Quick Thought: Living up to the emotional expectations. Josh Smith was the difference, no doubt.
5 Top Thoughts:
- Josh Smith is frustrating to watch but he was the most impactful player for either team. No one will ever watch a game that Josh Smith played in and have no complaints about the way he played, it's quite impossible....but as a long-time Hawks enthusiast, I've come to realize that despite all the bad things he does, he gives the team a lot more good things. Josh Smith wasn't perfect. He settled for jump shots and had some terrible off-target passes, but the way he played defense and scored timely baskets was simply huge for the Hawks. No doubt the player of the game as he finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds in 43 big minutes.
- I know Joe Johnson has a history of under-performing in the playoffs, but I wouldn't worry too much about him. I felt that his bad performance tonight was more about him being "off" than the other team figuring out how to defend him. Joe had a lot of good looks that just missed. He missed shots that he normally would make (even missed 3 out of his 8 free throw attempts). I'll agree that Joe Johnson should have driven the ball more than jack up three pointers (especially late in the game), but I can't agree with those who say that this will be the Joe Johnson we'll be seeing the entire series.
- The bench needs to be shortened/changed. I respect Larry Drew for trusting his bench (especially after I had to endure Mike Woodson not doing so in his entire stint here), but he's gone a bit overboard with his trust this season. There were two instances in this game when Larry Drew had 5 bench players on the floor and all 5 starters on the court, and in those two instances, the Hawks didn't play well. Larry Drew recognized it earlier than he usually did in the regular season (*slow clap*), but I just would rather see the 5 man bench lineup completely demolished out of his mind and instead see him mix in starters with bench players.
- Hawks can't feel too confident after this game. I know the Hawks played well and really took it to the Celtics team early in the 1st quarter, but a part of that big run was because the Celtics just didn't come out ready to play and compete. The Hawks had more "desire" than the Celtics (which we can give them credit for) in the early going, but I don't think the Hawks can or should expect that kind of lethargic play from Celtics in the rest of the games in this series.
- Jason Collins is not a good player, but he can't be the worst right? There are two easy targets for slander/jokes in this team, Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Collins. Jerry Stackhouse because he's old, and Jason Collins because he's quite terrible. But from watching this game, you would have thought that those who have been saying that Jason Collins is the most useless NBA player is quite crazy. Collins had a solid game. It wasn't great by any other player's standards/expectations, but for his own standards/expectations, he played great. In 32 minutes of playing time (a season high), Jason Collins scored 6 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. But it wasn't the stat line that impressed me, it's the things that doesn't show up in the stat sheet (similar to a Georgian Hawks player). He contested shots well, made hard fouls, and tried his best to be in the right position at the right time. More of this please!
Other Notable Stats & Notes:
- Josh Smith set a new playoff career high in rebounds with 18. It's also the most rebounds grabbed in one game by any Hawks player the entire season.
- As bad as Joe's 3 for 15 shooting was, Paul Pierce was just as bad going 5 for 19.
- The Hawks never trailed the entire game, zero lead changes and only tied once.
- Jeff Teague scored 15 points and dished out 6 assists. Played a huge role at the start of the game and at the end of the game.
- Larry Drew is now 7-6 in the playoffs, with a 5-2 record at home.
Final Thought: The general consensus in the internet/Twitter/blog world, Rajon Rondo should and will be suspended next game. Jason, Kris, and I share the same sentiments.
According to the NBA rule book, "Any player or coach guilty of intentional physical contact with an official shall automatically be suspended without pay for one game. A fine and/or longer period of suspsension will result if circumstances so dictate.".
To me, that looked pretty intentional. A few have tried to make the argument that he tripped and the momentum pushed him towards the referee, but I personally don't see it. He might have tripped a little, but I really don't think a small trip would cause his entire front body to move forward.
If Rondo is indeed suspended for Game 2, the Celtics will be in deep trouble heading into Game 2.
Next Game: Tonight's game had a sold-out 19,992 people in Philips Arena. Hawks fans came out tonight (I didn't see too many green), and it was great to see. A repeat of that would just be fantastic. This Hawks team deserve the city's support. So if you haven't yet, go buy your tickets for Game 2. Game 2 will be played on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM. The game will be televised on NBATV and Fox Sport South.