Make no mistake, the game was probably lost on the defensive glass. Or rather, won there by Zydrunas Ilgauskas to give the man full credit for picking up the slack of his absent, injured front-court mates. The Cavaliers make half their threes and half their twos in the first half didn't help either. (Assign credit to them or blame to the Hawks at your discretion.) Still, the Hawks, beneficiaries of their own (tardy) hard work and Larry Hughes' insistence on shooting jump shots, were up a point with less than six minutes left.
The Hawks lead because Josh Smith tried his damndest to take the game over in the fourth quarter. Smith wanted the ball to the degree that he spent much of the fourth quarter going and getting it on the defensive end so he could have the chance to do something positive on the offensive end. He did enough (3-4 FGA, 5-7 FTA, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 0 turnovers) to nose the Hawks ahead, but despite Atlanta scoring on almost every fourth quarter possession in which Smith touched the ball in the paint (If I'm not mistaken, the only time Atlanta didn't score on a Smith-centered possession was when he was fouled by Ilgauskas with 5:57 left but missed both free throws. I deleted my recording of the game in frustration last night. I wish I had it to check against my memory right now.) they wasted countless possessions on Joe Johnson posting up Eric Snow, running "isolations" for Johnson (1-5 FGA, 2 turnovers, 0 assists in the fourth quarter) that saw him stymied by two or three defenders, isolations for Tyronn Lue (0-3 FGA in the fourth quarter), or Marvin Williams posting up Devin Brown rather than giving the ball to Smith against the smaller and slower Ira Newble.
The failure in the fourth quarter went beyond the inability to make adjustments. There was clear evidence that Atlanta possessed a clear avenue by which to score points and they chose not to use it. Joe Johnson is not the best player on the team anymore. Josh Smith is. The offense needs to run through him on the block. Anything else is wasteful.
Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 8 vs. Cleveland