First things, first. The Atlanta Hawks, coming into Monday night's game, had not won in Houston since 1999, which includes (obviously to all but us Florida alumni) all six seasons in the Toyota Center.
After the Birds' 102-95 win you can cross another item off the stepping up the ladder checklist this season.
The Rockets can be hard to beat when Rick Adelman's offense moves the ball as well as Houston did in a (25) point first quarter.The Hawks seemed unready to keep up with their hosts and on the offensive end, while showing particular interest in moving the ball inside through the post, they were struggling to execute.
Despite Houston's energy and execution and the complete lack of Hawks' assists in the first quarter, ATL only trailed by (2), thanks to a good start shooting by Joe Johnson (8 first quarter points-20 for the game on 50% shooting). In the second quarter, the Hawks picked up the defense, holding the Rockets to (19) points in the quarter and a total of (6) in the last 8 1/2 minutes of the game.
This was due to a combination of the Hawks finally moving faster than the Rockets could try to get to a spot and the Rockets stopping their previously fantastic ball movement and taking---wait for the familiar sound---too many jump shots.
Oh they went inside some too--only to be deterred or altered somewhat by Josh Smith, who played with an abundance of energy throughout the night. Smith finished with (4) blocks on the night, but many Rockets shots within (10) feet missed the mark. They Rockets, for the season, is a top five worst team shooting at the rim @ 57 percent (despite shooting the sixth most per game from there). Against the Hawks they totaled a miserable 19-39 (48 percent).
While the Rockets slumped, their bench stayed on the floor until there was almost 4 1/2 minutes left in the half. They took back the lead briefly after bringing back most of the starters, but then went cold again, not scoring for the final (4) minutes of the first half and giving the Hawks a halftime advantage (11) they would not relinquish.Things were so bad that even when Houston received a gift foul at the end of the half, Luis Scola missed both free throws to ensure the Rockets' futility going into the locker room.
The Rockets played hard in the second half and never gave way until Adelman emptied the bench with (2) minutes left in the game, but the Hawks answered every spunky Houston rally with a big shot or slam after good ball movement. After having no assists for the game's first (14) minutes and having only (4) at the half, the Hawks finished with (13).
The Hawks held the Rockets below their seasonal averages on EFG% (43 against 49 for their season) and Offensive Rebound Rate. With Al Horford out with a cut thumb (courtesy of Chuck Hayes--no call), Joe Smith and Zaza Pachulia ably filled the rebounding void, with Joe pulling down a couple of tremendous offensive rebounds in the process. These, combined with Josh's 22 point/10 rebound/4 block/4 steal night, enabled the Hawks to keep the Rockets at arms length throughout the game and make the Rockets pay for their first half lapse, like all really good teams do.
Why Make Trillions When We Could Make---Billions?
At the start of the game everyone was focused on one thing----what in the world happened to Mike Woodson's eyebrows? Well, we were sure whatever happened including a waxing because the man was channeling his inner Charlie Villanueva out there.
We started a pool in the Official THHB High Definition Viewing Center and between the long timers and interns, we had the following Top 3 guesses:
3. They're making a new Austin Powers movie in Houston--Mike Woodson plays evil villain henchman Mr. Potato Head.
2. Mike Bibby ran out of shaving cream and warm water to prank the head coach---but the wax was nearby.
1. Josh Smith bet it hit rim---and it did.
Sixth Man Watch:
Jamal Crawford was not great in shooting, but did enough at the right times to give the Hawks pretty much what he's given them all year to date. Carl Landry, we have to believe, usually does better than he did against the Hawks, because the young forward was part of the problem inside offensively Monday night.
Landry had his shot blocked twice and shot 3-8 at the rim. He also was part of the second quarter unit that settled for quick long distance shots. Landry got his (16) points and (5) rebounds, but required a lot of possessions to log those digits (27 minutes, 34.6 Usage Rate-game high, 4-12 shooting).
Neither player was lights out, but Crawford had more positive impact in this game---for whatever that's worth.
Just When You Praise Your Kids--They Turn on You
Happens all the time--as soon as you brag about your kids' table manners, that's when they talk with food in their mouths. Or when you are lauding their excellent work in the classroom, they bring home that "F" on a math test.
We have been barnstorming Twitter and our own corners of the blog to campaign for Al Horford to get into the All-Star game. Horford though, even before Hayes cut his thumb, did not end up having his best game. Al picked up quick fouls, shot airballs, and turned the ball over twice against his only assist. After calling for Al to get the ball in the post, he fumbled it once, forced a shot another time, and generally didn't get on track until he returned from his thumb injury in the second quarter.
Al did have a (9) point, (10) rebound game and was very active defensively though he lacked steals and blocks, but the aforementioned foul trouble confined him to (27) minutes. His play and the play of his All-Star hopeful teammates (Smith and Johnson), if viewed by an evaluation committee, would be telling Josh and Joe (who had 6 rebounds and 4 assists to go with his 20 points/50 percent shooting) to have a good time in Dallas without him.
Great players can't be great every night, but we should have known when we started boasting in favor of Al that this scenario could play out.
Just like even our most favorite of children.
Mike Bibby is a wonderful luxury to have as a Hawks fan. Not only is he a calming influence on the game and gets the ball into the hands of our finishers so effectively, Bibby is a nice lethal three point sniper to lean on when Crawford and Johnson aren't open or the ball comes out of the lane and finds the vet teed up and waiting.
Bibby is having a four year high in Assist rate, assist-turnover ratio, and EFG% from 3-pt range. He is also right on his four year highs for EFG% and TS%. That Bibby, who just two and some odd seasons ago was the Hawks #2 option offensively, is now having the lowest Usage rate in his career means the Hawks have grown up on that end of the floor---and that Bibby's role as a long range sniper and master facilitator can be even more finely tuned and make for a very effective role player along with his role/responsibilities as team leader.