More after the jump:
Quick Thought: Hmmm--might have underestimated the Wizards and owe Chris Sheridan of ESPN an apology......Nah!
Summary: For the last couple of seasons, I've been happy for the Hawks to take the Wizards lunch money in the past because the Wizards would usually do the Hawks a favor and bench the guys that give us fits. Well, with all kinds of former Wizards now existing elsewhere, Washington had no other recourse but to play JaVale McGee and Al Thornton.
All McGee did was block (7) shots and create havoc for the Hawks inside. Of course, he also committed (5) fouls and (5) turnovers, but McGee is always a problem for the Hawks with his boundless energy and athleticism.
Thornton, who is still remember for his huge game at Philips Arena while with the Clippers, scalded the Hawks again, this time for (24) points.
Add in what will always be the Achilles Heel for the Hawks this year, quick point guards, and you have a new career high for rookie John Wall and more problems than the home crowd probably bargained for in the Hawks' home opener.
(Sidenote: Ummm, mark me down for a 'Wow' factor with Wall. He is otherworldly quick with the rock and he compels me to urge you to watch him before something happens to his knee or something down the road and he loses even a hint of the quicks he has going into the paint. Just sayin')
They played it close for the majority of the game and then the Hawks nudged away at the end, making a few more plays and free throws down the stretch.
The play of the game came late in the fourth when the Hawks sprung Al Horford on a back pick, rotated the ball to Smoove who then lobbed it up over the hoop so Horford could one hand slam it. It was a well executed piece of business.
1. Al Horford
Made 6-10/9-10 for a lovely 21 point/10 rebound double-double. Al looked confident, aggressive, and clutch out there tonight, even in the face of a prodigious shot blocker in McGee. Think of the game Al might have had if not benched for the entire second quarter for the crime of two personals in the first.
2. Josh Smith
I'm torn on the last two starts of the night---flaws in each of the remaining players in their efforts tonight. Yes, Smoove went for a ball in the passing lanes and Andray Blatche simply caught the ball and jogged to the hoop for the score. Yes, he took an ill-advised shot early in the shot clock with less than five minutes to go.
But also yes, he grabbed 10 boards, limited his egregious jumpers to two, was 4 of 6 otherwise, had 2 blocks, a steal, 3 assists including that beauty to Horford late in the game, and made 4-5 free throws. Nice.
3. Mike Bibby
Look, John Wall wore everyone out tonight. Bibby made the right decision offensively time and again. He scored in the lane more times than I remember him doing recently, managed 4 assists without a turnover, and still managed to hit 2-5 from three point range. Solid.
Taking the preseason off, I hadn't seen the massive weight loss in Jason Collins, who made his debut tonight in the first half during Horford's exile. He looked noticeably more slim, but that didn't stop him from muffing the first pass that sailed his way in this flex offense. He recovered nicely to spike one of Blatche's shots and made a jump shot. Overall, he was plus eight for his (5) minute run, but also committed 3 turnovers and 2 fouls in that time.
Joe Johnson was great late tonight, and ended up leading the team with (25) points, but I protest the return of Joe-Time late in the fourth quarter which at times it got bogged down into again. Oh sure, he was dunking tonight and was +14 for the game, but still, I protest. Keep the ball moving, which is why it was uber-sweet to see the ball going through Josh to Al on that high-quality oop.
If you just looked at the box score tonight, you could swear Mike Woodson was still coaching. Again, just sayin'.
Three and oh, big steadies! Loving it!