Postgame Thoughts: Hawks Clinch Playoff Spot For Sixth Straight Season
A few thoughts after tonight’s 107-88 win over the Raptors:
- The Hawks are going to the playoffs for the sixth straight season. As of right now, they’re in sole possession of the longest current streak in the Eastern Conference, though Boston will tie them with six once they officially clinch. Congratulations are in order for this team, whom few thought would make it this far after losing Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams in the off-season and retooling much of the roster under first-year general manager Danny Ferry.
- It wasn’t pretty in the first half as the Raptors took it to the Hawks in the paint. But after 54 first-half points, Toronto scored just 21 in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth. I say in almost every postgame recap that this team wins and loses with the way it defends. Tonight their defense was outstanding in the final 24 minutes.
- Al Horford shot 10-18 from the field and scored 26 points, continuing his streak of games with double figures. He also grabbed 12 rebounds to notch another double-double, but I thought he was most valuable in the fourth quarter when he sank a number of consecutive 18-footers to keep the Raptors at arm’s length.
- Josh Smith didn’t play in the fourth quarter, not because he was hurt or having a bad game, but because Larry Drew elected to keep the group out there that started the quarter after the quarter started so well. Ivan Johnson gave the Hawks a huge lift off the bench, playing 33 minutes and scoring nine points with six rebounds and four assists. Atlanta really started to pull away when Jeff Teague checked back in near the nine minute mark. With the group on the floor playing so well, Drew didn’t see the need to bring Smith or Kyle Korver back into the game. It’s always nice to see our starters get some extra rest when the bench is producing.
- Korver didn’t play in the final quarter as I mentioned, but he did extend the three-point streak to 65 by hitting two more tonight.
- With Devin Harris still nursing a sore foot, Drew elected to start Anthony Tolliver. Tolliver has started 10 games now, and he seems to be more comfortable in that role, playing 26 minutes tonight. Hopefully Harris is back soon. He was a big part of our game against Boston last time we played there, and with the Celtics no doubt out to take Korver out of the game, the Hawks will want another guard who can get points.
- How about John Jenkins? The rookie has put together some fabulous efforts of late when he gets his opportunity. He went 4-4 tonight, scoring nine points. With him and Korver on the team, the Hawks have no shortage of shooters.
Congratulations again to this team for making the playoffs. This might be the most impressive of the six because it came without Joe Johnson and featured a makeshift roster. Now the battle for seeding begins. In my opinion, the Hawks match up better with the two New York teams than they do with Chicago or Indiana, but only time will tell. Ten games remain, and the Hawks are still very much in line for home-court advantage in the first round. Who would have thought that would have been possible before this season started?
Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images