Vivlamore reporting from Philips Arena before Hawks-Pistons game.
Five games to go in the regular season and Hawks fans still aren’t sure which team they will see on a given night. There is the Hawks team that got drubbed by the last-place Raptors on Sunday – at home – by 16 points on Sunday. There is the Hawks team that defeated the18-games-under-.500 Raptors the following night – on the road – by 22 points.
Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde.
With such dramatic differences in effort and result from one night to the next, it’s worth asking if these Hawks are ready for the playoffs.
“For us, we have to approach each game in a smart fashion,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said Wednesday morning before his team hosted the Pistons. “We have not shown the consistency throughout the board across the season. … For that [home Toronto] game to happen at this time of the season was a little surprising.”
Unlike last season, when the Hawks had the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference wrapped up down the stretch, there is still much to play for. The Hawks have an outside shot at catching the Pacers for the third seed and are in neck-to-neck race with the Celtics and Magic for the right to host a first-round series. Coming up is Friday’s huge game against the Celtics and contests with three other teams fighting for playoff position in the Knicks, Clippers and Mavericks.
“I think it’s more important to carry momentum into the playoffs and carry a good taste in your mouth going into the playoffs, regardless of what the games mean,” Drew said.
Even Hawks players recognize the inconsistent play this season and the need to straighten out any issues in the final games.
“I think we are one of those teams who can be scary in the playoffs because you don’t know what kind of team we can really be,” guard Willie Green said. “I think that’s scary for opponents. It is also a little scary for us. We want to make sure over the last five games we try to be consistent with our play, and a high level of play on both ends of the floor, because when we get into the playoffs we can be a very dangerous team.”
Joe Johnson noted that the Hawks did indeed turn around and “redeem” themselves against the Raptors. Most important, with the games remaining, the Hawks can control their playoff fate and seeding if they finish strong.
“We have to take care of home,” said Johnson of all five remaining games at Philips Arena. “We’ve shown we can be a great team. These last five games we have to come out and show that we can be one of the best teams in this league, try to get some momentum going into the playoffs.”
So Hawks fans, are you comfortable where this team is? Are you willing to chalk up Sunday’s loss to the Raptors as a bump in the road? Can this team turn up the energy level come playoff time, much like in last week’s overtime loss at Boston?
UPDATE: Hawks will also be without backup center Erick Dampier, who is out with a calf injury.