What to make of these Hawks, who lately have faltered while losing games within their grasps and not always in the same fashion?
“Sometimes defensively,” Marvin said. “Sometimes offensively.”
They are well within striking distance of 50 victories at 40 with 19 games to go. Yet the Hawks are 23-19 since Dec. 26. And in the last two weeks, with the Southeast Division title out there as a carrot, they’ve blown leads in two ugly losses (at Golden State and vs. Dallas) and suffered from mental lapses late in two others they had chances to win (at Miami and at New York).
Overall, the Hawks’ offensive numbers are very good, maybe even elite. But lately when it’s time to win tight games, their situational offense often sufferers from poor ball movement, bad shot selection, untimely turnovers and a general lack of focus.
The Hawks are supposed to be a defensive-minded team under Woody. For about the last month, though, they regularly haven’t defended with intensity for more than a few stretches per game (and, again, this is the time of year when they are supposed to be cranking it up). Then again, as they showed Monday in New York, when they decide to get after it defensively the Hawks look very good.
“We got stops when we needed to get stops,” Woody said. “I am trying to figure out how come we just can’t do that the whole game? That’s what’s been mind-boggling to me as the coach.”
So, what to make of the (40-23, capable of scoring on anyone, good on defense when they lock in, inconsistent all around) Hawks?
“We are on schedule to better our record from last year, and that is progress is kind of how I look at it,” Woody said today before the team departed for D.C. “How it plays out in terms of the conference remains to be seen. We are four games behind Orlando with 19 to go. Do we have a chance to win division? Sure we do. But we are going to have to play lights out to get it done.”
They aren’t doing that lately and–cant’ say this enough–this is the time serious contenders do it. That 21-8 start was nice but of course no one will remember that if the Hawks slide down the stretch then flame out in the playoffs.
What’s the problem?
“I don’t know, man,” J.J. said. “We lose focus a lot and that’s something we have to get back to doing (and) really defensively. Once we get our defense going back, the offense will come back. When we need to get stops, we can get them. We know what we are capable of doing. We just need to do it for 48 minutes.”
What’s the problem with the defense?
“We will play five minutes hard, and then (for) two minutes have some mental lapses,” Al said. “We have to be in tune with what we are doing.”
“We seem to kind of not get the defensive concepts down on a consistent, night-in and night-out basis,” Smoove said. “We go good for three or four games and then we slip. We have to be more consistent on night in and night out basis because we are going to score points.”
And which concepts do the the Hawks struggle to grasp?
“Maybe coverages,” Josh said. “But really just the simple principle of keeping your main in front of you.”
Woody said that simple principle is part of the problem. He said the Hawks have been “pretty good” with his defensive concepts but that it might be time to adjust them.
“I think the fact that I am trying to–I don’t want to use the word ‘hiding’ guys–but we switch a lot of things, we try to be proactive,” he said. “Maybe we need to scale back a little bit in those areas. But I don’t want to take our aggressiveness away. I think we are just doing it (defending well) in spurts.”
– Mo Evans (flu-like symptoms) didn’t fly with the team to D.C. today and isn’t expected to play Thursday at the Wizards.