The NBA: Hawks and Highlights

Josh Smith is just about the only Atlanta Hawk who
can consistently make the highlight reel.
(image by the AP)

“They can't straggle out of the gate every night. That's just something we have to fix.” – Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew on their bad habit to start slow.

Please don’t check if straggle is a typo for struggle.

It’s not.

And the Hawks straggling? That’s no error, too.

Somehow, though, they’ve managed to be good in spite of it. Atlanta has won 7 of its last 10 games, and is just half a game behind the Heat in the Southeast Division.

Still, they have remained under the radar for most NBA fans. That’s even if their record is better than that of much more ballyhooed clubs like Orlando, Boston, and especially New York.

And that’s with Al Horford out and Jeff Teague listed as day-to-day.

The point is the Hawks are doing pretty well, which is to say their hovering in and around the top four slots in the East. And that’s really very good. That’s just about where they were last season – just outside the top four. And where did it eventually get them? They defeated the Magic in the first round and showed the Bulls a scare or two in the Conference Semifinals.

Because their players are less “newsworthy” and “highlight reel material,” Atlanta has always been somewhat overlooked by many fans. Josh Smith is pretty awesome and he’ll make the top 10 maybe every other week, but, really, who expects to see a Joe Johnson three or a Jeff Teague pull-up when they search YouTube for NBA highlights? The Hawks are good, but they’re no substitutes for the magical aura Hawk legend Dominique Wilkins once exuded.

It doesn’t seem to matter much, however, because despite the injuries and the lack of reel-time, they’ve been pretty good.

And they’ll continue to be good – good enough for the postseason and maybe a round or two deeper than anyone expects.

Just don’t bet on any highlights that’ll trump a Blake Griffin throwdown, a Ricky Rubio no-looker, or a Kobe Bryant game-winner.

After the JUMP, key stat-stuffers for today’s games:

NOH over ORL, 93-67 – Nice home win for the struggling Hornets, thanks to the brilliant playmaking of Jarrett Jack.
HOU over WAS, 103-76 – Washington’s new head coach got a taste of what awaits him on a nightly basis – brutal beatings.
CHI over MIL, 107-100 – Joakim Noah pumps in a huge double-double to stave off the solid challenge from the middling Bucks.
MIA over NYK, 99-89 – Bill Walker’s hot shooting helped make this one interesting, but LeBron’s almost-triple-double was just too much for the Knicks.
MIN over SAS, 87-79 – Ricky Rubio continues his meteoric rise in the upper echelon of the NBA’s floor generals with 18 points and 10 dimes.
DAL over UTA, 116-101 – Rodrigo Beaubois was the surprise package for coach Rick Carlisle against the tough visitors from Salt Lake.
PHI over CHA, 89-72 – The Bobcats’ nice shooting and tough D in the fourth quarter resulted in a +9 swing, but even that wasn’t enough to compensate for an atrocious 10-point first period.
BOS over IND, 94-87 – Somehow, the Celtics seem like they’re finally waking up as they upended an Indiana team a couple of notches above them in the East ladder.
ATL over DET, 107-101 – Took the Hawks long enough, but they finally got past the Pistons in OT. Greg Monroe continues to improve with 22 points and 11 boards.
NJN over CLE, 99-96 – Nice battle at the point between current all-world PG Deron Williams and possible future all-world playmaker Kyrie Irving. D-Will got the better of it. Irving should learn from this.
DEN over TOR, Rudy Fernandez had the hot hand as the Nuggets defended their mountain home from the Raps.
POR over PHX, 109-71 – I remember a time when these teams had a rivalry, but I think that was way back when Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler were still their respective stars. Now, it’s not even close.
OKC over GSW, 120-109 – Thunder are just too good right now, for practically anybody. They’re 9-1 in their last 10, but the Clips should test them next.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
Kevin Durant (OKC) – 37
Derrick Rose (CHI) – 34
Kyrie Irving (CLE) - 32

Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Marcus Camby (POR) – 20
Dwight Howard (ORL), Joakim Noah (CHI), & Kevin Love (MIN) – 16

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Andre Miller (DEN) – 12
Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 11
Deron Williams (NJN), Ricky Rubio (MIN), & Jamal Crawford (POR) – 10

Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 7
Dwyane Wade (MIA) – 5
Jrue Holiday (PHI) & Darren Collison (IND) – 4

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
Joel Anthony (MIA) – 5
Rodrigo Beaubois (DAL), Javale McGee (WAS), & Tim Duncan (SAS) – 4

Amar'e Stoudemire gets rejected by Chris Bosh
and Joel Anthony of the Miami Heat.
(image by Mike Ehrman/Getty Images)

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Bill Walker (NYK) – 7
Dorell Wright (GSW) – 6
Deron Williams (NJN), Rudy Fernandez (DEN), & Marvin Williams (ATL) – 5

Jan. 27, 2012 First Five
C – Dwight Howard (ORL) – 28pts, 16rebs, 3asts, 2stls, 1blk
F – Kevin Durant (OKC) – 37pts, 14rebs, 3asts
F – LeBron James (MIA) – 31pts, 8rebs, 7asts
G – Paul Pierce (BOS) – 28pts, 10rebs, 8asts, 4 treys, 3stls, 2blks
G – Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 28pts, 11asts, 7stls, 6rebs

Honorable Mention:
Rodrigo Beaubois (DAL) – 22pts, 7asts, 6rebs, 4blks, 3 treys, 1stl
Dwyane Wade (MIA) – 28pts, 5stls, 4asts, 2rebs, 2blks
Kyrie Irving (CLE) – 32pts, 6rebs, 2asts, 2stls

For a full summary of the day, here’s today’s NBA Daily Zap:

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