Josh Smith’s return went perfectly to plan for Hawks fans, as Smith and the Detroit Pistons left Philips Arena in defeat after dropping a 93-85 decision to the Hawks.
In what was an ugly game overall (to say the least), the Hawks surged through the second half, outscoring Detroit 50-39, and in the process, saved what would have been a wretched statistical performance. The score after 12 minutes of this one was 15-13 in favor of the Hawks (not a misprint), as both teams struggled mightily to put the ball in the basket (shooting a combined 12 for 43), but fortunately for the eyes of everyone involved, that type of futility was short-lived.
Detroit surged ahead with a 33-point quarter in the second, taking them to a 3-point halftime advantage, but that was the end of the Pistons on the positive side. Atlanta owned the second half, using balanced offense (which has been a theme of the last week or two) to forge ahead for good. The Hawks actually finished the night with greater than 50% shooting from the field, and while that may not seem like much, the final 3 quarters were outstanding just to bring it to that final mark.
Individually, there was no “standout” performance, but several members of the Hawks played well. First, DeMarre Carroll put up a double-double for the Hawks with 11 points and 12 rebounds, and the rebounding production marked a career-high for the small forward from Missouri. DeMarre has been typically outstanding on the defensive end this season, but his offense was a spark for the team (especially in off-ball cuts), and he added 2 blocks and 2 steals for good measure.
As for the stars, Jeff Teague, Al Horford, and Paul Millsap all played well in various ways. Millsap led all scorers with 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting, and his 13-point output in the 1st half helped to carry the Hawks through a rough offensive patch. Horford wasn’t terribly productive on the stat sheet (10 points, 8 rebounds), but he added 5 blocks to provide much-needed rim protection, and soundly outplayed all 3 members of the Detroit frontline. Lastly, Teague added 18 points and 7 assists, reminding us of the consistent monster that he seems to be becoming this season.
On “Kyle Korver streak watch”, the sharpshooter extended his much-heralded streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 85 straight. His triple at the 2:38 mark of the 2nd quarter helped to reassure fans fairly early in the game, and he now sits just 4 games away from the all-time NBA record held by Dana Barros. It was a relatively quiet night for Kyle here (8 points, 5 rebounds), but the Hawks were better with him on the court, as usual.
Lou Williams played 15 productive minutes in this game, helping to lead what was a solid bench performance. Williams had 6 points and 5 assists during his time, and was even featured as the primary point guard for a small segment of his playing time. That is highly encouraging moving forward, as he has been particularly productive in that type of hybrid role in the past. In addition to Williams, Mike Scott had another quality effort off the bench (11 points, 4 rebounds in 19 minutes) and I continue to enjoy what I’m seeing from Gustavo Ayon.
In fairness to the Hawks, the Pistons were pretty underwhelming offensively, giving Atlanta numerous chances to pull away. We’ll come back to Josh Smith (soon), but he didn’t receive a lot of help from his backcourt mates. Brandon Jennings played in typical Brandon Jennings fashion, shooting 9 of 21 in the game with exactly one spurt of awesomeness, but shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who got the start in his return to Georgia) fell flat with a 1-for-9 shooting night in 23 minutes.
Josh Smith reminded everyone of the frustrating player that he was in Atlanta, except this time, it was moreso encouraged by the home fans. “Smoove” shot 5 of 15 in the game (including a predictable 0 for 4 from 3-point distance), and his shot selection was maddening as usual. The defensive numbers (3 steals, 2 blocks) were there for Josh, but his return to his home city likely left any longstanding Smith supporters cold.
It wasn’t a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination, but this is yet another home win for the Hawks, pushing their home mark to 4-1 on the young season. Non-coincidentally, the next time that the Hawks take the floor will be on Friday… when they take on Josh Smith and the Pistons in Detroit! It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of effort the team can give in a “run it back” situation, but at least they have the benefit of a day off on Thursday.