– Presented with a chance to get back in this series, the Hawks instead checked out. “I wish I knew [why],” Woody said. “It’s very disappointing. After we played three wonderful quarters there in Orlando, I figured we would come home and really play at a high level, make a series out of it. We were so flat coming out.”
– Guess they shouldn’t have been so indignant at those questions about their heart and toughness after that Game 5 loss to Milwaukee. They rallied to beat the Bucks but the Magic are a much better team. Faced with that challenge, the Hawks have laid down in two out of the three games. Is there any way they won’t fold again in Game 4?
– At least Al still seems to care: “It’s frustrating. It really is. I’m not the kind of person that’s going to get out there and point people out. I will acknowledge it. I’ll let them know but you’re not going to see me cursing somebody out or things like that. They know what they have to do. And it’s just frustrating when the effort’s not there.”
– It was an ugly scene at Philips Arena. Fans let the Hawks know that competing and losing is a different deal than failing to show up for a home playoff game. The boos started in the first quarter, grew louder at halftime and reached a crescendo when the home team walked off the floor.
– After Smoove shot a jump shot, Woody barked at him to pass the ball. Smoove shot Woody a look as if to say, “Whatever.” That kind of sums up the way the Hawks played. They weren’t really competing but, oh well.
– J.J. acknowledged the “embarrassing” effort but then seemed to be saying “oh well” to fans who didn’t like it: “That doesn’t bother me and I hope it doesn’t bother anyone in this locker room. It’s about us in this locker room. We could care less if [fans] showed up.”
– That’s the Hawks’ leader, All-Star, and highest-paid player talking. And oh, by the way, he’s been pretty bad in the playoffs. He said he doesn’t think he’s costing himself money with his performance but I’m not so sure. He’s definitely raising more questions about his future with the Hawks.
– “It’s terrible to have a performance like that, especially individuals, [including] myself,” Joe said. “These guys look to me for guidance, and when you are playing like that, it is almost impossible for us to win. I take a lot of heat for this, a lot of criticism.”
– He doesn’t have to like the boos but better to say nothing at all than insult the paying customers. A professional basketball team that gives this kind of weak effort in a big game deserves to be booed. “We expected to come out today and play at a high level,” Woody said. “I’m sure our fans expected that. We deserved that. We didn’t compete today.”
– It’s amazing how quickly the atmosphere surrounding the Hawks has soured. It wasn’t too long ago that they finished a 53-win season and there was a debate about the futures of J.J. and Woody. Then they pummeled Milwaukee in Games 1 and 2 and it appeared maybe they were on their way.
– Ownership has pretty much said that the Hawks need to make a good showing in the playoffs or all bets are off. And then the Hawks struggle to beat Milwaukee in 7 games and now are on the verge of being swept by the Magic.
– Don’t get me wrong: Orlando is a better team than the Hawks and a bad matchup. That doesn’t mean the Hawks shouldn’t at least be able to deliver more than one victory and two-perhaps-three competitive efforts in their last seven games against the Magic.
– It’s about more than Dwight Howard, too. Yeah, he was beast in Game 2 but, think about it: He only scored 10 points over the final three quarters of that game and the Hawks took an 8-point lead. The Magic made their comeback when Howard was on the bench.
– This time, Howard was on the bench with two fouls and the Magic down 24-16. When he returned to the game in the second quarter, the Magic were up 38-24. The Magic’s bench players outplayed the Hawks’ starters over that stretch. That has little to do with talent and more to do with a team that is sharper than the Hawks.
– Watching the Magic run their offense and then watching the Hawks try to do the same is like seeing two teams who play in different leagues. “Offensively, the ball was stuck on one side of the floor,” Smoove said. “They’re a great defensive team. When you do that against a great defensive team, you just play into their hands.”
– How many times have the Hawks made similar comments this season? Why are they still saying it in the East semifinals? The stagnant offense has been an issue all season long but it was masked by the good offensive numbers and opponents who didn’t have the time to lock in on the Hawks for the regular season.
– Now it’s the playoffs and Scott Skiles and Stan Van Gundy, two coaches who push their teams to defend at a high level, figured them out. And when the Hawks have a tough time scoring, usually everything else falls apart, too.
– Skiles didn’t have the horses to beat the Hawks, but Van Gundy certainly does. He never lets up on his team, either, and that’s important when Howard is the dominant personality. The Magic have a potent combination of talent, skill and coaching. “What I really like is the intensity,” Van Gundy said. “The guys never got big-headed. They came to play. They played hard.”
– Woody hasn’t been able to get the same kind of consistent effort from the Hawks, not even when they come back to Philips Arena for an important playoff game. Before the game he said this about his future being up in the air: “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, but it is what it is. I am sure we will sit down at the end of the season and talk about a contract. I’ve got a two-year deal, and I’ve proudly honored it. We’ve had a wonderful season. There are a lot of teams still watching us. We control our own destiny with these next two games at home.”
– After the game, Woody said: “Tonight was just unacceptable. I’ve got to take responsibility. I’m the coach. I thought we were going to come out and compete and we didn’t.”
– I’m out, Hawks fans.