Joe Johnson was talking the other night about how the Hawks twice allowed Charlotte to get back in the game. He was looking down searching for the words to describe their inconsistent effort, their stagnant offense, their fickle focus . . . and then he seemed to catch himself and suddenly looked up to make his point.
“This is the NBA, man” Johnson said. “That happens.”
In other words, it’s hard to always be dominant. It’s difficult to get good opponents down and keep them there. It’s not easy to always be up. It’s impossible to go all out all the time.
Even Woody softened his assessment of the Hawks over the course of the 4-1 homestand, from “we are still trying to learn how to win at a high level” to “I couldn’t ask for anything better” when assessing the first half of the season. Both statements can be true. He will ask for more, of course. He’s the coach. The players seem to want more, too, and they should. That’s what you expect from any team looking to do something big.
But take a look at the Hawks. For all the complaints about the slow starts, the poor finishes, the silly shot selection, the lack of toughness, the short bench, etc., etc., the Hawks are in position to win their division and push the Celtics for No. 2 in the Eastern Conference. It’s been a long time since they’ve been this good. That’s something to keep in mind as the they begin a taxing week tonight at Houston.
The Hawks aren’t close to perfect, and they won’t get a chance to prove if they’re great until the postseason, but right now they are damn good. This is the NBA, man, and after 42 games that’s significant.