The Hawks toyed with disaster in the first half, a half in which they led by (9) at the break but one without much input or effort at all from Chris Paul. As the second half began, the Hawks, who didn't do much to get into the paint or play aggressively on either end all night, started to get burned by their passive play, allowing the Hornets to get (and make) better shots while the Hawks themselves continued to settle for long distance dialing. The floor finally fell out in the fourth quarter when the submissive guests handed their hosts five solid minutes, from the 7:07 mark to the 2:01 mark, in which the Hornets went on a 10-0 run and took a (9) point lead that they would not relinquish.
During that span, the following occured:
Gave up a basket of defense (2-0 Hornets).
Horford got a quick three second call (the one the game before against Cleveland was actually a two-second violation, replay showed).
Jamal Crawford plowed through Chris Paul...in the backcourt....to pick up a charging foul.
Hawks give up a second chance basket to David West (4-0 Hornets).
Bibby misses a 24 footer
Paul makes a 12 footer (6-0 Hornets).
Josh Smith sizes up his defender, and then misses a 14 footer.
Horford turns it over.
Hawks give up a second chance basket to David West (8-0 Hornets).
Hawks take a timeout, then have to have Marvin Williams launch a 25 footer as the shot clock winds down to nothing. He missed.
Jamal Crawford fouls Jarret Jack, and Jack hits both free throws (10-0 Hornets).
Joe Johnson misses a jump shot.
Hornets miss, then foul Marvin Williams.
Joe finally hits a shot with 2:01 left to end the drought, the Hornets run, but still trail by 7.
The Hawks did get the lead down to 4 with a minutes left and forced a missed shot by the Hornets, but Joe couldn't handle the rebound, instead tipping it out to Emeka Ofakor and then, about 20 seconds later, Chris Paul sealed the deal with a bucket.
The team tapped into the the worst of their own habits over the course of the game: the isolation "tough jumpers" for Joe Johnson, the needlessly risky (and unsuccessful) overplays for the steal by Josh Smith as well as the ho-hum missed-jump-shot-a-thon he can't stay away from, a lack of polish and patience on offense by Al Horford, lazy close-outs, lots of quick shots and standing around on offense, the Horford Treatment, a ton of Jamal Crawford, no Jeff Teague, taking what the defense is begging the Hawks to do instead of going after their weakness, and a lack of gameplan whatsoever all came together to make the team I love to watch completely unwatchable despite being in the game the whole time. A Christmas miracle!
Besides Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams was the most effective player for the Hawks, but he sat for a good part of the fourth quarter while the player who "replaced" him with the starters in that quarter, Jamal Crawford, did little to earn that playing time. I don't know what word there is that defines playing time based not on tenure or merit, but on reputation or some other imaginary value point (could be points per game, mythical in and of itself), but that's what seems to happen with these Hawks.
Hey, Al Horford isn't perfect, but dang, can the man be more than a freaking afterthought on this team? His number comes up less often than any starter in terms of having a play specifically called for him to get the ball despite his effectiveness. We see every single player blow through their possessions like Kleenex, yet they continue to get the plays called for them. Al doesn't seem to get that grace, and it all goes back to the franchise seeing him as a useful engine, but not the top of the franchise player that would have a gameplan built around his skills.
By the way, Coach Drew.....28 minutes, four fouls. Horford missed (12) minutes due to the foul "trouble" of getting two whole fouls in the first half, which is far more than he likely would have missed if he had fouled out late in the fourth quarter. One often meets his destiny on the path taken to avoid it. And yes, that's a Kung Fu Panda reference.
Against the Hornets, we heard the coaching staff (Kenny Gattison) say that the team needed to stop shooting jump shots and get inside. Then I looked out on the floor and saw Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, Josh Powell, Mo Evans, and Zaza Pachulia. That's not exactly putting the best team on the floor to execute that strategy.
Despite the offense failing to get into the lane, at all, we didn't see any of Jeff Teague, who has shown fantastic attack in his game when Crawford was out. Good to see that "taking advantage of your opportunity" paid off with a DNP in a game where the Hawks scored (22) whole points in the paint. Bravo.
Alright, enough venting...there is some silver lining. Really!
Joe had a second solid game in a row and did his best to corral Chris Paul on defense...which he should never be asked to do. Again, where's Teague here? Johnson went for 23/5/4...again with zero turnovers.
Marvin had (9) first quarter points and continues to get to the free throw line (7-7).
Mo Evans, who has reaaaaaaaaallly been struggling, hit 2 of his 3 long range shots.
Finally, the Hawks can take whatever they didn't use (and there should be plenty in the tank) and beat the Milwaukee Bucks over the head with it Monday night. After last season's series and watching Andrew Bogut smirk it up, I hope the Hawks have some spirit left in them to clean their clocks. No offense, Wisconsin.
Let's Go Hawks!