Hawks captain Joe Johnson said the sting of being traded his rookie season has never dissipated.The coach of the Boston team that moved him conceded Tuesday that a trade that looked good at the time has turned out to be disastrous.
"It was a good (move) in the short run, the people we ended up bringing in helped us get to the Eastern Conference finals," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said before his team faced Johnson and the Hawks on Tuesday at Conseco Fieldhouse. "It was a horrible move for the long run."
O'Brien remains a fan of the progress Johnson has made since drafting him eight years ago, calling the two-time All-Star one of the most versatile players in the league.
"He's one of the smoothest players in the NBA... it almost seems like he glides," O'Brien said. "If there's any such thing of playing basketball on ice skates, that's what it would be like. He's very long, has a shot that he gets off very, very high. He's a terrific passer, can put up a volume of points and when they went out and got a scoring point guard (Mike Bibby) that spaces the court well and decided to go to small ball, that really made it more difficult to guard Joe because you can't load up on him because he's in a one-on-one situation."
Johnson's ability to carry the Hawks is what has made them one of the Eastern Conference's better teams going into 2009, as O'Brien's Pacers found out after being the victims of Johnson's clutch shooting late in a 110-104 loss to the Hawks on Tuesday at Conseco Fieldhouse.
"Clearly, the Atlanta Hawks have become a very, very good basketball team," O'Brien said. "They have a lot of offensive weapons. They're an extremely athletic team. And they just outplayed us."
HAWKS 110, PACERS 104: Six straight wins to start the year, or better yet the season, and six to finish it, or at least the calendar year.
The Hawks couldn't ask for much better if they'd put it on a Christmas list.
"This is a dream come true for us, especially when you consider where we've come from," Hawks forward Josh Smith said after his Hawks upended the Indiana Pacers for their sixth straight win. "This feels really good."
These Hawks are suddenly really good. Winners of nine of their last 10 games thanks to their sudden grit in the fourth quarter of games, the Hawks are now 21-10.
Smith's drive and skip-pass to Joe Johnson for a three-pointer and a 108-104 lead with 32.7 seconds to play polished off the pesky Pacers, helping the Hawks snap a five-game losing streak at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Smith shut down Pacers star Danny Green on consecutive possessions in the final minute to keep the Hawks' winning ways going. And it was a combined 38-point second half (19 each) from he and Johnson that lifted the Hawks up after halftime.
Johnson's always going to be a part of the heavy lifting in the fourth quarter, and he did it again with 12 of his game-high 27 points in the final 12 minutes.
Smith finished with 24 points, six rebounds, five turnovers and three assists -- the biggest dish, of course, was finding Johnson for that game-clinching shot.
"(Smith) made a great basketball play," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said of the busted play that turned out to be the game-sealer. "He drove and drew two, three people and everybody sucked in and left Joe out on the three-point line and Joe hit a big time shot. What can you say, man? Joe's been huge for us this season so far."