After losing what seemed like (20) games in a row to the Celtics and especially in Boston, there were no expectations that the Hawks could swoop into the C's back yard and take a Friday night, ESPN-televised win back out of there.
Apparently, the Celtics didn't expect that either.
Using a truckload of offensive rebounds that turned into precious second-chance points, the Birds got ahead early, gave it back, and then traded punches with what some have labeled the best team in the league--on their way to a surprising 97-86 win.
Al Horford, Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia (or as Hubie Brown says--Pachoola), and Joe Smith all had at least (3) offensive rebounds apiece as the Hawks embarrassed and frustrated the Celtic frontline. It was the first such impact for the elder Smith, and he showed some nice versatility scoring inside as well as knocking down from the elbow. Adding in (2) blocks and (6) total rebounds gives the Hawks some versatility to the front line.
Together, the Hawks out-rebounded the C's 47-29--an unthinkable result last spring--and it was that performance, along with timely shooting from The Backcourt (55 points), that showed--for at least this night--that Atlanta's best five players were better than Boston's.
When the Hawks were cooking, they were active inside--challenging everything the Celtics shot and limiting their talented team to only (6) offensive boards. On the other end, the Hawks went to the hoop and found every loose ball. The times the offense struggled were when Joe Johnson would hold the ball too long or the offense limited themselves to forced shots instead of moving the ball. But, in what might be growth, those time-spans weren't lasting too long. Late in the game, after a few possessions that the Hawks held the ball way too long to get a good shot, Johnson reversed the floor and the Hawks started to loosen up again. Soon Joe would be slipping the ball to Josh, who put the Hawks ahead by double digits and the hosts never really challenged again.
When the Celtics would hit, the Hawks would hit right back---be it a Bibby three or a Johnson/Crawford runner inside--Boston couldn't get too far ahead without the Hawks making their way back out in front. It was a surprising effort not because this team can't put forth this kind of performance on the road against a good team--just because they hadn't.
Can't wait for the next one.
Worst of Both Worlds
Not only did the Celtics get their clocks cleaned on the boards, but they couldn't make an outside shot either. The Hawks did make sure they had a hand in face on every shot, but even the biggest hands in the game couldn't have predicted a miserable 1-15 from 3-pt range.
Boston looked anxious and puzzled by the Hawks well-known habit of switching---and just like when a team that doesn't zip up and down the court falls into the trap of doing so against a team who does, the Celtics disrupted their regular offense to take advantage of certain switches--and while they got inside enough to shoot almost (50) percent, there was never any flow to their show.
A known sniper such as Eddie House wasn't immune either, as he hit one shot out of five and was covered tight in the first half by Jeff Teague in a bit of inspired matchmaking by the Coach.
Upon Further Review, the Ruling on the Court Stands
Some has been said about Shelden Williams' revival in Boston--and that he has found a place to "fit". We at THHB say that a winning team is always a good fit, given that they already have enough talent in place so the expectations for what a player has to do are pretty low.
Williams is the same player he was in Atlanta--and we're guessing Sacramento and Minneapolis as well---a below the rim player with suspect hands and a good personality. We're glad we got Bibby back for him and, while we here wish him well, we're not seeing anything other than replacement level skills out of him.
How Bizarre, How Bizarre
We have to admit--it's weird and we like it. It being the fact that it's the Hawks that have more weapons, more athleticism, and more and more wins. Atlanta is the team that leads the league in points in the paint. The Hawks are near the top in (gasp!) free throw percentage. The games where (13) turnovers occurs renders furrowed brows and is called "out of character" for the good guys.
The Hawks, for at least this first stretch of games, have not abandoned the outside-inside game and the isolots, but they are getting things done inside on both ends--and the results have been obvious.
In a good way.
THHB continues to run the energy bill higher early Saturday morning in appreciation of a fine win. Smiles and High-Fives are more than welcome in the Comments Area.