I'm leaning toward boundless optimism (tangible goal: the sixth seed) again after witnessing the last seven quarters of Atlanta Hawks basketball. There will be bad stretches (For example, after the first quarter Monday night I was ready to give this team up for dead.) to weather and it's far more likely that their competitors for that sixth seed improve themselves through trade than do the Hawks but for now let's savor last night's win over the Los Angeles Lakers on a night when the Lakers played well.
I would argue that not a single Hawk player performed poorly. Thus, they deserve a roll call.
Josh Smith: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 blocks, 2 steals. Ho-hum and what's new? He did all this in 33 minutes as Mike Woodson appeared to give Smith the Horford treatment after picking up his second foul with 9:40 left in the second quarter. Smith resisted the siren song of the jump shot (see below) for two-and-a-half quarters. If only he hadn't made that first three-pointer he attempted.
Joe Johnson: He certainly played like and All-Star last night. I still think he could catch-and-shoot more often but the man is unlearning years of having to do everything offensively himself. I think he'll adjust to having his teammates create easier shots for him. Johnson's good defense on (the admittedly injured) Kobe Bryant allowed the Hawks to survive a couple of poor offensive stretches.
Al Horford: 20 rebounds, 7 of them offensive. By my estimation, Al, in all likelihood, rebounded at least one out of every five missed Hawks shots while he was in the game. He stepped up and made both free throws with 3:40 left and the Hawks down a point. Though he wasn't credited with a block, his solid interior defense made things difficult for Pau Gasol and set up Josh Smith for a couple of his blocks.
Tyronn Lue: Despite my suspicion that his performance last night will earn him the right to miss a lot of shots in upcoming fourth quarters, Lue's 8 points (3-4 FGA, 2-2 3PTA) and 3 assists were instrumental to the victory. Watching Lue break down the Lakers off the dribble didn't inspire a lot of confidence (though both shots went in) but it did keep the offense from bogging down into Joe Johnson and four spectators.
Josh Childress: A relatively quiet night due, in no small part, to Al Horford cramping Childress's style on the offensive glass. Still, 8 points on 7 shots helps the offense every time.
Anthony Johnson: He struggled defending Derek Fisher in the second and third quarters but the rest of his game was predictably solid: 8 assists, 2 turnovers, and 4 defensive rebounds.
Marvin Williams: Marvin struggled mightily to finish at and around the basket (one more dribble before take-off please, Marvin) in the first half but he calmed down, spaced the floor, and knocked down some jump shots in the second half. There's no reason he should get only 1 defensive rebound in 35:09.
Mario West: Knocked down Kobe on the Lakers' in-bounds play with 7.1 seconds left. No foul was called. Score one for Mario West, Defensive Stopper.
Zaza Pachulia: Gasol (or even Turiaf) is a tough matchup for Zaza. Resting him for Ilgauskas and Yao isn't the worst thing that could happen.
I understand if everyone doesn't share my sentiments, but I'd like to invite each and every one of those front-running, bandwagon-riding, OMG Kobe!!!!!!-screaming fans to come back to Philips and, you know, root for the Hawks. It's fun. Honest.
Josh Smith Jump Shot Log
February 6 vs. Los Angeles Lakers