(22-29) 101 – 105 (28-22)
J. Smith (ATL): 26 pts, 13 reb, 6 asts
D. Nowitzki (DAL): 24 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]
Some games are filled with anomalies, filled with the abnormal and ridiculousness of chance. This was one of those games. I’ll get more into it when I specifically assess his play in the reaction grades, but Josh Smith was money from everywhere tonight. He was 4-5 from beyond the arc and was connecting on jumpers all over the floor. What? Yeah. That sentence is a real thing. It seems like this happens maybe 3 or 4 times a season. It seems like Smith is destined to shush the “haters” for a lone night, which of course only emboldens his quest to launch jumpers from a myriad of different locations across the hardwood. But does it matter? Should we really care?
By now we should know to take the good with the bad, to appreciate Smith’s incredible play despite some glaring faults. On nights when those faults are washed away, his game seems almost complete, almost THERE, wherever that is. And on nights when Smith is as in sync with his outside game as he was tonight, all the other good he does, all the other positives he brings every night only seem magnified (but of course any uncommon or prevalent outlier in another statistical category can stand out in a negative light). It wasn’t just Smith, though. Sure, he was the one who was draining clutch three PUJITs (for those of you who don’t know: Pull Up Jumper In Transition), but everyone was more or less on their offensive game tonight. Defensively, there were some lapses, and those will be covered, but on nights when Smith isn’t slogging his way through a sub .500 field goal percentage, it’s nice to enjoy. So I enjoyed it. And I’m sure Josh did too, which is just what I’m worried about.
Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]
Josh Smith: I already said most of what I had to say in the intro, but while I took that time to appraise the validity and awesomeness of his game, I’ll take this time to extrapolate on some of the more negative aspects. He had 5 turnovers, one of which was absolutely ridiculous– literally it was like he forgot that he was supposed to dribble. He also picked up 5 fouls, three of which I believe came in the fourth quarter. And I point these things out, and I still can’t shake the befuddled excitement I felt when he swished that three to put the Hawks 99-94. You knew it was going in, and you knew it made no sense. You saw him trailing on the break, and everything was telegraphed perfectly. Josh was going to catch it. Josh was going to swish it. Rick Carlisle would throw his hands in the air. We’d all laugh and celebrate and high five and tweet stupid things. There’s also the six assists and 13 rebounds thing, too, which was certainly helpful. 9/10
Al Horford: Horford is always a stabilizing force, a beacon of consistency within a single game. On the whole, he can be, at least while recovering from injury, a tad bit inconsistent. But within single games, and now more and more frequently as he seems to be completely in the swing of things, we are reminded of how calming and how talented and how good Horford really is. He was 10-14 from the field tonight (Smith was 10-15), he grabbed 10 rebounds, and was tied for the best +/- of any player in the game (I know single game +/- is pretty “meh,” but it’s just another indication that Atlanta benefits from his presence). He scored in the post, he hit a runner, he made his jumpers, and he was the recipient of ANOTHER beautiful high-low pass from Josh Smith. 8/10
Anthony Tolliver: Larry Drew loves his Anthony Tolliver, and so do I, only in smaller doses. Tolliver can be an effective spark-plug, but he’s not an effective full time rotation guy. He played 24 minutes today, missed all four of his shots, and split his free throws. His defense is generally suspect and sometimes I’m confused why he’s in when he’s in. But that’s not meant to be an insult. I get the Tolliver appeal. He can occasionally give this team a huge lift, a huge energy boost. But he didn’t tonight. 2/10
Kyle Korver: The streak continues! Korver has now made a three-pointer in 44 consecutive games, which is really quite an incredible accomplishment if you think about it. He was solid tonight, and helpful defensively (although for a stretch Vince Carter did experience limited success on him), but what I love about him so much, aside from his brilliant perimeter shooting, is his ability to be a decoy. On these high-low plays with Josh and Al, so much of its success relies on an opposing big waiting to hedge Korver off of an off-ball screen so that Korver’s man can recover. When the opposing big hedges: BOOM. Our guy is open. Anyway, more on that in a later post. 10 points, 2-4 on threes– seems like just another day at the office for Korver. 5/10
Jeff Teague: And to think I went through a phase of doubt. This was about a month ago, when the Hawks were in the midst of their more serious struggles. I doubted Jeff Teague. I was, as I always am in my head however much I try to hide it, super reactionary and went to ESPN’s Chad Ford’s draft board and looked at potential point guards to draft. Why would I do that? I feel silly. Because Teague is awesome, he’s incredible. He’s relentless in transition, had several great drives in which he finished with a scoop, and he is finding his teammates more than he ever has (9 assists tonight). Now, defensively, there are still some issues. Tonight he really struggled fighting through picks, even when he went under the screens he allowed a lane for Collison. He also gambles far too much, allowing his man to pull out in front of him in hopes that he can swipe the ball from behind. He has his faults, and they were on display tonight, but they’re fixable. And Teague is great. He’s fun to watch and he’s ever-improving. He finished the night with 20 points on 7-14 shooting, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and just(?) three turnovers. He’s strung together quite a few impressive games in a row now. 8/10 Continue Reading…