Smith, Teague lead Hawks past Bulls 100-88By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer Monday, May 9, 2011
It shows the Atlanta Hawks forward attacking the basket. And defending. And rebounding. And finding the open man. About the only thing it doesn’t feature is Smith parking himself on the outside, putting up jumpers beyond his range.
“I’ve been telling him from day one: just because the shot is open doesn’t mean that’s the shot you take,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
Smith is frequently criticized by Atlanta fans for his inconsistent play. He heard nothing but cheers Sunday night, coming up with a huge game that helped the Hawks even the Eastern Conference semifinal against top-seeded Chicago at two games apiece.
Largely ignoring the long jumpers that aren’t his forte, Smith had 23 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and a steal in Atlanta’s 100-88 win over the Bulls.
“We’re always trying to stay in his ear, but obviously when he’s going to the basket and making it easy for himself, we just try to keep encouraging him,” teammate Joe Johnson(notes) said. “He was All-Star caliber. When he’s playing like that, it’s almost impossible for a team to beat us.”
Smith will have to keep it up for the Hawks to have a chance to knock off the Bulls. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Chicago.
“I’m going to bring the tape in and bring him into the office. And he knows,” Drew said. “He has the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. When he’s flying around making plays, he’s pretty good.”
The Hawks snapped a nine-game home losing streak in the second round, their misery dating to a May 13, 1996, win against Orlando.
Filling in for injured Kirk Hinrich(notes), the second-year guard again directed the team with the poise of a veteran instead of someone who played infrequently during the regular season and hardly at all in the first round of the playoffs. He scored 12 points and doled out four assists, putting the capper on a late 10-0 run that broke open a game that had been tight and intense all the way.
“He’s playing great,” said Hinrich, who’s watched this entire series in dress suits because of a hamstring injury. “Obviously he has ability. He’s fast. He’s good at finishing up around the rim.”
Driving toward the hoop with Kyle Korver(notes) draped all over him, Teague flipped up a shot as he was falling down. It banked in, giving the Hawks a safe lead, 94-84, with 1:26 remaining. The second-year player bounced off the court with a big smile, bumping his teammates on the way to the bench.
Someone held up a sign, “M-V-Teague.”
The actual MVP scored 34 points. But Derrick Rose(notes) needed 32 shots to do it, and he wasn’t nearly as effective as he was in scoring a career-best 44 points in Game 3, leading the Bulls to a 99-82 rout that restored Chicago’s home-court advantage.
The top-seeded Bulls can still close out the series simply by winning at home, but the Hawks know they’ll get at least one more home game.
Rose turned it over twice during Atlanta’s decisive run, and Chicago also was hurt by an admitted blown call from referee Bennett Salvatore. He blew his whistle, said he didn’t mean to and ruled a jump ball that was won by the Hawks. Bennett said he watched a replay after the game and should’ve called a foul on Jamal Crawford(notes) when he blew his whistle.
“It was a tough game but no excuses,” Rose said. “Put this game on me. Two turnovers at the end of the game.”
Smith said he’s not worried about those who boo him in his own hometown, who feel he’s never quite lived up to his enormous potential even though he’s still just 25 years old.
“There are people who don’t understand the game, who don’t know the game. That doesn’t faze me,” he said. “My teammates matter more than anybody else. They believe in me. They have confidence in my game. When I was in my rut, they told me to stay positive, to stay in the game, just do what I’d been doing all season long. I stayed with it and had the game I had tonight.”
After an embarrassing performance two nights earlier, the Hawks changed up their lineup. They had been dominated on the boards in the two previous games, so they went back to a bigger lineup that worked so well against Dwight Howard(notes) and Orlando in the opening round.
Seven-footer Jason Collins(notes) started at center between Al Horford(notes) and Smith, putting Marvin Williams(notes) in a reserve role. Collins had a couple of early dunks, but he wound up playing less than 12 minutes.
More significant was the way Atlanta changed up its defense on Rose, charging at him with double-teams—even a few triple-teams—whenever it looked as though he was about to make a move toward the hoop.
No one stops Rose completely, of course. He still had plenty of moves for the highlight film, including a soaring dunk of his own miss when no one blocked him out early on.
But down the stretch, the Hawks clamped down on the Chicago star. Rose tied it at 84 on a drive with 4 1/2 minutes to go, but he made only one more basket, a late one that didn’t matter, and finished 12 of 32 from the field.
“I put us in a bad position at the end of the game,” he said. “Turnovers, loose balls. Just learn from it and just try not to do it the next game.”
Watching from the bench, Hinrich noticed a big difference from Game 3 to Game 4.
“Our second line of defense was so much better,” he said. “When Derrick got in the lane, we made him play in a crowd. That’s what you have to do.”
Horford had his best game of the series, scoring 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Johnson led the Hawks with 24 points, knocking down some early shots to get over a rough showing in Game 3.
NOTES: Chicago G Keith Bogans(notes) went down awkwardly in the first quarter trying to guard Johnson, spraining his right ankle. Bogans went to the locker room to get it taped and was able to come back in the game, but he finished with only three points. … Horford got poked in the eye by his former Florida teammate, Noah, after collecting a rebound. Horford was OK, and Noah gave him a pat on the backside.
Paul Newberry can be reached at http://twitter.com/pnewberry1963