The Hawks rebounded from their turnover-happy loss against New York to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 114-100 thanks to a strong second-half by Paul Millsap and some impressive production off the bench from the likes of Mike Scott, Elton Brand, and Lou Williams. They overcame an early sloppy first-half effort on the boards, specifically an inability to contain Jordan Hill, and found their stroke from beyond the arc.
It's just as the old adage goes: defense creates offense. Once the Hawks picked up their defensive intensity, their offense started to flow-- they got open looks, excelled in the pick-and-pop game, and fought harder for offensive rebounds.
Atlanta trailed Los Angeles by 7 at the half; the Lakers looked in control for most of the first two quarters. It wasn't until Elton Brand came in and provided some much-needed defensive energy and rebounding that the Hawks started to show signs of life. Brand's impressive production was the precursor for the events of the second half. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap stepped up their game and Horford thrived off Teague's attacking. The Hawks scored 67 points in the second half.
Hill and Pau Gasol caused Atlanta the most trouble as they bruised their way to efficient games down low. Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, was held in check by DeMarre Carroll for most of the night. He scored only 8 points on the evening.
A Tale of Two Halves: Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap
Teague looked like he might continue his recent offensive slump after a shaky first half that saw him force shots, look relatively passive, and pick up a cheap technical after time expired in the second quarter. The second half brought a new face-- well an old one, really-- the one we saw to start the season. Teague abused the Lakers' defense in the half-court and transition, constantly attacking and finding Horford on what is pretty much the Hawks' new go to play: the elbow pick-and-pop. He finished the game with 17 points and 10 assists.
It was the same story for Millsap, who was abused on the boards by Jordan Hill and struggled to find his shot in the first half. Hill's abuse continued into the second half and that's somewhat understandable; Hill is a tenacious rebounder and Millsap is known as a weak rebounder and defender for his position. Still, Hill was all over him, grabbing balls from every which-a-way in the air and picking up easy second chance points. The main shift was that Millsap was back to his usual offensive self in the second half. With that success came more defensive intensity. Even if he wasn't a world-beater on that end of the floor, his offensive success clearly set a spark in his defensive effort. He stepped up and spaced the floor, hitting two three pointers.
Elton Brand thought it was 2004
Really, I mean, Elton Brand was spectacular in all of his minutes tonight. He finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds (2 offensive), 3 blocks, and a steal in 17 minutes... and that doesn't even tell the whole story. He saved the game from potentially getting out of reach in the first half and scored all 8 of those points in about a 7 minute span. They were all mid-range jumpers, one of which came after he hit the LA defender with a fake pass and then pulled up himself. He contested every shot at the rim, sent a few away (looking at you, Robert Sacre), and gave Atlanta some much needed life on the boards. His effort was clear the whole night. Even when he came back in in the second half, it was obvious he was effective: setting good screens, fighting for offensive boards-- you know, the type of stuff for which hustle guys are typically lauded.
Al Horford had another day at the office
19 points. 11 boards. 5 assists. Ho-hum.
#NBABallot Al Horford
DeMarre giveth, DeMarre taketh away
DeMarre Carroll has been the subject of some twitter criticism lately, probably because of his recent shooting slump. It's more than just a slump, really-- he fluctuates between being a decent three-point shooter and an abysmal one. Despite his oftentimes negative impact on spacing, Carroll isn't offensively inept. He's a great cutter and is always active, always moving within the structure of the offense.
But regardless of his offense, he's pretty important to this team. His defensive work on Kobe Bryant tonight was exceptional. I don't care that Kobe is coming off an injury-- the Lakers were looking to him for points, and Carroll wasn't biting on some well-known Bryant tricks. He stayed with the Mamba's pumpfakes and contested just about every shot.
The Hawks bench... they guys were good
I get that Mike Scott can be a defensive black hole. I get that Shelvin Mack probably isn't your ideal back-up point guard. Doesn't matter. They played very well on Monday night. Scott had 14 points and took all the mid-range shots the Lakers would give him, which was a lot. Mack was a menace on the defensive end-- the Lakers didn't have a ball-handler which probably made his pressure look better than it was, but whatever, it was pretty darn good in general. I've already mention Elton Brand; he deserved his own bullet. But the Hawks' bench was one of the main reasons they were still in the game after the first quarter and one of the main reasons they were able to gain some distance in the second half.
The Streak Lives!
Kyle Korver scared me after not hitting a three in the first half. But he turned things on in the second. That's 94 straight.