In a game on the road where Josh Smith was absent, Joe Johnson and the team were off target shooting 37 percent, and the bench was outscored 42-21, the Hawks continued to be bulletproof in 2008-09, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 89-85.
Really, the HHB had to feel somewhat for the Thunder fans because, as Hawks fans, we understand what it's like to outplay, outhustle, and outshoot a team at home only to watch that team high fiving on their way to the locker room after the seemingly inevitable conclusion had been reached--a disappointing loss.
To say the Hawks didn't have their fastball is misleading---they didn't have a good curve or changeup, either. It seemed to be a classic case of playing down to the level of their competition, especially on the defensive end, where Thunder players were running unchecked coast to coast, through the lane, and to the hoop for an easy layup seemingly every other possession.
To that end, the Thunder seemed in control until Flip Murray woke up in the fourth and scored nine straight points, and then Josh Smith took control of Al Horford for an amazing block of Kevin Durant in the lane. The Hawks gained the momentum of the game and never let it go, putting the victory cherry on the sundae when Al grabbed a rebound, spun, and lobbed it down the court to Joe, who flushed the hoop and the Thunder in one two-handed swoop.
It is refreshing to know that the team can win without playing it's best, it's a sign of a good team. Chances are you will not always be at the top of your game, but teams have to grind through those nights and give themselves a chance to win, which is exactly what the Hawks did.
However, tempting fate won't go for more than one game in a row, and with the Hawks getting into the meat of the road trip now, they will have to execute better defensively than they did against the Thunder to continue this great run.
Ronald "Flip" Murray, who did his best Vinny Johnson impersonation (now with defense!) and shot the Hawks back into the game at 77 all in the fourth.
Al Horford, who did his best Josh Smith impersonation (missed threes sold separately) and added five blocks to another double digit rebound game---now if the coaches would call a couple more post plays for him.....
Marvin Williams, who still looks a little drunk sometimes on the court (just in his moves, not his breath---not actually questioning his sobriety), but attacked on a number of occasions and had a staggering +15 in this game. Hey, that led the team!
Joe Johnson---Why? Because he's freaking clutch, that's why. He had shots rimming out, just missing, and he forced a couple---but he was still in control of his game and his presence in the post set up a clutch three from Marvin as the Thunder collapsed on him in the lane, he kicked out and the ball worked around to the corner, where Williams was able to bang down the three.
Hawks defense---I know---how that this be bad if they shot less than their 41 percent average? It was the embarrassing level of layups that the Thunder executed almost uncontested.
Team effort level----For the first time this season, except for the first quarter of the Sixers game, the Hawks were completely getting outhustled and outworked. The Thunder were the aggressors almost the whole game until the Hawks woke up in the fourth. With any team that had more firepower, the Hawks would have been down like they were in Q1 against PHL. Big.
View From the Nest:
The unbeaten streak is likely to come to a close during this roadtrip, especially given the fact that whenever a team loses a key player like Smith is to the Hawks, while a bench can provide a brief spark, the overall effectiveness of the team does take it's toll. That the Hawks did beat OKC was important---teams that have playoff aspirations have to find ways to win those games, but expecting a sweep of Chicago, Boston, and New Jersey would be a little much.
But for now---it's an amazing 5-0, five games over .500 for those of us who attended Florida---It's a great time to be a Hawks fan.