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Instant Reaction: Hawks 100, Kings 98

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Quick Thought: Al Horford is boss...and Joe got a foul call. 

Summary:

The lessons are still unlearned...there was still a turnover deficit (-4), many  offensive rebounds yielded (17), a prevent offense late in the game, and very little defense played until the fourth quarter. 

The result was being taken to final possession, at home, by the Sacramento Kings.

I'll console myself with a splendid game by Al Horford, who had a 23/9/6/and 7  block game and the victory anyway.

After three quarters of having the ball shoved down their throats by the aggressive, energetic, Kings club, the Hawks dog paddled their way to a (9) point gap going into the final quarter. Every time the Hawks would make a run at the Kings' lead, they would waste a possession, wave a hand on defense, and see themselves down a few possessions again.

Only when the clock turned into the fourth quarter, Josh Smith snapped into place, and the rebounding improved did the Hawks finally swing the score back over to their advantage. Still, with a two possession lead and 3 minutes to go, the Hawks went to their prevent offense---you know, the one where they barely get the ball across the timeline in 8 seconds, start the offense outside the three point line dribbling with a shooting guard, and fire up a hopeful three with a hand in their face. 

Not so surprisingly, the Kings kept attacking and tied the score, only to bail the Hawks out on a questionable foul call when Joe Johnson took the final shot, a heavily contested leaner off the right side. After Joe made his two throws with .6 left, DeMarcus Cousins (who I am happy to see no longer this season) airmailed the inbounds pass and the game was over.

The Stars:

Already mentioned, but Al Horford is a productive winning time player. He hits the clutch shots, pulls out the blocks, boards, defense....he's everything on this team. Tonight he added his career high in blocks (7), set the screens, and was ready whenever the ball rolled around to him with a 10-16 afternoon.

He hogged it quite a bit down the stretch, but Joe Johnson scored 36 points on 16-27 shooting and had 6 assists with ZERO turnovers. How many games has he had like that? Glad someone asked---it's his third of the season and 17th as a Hawk. And it tied for the most field goal attempts in such a game with his 27 shot, 15 hoops, 6 assist, no turnover game at home against Portland last season.

(Sidenote: The most field goal attempts by a Hawk with 6 or more assists and zero turnovers? 28......by Isaiah "JR" Rider. Let's move on.)

Also:

I love Dominique being the analyst for the Hawks, but his scorers' bias comes through when he says things like "Joe Johnson should get the last shot---he's hot tonight!" Not to pooh pooh Joe's game today....but aren't there games when the hot player is Al Horford (like today)? Why don't they call a play where...oh, I don't know...two hot players have a chance to score? 

Josh Smith played like he had ankle weights on all game, and played one of his 68 games of up and down basketball (my theory is that he plays 7 all-in games, 7 all-checked out games, and the rest is a mix tape of combinations in the middle). But he spent his bad stuff early and brought some key plays late, including a nice block and outlet pass and ten fourth quarter points. Couldn't make him a star tonight, though, if he had snapped together sooner, the Hawks might not have been in the mess they were in. Josh is the one player who I can truly say "Stats lie."

UPDATE: 

Great point by Ziller during his post-mortem at Sactown Royalty. Beno Udrih was killing the Hawks until Zaza "reached in" and fouled the Kings point guard around the neck. 

Exit Question: Who's ready to beat the Heat?