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Game Recap: Atlanta Hawks 98, Cleveland Cavaliers 84

As Jason points out in his initial reaction pretty much everything went right for the Hawks in this one. The starters all posted good lines and Jeff Teague continued his aggressive play off the bench. The Cavs were able to remain within striking distance but once the Hawks took the lead you never did really get a sense that Cleveland was talented enough to overtake them. If there was anything to complain about then it was the slow start coming out of the gates. The AJC's Ken Suguira talked slow starts with Larry Drew before the game:

Team was very flat to start. Larry Drew said he’d told the team at shootaround and then before the game to be wary of coming out slow. 1) They’d just beaten Orlando. 2) They were at home. 3) Cleveland is very easy to look past. 4) It’s almost Christmas.

Interesting was Byron Scott's game plan to start Mo Williams along side Daniel Gibson. Usually when these two teams match up it is Anthony Parker drawing the assignment to guard Joe Johnson. With the smaller Cavs lineup, Parker was on Williams which left the much smaller Gibson trying to contain Johnson. Joe appeared to smell blood in the water and so did the Hawks as they routinely attacked the Cavs in the paint the entire game. After Johnson scored backing down Gibson in the post on consecutive trips, the Cavs were forced to send the double team which put some excellent Hawks ball movement on display. 

It looked like the good looks close to the basket got Johnson in the first rhythm since returning from elbow surgery. Johnson finished 9-17 but his shooting appeared to get better as the game went on. He was 3-6 from long range and threw in seven assists to boot. In the 37th episode of Sekou Smith's Hang Time Podcast, beat writer Michael Cunningham was a guest and they talked Hawks basketball and Joe Johnson amongst other subjects.Cunningham said that Johnson has missed a lot of open shots this season and that the Hawks need him to make those shots.  I agree with Cunningham as I don't think the offense has been difficult for Joe I just think he has been missing shots that he usually makes and hopefully that was a result of the elbow injury. 

I could go on and talk about the excellent night that Marvin Williams (17pts), Josh Smith (16pts 11reb), or Al Horford (18pts 8reb 4ast) had. They all were magnificent but I want to spend a moment talking about the Hawks bench and Jeff Teague in particular. I am not sure if it is simply the light starting to click on but Teague had another strong game scoring seven points while handing out four assists. I marveled in the game thread about how much more aggressive he looks in attacking the basket. During the first half he routinely got to the basket although he didn't convert on a couple of opportunities. The conversions will come as long as Teague stays aggressive in attacking. I thought he forced the Hawks to pick up the tempo while being aggressive without being out of control. 

Mo Evans also scored eight points off the Hawks bench and as Jason said earlier many were off of second chance opportunities or finishing the break. Reports are his knee is still bothering him but he looked to have pretty good lift on a couple of dunks. Perhaps like Joe Johnson he needs to see a few shots go in closer to the basket to get in a rhythm with his jump shot. 

In summary this was a victory that the Hawks simply had to have and they have now won a quiet eight straight at home after struggling at Philips Arena early. They will now enjoy three days off before heading to New Orleans on Sunday to take on the Hornets. Merry Christmas Hawks fans.