More after the jump:
Quick Thought: Thank goodness for big men making jump shots!
Sometimes, against bad teams, all you need is one guy playing well to win, even on the road.
The Hawks outshot the hosting Timberwolves 54-42 and also shot 21-26 from the free throw line to Minnesota's 11-12.
So why was this game close enough to play the starters late in the fourth quarter? The answer is giving up too many offensive rebounds and going in the minus column again in turnovers. The Wolves turned those 16 offensive rebonds and 15 Hawks turnovers into a +18 advantage in shots attempted.
Still, the Hawks had enough because Minnesota is woeful offensively beyond the ability to hit the boards. Everybody was attempting ill-advised jump shots, including much gushed over Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, and Corey Brewer. Darko Milicic was way off on even the closest of shots inside and his 2-7 shooting night actually improved his shooting percentage for the year.
Well, it wasn't just offense, the Wolves don't play much defense either, constantly giving up transition points to the Hawks and leaving players wide open even in the half court. The Hawks took control early and cruised--even when the Wolves would get the margin down to something that the crowd could get excited about, the Hawks would hunker down, move the ball, score, defend, and score again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Well that and get Jamal Crawford loose for a late 4 point play to push the lead to double digits again.
1. Josh Smith
This is one of the other type of games, the one where Josh is locked in on all angles. Beasley must have done something or said something to Smoove early on in this game cause brother was locked on. He did his usual help defending, resulting in (5) blocks. He did the rebounding thing, clocking (8) of those, too. He dished (6) assists, grabbed two steals, and even made a majority of his jump shots, resulting in a 9-13 performance that left his stat line as follows:
20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks, and 2 steals.
No wonder every fan base is popping up and demanding their team get in on the Josh Smith Trade discussions.
2. The Big Guys off the Bench
All total, they were only a combined +3, but I have to comment that the combination of Zaza Pachulia, Jason Collins, and Josh Powell went 8-11, 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block in their 53 minutes. They only seemed to shoot when the situation (read: nobody else around, shot clock nearly over), but they knocked it down when they did.
While this was nice for one night, this might be Exhibit A why the Hawks will drop off a little if their fortunes really go bad as far as injuries. But, hey, for tonight, they were alright and worthy of a star.
3. Al Horford
Oh I know, you'll say, come on---what about Jamal Crawford? Well how can I explain how Corey Brewer and Sebastian Telfair went nuts when Jamal was in the game? And what about committing (6) of the team's turnovers? Yes, he balanced it out---literally with a zero +/-, and hit jump shot after jump shot, culminating in the aforementioned four point play late in the game, but I got to give it up for Horford.
Al had a double-double in about half a game (24:42). He was a difference maker with his energy and skill on both ends, making Kevin Love look like a second stringer in the process. He got into foul trouble early (and that means 2 fouls in the first half), and ended with five, but in between he piled up 14/12/3 night on 7-11 shooting. Meanwhile Kevin Love shot 6-19 and was visibly frustrated throughout the game.
Larry Drew goes to 6-0 to start his Hawks coaching career, and 4-0 on the road, thereby wiping out Bob
Weiss from the Hawks record books---Thank you, LD!
Here's hoping Mike Bibby continues his stellar play in this starter/ender role all season long. 15/4/5 for the Bibster in (29) minutes.
One of Smoove's (5) blocks was a complete teardown of Anthony Tolliver, who probably was reminded why he likes to take outside jump shots. Tolliver got the ball under the hoop and went right up, teeing the ball up for Josh to block. When Josh did, in fact, spike the ball offered him, it went down through the face of the former Warrior and into the hands of a fellow Hawk. It's what we used to call a stuff in my neighborhood...a total stuff.
Jordan Crawford played a bit and is more raw than even Jeff Teague. But you have to like his sense of the game on the court--and has shown a nice knack for making plays by passing the ball. I'm looking forward to him settling in throughout the year.
Joe Johnson was off tonight---way off. In addition to his poor 4-13 night, he was missing wide open shots, iso-shots, you name it. The nadir of his effort was a wide open three---that ended up being well short of the basketball. An airball, I believe you call it.
Bad opponents or not, the Hawks aren't wasting this advantageous schedule thus far. 6-0 has a nice ring to it as well as being two games ahead of the Heat in the standings. 82-0, baby!