Quick Thought: Jeff Teague aggressive + more jump shots made = Hawks win.
It would be ok to look at the last two games the Hawks have played on the road as similar. Detroit and Sacramento have similar records, young productive front court players, and energy forwards off the bench.
So what was the difference between a 1-point loss to Detroit on Friday and a 106-99 win in Sacramento Sunday night?
Here were some that I saw:
Josh Smith was 3-13 outside of three feet against the Pistons, he hit four shots outside 15 feet in the second half alone against the Kings and was 13-23 overall.
Teague scored four measly points on five shots and generally was out of sync against the Pistons. Against Sacramento, Teague was 7-11, scored 16 points, had seven assists and three steals. Included in those seven field goals were two dunks, one being a beastly throwdown in the halfcourt. No soft layup, just slam and bam. Teague went into the lane often, especially the few times the Kings tried to go zone. The result was better ball movement and a better offensive game for Teague.
Zaza Pachulia got into 'foul trouble' against Detroit, played on 14 empty minutes and had generally one of his worst games since taking over for Al Horford. Tonight, he was allowed to play until he fouled out, which he did late in the fourth quarter after 29 minutes. Zaza responded with 10 points and 13 rebounds in that amount of run, a hugely needed improvement.
Jannero Pargo didn't have it off the bench against either the Kings or the Pistons, but against the Kings Larry Drew recognized it early and rode the Teague - Kirk Hinrich - Joe Johnson lineup out most of the night, as all three played over 37 minutes and Hinrich turned in 44 himself. Hinrich had 10 points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Another for Josh Smith, mostly for his stellar post play when he is in there. Truly fantastic how much ground he covers running across the lane for that hook shot. Toss in the nightly righty hook per night as he did tonight on his first post-up and you can dream about the day that he takes up residence there more than his current condo around the three-point line. When he was doubled in the post, he did a good job of zinging the ball out of there and making the Kings pay. 28 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. Zero turnovers.
Jeff Teague, for the reasons I listed up above. The offense is a notch better when he is putting pressure on the defense by driving -- and another half step up when he is aggressive at the rim.
Marvin Williams gets the nod here for some nice production coming off the bench in the Teague - Hinrich - Joe starting lineup, getting 12 points and five rebounds in his 23+ minutes, but the real reason is the shake and bake, drive to the hoop monster dunk in the second quarter. He had eight quick points in the quarter before the Hawks predictably went away from him, and his steal and slam as the Kings tried to come back late sealed the game.
(Check the video highlights post Kris will be posting tomorrow for this one, potentially -- If you didn't see it, it was manly. 'tsal I'm saying, you know.)
He fouled out, but you could hardly blame DeMarcus Cousins for the loss. His 10-17, 28 point, 12 rebound and three steal game was the heartbeat of the game for Sacramento. The Hawks could do very little tonight with him, but the defense the Kings played blew the season high output from Cousins.
Tyreke Evans came into the game scoring 21 points per game against the Hawks, but Joe shut him down with Evans only going 4-14 and eight points without going to the free throw line once.
After losing eight straight times in Sacramento from 2001 to 2008, the Hawks have now won four in a row, mirroring the franchises fortunes in general.
Are you thinking that the Hawks, who just finished game four of this six game swing, are 2-2 with the two losses totaling four points difference and thinking, 'Ye Gods, we could be 4-0 on this trip'?
Consider that the Hawks played half the trip without Joe, all of them obviously without Al, and having two or more bench players sidelines as well --- It's remarkable how resilient this team is, with short memories, night after night this season. They missed a chance to win against a bad defensive team in Detroit, and they didn't let it happen again. They aren't perfect, but they're tough - and stay with it.
Good win tonight. 2-4 were a lot of folks' scenarios before the trip, and they already have the two wins, with games against the Nuggets and the Clippers to go. Bet against them or for them at least splitting the pair?