The Atlanta Hawks have been getting by without much of a contribution from Joe Johnson. The Dallas Mavericks have been getting everything and more from superstar Dirk Nowitzki but not much from the rest of the team. Luckily for Atlanta, it's a team game.
Mark Cuban brings his traveling Maverick sideshow to Philips Arena for a rare 8:00 PM Saturday matchup against the Hawks (SportSouth, 97.9 FM). The starting time is not the only rare thing going on at the Bulb, Dallas enters this one with a rare two-game slide after dropping an 88-83 decision to the Chicago Bulls on Friday night in Texas.
Nowitzki had 36 of Dallas' points and shot a blistering 58-percent from the field (15-for-26). The rest of the Mavs -- well, let's just say they'd have a hard time firing a pea shooter at one of those gigantic oversized Cowboy hats fitted on the gignormous ego of Jerry Jones -- they combined for 15 field goals also -- 15-of-49 that is. Can you say ugly with a Texas drawl, too?
As the Hawks saw in the days when Johnson was one of the few legit options on certain nights, the loss was all too predictable. But new coach Larry Drew installed his motion offense and the opportunities have sprung for the rest of a talented, athletic Atlanta team to get involved int he offense.
Johnson has struggled his last two games, connecting on just nine of his last 24 shots from the field. But Al Horford and Josh Smith have come up big in Atlanta's last two games -- wins over the Indiana Pacers and the lowly MInnesota Timberwolves.
Smith chimed in with a season-best 25 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks against the Pacers on Tuesday. Atlanta improved to 5-1 on the highway with a 102-92 in over Indiana on Tuesday. However, the Hawks haven't played well at Philips Arena. They are just 3-3 there entering a two-game stretch against two pretty good teams -- the Mavericks and the Boston Celtics.
Look for this one to be a battle between the Mavs' stifling defense and the Hawks' motion offense. Dallas enters Saturday best in the league on D, limiting teams to 43-percent shooting from the field, while Atlanta is firing on all cylinders on offense and is second in the league with a 49.3-percent shooting percentage.
It may all come down to whether Joe finds his shot and whether Smith blocks them on the other side of the floor. Should that happen, Atlanta should pull down the W in the A.