After criticizing this Atlanta Hawks team’s playoff performances, some of us may have to change our tune. We’ve seen the Hawks win first rounds before, in the last two years. Both times it was an escapish situation, wherein the Hawks made of with a game 7 win. But how about tonight’s win? The Hawks did everything right in a sense, not succumbing to the mounting pressure of a possible Orlando turnaround. And you know what? They earned it. Yes, there is a difference between winning a series 4-3, and winning it 4-2. The difference is caring enough to knock a team out before they get a chance to take the series from you. The difference is wanting it to happen on your own court, instead of trying to ice skate uphill on your opponent’s. The difference is everything we thought the Hawks probably weren’t. Maybe we were just wrong. And yet, the Hawks needed to believe in each other far more than they needed us to believe in them. Do we believe in them now?
Are you beginning to enjoy this yet?
It would be easy to pick apart everybody’s individual performance, but winning cures all ills. Besides, a guy can play mostly terrible, indifferent, or great for the majority of the game. It all can change on a single key play. However, some outshined others.
Joe Johnson – Having had some pretty rough playoff series the last two years (and injuries didn’t help), it was great to see the all-star guard leading in his own way. Joe didn’t shoot all that well, but he hit some pretty tough shots and the added double figure rebound contribution was critical.
Al Horford – less than a star when it came to shooting, Horford added 6 assists from the pivot and came fairly close to matching Dwight Howard on the glass. Never a shabby thing.
Jamal Crawford – like Joe, Jamal didn’t shoot overly well, but he sure hit enough critical shots to keep things going. You can’t ask for better than 19 points off the bench from any one guy in a low-shooting, low-scoring game.
Josh Smith – 3-14 shooting and as many turnovers as rebounds makes you a goat. Blocking the opposing team’s desperation 3 point shot with the clock winding down when you’re up by 3 makes you a hero.
Kirk Hinrich – Timely and efficient shooting, along with the usual defensive effort.
Marvin Williams – solid off the bench with 10 points and 3 boards. No complaints here.
Zaza Pachulia – 5 boards, 5 fouls. He’s our #1 goon.
Jason Collins – never has a box score told so little about a guy’s contribution.
The Hawks passed more than one test by not only beating a higher seed in the playoffs, but by not letting the series go 7 games. Now, can they prove they belong in the 2nd round and can compete? Adjustments will have to be made, as the Chicago Bulls are a totally different team, with totally different matchups. We’ll discuss those matchups as we get to the games, but for now, let’s talk about who has to raise their game for the next series. Here are my picks:
Larry Drew, Al Horford, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith. Why? Because now the focus won’t be on freeing Al Horford and other bigs from the Beast of the East (Dwight Howard). And, the Bulls will provide better perimeter defense than Joe or Jamal saw against Orlando. On the other side of the ball, Joe/Kirk/Jamal will face a much bigger test in Derrick Rose all by himself. The Hawks will need scoring from their bigs. Drew won’t be able to go with the “throw Jason Collins in there” strategy, and will have to figure out how to score against this defense. And, there’s more where that came from….
….but who are your picks?
Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest