Look what showed up at Philips Arena Friday night, eh? As predicted right here at the HHB, the Hawks got back to winning ways by getting back home and beating the Heat 91-83.
It looked early on that it would be a night of missed opportunities, literally, as the Hawks failed to parlay a fine defensive effort by treating the Heat to an array of missed shots---wide open looks for Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson couldn't find the bottom of the cup, so despite somebody waking up Josh Smith on the defensive end and more fine play out of Al Horford (7 rebounds in the first quarter), the Hawks could only manage a (4) point lead by the end of the first quarter.
But this was a return to what works for the Hawks---good energy, lively play, and Al Freaking Horford.
When Horford plays with the aggressiveness he displayed Friday night, he makes a serious positive impact.
Coming into the game, we were treated to how Jermaine O'Neal was a key acquisition inside for the Heat---but throughout the contest, with Horford stuck to him, O'Neal failed to deliver on the pregame introduction.
O'Neal spun, faked, faded away, drove, and was for the most part blunted by Al---to the tune of a 3-10 shooting night and a trip directly to the bench in the fourth quarter. If this were truly a playoff type atmosphere, then the Heat couldn't be happy with their key acquisition playing himself to the pine down the stretch.
To be fair, part of the problem was that the guy behind him on the bench, Michael Beasley, used his speed and long range to beat Horford more consistently---frankly, we thought Mike Woodson left his Pachulia/Horford frontcourt out there too long as Beasley got really going in the fourth--before finally going back to Josh Smith to help play against the quick Beasley.
In the end, Horford posted the first 20-20 (Major Double-Double) since Dikembe Mutombo did the feat against the Raptors in 2001, and aided the Hawks by playing hard every minute on the floor, typifying the Hawks collective effort in the win.
Yes, but How Was the Soup?
RFM has been, dare everybody say it, consistent---and in the good way. He was steady again against the Heat, and helped the Hawks as they had to play the last 20 minutes or so without Mike Bibby--who was feeling something Friday night---but it wasn't basketball. He was in control---though down the stretch we did see a questionable offensive foul and the classic dribble of the knee going toward the hoop---and shot 50 percent. He seems to be in a solid role for the first time in a while, which may have settled him down a bit---It's weird to be comfortable with him in the game, but the HHB has found ourselves depending on him---Might be fatal!
Josh Smith earned some paycheck against Miami, but he gave a couple of bonus features in the game that bears noting----The most memorable was a put back after an errant Al Horford jump shot---the ball rimming off back toward the shooter, Smith launched himself toward the ball and the rim and found himself with possession of the rock with his back to the basket, in mid-air---Smith solved the complex algebraic problem by simply tossing the ball backwards, over his head and into the basket---a basket that, if any basket could, deserved an extra credit point.
The Heat never stopped coming at the Hawks---and the Hawks never took the foot off the petal--the effort, energy, and execution never stopped---well until the last of the game offensively, where we obviously believe what has worked for 43 minutes is no good for the last 5---isolation, bad shots, and turnovers are the key ingredients at that point of the game apparently---but time ran out on the visitors and the Hawks made their freebies so it's game over and onwards and upwards.
Cleve-land is next, and winning on the road will take just as consistent and even an effort---The HHB is refreshed and sees more winning on the horizon---50 wins is the mantra---and it's coming.
The HHB gives a gold star to Al Horford and excuses him from homework for today---Any other rewards for the Gator can be dropped off in the Comments area.