With apologies to the fact that Al Horford just dominated all 34 minutes that he touched the floor, the difference in this game was on numerous occasions, led by Josh Smith, the Hawks just took the ball from the Pacers. It was bullying to the highest, finest degree. If you out steal a team 16 to 1, you are usually going to win, even if that team does not miss a shot for a whole half.
The game was closer than the final score indicated and that was because the Hawks only played eight minutes of defense all game. Danny Granger was unmercifully good. Earl Watson and Dahntay Jones did whatever they wanted including hurt my feeling for the better part of three quarters. Troy Murphy continues to be the wussiest, best big man I have see in a long time. Literally, outside the brief moments where Josh Smith decided to take over more than the offensive side of the court, the first quarter of defense was about as bad as it could be.
But as bad as it was, it was not bad enough, and by halftime, the Hawks actually led. That is how good Josh Smith was in the first half. But maybe more importantly, come crunch time, when all the starters reunited midway through the fourth quarter, they were a different team. The Pacers did not miss shots down the stretch. The Hawks blocked them. They stole the ball. They forced turnovers. Basically, the Hawks played 7 or so minutes of playoff defense, and that is all they needed.
Tonight, the Hawks were what countless teams have been to them through the last decade. A tease until it mattered. Then it was over. And it was clear who the better team was as both left the floor.
Oooohhhh, Mr. Horford. I love you when you average 10 and 8. So 24 and 16 is going to cause problems for my marriage. This was perfect Horford. Energy. Pushing the pace off rebounds. Slowing it down late in the fourth. The man was not only the best player on the court. He was the leader.
tonight was everything that Horford can be. Owning the defensive glass, timely blocks, knocking down jumpers to pull centers out of the paint, and short drives to take advantage of his speed. Big Al is not going to have Roy Hibbert every night, but I would take 18 and 12.
I hope TV did it justice. Because Josh was a crazy man tonight. The first quarter was Josh Smith against the Pacers. The Pacers missed about two shots and the Hawks were only down three. The frenetic pace was almost hard to describe. It may have led to some defensive lapses in the first half, but it also led to some of the easiest baskets the Hawks will see all year.
Josh Smith played the first half in take over mode. And the rest of the team let him. That friends is a good sign on all fronts.
The man can sure put up some quiet 25 points games. It took a decent amount of shots, but Joe did not press in the first half when the shots were not following. And while him and Woodson, teetered on wanting to run isolations for the entire fourth quarter. They didn't. And that is what mattered.
For all the knocks, I sometimes give Joe. When the Hawks needed a bucket tonight. Joe did his slow man probe into the lane and found a way to score.
- Apparently, everyone gets their shots when you steal the ball a 100 times in a game.
- Except Jamal Crawford. The full second unit played twice together tonight. And while I am for the creating, floor general Jamal, if the options are Zaza backing someone down 18 feet from the basket or Crawford doing anything. I will take anything.
- Danny Granger. Good goodness that dude is good. He made Marvin look like a bad defender.
- Speaking of Marvin Williams, he is never going to be a take over the game kind of guy. Just not going to happen. But he sure as heck can glue a team together. Clutch baskets and rebounds tonight.
Mike Bibby looked like nothing more than a speed bump for the Hawks help defense on his man before the fourth quarter.
- Jeff Teague looked like a rookie tonight. But he looked like a rookie giving serious effort with a lot of skill.
- Hats off to Woody for calling plays for Marvin, Horford, and Josh multiple times in the first quarter. It was borderline weird to see.
Josh McRoberts looks like he likes his speakers at 11.
More tomorrow. Along with the comment of the gamethread. But until then, 1-0 baby, 1-0.