Monsters vs. ATLiens

By 11.17.09
Joe Johnson (photo. Zach Wolfe)

Joe Johnson (photo. Zach Wolfe)

As this edition of Smack is being written, ESPN’s 24-hour marathon of college hoops is underway. Writing about basketball in the middle of the night while live basketball is showing on TV with no end in sight for hours? This is the life … Are the Hawks really this good? When we ranked Atlanta 5th yesterday on Dime’s weekly NBA Hit List — maybe the highest we’d ever had them ranked, at least in the last 2-3 years — the response was surprisingly strong that Joe Johnson and Josh Smith and crew should have been in the top three, maybe even holding the No. 1 spot. True, the Hawks had won four straight going into Monday’s schedule, but they’ve always been one of those Zab Judah/Asafa Powell-type teams: Even when they have the talent, you wonder if they’re mentally tough enough to seriously be an elite contender. Last night, Atlanta made a good case for themselves, knocking off the Blazers to win their fifth in a row … We might have underrated the Hawks, but we never underrate Joe Johnson. More people need to realize that this dude is a beast, one of the 15-20 best players in the world. He was icewater in crunch time against Portland: JJ hit a pair of big threes in the fourth quarter, and with ATL down by one with under 30 seconds to go, drove and got a right-hand finger roll. Johnson (35 pts, 9 asts) then stuck a pair of free throws with four seconds left to give the Hawks a three-point lead, and after Rudy Fernandez sent it to overtime with a ridiculous three (more on that later), Joe took over in the extra frame with fadeaways and pull-ups. If you’re a fan of one of those teams pining for LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh or Amar’e next summer, don’t feel bad if you end up with Joe Jeezy … Rudy’s three was strangely reminiscent of Rex Chapman‘s famous shot. Rudy (19 pts, 4 threes, 4 stls) took the inbounds and was fading to his right just like Rex, but instead of shooting on the run, he stopped on a dime, got Al Horford out of his way, and canned the triple. Dude is a gunner — he always looks to shoot when he initially gets the ball — but when he’s on, he’s a problem … Greg Oden is turning himself into the next Hack-a-Shaq candidate. He missed another crunch-time free throw last night, one that would’ve tied it with 40 seconds left in the fourth. Lucky for him, Brandon Roy (17 pts, 9 rebs) snuck in for the offensive rebound and later made a layup to give Portland the lead … Magic/Bobcats had that first-game-of-the-season feel to it, between Rashard Lewis‘ return from suspension and Stephen Jackson suiting up in his first game for Charlotte after being traded earlier in the day … S-Jack must have felt like he’d never left Golden State. He was on the court for 45 minutes, went 4-for-14 from the field (13 pts, 9 rebs), and his team lost. Between S-Jack and Flip Murray (31 pts), the low-scoring Bobcats now have two of the most unapologetic jackers in the League. Those two couldn’t even play 2-on-2 with each other because nobody would pass and they wouldn’t get past the check-ball stage … Too much more of this and we’re gonna need to take a one-week moratorium on praising Brandon Jennings. Scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, Young Money hung 25 and eight dimes on the Mavericks and looked like a vet while doing it. With under a minute to go in the fourth quarter, Jennings gave Milwaukee the lead with a floater in the lane, but then Jason Terry (19 pts) responded with a tough baseline pull-up to force the extra frame … We’ll set the scene, and you take a guess as to what happened: Overtime, three seconds left, Dallas ball on their sideline. Dirk Nowitzki (32 pts, 11 rebs) is positioned near his favorite spot on the floor with 6-8 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute guarding him, while Jason Kidd — who can probably pinpoint a grain of rice through a Cheerio from 20 feet — is handling the inbounds … Dirk pretended to set some screens and Kidd pretended to look for other options, but you knew where he wanted to go. The only surprise was that Dirk’s fallaway didn’t catch all net; it bounced around the rim to tease the Bucks before dropping in at the buzzer … So now what happens with Allen Iverson? The Grizzlies and A.I. have decided to get a divorce, and people in A.I.’s camp admitted New York would be an ideal destination, among other East Coast teams. Which one do you see Iverson fitting in with most? And which teams would actually take a chance on him? … We’re out like Oden’s free throws …

TOPICS#LeBron James

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