The Atlanta Hawks aren’t getting much attention on TV or NBA circles, but might be content sneaking under the radar. The Charlotte Bobcats looked to continue their surge against a division rival, but were met by a stifling Hawks defense.
Atlanta defeated the Bobcats 101-91 behind Al Horford’s 26 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks. Horford shot 13-17 from the field. Coming into the game the Hawks ranked first in defensive rating and quickly showed why as they held the Bobcats to 37% shooting.
Earlier in the game preview, I gave a lot of stats to backup how terrific the Hawks have been defensively, and it’s another thing to actually see it unfold. Larry Drew has done a stellar job getting that team to continue committing defensively without their leader of several seasons in Joe Johnson.
The Bobcats at times played well against the Hawks and brought the game close, but the defense, which has looked good lately, was ineffective against Atlanta. The Hawks shot 54% from the field and 50% from deep, behind ten combined threes from Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague and DeShawn Stevenson.
There were a few bright spots about the defense, particularly Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Coach Dunlap gave MKG the opportunity to guard Josh Smith and he made the most of it. As I wrote in today’s preview, Smith is the type of power forward that MKG will be able to guard in the NBA because of his athleticism and quickness. MKG did a solid job on Smith tonight, and made the most of the opportunity. The Bobcats forced 21 turnovers and had 15 steals tonight against Atlanta.
The Hawks ranked 13th in threes made coming into tonight, and gave the Bobcats trouble with the spacing provided by the shooters in the open floor and half court. The Hawks haven’t been a good offensive team so far this season, but showed the type of gameplan Larry Drew wants from them. They moved the ball, kept a balanced pace and spread the floor with all of their shooters. The Hawks were +10 in fastbreak points and +12 in assists tonight.
Charlotte was led by 22 points from Ramon Sessions off the bench, who continued his stellar play so far this season. Sessions had 11 free throw attempts, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 29 minutes. Atlanta’s defense has done a great job so far this season not allowing their opponents to get to the line, but Sessions led a Bobcats attack that was +15 in free throws made. Kemba Walker and Jeffery Taylor both had 16 points. Byron Mullens and Ben Gordon both struggled offensively, combining for 5-22.
The Hawks move to 7-4 on the season while the Bobcats fall to 6-5. While we’re all excited about the Bobcats start, games like tonight still show that there’s a lot for the team to pick up. The Bobcats didn’t manage to be consistent on both sides of the ball tonight and paid for it. They won’t have long though to think about the loss, as they head to the nation’s capital to face the winless Washington Wizards tomorrow.