By Buddy Grizzard
Initial feedback: A completely subjective and immediate response to the events of tonight's game, featuring a comment and rating, the latter on a scale of 1 to 10, on every player who saw the floor and the head coach, along with ephemera and miscellany as the author deems necessary.
Your ratings and commentary, dear reader, are welcomed in the comments to this post.
Josh Smith: When Smoove suggested that player agents are "putting in a bid over the phone" for the All-Star reserve selection he has thus far been denied, there was no more obvious target than Indiana center Roy Hibbert, a first-time All-Star this year. Smith continued his recent run of eschewing jump shots and attacking the basket in the first half, but fell back in love with the jump shot in the second half. Fortunately for the Hawks, this was one of those nights (where the shots went in). Josh shot 12-for-19 for 27 points and added 9 rebounds. He's had several games since his latest All-Star snub where he bricked a ton of shots trying to prove his detractors wrong (and in the process proving them right). When Josh either A. stays away from jump shots or B. makes most of his jump shots, you can see why he's the most deserving active player who has never been named to an All-Star team. 8/10
Zaza Pachulia: I mentioned previously that no coach the Hawks have employed since Lenny Wilkens is in much demand around the league. Remember Josh Powell, the player Larry Drew considered moving ahead of Zaza in the lineup last year near the trade deadline? Powell is in so much demand around the NBA that he just signed to play in Switzerland. The Hawks won this game in large part because, while Josh drifted out to the perimeter in the second half, the team still managed to pound it inside to Zaza. Facing yet another All-Star center in Hibbert, Zaza posted another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds on better-than-50% shooting. 7/10
Marvin Williams: Marv gets left open for a lot of jump shots. If he made a higher percentage in this game, it wouldn't have been nearly as close. Nevertheless, Marvin's 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting and 6 rebounds were substantial contributions in a win against a team the Hawks hope to overtake in the battle for playoff position in the East. 5/10
Jeff Teague: At times Teague looked like he had a mismatch against Darren Collison, his fellow Year of the Point Guard draftee. But Collison's defense was apparently somewhat effective as Teague was limited to 9 points on 3-for-10 shooting while adding 9 assists. His defense on Collison appears to have been more effective as the latter was limited to 5 points on 2-for-7 shooting with 4 assists. 6/10
Kirk Hinrich: The real mismatch was Kirk against Pacers shooting guard Paul George, who is listed at 6-8. Hinrich's struggles against George's length were to be expected, but he couldn't seem to make even a basic entry pass. Conversely, George was limited to 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting. The Hawks' undersized shooting guard platoon of Hinrich and Jannero Pargo was evidently doing something right. 3/10
Tracy McGrady: It's really too bad that McGrady comes to the Hawks at a point in his career where his body won't cooperate and allow him to apply the skills that are obviously still there. In 20 minutes, McGrady contributed 5 points and 6 assists. Hopefully T-Mac and Drew have come to an understanding and McGrady is in his best physical condition come playoff time. He could be the difference in the Hawks meeting or exceeding its own playoff expectations. 5/10
Jannero Pargo: In the last several games my own expectations for the type of player Pargo should be have made a course correction. I look at Pargo and I think "backup point guard." When Pargo shared the floor with Teague against the Pacers, replacing Hinrich at shooting guard, he appeared to be playing his natural position. In 24 minutes Pargo outplayed his 6-8 counterpart George, contributing 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting and limiting his turnovers thanks to reduced ball-handling responsibilities. 7/10
Jerry Stackhouse: Stack looks like the old guy at the YMCA hoofing it up and down the court and trying to keep up with the young guys who jump about 30 inches higher than he does. Once again on the floor when the game was decided, Stack rattled home two free throws to put the Hawks up 99-96 with 22 seconds to play. On the ensuing Pacers possession, Stack got two hands on the rebound of Danny Granger's missed 3-pointer. He wasn't able to control it but it ended up in Marvin Williams' hands and the game was decided. 5/10
Erick Dampier: On one play, Hibbert skied for a rebound over Dampier's back, but it wasn't a foul because Damp's outstretched hands weren't within 2 feet of the ball when Hibbert grabbed it. I was reminded of a similar play earlier in the season when Ersan Ilyasova got on his pogo stick to rob Vladimir Radmanovic. Despite the contrast in athletic ability, Damp did a good job pushing Hibbert away from the basket and sealing out for 4 rebounds to go with 2 points in 12 minutes. 4/10
Vladimir Radmanovic: I was concerned that Drew would over-use the Rad man in a game where his limited athletic ability was like to be highly exposed. Instead, Vlad contributed 4 points, a rebound and an assist in only 4 minutes as the Hawks' defense remained superb through most of the game. 4/10
Ivan Johnson: I've mentioned before that in a stretch where Ivan played more than 20 minutes per game, he flirted with averaging a double-double. In this game Ivan rivaled Vlad's per-minute production with 9 points and 4 rebounds in only 11 minutes. 6/10
The head coach
Playing Pargo at shooting guard seemed like a huge risk after watching Hinrich's struggles against George. But Pargo's ability to create separation with his speed opened up looks that allowed him to score when the Hawks desperately needed it. This small-ball lineup might not work over the course of a 7-game playoff series, but that Pacers had no answer for it on this night. 7/10
A thought regarding the opposition
In contrast to the Hawks organization, which is 5th in the NBA in future committed salary, the Pacers are dead last, the only team with less than $100 million committed. Larry Bird deserves consideration as one of the best NBA executives presently employed.