1. As first losses of the season go, a one-point loss on the road against the defending champions with Paul Pierce winning the game on a tough shot with Al Horford right in his face is about as good as it gets. We should also add in the facts that: (1) the Hawks were without Josh Smith; (2) the Celtics were undoubtedly paying attention in light of the teams' contentious tussle last April and the Hawks 6-0 start; and (3) the Hawks were playing the second leg of road games in different time zones on consecutive nights. If there is such thing as a moral victory, this was certainly it. It's too bad that most of the country was subjected to the Heat and Blazers on ESPN.
2. Two aspects of the game frustrated me last night. The first was that Al Horford looked out of sorts. It's probably too much to expect a young player to dominate two nights in a row, but after Horford's piece de resistance in Chicago on Tuesday night, I was let down by five points and five rebounds. On a related note, the second aspect that frustrated me was the fact that the Hawks allowed the Celtics to get all over the offensive glass to the tune of 15 offensive rebounds. The team played some solid defensive possessions and then let their work go for naught when they could not corral rebounds.
3. One aspect of the game that I loved: the Hawks' possession to take the lead with seven seconds left. Last year, it was painful to watch the Hawks in late game situations because they would inevitably give the ball to Joe Johnson and watch him hoist a bad shot with the game clock dwindling. Last night, Johnson had the ball in his hands with the Hawks down two inside of 30 seconds, he drove the left baseline and drew the defense before kicking the ball to Marvin Williams in the corner. I'm going to give Mike Woodson the benefit of the doubt and assume that the play was designed that way. If so, it was a major step up. It also benefited from Ray Allen taking the bait and leaving Williams. Speaking of which...
4. I'm digging Dominique Wilkins as the color guy. 'Nique could burp Le Marseillaise for an entire broadcast and I, like most Hawks fans, would enjoy it thoroughly. Being the best player in franchise history will give a guy that status. That said, his insights on the game are quite sharp. My concern about 'Nique calling games is that he is an executive with the Hawks, so he might be reticent to criticize the players or coaches. That hasn't been the case. For instance, he gently chided Woodson by expressing surprise that he did not bring Horford back in the game late in the second quarter. 'Nique noticed Allen's defensive miscue to free Williams for the go-ahead shot, after which I said to myself "so that's what a color guy is supposed to do." Football season has really lowered my expectations for analysts.
5. Next to better defense, the biggest change for the Hawks through seven games has been their vastly improved three-point shooting. The Hawks are second in the NBA in threes made per game and first in three-point percentage. This is a 180 from last year when the Hawks were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league. Adding Flip Murray and Maurice Evans has given the team two more outside threats. Having Mike Bibby for a full year helps. Marvin Williams' time in the gym in the summer obviously paid off because he has been lethal behind the arc. In the back of my mind, the pessimist is saying that the Hawks have gotten off to a hot shooting start that they can't sustain. Still, even if they fall to a more reasonable level, this is a better shooting team and that will make life better for the primary offensive threats because defenders will be a little less willing to leave their men.