Sans JJ (sore Achilles’), the Hawks were fine. Sans Devin Harris, and everything else, the Nets were not.
It was a great opportunity for Mike Woodson to challenge his bench, and tonight they responded. With 16 games remaining, time is running out for Woody to stretch his rotation into a legitamate playoff unit. Through 66 games, the “rotation” has been Jamal Crawford with a garnishing of Pachulia. Tonight Woodson threw a change up at his club, as he opted to bring Crawford off the bench and start Jeff Teague alongside Mike Bibby in a backcourt that could only work against the Nets. Joe Smith (17 minutes, 8 points) and Mo Evans (27, 12) also got some quality burn, and the Hawks cakewalked in New Jersey like they were trying to make Diddy’s band.
As for the results of this rarely seen lineup, it was a two-pronged decision that produced mixed results. The move to keep Crawford (25 points, 11-18 FG) in his usual role obviously paid off, but earlier in the game than we’re used to seeing. Jamal’s 15 points paced the team in what was a 33-point 2nd-quarter, and proved that “Crawfense” can be just as effective as Iso-Joe. As for the Teague-Bibby backcourt, it was clear who the veteran was, and why Woody trusts him more. Other than that, we still don’t know anymore about Mike Bibby’s wash level, or JT’s readiness for the ‘Yoffs, than we did yesterday.
Teague, who scored 5 points (2-7) in 20 minutes, was the only Hawk starter with a negative plus-minus (-4). He only comitted one turnover, but only one assist as well. Bibby shot only marginally better, with just one more make in as many attempts, but at least 2 of them were threes. So, in sum, Teague is tentative and ineffective, (also known as an unseasoned rookie)and Bibby is pretty worthless other than the occasional spot up 3 (also known as a not-quite-washed-up veteran).
Given the state of the moribund Nets, the juxtopision of underdeveloped and semi-washed was sufficient. With a trip to Toronto tomorrow, hopefully we will see Teague allowed the chance to string together multiple games. Even if that means multiple two-for-seven’s. We will need a third guard to step up at some point in the future. Whether it’s going to happen this year, or next year, or never, we need to at least pretend like we’re developing our first round pick and point guard of the future.
The Hawks, winners of 9 of 12 and 2 straight on the road, can keep the momentum going in Toronto tomorrow. We’ll get a chance to see how the rotation holds up on the tail end of a road back-to-back.