The Atlanta Hawks saw their three-game winning streak snapped with a 106-104 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Anytime a team hits 60 percent of their shots, outscores the opposition 50-22 in the paint and holds them even in rebounding you expect for that team to win the game. That wasn't the case for the Atlanta Hawks who became the first NBA team to lose a game this season in which they made 60 percent of their field goal attempts in a 106-104 loss to the New York Knicks.
On one hand it was an exemplary performance by the Hawks who battled to the end with the East's No. 2 team on their home court in front of a sell out crowd. On the other hand it is disappointing due to a series of mistakes that were made down the stretch. Add in an element of suspect officiating and this game has all of the makings of causing sleepless nights.
Case in point is the Hawks' last four possessions that started with a Josh Smith backcourt violation where he picked up his dribble just as he crossed the halfcourt line and stepped into the backcourt after he pivoted to make a pass. The Hawks were leading 103-102 at the time of the turnover.
That turnover didn't hurt as Atlanta forced a rare Carmelo Anthony miss and once again took possession. The Hawks next play ended before it got started as Smith was whistled for a foul on an illegal screen as he and Jeff Teague tried to execute a high screen and roll. On replay it looked like Teague left before Smith could get himself set and the result was another turnover for the Hawks.
Knowing that Carmelo Anthony was likely going to take the last shot, Larry Drew switched Josh Smith on Anthony for New York's final possession. DeShawn Stevenson had guarded Anthony most of the fourth quarter with very little success not that any Hawks player had much in the game. Anthony received the pass and went quickly blowing by Smith and converting at the rim plus the foul putting the Knicks up 106-104.
The Hawks still had a chance down two with 12.5 on the clock. They ran another high pick and roll with Teague and Al Horford although Tyson Chandler switched out on Teague who hesitated before driving to the basket. The hesitation cost Atlanta as the New York defense collapsed on Teague and forced him to pass out to Josh Smith who missed a desperation attempt as time expired.
Now I point this series of plays out because the Hawks had ample opportunities to win the basketball game or at least extend the lead to make things more difficult on the Knicks. However, a couple of questionable calls in the first half stick out in my mind.
I'm not one that usually pays any attention to officiating in any sport because I feel that it is a part of the game. Over the long haul things seem to work themselves out. However, the Hawks came up short on a couple of plays in my opinion against the Knicks.
First Al Horford was fouled on a fast break where he tried to haul in a lob attempt. Amare Stoudemire pushed him in the back and sent Horford crashing into the camera men under the basket. A foul was called but there have been plenty flagrant fouls called with less force and a lot less intent this season.
Then with the Hawks up 25-23, Jannero Pargo was whistled for a clear path foul even after replay showed that he was in front of J.R. Smith at the time contact was made. This call was so bad that Smith was about to go into his shot once the foul was made. The officials looked at the replay and somehow determined that it was indeed a clear path foul which if the case no team should ever be allowed to defend a player on a fast break ever again. It was atrocious and nothing like anything I have ever seen before. The play ignited a 16-0 run for the Knicks and forced the Hawks to have to dig themselves out of an early hole.
There are a lot of possessions in a basketball game and you can seldom trace things back to one play or sequence in the first quarter that determined the outcome. However, in a two point loss every possession is big and none were bigger than the clear path foul that wasn't.