So we know the reasons to doubt the Hawks can win tonight. But I keep seeing comments on this blog and hearing people on talk radio expressing a strange sense that they believe the Hawks will win tonight. They qualify their statements to say there are so many logical reasons for them not to feel that way but some kind of hunch tells them the Hawks will do it. The Hawks have been known to be unpredictable.
It’s not out of the question, of course. This is especially true if you still believe the Hawks, when playing to their full potential, are a better team than the Bucks. When the AJC’s Jeff Schultz cornered ASG’s Michael Gearon Jr. , the co-owner made the point that this was the overwhelming view after the Hawks won Games 1 and 2. Now the emotions have swung the other way, which happens in the playoffs. Combine those sentiments with the Hawks’ problems on the road, the Game 5 meltdown, the pressure they are feeling, etc. and it’s not hard to see why there is widespread pessimism that the Hawks can pull it off.
Still, if you try it’s also possible to spin some of what happened on Wednesday into positives. Will J.J., Jamal and Bibby all have terrible shooting nights at the same time again? J.J. probably isn’t going to foul out again since he’s hardly ever done so in his career. It’s doubtful Josh will have to miss minutes because of a busted eye (though I guess you never know with Kurt Thomas out there).
And then there’s the psychology of tonight’s game. No doubt the Hawks are under tremendous pressure to win but what about the Bucks? They don’t have to win tonight but I can’t think they’d be eager to return to Philips since even they know they were fortunate to win Game 5. It’s easy to say it would be no big deal for the Bucks if they end up losing this series because they’ve already fared better than most anyone expected. But now that they are on the verge of springing a major upset while tonight enjoying what has been a tremendous home court advantage, they don’t want to turn back.
Even TNT talking head Charles Barkley, who has ripped the Hawks for their half court offense and players’ attitudes, took up that line of thinking (props to the AJC’s Ken Sugiura for bringing it to my attention).
“The Hawks have a chance,” Barkley said. “This is going to be a very difficult game for Milwaukee. This is the first time that they have the monkey on their back. They have been playing with house money the first five games of the series. When this series started no one thought they could win without Bogut. Then they win the first game and they get somewhat back into it.”
– Super commenter Niremetal emailed in response to yesterday’s blog post on the Hawks’ need for a ‘Zo-like presence:
“Do you think it’s possible to simply bring someone in who commands that kind of respect? I suspect that at least some part of the respect that Zo had stemmed from the fact that he’d been around Miami before, and knew both the coach and a couple of his teammates pretty well. The Hawks’ core has been together for 3 years now. Do you think that if a guy like Haslem or Grant Hill came in, he would get the ear of his teammates like that? I mean, Flip Saunders got tuned out by his players in Detroit. If long-time teammates can tune out a coach, I’d imagine they could tune out a player.”
Niremetal makes a great point. In fact, when ‘Zo was with the Nets in 2004-05, reports out of New Jersey suggested the established Nets players didn’t buy into his leadership style. But the Nets were a different situation than the Hawks. When Zo joined the Nets they were a veteran group that had already been to the Finals. So I could see where Nets players didn’t necessarily appreciate Zo coming in and telling them they needed better focus no matter how hard he worked
It’s also true Zo already had major cred within the Heat organization when he re-joined the team, and his close relationship with Pat Riley also didn’t hurt his standing. It could be that a Zo-like presence on the Hawks could upset the chemistry, which has been pretty good in general (with the notable exception of the bickering we’ve seen when things have been tight in this series).
But how could the Hawks shun a hardened vet who joins the team? The Hawks are a veteran team in the sense that they now have guys who’ve been around but, barring an unexpected run over the next couple weeks, what have they done in the postseason? Not say the Hawks haven’t earned some respect but so far they certainly haven’t made their name in the playoffs. This doesn’t mean the Hawks’ core guys wouldn’t chafe at an accomplished, outspoken guy with a forceful personality coming in as an outsider but it does mean they’d have less of a basis to complain.
–Have fun, Hawks fans.