The Hawks are a hard team for their own fans to trust even when they are going good. So it’s not surprising that the first sign of the Hawks going bad again brings out the skeptics among NBA watchers.
The Hawks had a sample of that doubt placed in their lockers today: Printouts of this column from the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi. The more inflammatory passages were underlined for effect.
First, understand that caustic columns are part of Bianchi’s schtick. He’s a funny dude whose goal is to write provocative columns that generate buzz. And he’s not above making a full flip-flop in advancement of that goal.
For instance, before the playoffs started, Bianchi wrote the Magic should “Beware of the Hawks.” After Atlanta won Game 1, he wrote: “This was not a fluke, ladies and gentlemen. This is a trend. The Hawks have now beat the Magic four of five times this season. And let me tell you something: The Magic are in trouble. Big trouble. . . . In fact, a case could be made that the Hawks are simply better than the Magic and should be favored in this series.”
And, finally, after Atlanta’s W in Game 5, Bianchi wrote: “The Magic are now down in this series 3-1 and it’s all but over. Does anybody out there really, honestly believe the Magic can rally back from 3-1 against a talented and athletic Hawks team?”
Apparently Bianchi now thinks they can.
Jamal was the only Hawks player still around when I noticed the printouts. He was more amused than annoyed. He also apparently already is familiar with Bianchi’s flexible opinions.
“He changes with the wind,” Jamal said.
Jamal also was not impressed with the “Birdbrains” insult: “That’s a good one, huh?”"
Now all of the Hawks have heard it.
“It wasn’t my idea but I heard the article got passed around,” L.D. said. “Certainly we can use bulletin-board material. But at this stage of the game it’s just about us coming ready to do battle. I told the players after last night’s game we are still in a great position.”
It seems there aren’t many outside of Philips who still believe that. When I got home from practice, I flipped on the television to find the PTI guys doubting the Hawks.
Wilbon set it up the segment by noting that Dwight promised that if the Magic won Game 5 they would go on to win the series:
Wilbon: The Hawks appeared to treat this game like one in December. Now that’s it’s 3-2 and Atlanta has reverted to its dog form from last year’s playoffs, do you think Dwight Howard is right about that?
Kornheiser: I really don’t know about that. I am struck by the oddity of Dwight’s Howard’s performances. His team is 18-3 in games where he takes 10 or fewer shots. He took four shots last night. Then he goes and has a Wilt game with 46 and 19 and they don’t win. So I can’t get a handle on what Orlando can do and can’t do with Dwight Howard. I don’t get it.
Wilbon: That is a crazy stat and is hard to explain. But here is what matters with Orlando: They give effort. They might not play well, they do something that infuriates their coach, Stan Van Gundy. But they are paying attention and they give effort. And the Atlanta Hawks, last night, where was the effort? What were they doing? Is it because they get a home game in Game 6?
Kornheiser: Do you have them done? Do you have them losing?
Wilbon: I had Orlando winning the series and now, more than ever, I have them going to Atlanta and winning Game 6 and then taking the series.
For my blog people who also may be losing faith that the Hawks can close out this series, take solace in history–and not just that only eight of 194 NBA teams have come back from down 3-1.
Mike Prada of SB Nation says just because Game 5 was a blowout doesn’t mean the Hawks will lose the series. In fact, recent playoff results suggest they will win Game 6.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat