Road Warriors Return Home
The Hawks returned home from abroad on Sunday evening with the best road record in the Eastern Conference at 7-2.
This trip yielded a pair of wins against the Knicks and Raptors, which on the surface sounds like a mild accomplishment. However, take into account that both games were played at 1pm and the feat becomes more impressive and hopefully an indication that the team has finally locked in their focus for the season. Both NYC and Toronto are known to have plenty of entertainment options for those just passing through town, a fact that often leads to lackluster performances by visiting teams when they have an early tip.
Regardless of the city, the Hawks had a tough time getting off on the right foot last season when games were played in the afternoon. All four “matinees” saw Atlanta trailing after the first quarter (by an average of almost seven points). While the Hawks were able to salvage a 2-2 record in those contests last season, one of the losses was to an inferior and struggling team from Detroit.
This season the Hawks were focused right from the start in their first two afternoon games and never trailed in the second half of either contest. While Jamal Crawford (21 pts in New York) and Josh Smith (triple-double in Toronto) stole the headlines, it was the solid play and production from Marvin Williams that helped shore up some problem areas for Atlanta. Marvin turned in his first double-double of the season yesterday and finished the quick, two-game trip with 30 points on 61% shooting and also grabbed 20 rebounds (six offensive boards). To top it all off, Marvin supplied one of the best highlights of this early part of the season when he rose up over both Amar’e Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf for a monster jam (WATCH HIGHLIGHT HERE).
Since the Hawks held a team meeting following the loss in New Jersey they have played with a new energy that they had been lacking previously. They are a half-step quicker to loose balls and 50/50 rebounds, leading to more offensive boards (11.3 over the last three games compared to 9.9 on the season), more steals (6 compared to 5) and less turnovers (10 compared to 14). Most importantly they are coming out of the locker room in the first and third quarters with a more focused effort to grab the momentum right from the start.