Hawks Notebook: Smith dominant again
Raise your hand if you thought the Hawks, led by Josh Smith and without the services of All-Stars Joe Johnson and Al Horford, were capable of the feat they've pulled off in their last three games.
Smith has been the Hawks' catalyst, leading a rag-tag band of reserves to impressive wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers, the last one a 101-96 win on the Pacers' home floor Tuesday night.
Smith led the way with 27 points, but he got plenty of help, particularly down the stretch from the likes of Marvin Williams, Jerry Stackhouse, Janerro Pargo, Tracy McGrady, Zaza Pachulia and a host of other Hawks' castoffs and journeymen who no one was sure could be counted on at the start of this season.
Smith was once again the ringleader of this motley crew, assaulting the Pacers from every direction early on and finishing three points shy of his season scoring high in the win.
"If you look around this locker room, you see it on the faces of all of these guys," Smith said. "We're just a grimy bunch that believes in each other. People out there might believe in us. But we're sharing the basketball, playing the game the right way, leaning on each other and grinding our way to wins as best we can. It's not rocket science man; it's just doing it the right way."
If the right way includes playing scrappy defense, shooting the ball well from beyond the three-point line (8-for-19) and working on the glass (45-37).
Even when Smith cooled off, he went scoreless over the final 16 minutes of the game, Pargo and Pachulia combined for 21 of the Hawks' final 32 points in the win.
"Our guys are just gutting these games out," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "This is that gut-check time of the season for us and everybody else. And right now, our guys are answering the bell."
The Hawks kicked off a six-game, 11-day road trip in Indianapolis Tuesday.
And they did it the right way.
-Joe Johnson is taking his time with his ailing left knee. The tendinitis that had been bothering for him months built to a crescendo just before All-Star Weekend.
Everything he's tried since then has resulted in more pain and little relief. So instead of rushing back to the action and trying to play through the pain, Johnson has decided to take a more cautious approach going forward.
"Right when it's feeling great, I don't want to jump straight back out there," Johnson told reporters before the game against the Pacers. "That's kind of what I did last time. I thought it was feeling great but then I got to running on it and it was different. I am going to really test it before I get out there."
-Jannero Pargo and Zaza Pachulia were the saviors for the Hawks in this one.
Pargo finished with 16 points and made four clutch three-pointers off the bench, while Pachulia chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds, outplaying Pacers All-Star center Roy Hibbert in their head-to-head matchup.
And again, with Smith's shot failing him late, the Hawks had to have this sort of performance from the inside-outside duo of Pargo and Pachulia.
-F Josh Smith was on fire early. He made 12 of his first 15 shots, including a pair of three-pointers, and also snagged nine rebounds. He was 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter and appeared to be a little gassed after logging huge minutes in three straight games.
-F Ivan Johnson pushed his way back into the spotlight, doing yeoman's work in half the amount of time it would take for the average man to do it. He managed to score nine points and four rebounds in just 11 minutes of action. Talk about efficiency.
-G Jeff Teague has spent the better part of this season showing anyone and everyone interested that he is a capable scorer in a league filled with point guards that take what they want and ask questions later. Teague finished his night just as many points (9) as he did assists (9), for once.
-C-F Al Horford is out 3-to-4 months with a torn left pectoral muscle, but has been allowed to start his rehab.
-F Jason Collins is out indefinitely with a sprained elbow.
-G Joe Johnson has missed five of the last six games with left knee tendinitis and is listed as day-to-day.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's great when your teammates lift you up. That really helped in the third fourth quarter. We've just been playing tremendously and not worrying about who has been in and out of the lineup. Guys really have been stepping up and playing outstanding. We have to keep sharing the basketball and keep playing as well on the defensive end."-- Josh Smith, on the lift received from his teammates."