It has been a week since Kirk Hinrich made his debut in a Hawks uniform, and instantly the team became better on defense.
Still, it wasn’t Kirk that blocked D-Rose at the rim late in the fourth quarter on Wednesday (that was Marvin Williams) leading to points on the other end and switching momentum back to Atlanta’s favor. It wasn’t Kirk that denied D-Rose the ball when the Hawks were clinging to a one-point lead with 28 seconds remaining (that was Joe Johnson), helping to force a turnover that all but sealed the victory. It definitely wasn’t Kirk going chest-to-chest with Carlos Boozer in the second-half, holding one of the league’s best offensive big men at bay.
No matter how good of a defender a single player is, it does no good if there is a letdown somewhere else on the court.
Joe Johnson said that the second half defense was as good as he has seen from the Hawks. “Not just one on one, individual defense, but our team defense together. We were helping, guys taking charges, and you know, that is what you need.”
That is exactly what you need. You need EVERYONE to buy in. Defense doesn’t show up in an individual’s stat line a lot of the time, but there is a reason that the cliche “Defense Wins Championships” caught on.
After the game on Wednesday, Coach Drew made sure that the team recognized how well they played in the second half.
“One of the first things I said when I addressed the team after (Wednesday’s) win, I held the stat sheet in the air and I said ‘you know this stat sheet won’t reveal how well a lot of you guys played,'” said Drew. “Sometimes a stat sheet won’t say it all. I thought Joe did so much more (than 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting). Defensively, especially the second half, he got really active.”
Joe has been around long enough to know that his value goes beyond putting the ball in the basket.
“If my shots not falling, that doesn’t mean I’m having a bad game,” said Johnson on Thursday. “I’m mare than capable of going out and doing a whole bunch of other things. Whether it’s guarding, rebounding, or making plays for my teammates, and that is what I tried to do when I really didn’t get into a rhythm offensively. I just wanted to stay aggressive. Take the shots when they were there and just play great defense.”
Joe had plenty of energy to hound D-Rose late in the game, largely because he could count on Kirk and Teague to guard him through the first three quarters.
“I told Kirk and Jeff they just gotta hold ‘em down for about three quarters,” Johnson said with a chuckle, “and fourth quarter I’ll D them up a little bit.”
Al Horford also weighed in with his evaluation of the Hawks defense since LD challenged them to be better.
“I think the guys have really stepped up to the challenge,” said Al. “We’ve been defending as good as I’ve seen since I’ve been here, so that’s really encouraging.
Coach drew really challenged us to be a better defensive team.”
Speaking of Horford, he nailed his first 3-pointer of the season during his 31-point outburst. It wasn’t to beat the shot clock. It was within the flow of the offense. LD gave us a pair of entertaining stories to go along with Al’s trifecta:
- “This summer, he was working out in the practice gym, and we were there watching him shoot. I told him to go around the “3” and shoot five shots from five spots. He went 23 of 25. Yeah. He has that ability, he just doesn’t do it. You know it’s funny, because after he made the one three, in the fourth quarter I drew up a play that was spacing him out to the corner while we were running a high pick and roll. He asked me ‘You want me to stay inside the three or outside the three?’ I said, ‘you do what you want to do’.Al, he has that ability. He has range. He has a stroke. A lot of people didn’t realize it before this year.”