In their first game since dropping a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia 76er's, the Hawks needed to earn as many wins as possible for playoff seeding purposes in the Eastern Conference as the NBA Playoffs approached. Atlanta's opponent, the Charlotte Bobcats, entered the game with the worst record in the NBA (7-44) and this was a game they couldn't allow themselves to play lightly just because their record was not good. In the first quarter, the Hawks and Bobcats started the game trading baskets back and forth throughout the first quarter as Atlanta ended the period with a 27-25 lead as Jeff Teague scored 12 opening quarter points and Josh Smith assisted him in the scoring category with 11 points. In the second quarter, the Hawks began to pull away from the Bobcats as they opened the quarter on a 17-7 run and would lead 61-44 at halftime and Josh Smith lead the team with 18 points.
In the third quarter, behind the scoring efforts of Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, and Joe Johnson, the Hawks continued to hold a dominant lead over the Bobcats as they continued to trade baskets and keep the Bobcats from making the game any closer than 17 points as Atlanta led 89-70 as the final period approached. In the final period, the Hawks bench lead by Willie Green's 11 points and Jannero Pargo's 10 points as the Hawks finished off the Bobcats with a 27 point win.
For the Hawks, Josh Smith would lead the team in scoring with 24 points and added 9 rebounds and 4 assists on 11-17 shooting from the field on the night. Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson assisted him in the scoring category as Teague posted 17 points and added three rebounds and six assists and shot 5-10 from the field and Joe Johnson added on 16 points with five assists on 7-13 shooting. From the bench, Willie Green lead them with 17 points from 5-9 shooting from the field and 3-4 from long range. Marvin Williams and Jannero Pargo were both productive from the bench as well as Williams posted 14 points, three rebounds, three assists and shot 6-7 from the field and Pargo would add 12 points, a rebound and six assists and was 5-7 from the field last night. For the Bobcats, rookie Kemba Walker lead the team in scoring as he posted 21 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and went 8-15 from the field.
Atlanta outscored Charlotte down in the paint by a margin of 60-36 in the victory. The Hawks are now (32-23) on the season and is still the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference with 11 games remaining and every win is crucial as the season comes to a close. Atlanta is 1/2 game behind the Orlando Magic for the 5th seed and a full game behind the Indiana Pacers. The Hawks could climb as high as the 3rd seed if they continue to win these games down the stretch and have one of the easiest schedules remaining in the East.
PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Last night, Josh Smith gave the Hawks a good start from the 1st quarter as Smith dropped 11 first quarter points to help Atlanta open up a early lead against the Charlotte Bobcats. By halftime, Smith had 17 points and he set the tone for the Hawks victory tonight. The Hawks have continued to see him improve as the season comes to a close and when Atlanta can get him going like this every night, this is a hard team to beat and with the schedule looking in the Hawks favor, he could help this team clinch home court advantage in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs. When Josh Smith scores 20 or more points, the Hawks are 12-6 over the past two months and as the rest of the team is getting healthier, Josh Smith continues to put together one of his best seasons as an Atlanta Hawk. Josh Smith is continuing to use his talents to the best of his abilities by becoming a defensive mismatch in the paint and when he is playing up to his abilities, he is one of the hardest players to defend in the league.
Teague gave the Hawks another big lift in the first quarter by leading the team with 12 points as Smith and Teague combined for 23 of the 27 Atlanta first quarter points. The Hawks are 7-3 when Teague gives them at least 10 points per game and we need to see more consistency from the third year point guard because Josh Smith and Joe Johnson can't carry the team every night by themselves. Teague must step up and provide some source of balance in the starting lineup as he did against Charlotte last night. When Atlanta can get Teague involved in the game, it helps make their offense a balanced attack and prevents opposing teams from trying to stop one player in a basketball game.
Willie Green gave the Hawks another good effort coming off the bench by posting 17 points from 5-9 shooting from the field and 3-4 from long range. Green is becoming a good role player for the Hawks bench and when he can give us efforts like this night after night, this gives Atlanta a much needed boost in order to win big games down the stretch to the post season. If the Hawks could get that effort from Green like he did tonight down the stretch, Atlanta will be in a better position to win basketball games and not have all of the pressure on Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. As the Hawks bench continues to get healthy, Willie Green will be a huge factor in the Hawks playoff run if he can give us a consistent effort as he did last night.
In his first home game back since his injury, Pargo looked like he was back to his form before he was benched due to an injury as he posted 12 points, a rebound and six assists and was 5-7 from the field last night. At one point, Pargo was emerging as the most consistent player on the bench but now that Willie Green is back, he have someone to help him provide a much needed boost to the Hawks lineup and his efforts will be key to the Hawks if this team is going to do some damage when the NBA playoffs begin. Last night, Pargo showed that he was starting to progress back into his normal form and this is exactly what Atlanta needed as they are getting back key players down the stretch.
The Hawks will take on the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night at Philips Arena. Atlanta is 1-1 against this team and will look to earn their 19th victory at home this season. The game tips off at 7:30 on Sports South. The Hawks need every win they can get as the season is almost over so let's tear it up at Philips Arena. Until next time, LET'S GO HAWKS!!!!!