To celebrate the pending home court clinching in the first round of the playoff, the Atlanta Hawks took the wrapper off of Marvin Williams, who had missed a surprising (16) games with his injured back.
That he only scored (5) points or played a mere (12) minutes in the Hawks fourth-place clinching 122-118 win over the Indiana Pacers was almost irrelevant--the Mustache and its mystical healing powers was back.
To gauge the impact that Marvin has made on the people that watch and surround the team, one need only note that the crowd gave Marvin a standing ovation (no, they weren't shooting t-shirts into the crowd at that time) when he entered the game for the first time. That, combined with the anticipation built up from the blogs and newspapers (ok, just the AJC) and it's clear many were eager for the 'Stache's return.
All of which is a testament not only to the improvement Marvin has made from last season to this one, but also the obvious good guy label everyone has noticed and begun to embrace--he is dependable, productive, and from all forms that we have to check this sort of thing, a good teammate. The Mustache also has the power to solve a Rubik's cube in (2) minutes---don't underestimate, appreciate.
He's gone from the guy who isn't someone else to a player that the ATL appreciates for his own skills and contributions. They won't give a Most Improved Award to him this year, but this season marks a massive step forward in our books.
On the court, the Hawks did one thing a little better than in recent games in that they seemed to go at the paint a little more regularly, which allowed for a more efficient (though we will wait for the official breakdown of that when Hoopinion rolls out the statistical barrel later to know for sure) offensive night.
The Hawks attacked and went to the line for a staggering (45) free throws, of which they made (34), led by the high scorer of the night, Josh Smith. Smoove didn't completely rid himself of the many on the court demons that can sabotage his overall effectiveness, but he did have a strong night across the board, even attacking the glass on both ends. His offensive rebound late in the game helped seal the game---he hit the floor a couple of times----Josh was genuinely using his massive powers for good, and the box score filled up accordingly.
Also on the attack was Al Horford, who spent his night, as he does on most nights, sprinting up and down the court---Against the Pacers, the Hawks actually rewarded his efforts on a number of occasions, as he relentlessly raced slower matchups like Roy Hibbert and Jeff Foster and was able to cash in from a very generous Mike Bibby (9 assists) and Joe Johnson as well. Horford owned the glass, grabbing (13) of his (15) rebounds on the defensive end. In all, a stellar 22/15/5 game from Al, who proved he can--if you let him.
Someone in the Hawks blogging nation mentioned it, and since the HHB working crew is short due to the Holiday (celebrate!) weekend, we aren't staffed appropriately to figure out who (we guess Peachtree Hoops), it's fun when Joe Johnson is hitting his threes as he was against IND (5-8), including one off of a Horford pick that was so sweet we wish we had the sound on a hot key---beautiful music. Joe was so good last night that it speaks volumes that Smith and Horford seemed to overshadow the Backcourt. 24/4/4 on a mere (15) shots--he's good, he's good.
For all of the goodness that the Hawks were displaying offensively, the defense didn't seem to coincide. For every terrific shot (like the aforementioned 3 from Joe) the Pacers raced the ball back up the court and caught the flatfooted Hawks scrambling to get in transition position. There were too many open Danny Granger and Troy Murphy looks from long range---and they made the Hawks pay.
In fact, if not for an abnormally bad night from the free throw line by Granger (7-11 is awful for the 89 percent shooter), the endgame would have been different. He did, though, and the Hawks did enough to win and clinch that first round home court, which means that the ATL can now make plans to be there and be loud for Games 1 and 2.
Between Acie Law and Mo Evans inactivity (Sidenote: they mentioned Evans' Family Matters so much it sounded like a TBS promo for the old sitcom), Marvin being limited minutes to his (12) minutes, and an in game injury for Zaza Pachulia---it meant seeing a starting assignment for Flubber West and more minutes for Solomon Jones.
As for West---though he made a couple of plays out there---his output does not match his energy. To play (14) minutes, including a lot with the other (4) starters and put up the line that he did seems to be Exhibit A to Hawks GM Rick Sund on building the deeper bench next year. (5) fouls, (3) turnovers, and a whopping (-8) when he was playing with the starting lineup that all had positive +/- should tell Woody not to do that anymore, or at least send Hawks fans lining up to hope that Mo Evans' Family Matters are a short term issue.
As for Jones, he gives up so much to the other team when he is on the floor, but the difference tonight is that he was able to give some of it back for the Hawks with (7) points, rather than just being a liability all night.
That the Hawks played West and Jones together for portions of the game--like towards the end of the first quarter when the Hawks original lead melted away quickly---and came away with the win further spotlights, highlights, and demonstrates just how really good Johnson, Bibby, Smith, and Horford were.
The HHB wants to hear the ATL from its comfortable Orlando HQ---just like last year---However, if you want you can leave Game 1 tickets for us in the Comments Area.