Anyone watching the 98-80 beating of the Portland Trail Blazers (caution--trendy!) at the hands of the home happy Atlanta Hawks were treated to some excellent basketball for (48) minutes (in a row!).
That the Hawks beat the Blazers at home isn't particularly earth shattering---even though POR has a stellar record on the road against East teams---but the way that the Hawks had control of this game from start to finish is, given the season long habit of taking some minutes of the game off.
The Hawks seemed to have the visitors at (a long) arm's length most of the night, and though the Blazers made the Hawks work for it, the home team never gave ground, always making a big shot or tightening the defense just when POR thought they would be able to pull past the Birds.
Joe Johnson was dominant, scoring (35) with his usual (6) assists---and there was nobody who could check him from Portland. Stand down those who don't believe Joe is all-star caliber---(4) 30 point games in a row while shooting over 50 percent and maintaining his level of giving to others---He even outdid Brandon Roy, who was playing the same type of game for Portland at just a cut below. Joe's hotness was the reason this game never felt like it would slip away. That Joe was able to do so much without the aid of making a single three (0-4) also speaks to Portland's inability to guard him---hoping he'd miss was their best play.
(Sidenote: Speaking of Roy, it was definitely more egregious a draft blunder to pass on Roy when Billy Knight inexplicably selected Sheldon Williams instead. Roy is simply a younger (and shorter) version of Johnson. Now we're sure there are those who would insist that Roy would have been stunted by the audacious coaching of Mike Woodson, but we're sure more fans would be in heaven watching a Roy/Johnson backcourt. It's enough to make the HHB punch pillows in the Official HD Viewing Center.)
The Hawks were so smooth and polished Sunday that they even finished strong, forcing a large turnover edge (18 Blazer blunders to 6 for the Hawks) and making the most of their own good play. The game never felt in doubt and the Hawks gradually built the lead out to the point where the bench was comfortable emptied with about (3) minutes to play.
Al Horford does not get credit for the endless array of screens that he sets for all of his teammates. His line reads 13 and 5, but Horford seemed to have an even more positive impact on the game. He was tireless in his efforts defensively (does anyone notice he doesn't get killed even when he is left facing the likes of Brandon Roy?) as well as the constant picks to get Joe free to create. His stats show (2) assists for the game, but he created a lot more than the assists column is able to display.
It was a little cathartic to see the two season compare of 2007 first overall pick Greg Oden vs. Al. To say Al has pounded his fanny thus far is pretty fair and it's nice for Hawks fans to feel---even if it's just for now---the the Birds actually were the ones that did good at another team's expense.
Mario West has gotten a lot of airtime recently, including the IBR/THHF team Sunday afternoon. To the HHB, we appreciate West's tenacity and he does show good offensive rebounding skills and can jam/block shots with his scary athleticism. We said the Mario did an homage to Chris Crawford against Utah with an amazing tip-jam, but we don't want to confuse the masses that we think he's another CC. Sure, he throws his body around like the Marquette standout, but Chris could also knock down a three (and toss a mean fastball, too). No--to us he brings to mind the game of Darvin Ham, another former Hawk with limited offensive ability and loads of tenacity. Ham was also described as a good teammate, too. West shouldn't be too offended by the comparison, Ham played (8) seasons in the league--about (8) more than most people would have ever given West.
We understand that POR has 41 wins in the "rough" western conference, but it seemed to the HHB that, beyond Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, that the team was talent poor. Steve Blake seems like a backup quality point guard, we're not sure what Nicolas Batum is doing in a starting lineup, and the bench was exclusively comprised of Travis Outlaw. Now, we understand that Rudy Fernandez is supposed to be something, and the rest of the team may have just been flat, so this snapshot we saw of the team could simply be out of focus, but they really made us feel a little better about Mo Evans, Acie Law, RFM, and Zaza Pachulia.
Two Yawns Means the Show Will Close in a Week
Sunday afternoon's game marked a record 15th consecutive game that AJC beat writer Sekou Smith is caught on camera yawning. It's really impressive. Usually seated at home games next to Hawks Media Relations king Arthur Triche, Sekou is usually shown once a game, and is apparently exhausted. Now, we know the media room has coffee---can someone send an extra large caffeine express to Mr. Smith?
The HHB is warming up the 50 win bandwagon for all who dare to join---Insults and other constructive rejoinders are welcome in the Comments Area.