Anyone that is looking for validation for validation of Larry Drew's new motion offensive system need only to look at the box score from last night. The numbers are outstanding yet the balance is what is most impressive. For the night, the Hawks placed six players in double figures while shooting 50% from the field. They were 8-15 from three point range and 20-23 from the free throw line. Then further consider that no player played more than the 37 minutes that were logged by Josh Smith. The complete turnaround in philosophy that this team has made offensively is extremely impressive given how well the players have bought into the system. The Hawks recorded 26 assists to 11 turnovers Tuesday night. That combined with the great shooting is how a team can overcome being out rebounded 42-30 on the night.
I am not ready to proclaim Josh Smith as a jump shooter but it is important to acknowledge the fact that more of those shots are going in of late. I can point to the fact that Josh is now turning in 6-7 nights from the free throw line to point out that his jump shot is improved. Now the challenge for Smith going forward is balancing that shot selection when they are not going in but that discussion is for a later date. Last night they were going in and Josh posted one of his most impressive stat lines of the young season with 25 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 7 blocked shots. All that on 9-16 shooting including 6-7 from the free throw line and hitting the only three pointer that he attempted.
Al Horford had a workman like night scoring 15 points on 7-12 shooting. He didn't exactly shut down the much bigger Roy Hibbert but he did make things tough for him. Hibbert still ended up with 18 points but he had to take 16 shots to get them. Still one thing I am seeing Horford is that the Hawks are more than willing to go to him down the stretch than we have saw in any previous seasons. The pick and pop is becoming deadly with Horford and he is becoming automatic with that jumper. The game plan on this night was to force Roy Hibbert out of the paint to guard Horford in pick and roll and pick and pop situations and they executed that flawlessly.
Another area of the game plan was to slow down the Pacers. The Hawks held them under their season average in points scored by limiting them to four fast break points on the night. Coach Drew talked about that after the game with Michael Cunningham:
Hibbert had 15 rebounds as the Pacers had a 42-30 edge on the board. L.D. said the Hawks only sent their centers and power forwards to the offensive boards because they were focused on getting back in transition to cut off 3-pointers. Indiana had four fastbreak points and was 4 of 18 on 3-pointers.
What that essentially means is that when the Hawks took a shot they only sent two players to the basket to try and get the rebound if the shot missed. That leaves three players to get back on defense early and it was effective against a team that likes to push it up and kick out to open three point shooters.
With Joe Johnson suffering through a tough shooting night and having to wrestle with Danny Granger, Mike Bibby stepped up to score 16 points and hand out 7 assists. It is well documented that point guards like T.J. Ford can give Bibby some problems but he more than held his own in that match up last night due to his superb shooting stroke. Bibby made all three of his three point field goals in the second quarter and finished 5-9 from the field and 3-5 from deep. Jeff Teague also made a couple of three pointers tonight including one at the horn of the first quarter that seemed to give the Hawks somewhat of a lift. I think that we are starting to see some maturation from Teague as he has cut his turnovers of late and dished out three assists in this game.
With this victory the Hawks pushed their road record on the season to 5-1 on the season. Critics will point out that the level of competition on the road hasn't been great but anyone that has watched this team the last few seasons knows that games like last night in Indiana have never been guaranteed wins for this club. Thus far the Hawks have shown a lot of poise on the road and that was true even in the loss at Orlando. The Hawks are off today with no practice and don't play again until Saturday's match up with the Dallas Mavericks. Players like Marvin Williams and Mo Evans particularly need that time to help recover from knee injuries.