Many thought after two easy wins of 15+ points by the Indiana Pacers in games one and two that this series was already over. Many thought the Atlanta Hawks would just lie down and would have no chance of competing with the Pacers.
When the series shifted back to Atlanta, head coach Larry Drew needed his superstar players to step up in order to get his team back in the series. In game three, it was Al Horford who dropped in 26 points and 16 rebounds in a 90-69 victory. Tonight, it was Josh Smith’s turn to put the team on his back.
In what is more than likely his last season in Atlanta, Smith is proving he is not ready to skip town without a fight. Smith has been relatively quiet in the first three games, averaging 15 points and 6.7 rebounds.
But tonight was a different story. Smith poured in 29 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block. The 29 points and 11 rebounds were his highest totals in the series and the 29 points are a playoff career high for Smith.
The key to this impressive performance was Smith’s aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor. In games one through three, Smith only attempted nine free throws. In tonight’s game, Smith was able to get to the line 16 times. The Hawks needed Smith to step up in a big way in order to even this series and he did that tonight.
Perhaps he is still trying to prove he is a max contract player to the teams that might try to sign him during free agency. Whichever way you look at it, Smith stood out tonight and made sure this series was all tied up as the teams head back to Indiana on Wednesday night.