Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hawks 121 Hornets 98




Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
NO 95.8
47.8 12.1
31.1 17.7
ATL 95.8 1.262 58.5

Joe Johnson tipped in Josh Smith's missed breakaway layup with 9:26 left in the first half to put the Hawks up 8-6. New Orleans never caught the Hawks. Three-and-a-quarter, erm, quarters of indifferent defending kept the Hawks form putting the game away until the 16-0 run that began somewhat inauspiciously with Mike Bibby making of one of two free throws and turned a 95-89 lead with 8:22 left in the game into a 11-89 lead with 4:03 left.

To date, this is an outstanding offensive team, capable of scoring, in terms of an NBA game, essentially at will despite making just 62% of their free throws and 40% of the team's rotation (Marvin Williams, Jeff Teague, Mo Evans, and Joe Smith) combining to make just 6 of 25 field goal attempts. The five Hawks who played the most minutes last night: Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Mike Bibby, and Jamal Crawford shot 74.1 eFG% for the game. It was a tremendous offensive performance even if it partly revealed how far New Orleans' problems extend beyond Byron Scott or Chris Paul's absence.

I can't imagine what it felt like for a Hornets fan to watch this game, the team without Paul and Tim Floyd newly installed in a prominent place on the bench. I'm sure they don't want sympathy any more than Hawks fans did during the long, dark days not-so-long ago. Without the experience of watching a bad, seemingly hopeless basketball team for so long, would watching this Hawks team feel so fulfilling? This team isn't perfect, as the losses in Los Angeles and Charlotte demonstrated, but it is very good and has proven capable of combining four good offensive quarters with one good defensive quarter to comfortably see off inferior opposition. Having also demonstrated a higher level of sustained two-way execution in both Portland and Boston one can't* nitpick the inconsistent defense with a clean conscience.

*At least this one can't.

The Atlanta Hawks are calmly and coolly taking care of business into the season's fourth week. Their success doesn't feel like an illusion, and, though they're unlikely to win 80% of their games the rest of the way, I suspect that will have more to do with the vagaries and length of NBA season than fundamental flaws in the team.

Mike Woodson:
"They knew it was that time to buckle down. You could hear guys saying, ‘Let's go,' and they went right out and did what they said they were."
Al Horford:
"I think that's when we're at our best, when we're running, when we're just freelancing and playing, but it all starts getting that stop on defense and getting the rebound."
Jamal Crawford:
"It's not going to be pretty, but as long as you leave with a win, that's all that matters."
Joe Johnson:
"We'll take it."
Cue dramatic music.

"But the work is not finished."
Now, that's a post-game quote we can all get behind.

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