Another road win for the Hawks and another game where it felt like they were in control throughout. With the Hawks two primary small forwards (Marvin Williams and Mo Evans) back in Atlanta with knee injuries, coach Larry Drew had to mix and match lineups across the board. Drew tabbed little used center Jason Collins to start in this one that shifted Al Horford to power forward and Josh Smith to small forward.
The thought to get more size into the game was necessary as the Timberwolves as a team were 5th in offensive rebounding rate and No. 1 in offensive rebounds per game. Much like in the Detroit game though, the trade off to sending that many players to the offensive boards is that you leave yourself vulnerable to the fast break. The Hawks took advantage early and often in this one racing out to the tune of 20 fast break points in the first half and finished with 24 for the game. Again just like in the Detroit game, when the T-Wolves were able to get second chances, they were able to keep the game within reach. When the Hawks slammed the door after one shot, the game was on the verge of being a blow out.
Josh Smith showed just how dominant he can be when his outside shot is going in. He looked like he took his match up with Michael Beasley personal and pretty much dominated from the outset. Smith finished the night with the fantasy players dream of 22 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocked shots. For good measure he also took three charges. He was everywhere from the outset. The one thing that I liked was the maturity that Josh showed in his shot selection. With the Hawks having a big lead most of the second half, Josh passed up several opportunities for long jump shots by passing to open teammates. In the past we have seen him jack up those shots, particularly on a night where he was making a lot of them.
Much talk in the game thread tonight about Al Horford sitting out much of the first half with two personal fouls. Guys I like to see Horford on the court as much as anyone and I don't agree with always putting the seatbelt on a player for the half that picks up two fouls. In tonight's game though I understood the move. The Hawks were playing ok without Horford and had a near double digit lead before a late run by the Wolves. Horford did finish the game with five personals so maybe the move kept him from fouling out late. Horford finished the game with a workmanlike 14 points and 12 rebounds in just over 24 minutes of action.
If you factor out six turnovers committed, Jamal Crawford had a sixth man of the year night going 8-14 for 22 points including a four point play late. It was one of the games where he looked like he got going offensively and due to the injuries was able to log about 31 minutes of action.
Joe Johnson had yet another tough shooting night going 4-13 for 11 points. With Johnson struggling it would be nice to see him get to the free throw line with the regularity that he was able to over the first couple of games. He still chipped in with five assists against only one turnover. That is three games in a row that Johnson has struggled with his shot yet the Hawks have won all three. I don't care who the opponents were, that wouldn't have happened last season with the offensive scheme that the Hawks had. More guys are touching the ball and it is that much harder to load up the defense to stop one player.
Box Score musings:
- Hawks again shot over 50 percent from the field (54%) while holding the T-Wolves to 42% shooting.
- Due to offensive rebounds and turnovers the T-Wolves were able to get up 18 more shots than the Hawks attempting 99 for the game. However, the Hawks made two more shots (44) in eighteen less attempts.
- The Hawks committed 15 turnovers to the T-Wolves 11
- I don't know if I have mentioned this before now but the Hawks have the fourth best free throw percentage in the NBA at 82%. They got to the line 26 more times in this game.
- Mike Bibby had another effective night finishing with 15 points (5-11) and 5 assists.
- T-Wolves rookie Wes Johnson looked good and had a lot more range than I had given him credit for. He finished with 18 points on (7-11) shooting.
- Kevin Love might have earned only 27 minutes with his 6-19 showing. He seemed more interested in staying on the perimeter rather than mixing it up inside with Horford and Smith.
- According to Michael Cunningham, coach Drew said that Marvin would out at least a week with his knee injury.