When the curtain went up between the Atlanta Hawks and the Phoenix Suns on Monday night at Philips Arena, it had been more than three weeks since reserve guard Lou Williams had what could be deemed as a "productive" night for the Atlanta Hawks. Back on March 2nd, Williams turned in a 15-point, 3-assist performance in a 9-point defeat, but after a 5-minute showing in the following game, Lou received seven consecutive DNP-CD's, effectively falling out of the rotation.
Atlanta's opponent on March 2nd? The Phoenix Suns.
It was certainly a bit ironic that Williams' return to prominence happened against Phoenix, but he was certainly productive on Monday night. The 27-year-old combo guard from South Gwinnett High School finished the night with 17 points on 5 for 8 shooting (including 2 for 3 from 3-point distance) and he even gang-rebounded to the tune of 4 boards in just under 28 minutes of game action.
When asked about Williams' showing during the post-game press conference, Mike Budenholzer had this to say:
"That was one of the positives from tonight. Lou had a good bounce. Lou played decisively, which I think is a good word to use. He really helped us a lot in the first half. There were stretches where we were hanging close in the second half, and he was a big part of that. That's a real positive."
In the first half (as referenced by Budenholzer), Williams did most of his best work from Monday night, scoring 10 points on just 4 field goal attempts and grabbing 3 of his 4 rebounds in just over 13 minutes of action. The most encouraging part, however, was the diversification of Lou's game during the stretch, as he got to the line for 4 attempts, and even showed flashes of his early-career explosiveness in penetration. When Williams was at his best in Philadelphia (and even during last season with the Hawks pre-injury), it was always about scoring efficiently thanks to the free throw line and his unique way to create offense, and flashes of that as the season comes to a close are extremely encouraging.
Of course, there should be managed expectations for this type of effort for a few reasons. First, Kyle Korver's 3-game absence has certainly opened the door for Lou to walk back into the rotation, and while he definitely made the most of his time on Monday night, there is still a possibility of Williams being relegated to bench duty as soon as the floor-spacing Korver returns. In addition, it's a one-game sample against a team that he has already beat up on once this season, and in actuality, the Hawks did drop a disappointing 102-95 decision that had to leave a sour taste in everyone's mouth.
During a season where Lou Williams has posted the worst field-goal percentage (38.5%) of his career and his worst PER (13.09) since he was a 19-year-old rookie, Monday night's performance does lend a bit of hope that he is on his way back to being a high-end contributor. There will be points of emphasis as the season comes to a close, especially with Atlanta clinging to a 2.5-game lead for the East's final playoff spot, but if Williams can replicate anything close to what he did on Monday night, there may be a rotation spot waiting for him at the end of the tunnel.