The Hawks have been boasting for weeks now about all their new depth and the dynamic that brings. It was evident in the preseason, when Hawks coach Mike Woodson dove deep into his rotation. But it wasn't on display against the Pacers in the season opener.
Sure, everyone played a minimum of 10 minutes and no one played more than 40 (though Joe Johnson was knocking on the door at 39:23). And they did win the game doing it this way.
But 13 minutes and 36 seconds for Jamal Crawford and 10:48 for Joe Smith seems a bit light, particularly in a game where the Hawks needed every bit of firepower they could muster to hold off the scrappy Pacers.
"I feel like we kind of succumbed to the way they wanted to play and to the rotation they wanted us to use instead of milking that newly-formed bench we brought in here," said Mo Evans, who made the most of his limited time, piling up 12 points in just 15 minutes. "We've got to learn how to trust our second unit as well to go out there and play. We've got a lot of talent over there and I think we got a little nervous because they were out there making shots and then we had to extend our starters' minutes a little longer than we probably wanted. That's not going to work during those stretches when we have four games in five or six nights."
Stretches like the one the Hawks will face this weekend with Washington and into the middle of next week's Western Conference road swing.
Woodson took several questions about his playing rotation after the game. In his defense, he did play 10 men in the third quarter, something he never did last season.
"We're all trying to get used to one another," he said. "They're especially trying to get used to me and what I'm expecting when they're out on the floor. Overall, I thought it was a great effort on everybody's part, and we were able to secure the win. And that's what's most important."
HAWKS 120, PACERS 109: The Hawks have work to do on the defensive end of the floor.
That much was clear after their season opening 120-109 win over Indiana.
But they've got the inside work taken care of thanks to Al Horford and Josh Smith.
The Hawks' talented but still young dynamic duo outdid themselves against the Pacers.
"It's just the first game," Horford said smiling. "We can't make too many judgments. But we are trying to make an effort to play better and we needed to shut them down inside and we did a good job of that when it mattered late."
Horford had a masterful opening night, finishing with 24 points, a game-high 16 rebounds and two blocks as all five Hawks starters scored in double-figures. Smith was equally impressive, finishing his night with 18 points, eight assists, five steals, three rebounds and two blocks.
"There's no doubt Josh and Al carried us in the first half and that's big," Johnson said after leading the Hawks' with 25 points. "I knew I had to step it up after halftime because I was pressing a little too much early. But when you have those guys going off like that on both ends of the floor we're a tougher team to deal with. I've always believed that."
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