Something big happened for the Hawks last night.
No, not that. Yeah, Jamal Crawford’s dagger was exciting, and it was just rewards for the Hawks after they kept competing hard (if not always smart) after the game appeared lost. But this being the NBA, the buzz from a victory like this lasts for 10 minutes and then it’s on to the next one. For the Hawks, that’s Oklahoma City on Monday.
More important for the big picture, a couple hours after Crawford’s game-winner the Magic got blown out at Portland for its sixth defeat in eight games. The Hawks, winners of five of their last six, moved a half game ahead in the Southeast and are No. 3 in the East. The Magic is shook, with forward Matt Barnes wondering out loud to the Orlando Sentinel about the team’s resolve after it failed to compete against the Brandon Roy-less Blazers:
“It’s like we are going through the motions. Just because you went to the Finals last year, you can’t go out on the floor and expect teams to lay down. We got no heart. You can only make so many excuses. Everybody has to come and play hard, not just one or two guys. I’ve played on teams that used to love to punk the good teams in the league. We loved to do that.”
So now you see the Hawks have three home games next week against Oklahoma City (21-18), Sacramento (15-23) and Charlotte (18-19). The Magic, meanwhile, is at the Lakers on Monday before returning home to face Indiana (14-25) and Sacramento and heading back out to Charlotte.
All of that means the next two weeks are a chance for the Hawks to show they intend on staying on top of the division and perhaps gain some ground on the Celtics before KG comes back. You figure the Hawks need to go ahead and win these next three because elite teams dominate at home. And also because after that comes a brutal week of at Houston and San Antonio, and a back-to-back of Boston at home and at Orlando.
You can’t put any of these next three down as Ws for the Hawks–Oklahoma City in particular is one of those teams that make you play even if you are better, and the Hawks sometimes
doesn’t don’t seem interested in that kind of game. Time for the Hawks to put it down and supplant Orlando for good in the East’s top three.
– Over at Peachtree Hoops, hawksdawgs laments Joe Johnson’s shot selection and the team’s switching D in the fourth quarter. On the latter point, Woody mentioned the other day that he likes to start a wing on the opposing point so that when the switch on the pick-and-roll happens, the Hawks don’t end up with a small on the post guy.
I understand that thinking, but this was a game where instead of that we saw Al Horford keep ending up guarding Steve Nash straight up off the pick-and-roll. I think I’d rather take my chances with a mismatch against Channing Frye or Robin Lopez in the post (where at least there’s a chance of help) rather than have Nash operate in the open floor against Horford.
– Some of you wanted to know why Jeff Teague got the DNP-CD. I missed Woody’s postgame due to deadline and so I didn’t get to ask. Rather than speculate on Woody’s reasoning, we’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.
– Anybody else see that “In the Suns’ Face” headline on the ajc.com Hawks front and immediately think of this?