Quick Thought: If Al Horford can't make it to Los Angeles for the All-Star game, I think I have a good replacement.
A pretty ho-hum game, especially given the dramatics of last night's epic at home against the Clippers. Still, without Al for this game, and a road game in the NBA being trouble no matter who it is, it spelled a toss-up going into the game,'
The Hawks controlled the game, never yielding the lead until there was 4:43 left in the third. Soon after that, Jamal Crawford would score his first field goal of the night, and then within 48 seconds have two more. Toss in a 13-13 fourth quarter free throw effort by the Hawks versus a 1-6 submission from their hosts, and the Hawks would not relinquish the lead again.
As the subject of my quick thought, Josh Smith stepped up more than ably in the absence of Al. Smith had a hiccup of too-challenged long jump shots late in the game, but his 11-19, 29 point, 16 rebound game was mighty impressive on a night where Josh stood alone in the "starting caliber big man" category for the Hawks. Smith's usage of Andray Blatche with less than three minutes left was sublime; a spin move to the baseline, with contact, and a soft conversion of the field goal attempt. Supersweet even.
While Smith may have siphoned Horford's production, certainly Marvin Williams parlayed Al's DNP into extended minutes. Marvin made the most of his team-high 41 minutes by going 5-11, 4-4, for 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Joe Johnson took on the role of Horford offensively tonight, modestly attempting 12 shots, yet still managing 21 points from them.
Damien Wilkins started the game by posing as Mario West, scooping up the last 2 seconds of the first half. Wilkins, in a very different ending that West used to enjoy, came into the game with 2 minutes left in the third and simply didn't leave the court. Wilkins was very nice tonight, hitting 4-5 shots, including a wonderful baseline misdirection fake that ended up as a layup.
On the flip side, however, Washington's Trevor Booker, listed as a center, had a line that made me question whether +/- was a viable statistic or simply the tool of nerdy minions, designed to suck me in long enough to laugh at me when it's revealed as a hoax. Booker played 12 minutes, attempted nary a shot, grabbed no rebounds, yet saw fit to commit 5 fouls in his span. No other Wizard had a plus on their plus minus, yet Booker's final total? +3. Something tells me Flip Saunders isn't going to think about more minutes for Booker while soaking his feet tonight, but hey, he was the only one with a positive +/-.
Get well soon, Al, get well soon. The game was less fun to watch without you in it. Truth.