. The Grizzlies led at halftime 47-41 with that 7 rebound edge, but the real story of the game was yet to come.
The 3rd quarter was the story of the game in 2 distinct chapters. Chapter one was the Hawks turning up the defense and making better passes on the offensive end. During this chapter the Hawks battled back to even at 53-53 and changed the tone of the game. Memphis hit a few shots and regained a 5 point lead at 58-53 when Larry Drew called timeout with 5:05 left in the third. Here begins chapter two. Whatever was said in the timeout needs bronzed or etched on tablets because the Hawks came out of the timeout on 20-2 run the rest of the quarter. A couple layups and a Josh 3 followed by an Al jumper for 2 put the hammer in place. Then it was Lou Williams who slammed the hammer down on the Grizzlies with 3 straight 3 pointers and then a couple of free throws. By the time Darrell Arthur made a jumper the hole was dug deep. Hawks up 73-60 at the end of three with all the momentum.
In the 4th quarter the Grizzlies showed they had no quit and made a run to get within 6, but the Hawks didn't panic. When the game got tight the Hawks used their offensive mismatches that the big lineup created to get solid opportunities down low with either Josh or Al and create open jumpers outside for Lou. The key play that sticks out to me was Josh Smith hitting a wild bank shot while being fouled so hard that his headband turned into a necklace. Josh hit the "and 1" to make the lead 9 again. 3 more minutes of game time passed with the Grizzlies only trimming 2 points off the lead when Lou Williams nailed another 3. On the next play Jeff Teague took the ball from Mike Conley, Jr and completed a layup to make the lead 12. At this point things felt secure. After that solid Hawks defense, offensive rebounding and free throw shooting sealed the deal.
By the end of the game all the expected keys to the game ending up in the Hawks favor. The Grizzlies normal dominance on the boards was bested by Atlanta 44-40 including 14 offensive rebounds. Hawks won points in the paint 42-38. The Hawks took the edge on 3s by shooting 7-17 against 6-16 for Memphis. Even turnovers favored the Hawks 14-16 in the battle between good defensive teams. Fast break points went to the Hawks 15-5. The Grizzlies entered the game 2nd in the league in free throw shooting, but even there it was advantage Hawks by making 18 of 25 versus only 11 of 18 for Memphis. Collectively it was a dominating team win for the Hawks any way you examine it.
Individually there were performances from Hawks to laud as well. Josh Smith lead all scorers with 24 points and also had 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Lou Williams was 4-6 from deep to finish with 21 points. Al Horford won the battle at PF by scoring 19 and collecting 14 rebounds to edge a strong outing by Zack Randolph (18 points and 13 rebounds). Jeff Teague added 13 with 6 assists and 0 turnovers while playing pressure defense on Conley most of the night. Even though Zaza only got 1 point he contributed 9 boards and scraped for everything. In a losing effort, Memphis had great performances from Randolph and Marc Gasol (18 pts and 8 rebounds). Rudy Gay added 17 points and 9 rebounds, but did it on only 28% shooting. Mike Conley, Jr. scored 12 points and got 3 assists but turned the ball over 6 times.
Great effort by the Hawks players to dispatch a tough opponent. Now it's on to Miami for shot at the division lead.
For more, visit Straight Outta Vancouver.