Some Al Horford numbers:
31 points. 15 shots.
6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals.
12-15 FG, 7-9 FT, game high +22.
Suffice to say, it was a good night for our favorite former Gator now Hawk big man. Horford was on all night long and scored in a variety of ways. Horford wore out Clipper big men Chris Kaman and Deandre Jordan by running the floor and taking advantage of many of the Clippers' generous 22 turnovers.
But it wasn't just the Hawks' 34 points off turnovers that Horford feasted on, he scored in the half court as well, taking it to the taller Clipper big men. Yes, it helped that the Clippers had just dealt Marcus Camby leaving the hosts one shot blocker down, but Al stayed true to his pre-game objective---stay aggressive. That aggression led to his game high 9 free throw attempts as well as a number of in-close baskets made.
Al has to share the glory on the night with Josh Smith, who enabled many of the early Horford buckets with his unselfish, timely passes around the bucket. J-Smoove got his (20 points) as well, along with 9 rebounds and 4 steals, but it was many of his 7 assists that set the Hawks off.
It was great to see the Hawks take advantage of their front court advantage by getting Smith and Horford a lot of touches, not relegating their fortunes on the night to whether Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford were hot or not. With those points off turnovers, 19 fast break points, and 70 (!) points in the paint, the Hawks took control of the game early on and never let the Clippers fully back into the game despite giving up a 50 percent shooting night to their hosts.
Taking Care of Business
Helping the Hawks was their signature trait of the season, protecting the basketball. The Hawks had a mere 9 turnovers against a whopping 27 assists. A 3 to 1 ratio will win a lot of games unless it's only 3 assists and 1 turnover.
Along with Crawford, who had an inconsequential 12 points himself, was the return of Zaza Pachulia. Zaza had a tidy 8/7/1/2/1 line in his 18 minutes and shook of rust right away by getting the ball and diving into the Clippers on his first possession. He missed both free throws, but he settled in nicely after that, furthering the Hawks "attack" approach even with the second unit in the game.
If you looked at the traditional lines on the Clippers' Bobby Brown, Craig Smith, and Eric Gordon, you might be led to believe they were a big reason they were still in the game. But their awful turnovers (14 between the three of them), especially those from Brown, were major catalysts in their undoing.
The Hawks scored 70 points in the paint, made zero 3-pointers and allowed only 8 Clipper offensive rebounds.
Chris Kaman can score the ball, he proved that again by making a series of jump shots and hook shots, but for the Hawks to score 70 points in the paint and for the biggest guy on the court to have a single blocked shot seems subpar.
The Hawks didn't have to win this game, but it would have felt like such a missed opportunity to take a road game from a weakened team (oh, Baron Davis didn't play, either). For a 4-game road stretch which included winnable games such as this one and the defensively challenged Golden State Warriors, it behooved the Hawks to get things going the right way.
And, for THHB, attacking the opponent's weakness--even if it didn't involve making jump shots, forcing turnovers, scoring in the paint, keeping them off the glass, and taking care of the ball was the right way to start.
Well, that and 31 points on 15 shots for Horford. That was good, too.
Enjoy the highlights: