Quick Thought: Wow. Really feel for Clippers' fans. Glad the guys stuck with it and came back.
Sorry to all the pessimists out there ready for me to channel my inner Eeyore and balance this good with the reasons why the Hawks were in a double digit hole for most of the game. I made a deal that, if the Hawks came back to win this one, I was going to--as a old timey song once mused, accentuate the positive.
So here it is:
The Hawks outscored the Clippers 65-45 in the second half, due mostly to a week's worth of free throws, a game's worth of jump shots falling, and the Clippers inexplicably going away from Baron Davis and Blake Griffin during most of the fourth quarter.
I am sure to the abused patrons of Clippers games it looks familiar, but when the Hawks started making shots it seemed like an avalanche of buckets raining down on the scoreboard, eroding slowly, but ever surely the firm lead and control the home team had on the game.
The Hawks were 6-7 from 22 feet and beyond in the fourth quarter, including two bombs from Josh Smith, and a killer by Mike Bibby with 52 seconds to go to move the Hawks lead to nine after trailing by (13) as late as 4:13 left in the third quarter.
Lest you tell me, "Hey, J, this is the NBA, a 13 point lead with that much time left is way far from safe.", I would reply, "Sit down, Rick Mahorn, the Hawks did this despite playing three minutes of that time with the juggernaut offensive lineup of Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, Maurice Evans, Zaza Pachulia, and Josh Powell."
It started back at that mark of 4:13 left in the third quarter. That's when Jamal Crawford started to heat up and went on a personal 10-3 run over the remainder of the quarter. He was able to score twice and assist a Zaza 3-pt play with that backup lineup in for 3 minutes, indicting the Clipper defense for failing to notice where the scorer (singular) was on the floor at that time.
The game started to tilt towards the Hawks as the starters began to return. Josh started the game 0-8, but finished 5-6 including a fantastically aggressive answer slam to an alley-oop scored over him on the previous Clipper set.
Then Crawford, who seemed to be priming Violet Palmer with some "hey, watch when this guy jumps into me while I'm shooting a three" conversation a couple minutes earlier, got Eric Gordon (who had a miserable, miserable game on his own) to do just that, bringing the Hawks within 2 of the lead.
Then Smith hit his pair of baseline bombs bookended around a Joe Johnson made jump shot and suddenly it was the Hawks that had a (4) point lead...and the ship was sailing quickly away.
Meanwhile the Clippers had been doing about as good a job of bungling the game by missing every single shot outside of (5) feet in the fourth quarter, going 0-8 and turning the ball over (5) times. When Jamal hit yet another jump shot and Al Horford caught a Johnson airball and laid it in to stretch the lead to six with 1:23 left, I felt good. When Bibby stretched it to nine on his three with less than a minute left, the deal was done.
The officials, who gave the contact calls to Jamal and Joe when they went inside, accounting for (26) of the team's (40) free throw attempts on the afternoon (they made 22).
The Clippers threw two small guards out there all night long, so the Hawks countered by sending Joe Johnson inside to abuse them with his height advantage and, while he still took way too many shots (20) considering he once again made a small percentage of them (35 percent), he augmented the effort very nicely where he didn't in OKC, going 14-17 from the line and only committing a single turnover with all those touches. Why the Clippers didn't double him in the post is a mystery.
It's obvious from the summary, but Jamal Crawford was on offensively, especially late in the game, going 7-13/8-9 overall for 24 points.
Josh Smith got to the line as well, shooting 9-10 from there to help make up for his gory shooting early on in the game. Smoove got 22 and 10 rebounds and generally played under control, though my deal I made and mentioned above prevents me from sharing early game notes. He definitely seemed engaged late in this game after a couple of his shots went in, and that return dunk on Deandre Jordan was a thing of beauty.