Quick Thought: First win in Phoenix in five seasons -- and it seemed so unlikely.Thank you, Josh Smith.
Well they did. They were the team, at long last, that hung around, making a shot here and a play there, and got energized by being in range to win. In the fourth quarter, they curtailed Steve Nash's impact by putting Kirk Hinrich on him and the Suns may have simply stopped making every open or covered jump shot they took.
In the end, Jeff Teague was sitting, Joe Johnson was really struggling, Marvin Williams was gone in a game that Tracy McGrady didn't even play.
Vladimir Radmanovic finished the game, as did Willie Green. Are you checking the NBA.com box score to make sure I'm right about the score? Don't blame you. I couldn't believe it either.
The Hawks shot 52 percent to Phoenix's 40 percent and somehow made the fourth quarter their own, led by Josh Smith.
Smith did everything for the Hawks in the second half, scoring 20 of his game high 30 points, and grabbed 12 second half rebounds to make it happen for the Hawks.
When Radmanovic and Green went back to back with threes to give the Hawks a nine point lead with two minutes to play, one (like Dominique) may have thought it was over. But the Hawks went away from Smith, who was getting points in the post, and went jump shot, scoring nothing.
Phoenix worked it down and the Hawks held up in the free throw endgame, but not before Josh made it interesting with 2.1 seconds left and the Hawks with the ball inbounding. Nobody was open until Green broke out down the court and Smith let it fly. Unfortunately it was well over Green, forcing him to run it down else face giving the Suns the ball under the Hawks defensive basket with those same 2.1 seconds left.
Green did catch up to it, but had to jump and throw the ball back onto the court. He threw it towards the Suns bench, however, and as Alvin Gentry caught the ball time had finally expired and the Hawks got their first win in Phoenix in five seasons.
Game like this make it hard to understand how coaches don't put him among the top players in the league. He IS the game, good and bad, when he is on the floor. He is a force of nature. He undeniably wants to win, badly, but differs in how that is best accomplish through his talents.
Tonight, Josh had 30 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, four steals, two blocks and had even Joe Johnson standing in the gap with Larry Drew to prevent his exit from the second half. He was everywhere on a night where they had to play Radmanovic due to the length of the Suns frontcourt, Smith was in the middle of every defensive rebound, using every bit of his gifted wingspan to snatch those boards.
I understand he's not popular, but Willie Green had another good game and earned the right to finish this game with a 5-8/4-6 shooting performance, landing him with 20 points off the bench, Flip Murray style. When there was a loose ball in the second half, Willie was hustling over to get it. He added four rebounds and three steals, along with that last bit of saving the ball and the game business as time expired. His seven fourth quarter points were big, including the two big free throws late to keep it a four point lead.
It would be hard to put Jeff Teague on here for reasons I'll discuss in my Afterthoughts, so I'll put Zaza Pachulia's 15 point, four rebound, two steal, two blocks game down instead. Zaza scored quietly and efficiently, hitting six of nine shots and scoring seven important points in the third quarter that began to spin things back around the Hawks way.
So about Jeff Teague. His offense was strong in the first half, scoring 12 points and continuing his tremendous three point shooting by hitting two our of three. But he could not check Steve Nash for anything, as the savvy vet broke off 17 dimes against the Hawks.
Teague has lapsed into some bad habits like making bad choices on the break, relying on that jump shot instead of breaking down the defense for his teammates, reaching and slapping defensively instead of moving his feet and keeping his man in front of him. It's a problem that really began to manifest itself against Mike Conley and the Grizzlies, and on display against tonight in Phoenix.
It's not an impeachable offense, these lapses, but it did mean that Hinrich had to check in to close the game instead of Teague. Teague will be alright -- not even wanting to get close to Josh Smithing the kid and only focus on the negative, but there were solid reasons for not playing him in the fourth quarter, and they are listed in the paragraph above.
These guys -- who can predict them? First win in Phoenix since Royal Ivey was starting for the Hawks in 2007. And they were down as much as 14 in the process. Without Al Horford and with Joe shooting a miseable 2-10 for six points tonight. It's only the franchise's sixth win in Phoenix since 1986. These guys... good win, 1-1 so far on the roadie, a couple of days off and back at it in Portland Saturday night.