Quick Thought: Take a picture, Hawks franchise, to see what you ought to be emulating.
It was fitting that Jamal Crawford dribbled the ball off his foot on the Hawks last possession, a turnover that was one of seven for a fourth quarter that saw the Hawks, who had held together despite some uneven play all night long, finally wilt on the road in San Antonio.
Josh Smith had a sensational block that was so pure in its rejection, that even Tim Duncan offered no protest. Such prize came with a price: Smith suffered an injury to his leg on the play, what looked to be muscular in nature, and barely was able to offer any help the rest of the way. The Hawks would be outscored 43-30 the rest of the way, with Smith playing four minutes in the final quarter before having to leave again despite the Hawks being within (7) with 4 minutes left.
However effective the Hawks were, despite their ultimate collapse late in the game, their poor defense was the ultimate culprit. They held a clinic on defending the post and running three point shooters off the line in Orlando, but faltered in the same attempts in San Antonio.
Why? Dribble penetration.
I mentioned that the key piece missing in Orlando was Jameer Nelson, without whom the Magic could not exploit the Hawks lack of perimeter defense and, therefore, could not open up shooters. The Spurs had no such issues, since Tony Parker and, especially, Manu Ginobili, had no trouble gashing the Hawks' defensive lane and opening up shots for Richard Jefferson (5-6 from 3PT), George Hill (3-4), and Matt Bonner (2-4).
Even when it wasn't the penetration, the Hawks either got caught going under screens or simply wandering out of position, and the pinpoint Spurs made them pay to the tune of 10-21 from long range and 53 percent shooting overall.
Playing poor defense and turning the ball over seven times (6 that really mattered) in the final quarter is no way to beat one of the best teams in the league at their place. It's telling that the Hawks played their best basketball in the third quarter, the one in which they held the Spurs to 18 points and committed a single turnover.
Jamal Crawford was celebrated by the home telecast as player of the game which serves to highlight the exaggerated importance of scoring points as a singular skill as well as ignores defensive effectiveness completely.
I like the way Crawford can make any shot shred the nets--and it's a nice slump breaker, but his lack of a defensive GPS hurts greatly and is tough to make any separation from a team when he gives as much as he takes....and that's when he making shots. This is why Jamal is a perfect second teamer and why it's tough to have him on the floor late in games.
I also appreciate Maurice Evans' candor and professionalism, but I would believe he would be the first person to step to the microphone and say there isn't much he's doing right on the court right now. His 1-3 night makes him 6-27 in the last (6) games. Tonight, Ginobili made him look extremely foolish on a cross-over and ended up jumping back into the play causing a 3-point play.
Marvin Williams made a nice steal and then tried to posterize Antonio McDyess, who was charged with a blocking foul for disrupting Marvin's play for slam. Marvin is clearly still nursing the sore knee that was crushed in the Pistons game by Greg Monroe, but it's good to see it's not deterring him from attacking the rim.
One final note:
DeJuan Blair: 26 minutes, 16 points on 7-10 shooting, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, a block, and no knee injury.
Jeff Teague: DNP-CD
Yet another difference between the franchises. Oh well, tomorrow's another night---but at least this one's at home against the Pacers....let's go Hawks!