Game 1 of the first round series between Atlanta and Orlando has been labeled an upset by some, and a surprise for many. Game 2 was a little more like people have been expecting. Yet in so many ways, the Hawks have already begun to prove themselves against their Southeast Division nemesis. With the series tied at 1 game apiece and Orlando’s homecourt advantage virtually gone, is there a clear favorite anymore? Differing theories abound about who will win and why, as well as explanations about how the first two games went.
Star power and the Theory of Inevitability
Magic center Dwight Howard has put up some very impressive individual stats against the Hawks, but his performance is still not winning the hearts and minds of basketball pundits the way guys like Derrick Rose and Chris Paul are currently doing. All the same, his is the only name with star quality in this series, as nobody has much to say about anybody else. As such, the average sports writer or commentator will lean
Saturday, April 16th can be the beginning of the end for the Hawks. Or, maybe the beginning of the end was several games back in the regular season, when they got trounced by the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that had no business beating Atlanta by 41 points. The Hawks insist it’s not over, that they’ll rise in the playoffs, that a season record against Orlando is proof that they can win this otherwise dreaded first round playoff series. Losing six straight games to end the season hasn’t given fans and experts any reason to believe the Hawks, and some have already written them off for the postseason.
So perhaps few people believe in the Hawks. What reasons do they have for believeing in themselves? Does a 3-1 regular season record against the Magic really mean anything in the playoffs? All such speculation and pondering aside, let’s dive into some matchups:
Talent and star power make a big difference in the game of basketball, but there can be no substitute for solid,
Atlanta winds down the season against Washington, Miami, and Charlotte, and with a chance to make a slight improvement on their otherwise underwhelming record. Could the Hawks succeed in their final three games and at least match their 2008-2009 record of 47 wins? If the loss to Indiana last night, coupled with the need to rest ailing starters is any indication, then answer is quite possibly “no.” Besides, resting the starters is something the Hawks really need to do, what with their impending first round battle with the Orlando Magic.
In the meantime, guys like Jeff Teague should see plenty of minutes. But what about the backup bigs? It may be somehat prudent of Larry Drew to give Hilton Armstrong and Etan Thomas some minutes just in case they are needed in the postseason. We may even have another Pape Sy sighting, though that has nothing to do with the playoffs, and everything to do with trying to make offhand observations about a 2nd round draft pick whom we still know so
The AJC’s Mark Bradley queried whether or not fans should have some faith in their team. On Sunday night, the Hawks gave the answer they’ve been giving all season : “Do so at your own risk.”
Maybe there is little reason to be upset. After all, Atlanta has all but locked up the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, and they pretty much know who their playoff opponent is going to be. Then again, maybe that just isn’t the point. After beating two of the East’s top teams, they should have figured out how to win against quality opponents. Why the complete letdown on defense?
Three-headed monster strikes again…
After allowing the Rockets to hit on 57% of their shots, the Hawks were all in a scramble to explain why it went down the way it did. Enter our three team captains, who always know what the problem is. Let’s take a look at some very telling quotes obtained by the AJC’s beat writer, Michael Cunningham:
From one captain -
“We gave up too many dribble-drives, too much
Barring an incredible 8 game collapse on the part of Atlanta, coupled with an incredible 8 game performance by Philadelphia, it seems that the Hawks are fated to meet the Magic in round one of the NBA Playoffs. However, as the saying goes, “never say never.” Or maybe a more applicable one is “be careful what you wish for.”
The Last 8
The Philadelphia 76ers are currently four games behind the Hawks and have a semi-favorable schedule that does include 4 games against opponents with winning records. The Hawks have it worse, facing four top 4 seeds in their last 8 games. Maybe it’s a moot point right now. After all, Orlando is about as far behind Miami as Philly is behind Atlanta. So, the matchup most likely stands. However, the difference may indeed be how the Hawks and Magic play over their final 8 games.
In the case of the Magic, they already know their bread is buttered with Dwight Howard. If he’s happy and the perimeter jumpers fall, Orlando will go into the playoffs with a
With ten games left in the season, the Atlanta Hawks certainly will not be able to match last year’s regular season record. Unless they play very well (and their opponents play very badly), they won’t match the record of the season before that, either. So with that in mind, what do we as fans want to see from our team? Now let’s be realistic – we all want to see different things. But in the interest of waiting for what many of us feel is inevitable, let’s explore some ideas.
One Final Push
It’s not easy for a team to maintain a steady pace towards the end of the NBA season, let alone make a strong final push. Right now, the teams in the East that seem to be doing this are Chicago, Miami, and Orlando, having gone a combined 23-7 in their last 10 games played apiece. Could Atlanta make a strong push to end the season? Would it matter? After all, the Hawks are 6.5 games behind Orlando, and the simple fact is this – even if they were to snatch the 4th seed away from the Magic,
There’s a place you can go, where the ride is bumpy, the hills are steep, the valleys are deep, and the track is unpredictable. It’s not a safari. It’s not a theme park. It’s the Atlanta Hawks NBA schedule. Why bother going to a theme park when you can just watch these guys play?
As much as we love our Hawks, they just can’t be tracked. Atlanta has had trouble reeling off more than two wins in a row, having done so less than five times this season, with decent sized game spans in between. We knew this second half schedule would be tough, but what’s with the whole “win big tonight, lose big tomorrow night?” It seems that not much has changed. The Hawks have enough talent and cohesion to easily top a lesser team one night, then don’t have enough of anything to even make it close against a team of fairly equal standing the next night.
Home is Where the Heart is?
In all likelihood, the Hawks just don’t know where their heart is. What made them explode against Milwaukee wasn’t
It’s happening again. The Atlanta Hawks are slipping, and they’re gaining speed as they go down the slope of losing. Sure, teams struggle and that is the nature of the game. Struggling like this is a different story, though.
Writing On the Wall
Rick Sund said the Hawks were essentially playing to stay within the 3rd to 5th seed range of the playoffs. Perhaps we can guess that this means retaining as much as the 5th seed in a conference that has experienced some major moves that have increased the talent level, is acceptable. Maybe this is a reasonable thought, considering that the Hawks would have been hard-pressed to make any moves that could match the splashy significant of the triumvirate in Miami, the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony in New York, or the move that brought Deron Williams to New Jersey. In fact, the only move the Hawks did make seemed rather vanilla to most folks. Sure, it was a good move, but it was never going to be enough. Sund indicated that what the Hawks
A tale of three team captains
When the Hawks lose, you can ask Joe Johnson what happened. He is likely to tell you he doesn’t know. You can ask Al Horford. He’ll likely tell you what the problem was, and all but name who was responsible for it. You can also ask Josh Smith. He’ll tell you that the team will get their heads together, they are a tight knit group, and everything will be okay. Is any of this confidence inspiring? Why are they all saying different things?
Let us get one thing out on the table, and it is something that some of you/us have already been saying since the beginning of the season. It was a mistake for Larry Drew to name three team captains. Or do you disagree? Let’s extend that even further – it was a mistake to name Josh Smith as a team captain. Perhaps you disagree more vehemently with this than the first assertion. Perhaps not. Either way, can anybody prove this was a successful venture or even a good idea? These three team captains don’t think alike.
The storm, otherwise known as the Hawks’ March schedule, has begun. Up to this point, few fans had any rock solid confidence that the Hawks could weather such a storm, and the record against winning teams up to this point did little to dissuade pessimistic notions. Do we feel different about that now, though?
It’s All About Team
We can complain about having to rally from 19 points down against Chicago (at home, no less) but it probably makes more sense to revel in the fact that it was actually done. Atlanta hadn’t recently shown the ability to rally from that far down in a tough game, or even hold a big lead for that matter. Suddenly, they were able to do it against a team with a better record? While center Al Horford was clearly the hero in that game, there is something else that overshadows it. The Hawks were able to defend….as a team. Not only that, but they did it without Josh Smith, their defensive spark plug. Has the trade that brought Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta really