All that needs to be said, but I'll soldier on about how the Hawks overcame their worst defensive performance of the season with their best offensive performance of the season.
Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia thoroughly overwhelmed Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, and Aaron Gray in the first half. Horford, robbed of his sidekick for the entirety of the fourth quarter, continued to produce, albeit less efficiently, in the second half finishing with 27 points, 17 rebounds (6 offensive), 6 blocks, and 3 assists*. Mike Bibby made 3 fourth quarter three-pointers to cap a 22 point night. Marvin Williams (5-9 FGA, 3-4 FTA, 1 OR, 3 DR) and Maurice Evans (7-9 FGA, 3-4 3PTA, 2 OR, 3 DR) both had excellent nights complementing the Hawks. Joe Johnson shot the ball even worse than he did in Oklahoma City (He especially forced some unnecessarily difficult shots in the first half.) but mitigated his poor field goal shooting by making 9-11 free throws and dishing 8 assists.
*Horford had at least four assists. At 5:49 of the third quarter he made an excellent bounce pass to find Joe Johnson for a layup. The official scorer credited Mike Bibby with an assist on that bucket. How do you confuse those two? Boo, official scorer, Boo-oo.
Not much to worry about from last night beyond the expected difficulties with dribble penetration now that Josh Smith isn't around to bail out the guards. Al Horford did his part but three of his six blocks came in reaction to Tyrus Thomas's awkward offensive game. Had Chicago chosen to have Derrick Rose take Mike Bibby off the dribble every single possession last night things could have gotten ugly*. Then again, had Mike Woodson chosen to play Zaza Pachulia at all in the fourth quarter the Hawks likely wouldn't have been outrebounded 17-6 and the game experience would have remained more placid for Hawks fans.
*I've since learned that Rose was suffering from a pulled back muscle most of the night. Perhaps not worth it to play him 42-and-a-half minutes in a November game then, but I'm not an NBA head coach.
Outside of Maurice Evans, the bench struggled to the degree I feared prior to the season. Solomon Jones was thoroughly ineffective in his 6 minutes. Othello Hunter and Mario West got mere cameos and the Acie Law IV and Flip Murray was on the court for 8:23 during which time the Hawks were outscored by 17 points.
The first unit was able to pick up the slack against a Bulls team missing Gooden, Hinrich, and, to a lesser extent, Larry Hughes from their rotation but that sort of supporting performance will spell disastrous against better, healthier competition. Fortunately for the Hawks, after they head to Boston tonight they get to play the Nets twice this weekend which should provide some margin for error.
I'll let Joakim Noah have first crack at lionizing Al Horford's performance:
"He plays a lot of defense. He ran the floor well and got a lot of baskets in transition. He wasn't doing anything he doesn't do. He was playing within his game and things went his way. ... His numbers were incredible tonight. He really controlled the game.''
"He had a monster game."
Don't forget it, coach. Keep getting him the ball.
"I thought he was going to get 40, 40 and 10 blocks. “I looked up early and he already had 16 points, six rebounds and four blocks and thought I was seeing double. That was crazy.”
"Al can pass, he can score, he plays defense and he can…he’s a hard man to stop.”
Not good times in Chicago...
"Our defense was terrible. We didn't do anything in transition. Guys didn't get back. We didn't help each other."
"We're doing the same things as last year. That's not good. We need to grow up."
Coach Vinny Del Negro:
"It's not a mix-up because we work on transition defense all the time. We just weren't getting back. We have to find ways to help them understand the importance of it."
Links of interest...
- The Zaza's Playground liveblog.
- I recommend the game recap at Blog a Bull which features the words "fiasco" and "suckfest."
- Sam Smith's take on the game.
Back this afternoon/evening with the Celtics game thread.