One thing the Hawks have been able to bank on this season is continuity. With eight of their top nine players returning from last season, they knew exactly what they would have in the rotation when the season started. They found out Friday night what it would be like to play without one of those key ingredients.
After Josh Smith was ejected in the second quarter, the middle of the Hawks' defense turned into a revolving door for the New York Knicks. The result was the Hawks' second home loss of the year. The lasting lesson, though, and one that they need to remember when they face Dallas Saturday night at American Airlines Arena, is that Smith is far more valuable than anyone gives him credit for being.
"It was huge," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said of losing Smith. "Josh is a huge part of what we do. He leads the league in blocked shots, he's the second leading rebounder on our team."
He also leads the league in intimidated shots, something that does not have an official statistical category.
"It's a totally different deal when you turn that corner and No. 5 isn't back there at the rim," said Knicks forward Al Harrington, Smith's former teammate. "He's been every bit as important for their team as (All-Star and captain) Joe Johnson. So when they lose him, it's basically the same thing as losing Joe."
KNICKS 114, HAWKS 107: If only the Hawks could have finished as well as they started. An 11-0 start to Friday's game against the Knicks gave way to a woeful effort on both ends of the floor as the Hawks were stunned on their home floor by the lowly Knicks.
"It was a rollercoaster throughout," Jamal Crawford said. "We were up, we were down for a while, got back up, got a chance, and couldn't finish it at the end."
Granted, it's much easier to finish when the opposition doesn't shoot 58 percent from the floor and 44 percent from beyond the three-point line. The Knicks didn't miss when it mattered most. They lost a 15-point lead but bounced back late to kick their lead back to double digits before finishing the Hawks off.
"We started so strong but we didn't step on their throats and didn't play a full 48 minutes, especially on the defensive side," Marvin Williams said. "When we're getting easy buckets our offense is generated from our defense. But we couldn't get enough stops (Friday night)."
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