The Atlanta Hawks rattled off their third consecutive victory on Monday afternoon defeating the Toronto Raptors 93-84 and grabbing their 10th win of the season in the process. Atlanta may not have played a playoff team since losing Al Horford to a likely season-ending injury but those that have followed this team closely over the last few seasons understands that games like Monday's haven't always been a sure thing.
Whether it is a more veteran laden bench or a new attitude, this Hawks club seems to be approaching things with a more workman like mindset which is one of the things that head coach Larry Drew is constantly talking about. If you throw out two games each against Chicago and Miami then the Hawks schedule hasn't been that tough but wins are wins and thus far Atlanta has taken care of the teams that it is supposed to beat without a major hiccup.
Josh Smith continued his inspiring play on Monday finishing with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Smith scored in a variety of ways from finishing the pick and roll to finding open space in Toronto's zone defense for his jump shot. Smith talked about his recent success after the game.
"I think I'm in a different state of mind," Smith said. "I'm playing as hard as I've ever played. I dedicate all this to my offseason work ethic and the amount of effort I put in knowing how big of a season this is and wanting to get better."
I concur because I am not sure I have seen Smith play any harder and does look to be approaching things differently. The only thing he isn't doing thus far is making free throws but even discussing that feels like nit picking with how well Smith has played of late.
Joe Johnson also turned in another good performance on Monday filling up the stat sheet with 27 points, five boards, six assists, two steals and three blocks. The best part about Johnson's play of late is it doesn't appear that he is indecisive and he is making a much more concerted effort to get into the lane which is paying off in more free throw attempts.
Even after taking the lead on Monday, Toronto wouldn't go away thanks to the play of Leandro Barbosa who finished with a team-high 22 points off the bench for the Raptors. The Hawks however clamped down with a strong fourth quarter defensively holding the Raptors to just 13 points in the final 12 minutes.
Atlanta is slowly trying to get healthy but coach Drew appears to be bringing Marvin Williams slowly back from an ankle injury. Williams played 21 minutes and finished with five points and five rebounds in the game. The Hawks also got Tracy McGrady back for a bit after he checked in midway through the first quarter and played eight minutes in the first half. McGrady didn't attempt a shot from the field and finished with three assists in the game but couldn't go in the second half after his back once again tightened up.
Next up for the Hawks is a nationally televised game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday in what will mark the first return of Jamal Crawford to Philips Arena.
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