Saturday, March 14, 2009

Somewhere TJ Ford is Scoring Again

Hey, if there is one thing we know about this Atlanta Hawks team, who by the way---and we don't know if you've heard---won their 38th game of the season, passing last year's total and their most wins since their last 50 win season in 1997-98, is that they can win some games at home.

In fact, they are too good at it, falling behind in their 101-87 win over the Indiana Pacers by as many as (13) before turning it around in the second half once again.

Now, we've written that the Hawks have been down this road before, pushing their slow starts so that they have to really turn it on to get back in front of the opposition. Earlier in the season, these shenanigans caught up to the team, culminating in the embarrassing 20+ point beatdown by the Clippers, at home no less.

Hawks announcer Dominique Wilkins (namesake alert!) kept sounding the alarm Friday night, constantly, that the Hawks can't keep doing this come playoff time. You fall behind big, you'll lose big, or something to that effect.

But lest we get too gooey on the team that is making us look prophetic a few posts ago (50 wins, y'all!), let's review what happened to the team Friday night:

For every TJ Ford layup, there must be a Marquis Daniels jump shot.

TJ Ford was a stone cold murderer--flying through the lane, taking advantage of the Hawks guards, and making seemingly everything he put up on his way to (29) points.

Conversely, Marquis Daniels was serving up a big plate of bricks, as was Troy Murphy and Jarrett Jack. Murphy, in fact, looked like he was well aware that his 11 game double-double streak was coming to an end--jacking up some late ill advised bombs but coming up---wait for it---(3) points short. Awww--too bad.

Ford did expose the Hawks as all quick guards do, but without Danny Granger, the Pacers didn't have enough people to actually make shots to outlast the home team.

Speaking of Granger, the report earlier in the day was that Granger would return for the Hawks, which would be of no surprise to the ATL, who has for years seen players suddenly better in time to play the Birds. But in what may be a significant turn for the franchise, Granger went naked (didn't dress) for the game against the Hawks. If he turns up for their next game Sunday in Toronto, we'll know the good guys have indeed moved up in the NBA pecking order.

Joe Johnson played a carbon copy game of his effort against Utah, to the tune of 30 points on 12-23 shooting and (6) assists. But the HHB thinks that everyone was so all over Wednesday's ho-humming of Joe's efforts that folks were more aware of Joe doing his thing Friday night. That and the fact that Peachtree Hoops called the Nation out (including themselves) after the collective "Meh" that his game engendered from fans after beating the Jazz.

We think it is now safe to say that Al Horford has officially taken a step forward in his career progression from his stellar rookie campaign. His 17 points/15 rebound affair fairly illustrates his omnipresence over the proceedings Friday night. He also decided that (4) assists and (3) blocks were fit for the evening as well. And he saw that it was good.

Horford has clearly improved the volume of his numbers, even if all agree that the effort is the same. His improvement in recent weeks has been equal parts increased health, increased maturity, and definitely increased opportunity.

Mo Evans hit a couple of big threes in this game, but his play of the night was the steal of an inbounds pass under the Hawks basket and then finishing strong to seal the deal. It was the kind of play folks expected from good guy Evans--but haven't seen enough of. Evans needs to be that thorn in the flesh of the opposition night in/night out and that steal is a proper indicator of the pain that should follow. Well done tonight, #1---

Acie Law looked right presidential out at the point at times. His defense was the only of the point guards that seemed to keep the bleeding down. He didn't shoot straight, but his (3) assists, zero turnover effort lends more hope, as does his near exclusive play at backup PG. The HHB loved the play of Mike Bibby tonight, but was pulling for Acie for defensive purposes.

The Hawks defense did indeed seem to be more energetic in the second half--and that combined with their athleticism causes real problems for other team's offenses. Slow pace (brought to you by Hoopinion--defensive rates, affordable prices!) and that energy limited the high scoring Pacers well below their defensive "average". The Hawks could not turn the Pacers over in the first half, only getting a single possession swapping mistake out of the visitors, but had (5) in the second half and a slew of poor shots from IND.

The Hawks were one Josh Smith missed free throw away from a perfect night from the line! OK---they took fewer free throws for the game than Dwyane Wade does in a half, but hey---10/11 is mathematically better than the usual 70 percent the Hawks offer, says the Official HHB statistician.

Solomon Jones had a great putback bucket, and nice jump shot, (3) rebounds, and no fouls in almost (6) minutes---no word on whether Jones tried to take home the game ball to commemorate the effort.

The HHB will turn the lights down on the Official High Definition Viewing Center to mourn the end of the Florida Gators basketball season Friday night---Cards and well wishes can be dropped off in the Comments Area.

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