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News » Bench comes up big when needed most

Bench comes up big when needed most

Bench comes up big when needed most
Zaza Pachulia got a standing ovation every time he ran to the scorer's table to enter the game.

Flip Murray was drawing double teams like Joe Johnson every time he looked like he might drive to the basket.

And no one should overlook the role Mo Evans played as a replacement for an injured Marvin Williams in the starting lineup from Game 3 through Sunday's Game 7 finale.

For a bench crew maligned since the preseason as one of the league's worst, the Hawks' reserves showed up when it mattered most in this series.

"We weren't about to leave anything on that floor," Pachulia said after his eight-point, four-rebound performance. "This was a do-or-die game, and I know I didn't want to leave any energy on that floor. It was a huge game for our team, our franchise and the city of Atlanta. We had to come through, and that's what we did."

Pachulia said Al Horford reminded the entire locker room after the game about the sacrifice championship teams make to win. And it involves turning a blind eye to the stat sheet and worrying about who does what.

Cheap shots

Once it became clear the Hawks' lead would stay at or over 20 points late in the game, it was only a matter of time before the hard fouls turned into something worse.

Heat forward Udonis Haslem was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 on Pachulia with 3:51 to play.

And Haslem didn't go quietly. He snatched his jersey off as he was escorted to the locker room, a move that's sure to earn him a fine from the league.

But the hard fouls slowed down after that, as the Hawks' starters were pulled from the game one by one over the next two minutes.

There weren't many hugs or handshakes shared afterward, as both teams went their separate ways. And they're sure to see plenty of each other in the future, since they'll battle for position in the Southeast Division for years to come.

"It was a tough series, man," Joe Johnson said. "There were a lot of hard fouls. But that's playoff Basketball. That's the way it's going to be every night."

Defensive on point

Dwyane Wade's 10-for-25 shooting effort was no accident. It was the result of the Hawks' sharpened defensive focus.

Wade didn't have a single dunk in the game and had to deal with two and three bodies every time he tried to finish at the rim.

Hawks forward Josh Smith said that Hawks assistant coach Larry Drew went over the fine points of his defensive scheme one last time in practice Saturday, and it paid off Sunday.

"Our defense was on the money," Drew said. "From all the adjustments we made to all the coverages, we were on the money from the beginning to end. What we did was, we kept mixing it up. The one thing we really wanted to do was make Wade work really hard. I know he got away from us a couple of times where he hit some 3-pointers. But the guy we thought that hurt us in Game 6 was [Michael] Beasley. And we didn't let him get away from us like he did in Game 6."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 5, 2009


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