Coming into the compacted season, most people figured that Jeff Teague would be the most critical component of the Hawks’ offense.
However, in two games so far, it has been the oft-maligned Marvin Williams who has been the key with his play. After Tuesday’s 14/9 effort in New Jersey, Williams was again contributing in many categories tonight, as the Hawks got out in front early en route to a 101-83 win over the Washington Wizards.
During the first half, Williams led the Hawks with 12 points and six boards, while also notching a steal and a block. He was fouled hard several times during the half, but showed no signs of the back troubles that have impaired him in the past. Williams finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds in the game and looked just as fresh at the game’s conclusion as he did at the outset.
“I’m feeling great now,” said Williams in the locker room after the game. “It took me about three months to recover from the surgery, but now I’m jumping better than before and moving better than before.”
Coach Larry Drew added,
“I’m glad he’s being aggressive with the ball now. There were times last year when he would get the ball and not even look at the rim, but now he making a conscious effort, whenever he gets the ball, to look, to drive…to score.”
Drew was not completely happy with the effort, pointing to the Wizards’ frequent mini-runs that kept knocking the lead from 20 to 12 or 11:
There were parts of the game tonight where we lacked defensive intensity. I thought we really had opportunities to put that team away…There were just too many times when Washington was making little runs and staying within striking distance.”
Against a team like that, you have to try to take away hope. That first six minutes of the fourth quarter, we really needed to play well and get the game out of reach, and we weren’t able to do that.
Teague was also vital to the Hawks’ success, leading the offense to a 19-4 run to start the game – but he was pulled after picking up his second foul with six minutes left in the quarter. The lead shriveled to three with the second unit in the game, as the reserves (with the exception of Tracy McGrady) often took poor shots – including Jannero Pargo’s 0-for-4 showing in Teague’s absence in the first half (all from deep).
Once the starters returned to the floor halfway through the second quarter, the lead quickly returned to double-digits. Al Horford finished the half with seven rebounds and two blocks, while Josh Smith had several outstanding plays en route to 10 points, five boards, and two blocks in the half. The Hawks finished the half with a 55-42 lead.
The Hawks opened their lead up to 20 points in the third quarter and put it in cruise control from then on. The Wizards did get the lead down to 12, but there was no sense of urgency or feeling that the Wizards could mount a comeback. The reserves played a large part of the second half, with the exception of Jeff Teague, who stayed on the floor into the fourth quarter. He did get a quick breather, but after Pargo missed his fifth three-pointer of the game Teague returned to the floor. Pargo did not return even after Teague picked up his fourth and fifth fouls. Teague finished with eleven points, five assists, and two steals.
Nick Young was one of the few bright spots for the Wizards, making five of six shots during the first half (including three 3’s). Javale McGee scored 11, but committed two hard fouls and two goaltending penalties. John Wall was frustrated often by the Hawks’ rotating defenses, as his 20 points came while shooting just 6 of 15 from the floor.
Andray Blatche, who criticized the Wizards’ play selection after their loss Monday, made only two of thirteen shots and finished with just four points. While he indeed got the ball tonight, he couldn’t do much with it.
Former Hawk Jordan Crawford was invisible, with just one point in 21 minutes of action. Jeff Teague said after the game that it was fun trash-talking with him up and down the court (they were drafted at the same time by the Hawks) and that “we held him in check tonight”, but that “next time we meet he might do better”.
Two of the Hawks’ co-captains were happy with their defensive showing. “We held together well and when one guy dropped off, another rotated around,” said Joe Johnson, who led the Hawks with 18 points, including four three-pointers. “Smoove did a great job on Blatche, and Joe did great on Crawford,” said Horford (11 pts, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocks) in the locker room after the game.
If the Hawks can keep showing the energy they showed in the first six minutes of the game and the last six minutes of the first half through the end of the game tonight, they will be in good shape. Let’s forget about the twelve-minute stretch where the Hawks looked confused, slow, and disoriented for now – their other 36 minutes tonight were more than enough.
Once again, Drew was able to limit the minutes of his starters. The starters all finished between 30 and 33 minutes of floor time, ensuring that the Hawks’ players don’t get worn out in the early stretch of the season. The Hawks will play seven times between December 30 and January 7.
The Hawks were without Donald Sloan tonight due to a slight injury. He may return for Friday’s game against the Nets – and if he does, he may inherit Pargo’s spot as the primary backup to Teague.
The Hawks will take tomorrow off before hosting the New Jersey Nets on Friday night.