Oh Captain, Tri-Captains

Monday, May 9, 2011
By Jon Newberry

Last night the Hawks earned possibly the biggest victory in the team’s history in Philips Arena (opened during the 1999 season ) with a 100-88 Game 4 win over the Chicago Bulls. A loss would have pushed Atlanta’s back against the wall, but now the Bulls know that they will have to battle to the end.

The main reason the Hawks were able to secure the victory was the play of their tri-captains. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford each have unique talents that they bring to this team, and they were all on display on Sunday night.

Joe Johnson is the scorer and the decoy, sometimes on the same possession. He has been drawing aggressive double-teams from the Bulls ever since dropping 34 points in Game 1. On Sunday he was assertive right from the start on his way to an efficient 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. He was credited with five assists, but his passes out of the double-teams often directly led to an easy Hawks’ bucket after the ball as quicky rotated. Which brings us to our next captain…

Josh Smith is very well known for his dunking and shot blocking, but he has a more complete game than that. He finished Sunday with 23 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. His energy on defense changed the game as it is often known to do, but his passing in both the half court and transition may have been the ultimate difference in the contest. He set up teammates for easy baskets all night long and kept the Chicago defenders on their heels as the entire Hawks team refused to settle for contested jump shots in crunch time.

Finally, the captain who doesn’t need the attention, he just needs to win. Al Horford scored 20 points in Game 4 while shooting 9-of-11 from the field. He never forces a shot is always doing the dirty work in the paint. At his size, his ability to run the court enabled the Hawks to get some easy baskets in transition.

So, as has been the case all season long, the Hawks followed the lead of their captians. The Bulls now know that the series is going to go a minimum of six games and that each game will be a fight to the finish.