It's something when THHB can sit back and stroke their collective long, gray, novelty beards while the Good Guys appeared to be conserving energy and effort throughout a game, allowing an inferior team to hang around until the final quarter, where their good friend "Defense" waited for them to arrive. Then they conspired to close out their hosts and send the other team away rather unhappy.
No worries. No doubt. That's progress.
The Hawks played for quite a while as the equivalent of a sparring partner for the home team Sacramento Kings, trading punches without much regards for taking care of the ball (17 turnovers) or protecting their own rim or glass (19 offensive rebounds allowed).
Then, as the game began to take its final shape, the Hawks applied their pressure, got control of the game, and used a 30-18 fourth quarter to beat the Kings, 113-105.
We feel a difference than in years past when we would get worked up about how much the team was winning/won by. This team has caused such peace of mind because the have proven that they can accomplish that which they did tonight. Not that any team would want to get into a habit of such a high-wire act, but for the Hawks being out on the West Coast, on the rear end of a back to back, coming off a strong showing against a good home team like the Portland Trail Blazers, and being prime for a letdown, THHB felt the team could be allowed to pace themselves in this game--as the Kings are not up to the calibre of the either the Blazers or the Hawks--and still pull out the victory.
When they needed to, they turned up the defense, as they can do against lesser competition. It's when they try to deploy such tactics against the better teams that taking three quarters off defensively doesn't scale.
The goal is to advance to the playoffs--games like these are simple stairs on the way up. You take them one at a time and it doesn't really matter how you do it, just do enough to take that step and compile wins. That's what the Hawks did tonight. No two wins have to be the same--they don't give you extra credit for blowing your bodies out to win by (22) instead of (8). In the L, you need only win to get that mark in the column and the Hawks most certainly earned their incremental success tonight, getting them one more win closer to their goal.
Waiting to Be Killed---Waiting to Be Killed
Okay. We're getting pretty used to Jamal Crawford making The Backcourt a 3-person endeavor. Once again the new acquisition paid dividends late, offering another calming offensive presence down the stretch where he scored (9) points in the final (13) minutes, including a huge three to give the Hawks a 108-101 lead with (2) minutes left.
We're waiting for the other Jamal Crawford we have heard about--the one where we cringe when he has the ball late in games or becomes so obviously exposed that we are asking why he's in down the stretch. We're waiting because we haven't seen that guy. It's similar to the expectation most had when RFM started strong for the Hawks last season. We were told that we would "want to take a bag of Fritos" for Murray last in his season---but that time never came. Instead we were treated to one of his top 3 seasons and was so valuable to the team's success last season that Rick Sund made the move for Crawford to ensure that level of production was maintained.
So what are we saying? Maybe we are seeing the Jamal Crawford of 2009-2010--and we can stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, the winds to change, and other hopefully irrelevant expressions of another side to Crawford's contribution to the Hawks this season.
P.S. We Love You
Joe Johnson finished with a terrific (26) points on fifty percent shooting (11-22) to go with his (8) rebounds and (4) assists. He added his usual late game daggers from the outside, helping to lock down the victory there and with his defense.
He's great, we love him, etc, etc, etc....
Somebody Start a Block Party?
The night after Zaza celebrated his 30th game with 2 or more blocks, the Dynamic Duo of Josh Smith and Al Horford doubled up the efforts of the Georgian, each swatting (4) Kings shots away. Smith did his damage early in the game and Horford knocked away two big shots in the last two minutes to deny any chance of a Royal comeback.
Kevin Martin, Hawk Hater
Martin made a notion to get into the Hawk Hater club by scoring (29) points against the Hawks, giving him a an average of a little over (30) point per game average in the last (3) games he's played against the Birds. . Tonight, most of Martin's damage came in the earlier quarters, as in the fourth Martin was held to (4) points and could not use his scoring to hold off the Hawks fourth quarter dominance.
Another Fond Farewell
Just as we had bid goodbye to Hawks Web Guru Micah Hart, Wednesday night came word that Sekou Smith, the terrific Hawks bea(s)t writer for the AJC is leaving his post to work for the L in an NBA.com capacity.
Smith came along in a dark time for Hawks coverage in the paper, as Michael Lee had long since left for the Washington Post, the team was completely rebuilding, and the paper was assigning very unqualified staff writers to cover the game.
All Smith did was inject a real beat writer mentality to the position, offered sometimes extremely strong opinion with the "pages" of his AJC blog, and roped quite a few people into good conversation about the franchise. Smith never pulled a punch, offered great material and asked the questions Hawks fans wanted answers to.
Good luck, Sekou--You'll be missed in the land you call Hawksville.