Josh Smith’s performance in the second round of the playoffs has highlighted just how big of a liability he can be as well how dominant he can be.
Perhaps no other player in the league is as adept at making a building of over 19,000 boo in disappointment one half only to erupt in a deafening cheer at the end of the same game.
In Game 3, Smith was one of the few bright spots for the Hawks. Or, at least it seems that way as he stuffed the stat sheet with an impressive 17 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four blocks. However, what seems to stick out most in the minds of those who attended Philips arena is what Smith didn’t do.
Despite shooting 50 percent from the field, Smith missed a number of wide open jump shots. To make matters worse, he missed five of his eight attempts from the free throw line.
It got to a point where the Atlanta fans booed Smith after every botched perimeter attempt.
Fan contempt for Smith’s outside game seemed to spill over into Game 4 as a distinctive rumbling could be heard nearly every time Smith caught the ball outside of the paint. Just when fan trust seemed to reach an all-time low, how did Smith respond? The guy snags a rebound, takes the ball the length of the court, crossing Joakim Noah over on the way before throwing a well placed lob pass to Al Horford for a slam that sent the building into a frenzy.
Smith went on to have one of his most dominant showings in a Hawks jersey racking up 23 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. He seems to be aware of the mixed feelings his play has inspired which he vented about during Sunday’s post-game press conference.
“The media is trying to [Terrell Owens] me,” Smith said. “If [the media] wants to blame it all on me for losing Game 3 I’ll take it. It’s cool, I’m a man.”
He also seems to be aware of the questionable decision making he has displayed lately.
“Tonight I did a good job of not settling,” Smith said. “When I’m able to do that for my team it helps us out. Especially when they try to double team off of me I have to present myself to the middle of the court and just make plays out of the double team.”
Atlanta’s head coach Larry Drew seemed more than impressed satisfied with the effort he got from Smith in Game 4.
“Josh and I have had a number of talks,” Drew said. “I know what he brings to the table. When he plays the way he palys tonight we are pretty good. I think he recognizes that. He just sometimes finds his way on that perimeter and lets it go.”
Inconsistent jump shooting aside, Smith will play an integral part in the Hawk’s attempt to pull off an upset for the second time this post season.
“He has the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor,” Drew said. “A guy his size, with his athleticism, he brings a lot. When plays like that, when he is flying around making plays, when he is playing energized basketball he is really good. Tonight he was that.”