Through all the times we've pulled our hair out watching him, Atlanta's Saturday night 125-100 victory over the suddenly staggering Denver Nuggets showed why you just can't give up on a player like Josh Smith.
Smith's was omnipresent throughout the dominant home team win on both ends of the floor. He consistently challenged the Nuggets interior on his way to an 8-10/2-4, 22 point night on the one end while stamping the defensive effort of the evening with his (6) blocks and a level of activity that had the Nuggets either settling for outside shots or looking over their shoulder.
The Nuggets had no answer for Smith's ridiculous athleticism and new found respect for attacking the hoop. He is one of the best finishers in the league now and he made the case over and over again against anyone Denver threw at him. He was also part of a team-wide effort to share the basketball and move, leading to (7) assists against a single turnover for the night.
Smith commitment was not isolated, as the entire crew showed up to the arena displaying an intent to reverse the zero-energy effort provided in Charlotte the night before. After accruing (10) assists for the entire game against the Bobcats, the Hawks had that number covered early in the first half, well on their way to their final total of (30). In all, the Hawks ended up with (7) players in double figures, with all three members of The Backcourt getting in on the action, combining for (58) points.
The energy and aggressiveness to which the team played was obvious and well rewarded, washing away the sick feeling the beating in Charlotte had given leading up to tip-off and providing a snapshot of what could be if able to provide the same approach every night.
Meanwhile...At the Hall of Justice
While Carmelo Anthony still scored (30) points the effort to which he had to put out to get to that number was heavy. If he were a running back, he would have had to carry the ball (30) times to get to the (100) yard mark in this one. The Hawks made Anthony work extremely hard for his points on offense and went at the All-Star at the other end as well in an apparently successful attempt to slow him down.
We gotta say, we like Mr. Teague. His jump shot is ill-suited for the Iso-Thon the Hawks can get engaged in, but his speed with the ball, his ability to set up a play, and his fearlessness towards the hoop gets us excited. He also showed some quick hands on defense and when compared to the former lottery pick that was his predecessor, Acie Law, Teague comes across as more dynamic and a cut above--and the fact that we felt this way on a night where he shot 1-9 says a lot about all the other things he can do on the court.
It's becoming clear that the Hawks are going to prefer having all three members of The Backcourt on the floor down the stretch, and so far that doesn't seem to be a bad idea. The addition of Jamal Crawford, who had a team high (27) points, has allowed fewer Iso-Joe plays in crunch time. Crawford gives another player who is a double threat (shooting outside or penetrating) in a one-on-one situation. All of which means that the Hawks should get an open look in a single play scenario, which is better than a 1 on 3 scenario seen many, many times.
That the Hawks can now rest Bibby if they want to for the fourth quarter (where he is perfectly cast as a stone cold assassin from long range), or plug in Crawford to see if he has it and ride him if he does, or use the depth to rest Joe more has certainly raised the level of optimism within the walls of THHB that Woodson can mix and match to create havoc for opposing defenses---and give the Hawks a better shot of succeeding come playoff time.
Maurice Evans did his best Josh Childress impersonation against the Nuggets, being efficient offensively and being around the offensive glass more than his (2) offensive rebounds may indicate. Evans is proving to be a more than capable finisher and, given all the other folks on the floor to take attention away for him, he continues to get good looks from the perimeter--on which he has happily cashed in.
It wasn't much, but the (4) minutes that Joe Smith gave at the end of the first half was a testimony to the notion that he will be a much more solid option in the fourth big man spot that the late Solomon Jones was. Smith was in all the right places on both ends of the floor, giving the Hawks (4) quick points and a block in that limited sample size.
And Now---One More Thought
This effort was just what the team and the fans needed after the game Friday night in Charlotte. It was well executed and showed almost all the best that the team had to offer leading to the (25) point final margin. It restored some faith that, with the proper amount of energy, that there is a lot to have to account for in this team--and that they will be tough to beat on any night.