Game Notes: Hawks at Warriors
SLAM is Burning.
What is up! I have a tremendous game notes column for you today. Don Nelson, Stephen Jackson, Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith and others will be joining me to talk about the Warriors 119-114 win over the Atlanta Hawks at the Oracle Arena Friday night and other topics, but first, here’s what I’m burning on.
SLAM is Burning (The Rundown):
Stack Jack Comes Back
With C.J. Watson out of action with a turf toe injury on his left foot, Stephen Jackson’s return from his strained right hamstring couldn’t have come at a better time for the Warriors. Jackson was in typical form, starting the game 0-3 from the field then following up his misses with back-to-back 3s. In the second half, the fans at Oracle Arena had a slight scare when Jackson collided knees with Josh Smith on a drive to the basket. After he hobbled around, Nellie used a timeout to let Jack get checked by the trainer. It was appropriate timing (maybe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization could learn a thing or two about that). After the timeout, Jackson came back in the game, made both free throws and proceeded to guard Joe Johnson down the stretch.
Although he had a game-high 6 turnovers, Jackson made arguably the biggest shot of the night. With under a minute left, he caught the ball in the right corner, shot-faked Flip Murray out of the building and nailed a step-back 3 in front of the Warriors’ bench to put the Ws up 112-108. He finished the game with 24 points.
Crawford’s 61 and Counting
After playing 61 minutes against the Kings two days prior, Jamal Crawford admitted to having to feel his way out early against the Hawks. He shot 30 percent in the first half and was hit with a technical after he complained to a ref about being fouled by Mike Bibby on a fast break layup attempt. Need more proof that he was ineffective in the first half? Nellie substituted Marcus Williams with 31.3 ticks left in the first half for Crawford and Williams made a 3 at the buzzer.
In the second half, things were completely different for Crawford. He scored 22 of his game-high 29 points, including 14 in the 4th quarter. The second half was an all-around performance for Crawford. At the end of the 3rd quarter, he saw that Zaza “Don’t call me Gabor” Pachulia was about to catch the ball at midcourt for a last second shot. Crawford got over in time to block the shot a few rows into the crowd.
With the momentum of the blocked shot and an 85-81 lead going into the 4th, the Warriors played extremely well. Crawford pulled-up over Bibby consistently. Crawford shot 5-8 in the final quarter.
Ready like Maggette
Before the game, Corey Maggette told reporters that he had swollen fingers that caused him to struggle from the free-throw line against the Kings (4-12). Nellie decided to put Maggette in the sixth man role and he checked into the game at the 2:59 mark of the 1st quarter. He was met with a couple of golf claps and a few boos.
But Maggette had the fans on his bandwagon later in the game after they witnessed him doing a monster job on the defensive boards. In 35 minutes, Maggette finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Like Crawford, Maggette had a massive 4th quarter. His line was near-perfect. Maggette made all 4 of his field goals, all 6 of his free throws and pulled down 7 defensive rebounds. Maggette was able to grab that many boards, partly because Hawks’ Coach Mike Woodson played Pachulia for less than 2 minutes in the 4th and went with a small lineup. The Ws out-rebounded the Hawks 16-8 in the fourth quarter.
Johnson Comes up Short
Early on, it looked like the Warriors had no answer for Joe Johnson. He was shooting over whoever was in front of him and proceeded to back down whoever was guarding him in the post too. To start the game, Johnson was 8-8 with 21 points with 4:00 left in the 2nd quarter.
After his hot start, Johnson cooled down and went on to make one of his next 12 shots. He finished with 25 points and was a non-factor for the rest of the game, due to the defensive efforts of Jack and his willingness to shoot 3s. He went 0-4 in the second half and only got to the free throw line twice.
Without Johnson making any noise, the Hawks relied on Bibby’s 13 points in the final frame to keep them close. But in the end, their inability to stop the Warriors’ pick-and-roll game killed them. Whether it was Crawford pulling up for open shots or finding the cutting big men, the Hawks’ on-ball defense was tougher to watch than 50 Cent’s “The Money and the Power.”
Marvin Williams took a nasty fall in the 2nd quarter when Turiaf tried to block his shot, but hit Williams’ head with bicep on the follow through of his block. Not only did it whack Williams upside the head, it sent him head-first to the hardwood and kept him down for some time. Somehow Williams was able to make his first free throw. On the next possession he was subbed out for Bibby and went straight to the locker room. He was immediately taken to a local hospital and was examined for a possible concussion. Williams scored 5 points in 13 minutes of action.
Welcome back, joining me (prior to tip-off) are two Warriors beat writers, Geoff Lepper of 48Minutes.net and Janny Hu who covers the team for the San Francisco Chronicle. Unfortunately, because there are no beat writers from Atlanta out on the road covering the team due to the journalism industry struggling worse than Lindsay Lohan’s acting career, our guests today are experts on Warriors’ hoops.
SLAM: Topic number one, what’s been the most encouraging sign you’ve seen from the Warriors this season?
Geoff Lepper: (Laughs). Has there been an encouraging sign?
SLAM: Well, that’s an answer…
GL: I think the fact that they’ve managed to uncover some guys like C.J. Watson, who is developing some value around the League is a nice development. Whether or not he stays here after this year, who knows? But that’s kind of as good of a silver lining that you can get. It certainly looks like they’re stuck in a situation where they’re going to win too many games to get a very good draft pick and not enough to make the Playoffs.
Janny Hu: I think the bright side is that you get to see some of their young guys play, who probably wouldn’t be given a chance if all the veterans were healthy. Anthony Randolph, Anthony Morrow, both have a lot of potential and the only way they can better is if they’re getting out there playing and playing through their rookie mistakes.
SLAM: Topic number two, what is the most intriguing storyline with the Hawks in town?
JH: Well, I missed the first game in Atlanta, so this is the first game I’ll be seeing of the Hawks all year. It’s just incredible that they’re the 4th-seed in the East right now. Obviously they made some noise against Boston last year in the Playoffs, but the start that they’re on, it’s kind of incredible. So I’m looking forward to seeing what they look like and how all their pieces are working together. They lost Josh Childress too, so I’m interested in seeing how they look in-person.
GL: Well, I love Josh Smith. And I would have loved to have seen Brandan Wright and Josh Smith go up against each other, because I think that’s a guy who Brandan could maybe become. But obviously we’re not going to get that. We’ll see how Anthony Randolph does against him, but I love Josh Smith’s game. I don’t think the Warriors would have been able to get him since the Hawks had matching rights, but I think he would have been a great guy to bring in here if the Warriors had chosen to go that route rather than with Corey Maggette.
SLAM: Topic number three is off the subject, but who do you think is going to be playing in the Super Bowl?
GL: I think it’s going to be all Pennsylvania. I think it’s the continuation of the Pennsylvania sporting year. So, I think Pittsburgh over Philly 31-24.
JH: I don’t even know who is left, that’s how little I know about it. But I’ll take, and I don’t even know what the score is, but I’ll take Philly and Pittsburgh. Can I do that? (Laughs).
JH: I’ll take Philly to win.
Alone with SLAM
After the game we tracked-down Coach Nelson, Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, Stephen Jackson, Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith to touch on a number of different topics…
Nellie’s postgame presser: “Well last game we were a little unlucky and tonight we were a little lucky. Good to have Jack back, I thought he played a sensational game and did a really commendable job defensively. Maggette was sensational. And then Jamal just got hot in the second half which we really needed. So, as a result, we got a hard fought win against a pretty good team. Hooray, Hoo-rah!”
SLAM: How’s the hand feeling?
Corey Maggette: Still hurting, but you got to keep playing and go from there.
SLAM: But it didn’t stop you from pulling any rebounds, right?
CM: Naw, I mean it’s more (noticeable) when I’m shooting free throws or shooting jump shots. You just have to keep fighting through it and move on with it. It’s not a big deal.
SLAM: The play where you tried to block Marvin Williams’ shot and he went to the floor, it obviously wasn’t malicious, but what happened on that play?
Ronny Turiaf: I tried to go for a block shot and all of a sudden, I saw him on the floor. In no way shape or form was I trying to hurt him. I just tried to block the shot.
SLAM: With Maggette playing at power forward for most of the second half, how big was his rebounding and overall play tonight?
RT: It was huge. Corey’s been a force for us whenever he’s healthy. He was driving down the court trying to get to the basket, making big plays down the stretch, getting defensive rebounds and making sure that we were all on the same page.
SLAM: How nice was it to get Jack back tonight?
RT: It’s always nice to have one of your leaders back on the court, but we know what he brings to court. We know what he can do. I feel like it’s a wonderful thing to see him out there having a good time and just trying to make positive things happen on the basketball court.
SLAM: Last question, who do you want to win the Super Bowl?
RT: I don’t care who they are playing, I just want the Eagles to win it. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to jinx them.
SLAM: Do you know of any other former D-League players who have jerseys made by their NBA team? There were fans out there tonight wearing your jersey.
Kelenna Azubuike: Really?
SLAM: Yeah, I saw a girl wearing your jersey…
KA: Wow. I don’t know what to say, I’m just thankful. You just have to thank god and remember where you came from. It makes me thankful. God brought me from where I was and opened the doors when there seemed to be no doors.
SLAM: What did you think about Jodie Meeks dropping 54 points on Tennessee?
KA: That was amazing. It was just good to see someone from Kentucky do that. I just wish the best for him. He’s had a great season so far and I’m sure we’ll see him in the League someday.
SLAM: What are your thoughts on the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama?
KA: It’s huge. The inauguration is going to be amazing. It’s going to be something you tell your kids about.
SLAM: Is there any team in particular that you want to see win the Super Bowl?
KA: The Eagles, because I like Donovan (McNabb). People have been really hard on him this season. He gets a lot of criticism and all that, so it’s good to see him doing well.
SLAM: After playing 61 minutes against the Kings on Wednesday, how were you able to bounce back from that and still score 29 points?
Jamal Crawford: Honestly, I started off real slow. Having Jack back, I just tried to feel my way through it at first, let him carry the load on offense and feel my way through it. And in the second half, once I got my second wind, I was ready to go.
SLAM: Who’s going to win the Super Bowl?
JC: Wow! (Thinks for a second) I like the Eagles. I’m a big Donovan McNabb fan. He’s been through a lot of stuff and he always handled it with class. He never let his highs get too high and his lows get too low. So I hope the Eagles win.
SLAM: What are your thoughts on the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama?
Stephen Jackson: It’s big. Change has come. A lot of people are happy about it, considering Martin Luther King Day is coming up and all the work our ancestors, grandmothers and grandfathers have done for this day to come. And finally we can say we have a black President. But the good thing is it’s not only for African Americans to enjoy. It’s for every race to enjoy change, because we’re all living in the United States. I think it’s something that is bringing the world together, and I think it’s a good thing.
SLAM: Who do you want to see win the Super Bowl?
SJ: Well my Cowboys are out of it, so I’m going to go with the Eagles. I like Donovan McNabb. He’s been getting bashed all season and he’s still been doing his job.
SLAM: What were your impressions of Anthony Randolph; does he remind you of how you were as a rookie?
Josh Smith: He has to understand it’s a long season and that it’s not a sprint—it’s a marathon. And he should learn from the guys who are playing in front of him, learn what they’re doing and see how they’re playing and try to get bits and pieces of their game and try to apply it to his game.
SLAM: Did you drop $350 for those Dr. Dre headphones?
JS: Yeah I did. (Laughs).
SLAM: Are they worth it?
JS: Aw yeah, most definitely, I love them.
SLAM: With the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, the day after Martin Luther King Day, what does that mean to you?
JS: It means a lot. I can tell my kids when they grow up, I voted for the first black President. It’s just overwhelming. I never thought that this day was going to come and, with Martin Luther King Day, is definitely something special. You got to give your respect to the fact that he made it happen for guys like me to walk free in this world and not worry about anything.
SLAM: Who do you think is going to win the Dunk Contest this year?
JS: Hmm, I have to go with my man Dwight (Howard) for the second time, back-to-back.
SLAM: Is there any reason you’re not competing in it?
JS: I’m just trying to move past that, you know? I’m trying to reach different accolades in my career.
SLAM: Who do you think is going to win on Sunday and advance to the Super Bowl?
JS: Eagles and Ravens.
SLAM: So who is going to win the Super Bowl?
JS: I got the Eagles. Believe it or not, I had the Eagles going all the way after they played Dallas the first time. It was a good game, and after that I had them going to the Super Bowl.
– Here’s a tip for fans who want to go to opposing arena’s wearing their favorite player’s jersey on the visiting team (Joe Johnson fan sitting behind the Hawks’ bench)—If you’re going to dance to Britney Spear’s “Womanizer” during a TV timeout and you’re a dude, you probably deserve to be heckled mercilessly.
– Atlanta Hawks’ Head Coach Mike Woodson has the shiniest bald dome I’ve ever seen. I wonder if he dips his head in Vaseline pregame. Notre Dame’s equipment staff wants to know how you get a shine like that so they can hook up the golden domers with a nice buff-job.
– Don Nelson’s chair, ERRRR! Super-padded Laz-E-Boy that he sits on courtside is seriously in need of a cup holder.
Thanks again to all my guests.
I am out!