When I first looked at the Hawks' opening five games this year - Dallas and Phoenix at home, Detroit, New Jersey, and Boston on the road - I had visions of all my optimism about the team getting crushed in a 1-4 or 0-5 start. So needless to say, I'm pretty tickled to look at the standings today and see the Hawks headed to Boston at 2-2 after beating Phoenix last night. The best part is that the Hawks haven't been winning fluky one- and two-point decisions. They beat Dallas and Phoenix by a combined 16 points and lost an absolute heartbreaker to Detroit (to the extent that any game in an 82-game marathon can be a heartbreaker). The Hawks have had two home games so far and both have been lively sell-outs. Shockingly enough, fans in Atlanta will support a team going in the right direction.
A few thoughts on the game last night:
1. I'm waiting for Terence Moore to take back his statement last year that the Hawks do not have sufficient depth of talent. Through four games, there have been new heroes just about every night. Josh Childress was dreadful in the opener, but last night, he was instant energy and he killed Phoenix on the glass. Al Horford was forgettable against New Jersey, but he pulled down 15 rebounds last night and helped the Hawks dominate in the paint. Josh Smith was bad in the opener (after the first quarter) and excellent last night. Joe Johnson was excellent in the opener and sub-par last night (3/17 from the field, although he did dish out ten assists). The point is that there are a lot of good players on the team, giving the Hawks a lot of different possibilities for a hot hand on a given night. Contrast the Hawks' depth to the luxury tax/cheap owner-imposed lack of depth for the Suns. With Stoudemire out, here were the Suns' reserves (after sixth man Leandro Barbosa): Sean Marks, Marcus Banks, Brian Skinner, Eric Piatkowski, Alando Tucker, and D.J. Strawberry. What is this team going to look like in April if its starters have to play 40 minutes per night for 82 games?
2. The Hawks destroyed Phoenix on the glass, just as they did Dallas. Does that say that the Hawks are going to have an identity as a great rebounding team or is that a commentary on Dallas and Phoenix (without Amare) being soft?
3. I know that Steve Nash is an all-star and all, but the Hawks didn't do much to disabuse me of the notion that they struggle to defend the point guard position last night, as Nash went for 34 points on 19 shots. Interestingly, Josh Smith proved to be the best defender against Nash, as he turned him over twice late in the fourth quarter when the Hawks iced the game. Combined with Marvin Williams defending Chauncey Billups on the last possession against Detroit, you get the sense that Mike Woodson knows that his guards aren't his best defenders and that Smith and Williams are needed to defend opposing point guards on crunch possessions. (I don't think that Williams was on Billups on a switch, but I could be wrong.)
4. Marvin Williams through four games: 71 points on 43 shots. Suck it, Chris Paul! Two years ago, I sooner would have penned an ode to Jim Leyritz than right that last sentence.
5. Shelden Williams isn't getting any time, despite the fact that Zaza is out. Hmmm.