New depth boosts Hawks

"I feel good about our bench," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "There's times I'm playing five guys off the bench at one time, a whole new lineup."

If this was a revelation, it was because a deep bench has not exactly been an advantage Woodson has enjoyed in his six years with the Hawks. Only 12 games into the season, the strength of the Hawks' deepened bench has become an obvious factor in the team's success. At 10-2, the team is off to its best start in 12 years.

Said forward Josh Smith, "Having that depth on our bench, it's one of the main reasons we're so successful as a team."

The Hawks will attempt to put that depth to use again Friday night against Houston at Philips Arena.

"I think we have one of the best benches in the league," forward Zaza Pachulia said. "We've got to take advantage. It's really helping us."

Guard Jamal Crawford, who came to the team in a June trade for Speedy Claxton and Acie Law IV, ranked second in scoring among players who have not started a game entering Thursday play, at 16.1 points per game.

Forward Joe Smith, brought in as a free agent to sub for Smith and Al Horford, is chipping in just under 10 minutes a night and helped secure the Hawks' upset win in Boston. Woodson called both additions "desperately needed."

Pachulia, re-signed in July, contributed seven points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes in Monday's win over Portland. Swingman Mo Evans has taken turns defending the likes of Miami's Dwyane Wade, who was held to a season-low 15 points Wednesday. Rookie Jeff Teague, while still seeking his role, has shown quickness and playmaking ability.

"Coach has a saying all the time that the bench is as important as the starting lineup," Pachulia said. "He's been saying that for a long time and it's true."

Crawford has been a starter most of his 10 seasons, a 15.2 points-per-game career scorer who has three 50-point games to his credit. Smith was a former first overall draft pick who has been to the playoffs eight times.

"Every person can come off the bench and contribute, if given the opportunity," Evans said. "That’s what feels good about this team."

One of the bench's biggest contributions is simply buying time for the starting unit. Minutes for guards Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby and forwards Josh Smith and Marvin Williams are all down from last season. (Horford's minutes are slightly up.)

The benefit of the extra rest has been evident in the fourth quarter, Woodson said, where the Hawks have outscored their opposition in 11 of their 12 games.

"You've got the luxury of bringing in some guys in to spell those guys and then you get ‘em back in the game," Woodson said. "That's the difference."

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