Well, we got another amazing moment today from a team that seems to specialize in them. That shot by Outlaw was simply awesome. But we'll get there soon enough...
I didn't think it was possible, but the starters came out flatter in this game than they did against Orlando. It was the whole lineup too. Not even Roy saved our bacon early. The story of this game, simply put, is that the White Unit won the game for us. The reserves scored 62 points to the Atlanta reserves' 30, but that's not the story. The story is the second unit hammered, shot, passed, and defended the Hawks into submission, making up the gap that the starters gave away. And mind you, Atlanta only went 7 deep in this game. The White Unit was playing against starting players and more than holding their own.
A couple of things contributed to the close game. The first was Atlanta's amazing rush of distance shooting. Maybe they read the game preview and got cheesed off when we said they couldn't shoot. In any case 9-17 from three was wholly unexpected. Also we saw more "Angry Nate" in this game than we've seen in the last two months because guys were not hustling to get back (and sometimes to get rebounds). We had a couple of timeout calls that hearkened back to the Zach era. Also we succumbed to their athleticism and ended up -13 in free throws made. Nevertheless we matched them almost exactly in points off of turnovers and stayed close in paint scoring. That allowed our superior overall shooting to tell the tale...barely. This wasn't exactly the prescribed way to play the Hawks but we got away with it thanks to some individual heroics.
You have to give real respect to those Atlanta wings. They are nasty opponents. Joe Johnson's 37 points were awe-inspiring, but Josh Smith's 17 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks were just flat out crazy.
--Travis Outlaw owned this game. He shot 9-14 and it should have been 10-14 with that amazing tomahawk jam that he biffed. He spent the whole rest of the game trying to make up for it, which he successfully did on his game-winning shot. Travis displayed what makes him special: the ability to get a shot away anywhere, anytime, on anyone. His 23 points led the Blazers.
--Sergio Rodriguez moves WAY up the comment chart today. He played what for him was a near-perfect game. We say the second unit turned the game around but Sergio sparked the second unit. The tempo and energy were both flat before he came in and he lit a fire under everybody. He ran and he dished. He faked defenders out and scored on layups and short shots. He even hit a long one! And he had two steals! Best of all, he wasn't playing wild, crazy Sergio-ball. He was in the flow. 16 points, 4 assists in 16 minutes. Bravo!
--Brandon Roy played 41 minutes and did not have anywhere near a typical game. He had a couple of nice drives and a couple of nifty individual defensive efforts late in the game. However he only had 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and made 2 turnovers to go along with them. He shot 8-22 for his 18 points. The good news? It won't get much worse than that for Brandon and he still scored 18 points.
--All you need to know about Lamarcus is that lately "LMA" has stood for "Lamarcus Missed AGAIN!" He was 3-12 for 8 points, had only 5 rebounds, and despite fouling out couldn't help shut down the inside when we needed it. Remember that Brandon went through a slump early in the season though. I'm sure Lamarcus will come back. Perhaps the physical fatigue not only of the trip, but of the season, is telling. Remember Lamarcus didn't play a full year last year and didn't play all of these minutes.
--Martell Webster is just stuck in the mud. He missed a ton of shots early in the game (shots he should have hit) and after that we didn't really get him the ball. The story with Martell has always been that if he doesn't score he doesn't produce as much in other areas. He bucked that a little bit today by still managing 7 rebounds and 3 assists. I keep wondering if he wouldn't get a few more concentrated scoring opportunities with the second unit where he could be a second fiddle instead of third. Jones would fit in nicely with the starters too. EXCEPT there's nobody on the second unit to set picks for Martell. I don't know. If it wouldn't destroy him mentally I might think about it.
--Channing Frye re-discovered his shooting touch and ended up with 9 points and 7 rebounds. He was more energetic tonight than we've seen him in the last week.
--Steve Blake led the team in assists with 6.
--In his adopted hometown Jarrett Jack managed only 17 minutes and barely disturbed the boxscore. Part of it was Sergio stealing his minutes. Most of it was that he couldn't defend the Atlanta guards.
--James Jones played his usual Silent Assassin role with 10 points, 6 off of the long ball. It's good to see his touch back. But he couldn't really handle the Atlanta wings either.
One Five Sentence Game Summary:
Outlaw! Outlaw! Outlaw! Outlaw! OutLAAAAAAWWW!!!