The Atlanta Hawks began their preseason slate on a good note by defeating the Miami Heat 92-79 Sunday at Philips Arena. The Hawks were admittedly rusty early and sore from a difficult first week of training camp, but there were a lot of positives to take from the game.
Early on, Atlanta struggled to keep LeBron James and the rest of the Heat out of the paint which heavily contributed to the Hawks falling behind by as many as 11 points in the first half. They made adjustments and did a much better job of defending the paint as well contesting shots of which Drew says is a point of emphasis.
Offensively when the Hawks executed things looked really good. Kyle Korver and Al Horford connected on a couple of nice plays in the first half . There were times throughout the game where there was a lot of movement and a lot of passing and those usually produced a good look. Other times there were some spacing issues where it looked like too many men were in the same area but that is probably to be expected with this many new faces in the first week of training camp.
Here are some other observations from the game:
- DeShawn Stevenson may have been an afterthought when the Joe Johnson trade was made but it appears he is going to play a huge part for this team. He got the start on Sunday and finished with 11 points, two rebounds and two steals in 18 minutes of action. Stevenson hit 3-6 from beyond-the-arc and is a physical defender. There was a short stretch in the game where Stevenson was the small forward with both Jeff Teague and Lou Williams in the backcourt.
- Kyle Korver was the other new addition to the starting lineup and played pretty well I thought even if his box score wasn't very impressive. Korver finished with five points, five boards and three assists but was one of the Hawks that looked to be in the right place on both ends of the floor. Korver may finally be on a team that is going to ask him to be much more of a complete player rather than simply three-point specialist. Korver was 1-4 from downtown on Sunday but I came away impressed watching the other things he was able to do on the court.
- Of all the new Hawks, Lou Williams had the best debut finishing with 18 points on just six field goal attempts. Williams made 5-6 from the field, 2-3 coming from three-point range and 6-9 from the free throw line. Williams missed his first three free throw attempts so he made his last six to end the game. He also stepped in and played a lot of point guard and was praised by Drew following the game for not only how he lead the team but the way he defended.
- Damion James was the first small forward off the bench and finished with six points, eight rebounds, three assists and five turnovers. The eight rebounds led the team as did the five turnovers. While James certainly looks like he has some offensive shortcomings, he looks to have a lead in the race for a roster spot because like Stevenson he brings another willing defender with a big body to the lineup. James Anderson also got some time and showed more of an offensive game but Damion is bigger and looks like the leader at this point.
- Anthony Morrow struggled in his debut for the Hawks finishing 0-5 from the field with three turnovers. Morrow looked a little unsure of the offense and never really got in any kind of flow. It will be interesting to see how he does later this week when he has had a little more practice time with the new system.
- The Hawks struggled when the second unit first came on the floor with Ivan Johnson and Johan Petro in the lineup together. Neither is that great of a low post scorer although Petro was not shy in getting up six attempts in just 15 minutes. Johnson looked a little lost in the offense early but got comfortable late and played the role of enforcer well getting mixed up with Dexter Pittman on a couple of occasions.
- Drew said early in the week that not everyone would play in the first preseason game and he stuck to that as John Jenkins, Mike Scott, Squeaky Johnson, Keith Benson and Isma'il Muhammed didn't ever get the warm ups off. Jenkins and Scott already have spots on the roster barring something unforeseen and Johnson and Muhammed were long shots at best. If the move hurts anyone it casts doubt on whether Keith Benson has any chance at sticking around.
- Devin Harris and Zaza Pachulia didn't dress for the game but did workout prior. Both looked to be moving well and Drew was hopeful before the game that they both would play in the preseason. Pachulia's presence will help give Drew the option to goto a big lineup and when paired with Ivan on the second unit will give the Hawks two physical players on its front line. It still remains to be seen how Drew is going to work in the many options he has in the backcourt but it is safe to say that Harris is going to figure in somewhere in the equation.