Hawks top Mavs

Jon Barash

The Hawks improved their preseason record to 3-3 (3-0 at home) with a 110-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Mike Scott led the Hawks with 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from the free throw line. Scott played a more prominent role than expected after Al Horford left the game in the second quarter with a sore right calf muscle. Scott has taken advantage of his opportunities in the preseason and has shown solid improvement from game-to-game. His understanding of the offense has grown exponentially, and he is starting to be more comfortable with the NBA game.

“Yes [I’m getting more comfortable],” Scott said. “More repetitions, getting around the vets, trying to learn from the vets (like Josh Smith), Al Horford and Anthony Tolliver…everyone’s been welcoming with open arms. (I’m) just playing with confidence, (I) still had some defensive breakdowns, but my teammates got me the ball and I finished, finally made some shots. Just slowing down and taking more time in the post.”

The Hawks started the game without Jeff Teague, John Jenkins and Zaza Pachulia due to injuries, which gave a lot of guys an opportunity to play more minutes and a more active role in the offense. Ivan Johnson took advantage of his minutes and finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds and five fouls. Johnson earned his fifth foul with 2:33 to play in the third quarter with six points and three boards at the time, but Larry Drew left him out there and Johnson rewarded that trust. He played until the 6:54 mark in the fourth and was extremely active on both sides of the ball.

As for Johnson’s thoughts on the game, he simply said, “I just relaxed.”

The always-insightful Johnson did elaborate some when prodded about his night scoring and setting screens and hitting the glass.

“Yeah, [taking better shots] is something I thought about,” flowed Johnson. “Calm myself down, and just go out there and play. I’m not the main scorer or whatever, I’ve got to do the little things you know.”

While Johnson was important to the Hawks maintaining the lead, Smith came out early and was extremely active in giving the Hawks the lead, finishing with a double-double, tallying 10 points and 13 boards. Smith had a poor night from the line going 0-for-4 from the charity stripe, but he crashed the boards and continued to look for his inside shot, settling for jump shots less often. Smith’s 13 boards were part of a larger story for the Hawks, who had 50 rebounds in the game compared to 41 for the Mavericks.

“We just wanted to be active,” Smith said. “We knew that when Al went out, we were gonna be a little smaller and we had to gang rebound. Guys were coming in from the perimeter to help us out, and we limited them to one shot and got out on the break.”

Tolliver and Kyle Korver also played a big role early on in building the Hawks’ lead. Both players had five points in the first quarter with each hitting threes on the opening two possessions.

Atlanta is slowly getting more comfortable with each other on the floor, which is showing in better rotations defensively and better ball movement on offense. The Hawks are doing a better job to not take contested shots and are getting the ball inside and then playing out. Defensively, the Hawks look much better against the pick-and-roll, not switching on the screen, but instead pressing the ball-handler and using their team speed to recover onto the pick-setter.

The Hawks will look to get healthy this week before playing Friday in Detroit in the final tune-up before the regular season opens in Atlanta Friday, Nov. 2 against the Rockets. The Hawks will be hosting an open practice Sunday at 3:30.

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