The short answer to this obvious question of whether or not the Hawks are a better team without JJ is no. Take away tonight's victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and you will understand this team just cannot compete with the top level teams in the league without our superstar. Sure if you watched the game you could have seen the Hawks display some great ball movement, you might have seen some glimpses of great play from Josh Smith and Bibby, heck even Marvin looked like more above average than his usual decent game. But I go back to the question and just cannot get myself to admit the Hawks are better off without Joe.
Look towards the way the Hawks played tonight. They had a 15 point lead going into the fourth quarter and Speedy Ehlo turned to me and said: "watch the Hawks will find some way to blow this lead." My response was laughter and me commenting, "Speedy, surely you jest." He replied by saying he jests not. I just could not see a way for the Hawks to lose this game with the style they were playing. They were passing the ball, they were moving without the ball, they were playing defense, they were scoring, they were making their free throws and usually the Hawks play their worst basketball early in the game saving their best for last. However, once the fourth quarter started the Hawks played as if someone told them it was the first quarter and started to stink up the joint. Ehlo kept saying he told me so and I kept ignoring him.
How could the Hawks play so poorly in the fourth quarter after doing so well early on in the game? The answer goes back to the first question posed. The Hawks simply need Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter. Joe does most of his scoring in the first and fourth quarters going nearly invisible when it comes to the middle two quarters. Personally, I am ok with this as long as he makes his baskets when it counts (and making them has been difficult as of late for him). It seemed the Hawks were lost on offense in the fourth quarter due to their usual standing around and watching Joe make something happen once the clock starts counting down in the fourth. So when the time came for something to happen and when the Hawks needed baskets they had no one to turn to.
This is where Bibby needed to step up and do his damage and to be fair he did step up and do some damage with his 3 point basket late in the quarter that pretty much sealed up the game being the best example. (Side note on this, after this huge momentum grabbing and game ending shot was made, nobody on the Hawks bench jumped up and cheered. What's up with that? The T-wolves bench was up on every play. Our bench looked like they would have rather been anywhere else) Even though the Hawks did close out this game, a situation will come up when they need a big time scorer in the fourth quarter, a guy who will create his own shot for not only himself but others on the team as well. This is why we need Joe. This is why, even though with a victory tonight, we are not a better team without him. Do not listen to the haters, Joe come back, cause although we beat the Timberwolves, we might not be so lucky later.