That’s been the answer for any question or challenge in regard to what the Atlanta Hawks tend to do in games. It has worked for 53 wins. Should any of us be surprised at what we saw in game 5, or just disappointed? You would probably get a different answer from fans as you would from players, or coaches for that matter. The problem, of course, is that what has gotten the Hawks to 53 wins in the regular season, does not seem to be getting them to 4 wins in a playoff series. Or maybe I’ve got that backwards. It’s what they’ve managed to overcome for 53 wins that is hurting them now. That “what” seems to be a myriad of things. The usual buzz words are floating around- “energy”, “focus”, “execution”, and a host of others.
Cliches, all of them.
Yet in the midst of our doldrums, we have to remember that the series is not yet over, even if it feels like it is. Not officially, anyway.
Piecing it Together
After winning the first two games, it’s like the Hawks thought they had it all in the bag. Only, that doesn’t make sense when considering how they’ve played on the road this year. They proved they could lose in anybody’s arena, at any time. So they came out flat and disinterested for the most part in game 3, and got a royal spanking for their efforts (or lack thereof). Then came game 4, where they remembered to bring the energy and effort, but forgot execution. Fast forward to game 5, and the execution is there, but not for the entire game, much less when it counted most.
Atlanta just cannot seem to bring the total game all at once. In the regular season, a 3 game losing streak isn’t all that bad. In the regular season, you have time to bounce back. The playoffs are different. Lose three games, and you are on the brink. Lose three in a row and you are all but finished. Only the most mentally tough teams seem to be able to manage this, and even then, not many of them do. Are the Hawks that tough? A big question, and one that may already have the inevitable answer. Only one thing is certain in this series right now, and that would be that the Milwaukee Bucks’ toughness can’t be questioned. Down 0-2, the Bucks stormed back and took the fight right to the Hawks’ doorfront. Then they kicked the door down. Now the fight goes back on the road, in front of a raucous crowd that will cheer every good Bucks play, and jeer every Hawks gaffe. Oh, and they’ll probably have some very special signs made up for Josh Smith.
Against all Odds
Remember when this was supposed to be Milwaukee, what with the loss of center Andrew Bogut? The shoe is now on the other foot. Now it’s Atlanta that is trying to beat the odds. The odds that they can win on the road. That they can come from behind, late in a playoff series. They they can play the total game from start to finish.
You would think that an inspiring road win (if it happens) may lead to a triumphant return home, where the Hawks could close things out and head to the second round. But even if that does happen, will it be all that triumphant? Will the Hawks be the better for it? Or will they be tired, disillusioned, and ready prey for the Orlando Magic, possibly even succumbing to a second straight round 2 sweep? Maybe we’re just entertaining dark thoughts, rather than showing faith in our team, as Bucks fans showed faith in theirs (ok, maybe it’s just me with the dark thoughts here).
How about the team? What would their perspective be? Do they have enough moxie, enough heart, to want vengeance? Surely they want to prove that capturing the third seed in the playoffs was more about what they earned and gained, rather than what the Boston Celtics lost. Clearly they would want to show that they are indeed improved, and that 53 regular season wins was no aberration. Having missed the opportunity to do this in games 3, 4, and 5, the Hawks now find themselves with all of this and more on the line in game 6.
A tough lesson before moving on, or a swan song of a supposed bird of prey? Which do we get to see on Friday?
Whichever it is, the Hawks are in this together. Maligned coach, soon-to-be free agent star, and all.