After a dizzy ride, Hawks have a chance to move on

Josh Smith rather enjoyed the booing in Milwaukee but he's glad to be home for Game 7.

Josh Smith rather enjoyed the booing in Milwaukee, but he's glad to be back at home for Game 7.

It’s a lot easier if you don’t try to look for explanations.

Win the next game, and you don’t have to worry about why a 23-point lead shrinks to seven in Game 1 or a nine-point lead with four minutes left morphs into a loss in Game 5. Win the next game, and head-slapping moments  like losing three straight to an opponent missing its best player, only to turn around and go on a 19-0 run and win for only the second time in 12 road playoff games, become trivial.

The Hawks thrill us, aggravate us, confuse us, usually all in the same game. Sometimes all in the same quarter. But win Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks, and they will move on to the second round against Orlando, which is what we expected all along.

Just look at this as an unexpected detour. Ever take a summer vacation when somebody got lost and the family station wagon ended up near a sewage treatment facility? Or maybe just down the road from a water park? That’s the Hawks. One minute a sewage treatment facility, the next minute a water park.

“We can’t let ourselves get distracted Sunday like we have at times,” Josh Smith said. “We have to take over.”

Ah, if only they could follow scripts.

They deserved criticism for having to play a sixth game in Milwaukee. But they deserve praise for bringing the series back to Atlanta. We knew they had talent. It’s the intangibles that have come into question: resolve, desire, intelligence — particularly in those game-changing moments. They are what separate teams this time of year.

Coaching, too. Mike Woodson has been slapped around for perceptions that this team has been underachieving. But Friday in Milwaukee, he got his players to pull together and also changed things up defensively. A lot of attention was given to the Hawks switching to a zone defense after getting burned so often in previous games by Milwaukee’s guards, John Salmons and Brandon Jennings. But Smith estimated the team played zone for only “four or five minutes.”

The difference? Twofold. The first was mind-set. The Hawks fought to get around screens and avoid the switching that had been scorching them. The second was strategy. Bucks coach Scott Skiles said, “They confused us quite a bit.”

“They were showing zone and switching back to a man,” Jennings said. “I think it was more panic, being anxious, a little frustration because things weren’t going our way.”

It showed. Jennings and Salmons shot a combined 6-for-28 (21.4). In the previous three games, they were 43 for 84 (51.2).

The defense keyed the 19-0 run in the third quarter. A five-point deficit turned into a 14-point lead. By the time the Bucks’ heads stopped spinning, the lead was up to 20. Almost inevitably, Milwaukee rallied, trimming the lead to seven with five minutes left.

But what’s a Hawks’ game without a tease?

Defensively, they never stopped working. Offensively, they limited those stand-and-stare moments that so often get them into trouble.

“Even when we were losing and missing shots, we were playing the right way, which is what’s important,” Al Horford said. “I wish we could play like that every night. You move the ball, you share the ball, you have confidence in your teammates. Sometimes we get away from that. You can’t do it on your own.”

This is the only first-round series in the Eastern Conference still going. Orlando won in four. Cleveland and Boston each won in five. Maybe the Hawks are just trying to give everybody their money’s worth again. They did it two years ago, stretching the Boston Celtics to seven games, only to lose Game 7 by 34 points. They did it in last year’s opening round against Miami, winning the deciding game by 11.

Horford said the Hawks’ win Friday “really defines what our team is about.”

Go with it. It’s a lot easier that way.

Earlier Hawks posts

Hawks show some resolve in win over Bucks

We’re LIVE from Hawks-Bucks (and is this the end?)

Hawks down 3-2 but Skiles hardly looks satisfied

Poll time: Where would Hawks’ collapse rank in history?

Gearon is mum on Woodson but expects Hawks ‘to go far’

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

45 comments Add your comment

Denver Hawk

May 1st, 2010
12:08 pm

glad they’re young, because all this stretching things out will make a rested Orlando team even more excited to play us… seems like this happens every year.

J-Smoove Drives Over the Bucks!

May 1st, 2010
12:15 pm

soldierman

May 1st, 2010
12:33 pm

We can do without the drama but I will take that win after the meltdown in game 5. Hopefully game 5 was enough of a scare for them to know they have to bring it every minute of every game.

Oedipuss

May 1st, 2010
12:41 pm

J-Smooth is one ugly retard!

Dr. Warren

May 1st, 2010
12:43 pm

No, Horford, you’re wrong. SUNDAY’S game will define what the Hawks are really about.

kevinofconyers

May 1st, 2010
12:46 pm

i said the same- if we’re going to criticize woody when he deserves it, give praise when its due. Not only for the adjustments on defense, but I thought he called some key timeouts early on that he normally doesn’t take (which is when the other teams usually go up 10).

Rheumatism

May 1st, 2010
12:47 pm

When the Bucks started coming back from being 20 down, I really felt like, “Here we go again…”

CrazyDiamond

May 1st, 2010
1:03 pm

Can the Hawks take the confidence they must now have and win game 7? I say YES! Can they then continue to roll in round 2? I can only hope! Gotta agree with Dr Warren – tThe next round will tell us what the Hawks are made of.

Sorry, Woody, your time with the Hawks is coming to an end – unless the Hawks become NBA Champs.

D Hawks

May 1st, 2010
1:06 pm

Big win for the guys last night. Now it’s time take care of what they should have done already. Everyone expected them to get to Round 2, so they don’t deserve any trophies if they win tomorrow. They will, however, deserve kudos for turning around what could be one of the most negative moments in Atlanta sports history. They must play with the same urgency that they did last night. Go Hawks!

grandpa

May 1st, 2010
1:07 pm

Message to Joe Johnson for game seven!!!!!! Please remember there are FOUR TEAMMATES on the floor with you. You are not Marquis Haynes and never will be. Get over it and pass the ball.

tbhawksfan

May 1st, 2010
1:08 pm

Nice win, but to be the team that they need to be they need to play up to their level much more often. Consistency.

Lindy

May 1st, 2010
1:16 pm

Lindy likes HAwks

Brian Hunt

May 1st, 2010
1:23 pm

I’m proud of the Hawks for digging deep and finding the strength to go into the Bucks’ home and force them to come back to the ATL. After they win this series the only thing that will matter is the next.

Gamer

May 1st, 2010
1:43 pm

Now this was vintage Hawks’ basketball at both end of the floor….

Enough offense mix with stellar stand-up defense…

Win Sunday and the three consecutive bitter losses will be recorded as a test of team’s mettle.

Bloggers are ranting over how many shots Joe Johnson took to get his points is a joke. Smoking Gun Joe Johnson took intelligent shots, making room for the big men to pick up solid offensive boards for easy put backs… And the Hawks won the game the right way..That’s post season basketball.. have your best player and best shooter take the initiative. And Joe Johnson did just that!!!!

MAKE BEDLAM HAWKS!!!! STRIKE FRIGHT INTO YOUR OPPONENT!!!!!

grandpa

May 1st, 2010
1:48 pm

yeah gamer and how many times did he get his pocket picked!!!!

Resign or Resign?

May 1st, 2010
2:23 pm

I look for the Hawks to win tomorrow, but the Magic series will be ugly. If the Hawks have this much trouble with the Bucks without Redd & Bogut, with home court advantage; they will be even worse against Orlando. Hate to say it and see it; thought before this series that the Hawks were really on the rise and maturing into a viable champ. contender. They will have to keep JJ and acquire a notable mFA such as Chris Bosh to get the fans as excited as they were. If this same team, with the same coach (and I think Woodson is a good coach) starts next season, what is there to excite the fan base? ….and what if they lose JJ?

Resign or Resign?

May 1st, 2010
2:25 pm

I personally think they will let JJ walk and sign Bosh, giving them a new FA to build a PR campaign around. (Remember “The New Sharif in Town”?)

Najeh Davenpoop

May 1st, 2010
2:27 pm

That video in the second comment is hilarious. They should play that at Philips Arena before the game starts.

jw

May 1st, 2010
2:48 pm

here’s what I would do if I were Woodson – I’d tell everyone that wants a sound clip that I didn’t care what happens to me or the team after the season – right now, let’s fight like dogs and see how far we can take this train wreck – a championship series would cap it all off – then the Spirit group can fire, trade – sell – manipulate all they want – our town won’t get what we need in a coach or a team when management can’t even support a quality product that is on the floor right now! Ownership is just wiping out the team – that’s all this is right now! All they care about is “We own the Hawks” not about the quality of the product!

tidog

May 1st, 2010
2:59 pm

And just where does Bosh fit in a front line loaded with men with the same height and skill set as he does.

Resign or Resign?

May 1st, 2010
3:08 pm

I’m not saying he would! But Wade’s not coming to Atl. and what other FA signing could the Hawks feed off? They’ll probably trade Marvin for cap relief. I know you say who would take Marvin?; but who thought anyone would take Law & Claxton?…much less for someone as valuable as Crawford in return!

Dapper Don

May 1st, 2010
3:25 pm

Enter your comments here

Genius

May 1st, 2010
3:28 pm

Dribble Joe, dribble

Snowman

May 1st, 2010
3:32 pm

***Resubmitted from Thursday***

Jeff, we FINALLY agree on something (I called him a dope in a previous entry). So let me start out by saying you are right (so here it goes, big gulp)!!! I should not have called you a “dope”. So for that I apologize. Now to your point, how can you NOT put any of this on Rick? The Bucks GM was exec of the year because he added pieces to the Buck team (Stackhouse and Salmons to name a couple), who are contributing, bigtime. Look, we did not have a draft pick in 2008 and in 2009, Jeff Teague has not worked out exactly. Except for Jamal (and he has been great in the regular season however he has never played in the playoffs and how about the layup he and Josh both had inside 4 minutes last night and missed them both), and please don’t say Joe Smith. We have not tried to improve this team (why should Joe Johnson stay if the organization is not committed to winning?) If we had added a couple of pieces (just for example and I have not figured out salary cap ramifications or anything like that) Camby, Brendan Heyward, Caron Butler, Ben Wallace or a Tayshaun Prince, even a Heinrich to name a few and I am sure you could come up with one or two others. How much better would this team be? Mo Evans, ZaZa, Josh Smith, Teague, Marvin (although he had a great game last night)…these are not “smart” players. I mean Charlie Bell and Royal Ivey (he started for us not to long ago….laugh out really loud) don’t even get off the bench and Bell would play quality minutes for us. We need more, better and “smarter” players…period (but just 2)!!!

It is the GM’s JOB to get the coach a piece or two, c’mon!!!? For whatever reason you NEVER criticize him, why? I have listed below the fact that coach Woodson was picked 9th “BEST” coach of the year and Rick was not even mentioned in the GM balloting. He did NOT GET A VOTE…NOTE ONE!!!!

In closing the Hawks this season were 53-29, swept the Celtics 4-0, beat every team in the NBA including Lakers, Cavs, and Magic, were a 3 seed in the East, has improved their record (not team) every season for 5 consecutive seasons and had no contributions from any draft picks in two years and had one free agent that helped (Jamal). Oh, and if coach has had so many great “prospects” on the bench over the years, when they left Atlanta, have they ever been heard from again? (just name one, I could ONLY think of Boris Diaw and that’s a reach). As Chad Ocho Cinco would say, “Child Please”…Hawks and coach Woodson deserve an “A+” if you handed out grades. Now would Rick deserve an A? I want you and the bloggers to hand out grades on both coach and the GM. I would like to see what folks think after really thinking about it.

So the Hawks had a bad night, haven’t we all, so let’s ignore coach Woodsons complete body of work…you folks kill me. If Woodson and Joe Johnson leave, welcome back to “LA Clippers South” and you will wonder, hhhmmmm coach Woodson was pretty frickin good huh? (smile).

The Hawks will win in Milwaukee Friday and close out the series on Sunday…GO Hawks!!!!

NBA Executive of the Year Voting
4/24/2010, 2:29 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
John Hammond, Milwaukee 12
Sam Presti, Oklahoma City 9
Danny Ferry, Cleveland 2
Rod Higgins, Charlotte 1
Mark Cuban, Dallas 1
Chris Wallace, Memphis 1
Jeff Bower, New Orleans 1
Kevin Pritchard, Portland 1
Geoff Petrie, Sacramento 1
Kevin O’Connor, Utah 1

Coach, Team 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City 71 39 8 480
Scott Skiles, Milwaukee 26 54 21 313
Nate McMillan, Portland 9 9 35 107
Jerry Sloan, Utah 10 9 21 98
Alvin Gentry, Phoenix 4 5 11 46
Larry Brown, Charlotte 1 2 12 23
George Karl, Denver 1 1 3 11
Rick Adelman, Houston – 2 1 7
Mike Woodson, Atlanta – 2 1 7
Lionel Hollins, Memphis – – 6 6
Stan Van Gundy, Orlando 1 – – 5
Mike Brown, Cleveland – – 2 2
Rick Carlisle, Dallas – – 1 1
Erik Spoelstra, Miami – – 1 1

Link Report this comment

Dapper Don

May 1st, 2010
3:34 pm

Enter your comments here
I’ll take the win. Having said that, I’d like to consistently—not occasionally—see some championship-caliber stuff from the Hawks: smart, game-situation coaching; good floor leadership; team intelligence; sound, fundamental play, etc. The deeper you go into the playoff, the more the remaining teams exhibit these kinds of assets, not just athleticism.

Jamone X

May 1st, 2010
3:41 pm

The Hawks will upset orlando—take it to the bank!!! Orlando’s overrated!!!!!

Samuel L Jackson

May 1st, 2010
3:51 pm

I bet the Magic dominate our ass

swatguy

May 1st, 2010
4:20 pm

This may serve as a tougher-minded team. Having to struggle may thicken our skin and pull us closer. A good (Hawks) writer once said “a series doesn’t start until a team wins on the other teams court”. Well, we have an opportunity to go to Orlando with momentum winning two in a row.

Gamer

May 1st, 2010
4:21 pm

Don’t be a stick in the mud!!!! Take the WIN!!!!

JOE JOHNSON DIDN’T GO INTO HIDING!!! HE PLAYED THE GAME AGGRESIVELY!!!

That’s what the owners want from their highest paid player….

jgsbrids

May 1st, 2010
4:22 pm

great win hawks! very proud but let’s not get ahead of ourselves–this series isn’t over by any means. we still have to beat the bucks one more time.

White Shadow

May 1st, 2010
4:50 pm

I think they should draft Tebow!

Bob Horner stayed hurt

May 1st, 2010
5:28 pm

White Shadow…cool screen name…did u watch the show back in the 80’s..??? damn good good TV show

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Russ

May 1st, 2010
6:29 pm

I agree Snowman, Schultz and Bradley needs to get a clue about what’s happening around this franchise,I Don’t know if it’s personal or racial or what have you. While the recognition is being doled out ,Billy Knight {who Shultz and Bradley absolutely could not stand} should be given a ton for building this team and having the foresight to hire a real basketball guy like Woody. It would seem like people in the sports print media would be more knowledgeable and have a better feel for the time and knowledge of the NBA (something it seems like Billy Knight had a ton of} it takes to build a competitive team after decimating an entire roster and try to change the losing culture ,but just like everybody else in this microwave thinking city they wanted Woody to produce a Winner right away or be ran out of town,I guess it was because he was a first time coach,or was it something Else. No GM is going to get it right every time,(even the great Jerry West missed on a couple of prospects, see Luke Walton}I doubt if Mark Bradley will ever get over the hawks not taking Chris Paul( stay tuned he will mention it in an article sometimes this week}. but you never hear any praise for a guy who has improved a team record for six years in a row,anybody who knows jack about the NBA knows how hard that is to do.As a lifetime Atlanta resident and sports fan, I’m glad that Unlike Aurthur Blank(see Dan Reeves} the Gearons and the atlanta spirit management group does not let fans and AJC sports columnist make decisions for their franchise.

Bob Horner stayed hurt

May 1st, 2010
6:52 pm

Russ..I’m still not over the Hawks not drafting Chris Paul….who knew..?? that really screwed us up (the Hawks…) right..???

aj

May 1st, 2010
7:46 pm

Tim……..if your post is for real, well then you need to get over it….most likely your post is a fraud.

Give me a break

May 1st, 2010
8:14 pm

That’s funny, somebody wants to mention Rick Sund (who I agree has some responsibility here), but fails to mention the ASG, who uh….only has a small part in all of this, of course. They only approve or reject every single financial move/transaction that Sund proposes. If you’re going to take a stab at management, don’t stop at the GM. Hit the source.

Jeff Teague “hasn’t worked out?” Of course, if you’re inhabiting Mike Woodson’s nether regions, you’ll conveniently forget all the media quotes where he said that he intended to bring Teague along slowly and not play him much. That might be an inconvenient FACT to swallow, now wouldn’t it?

Here’s another news flash: Woody wanted (and he was quoted on this as well) for Bibby, Marvin, and Zaza to come back. He got his wish. I guess Sund gets no credit for this? How about trading Speedy Claxton and Acie “Woody hates my guts” Law for Jamal Crawford, who turns into Sixth Man of the Year? What, Woody deserves credit for that, and Sund doesn’t? I’ll bet that’s how you see it, eh? I’ll agree that we got Joe Smith too late. We also got Mike Bibby too late, for all of you Billy Knight lovers. What did Billy bring us that’s so great? Al Horford, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and to a lesser extent, Mike Bibby.

He also brought us Marvin Williams (are you thrilled yet), Claxton, Lue, AJ, Ivey, Donta Smith, Sheldon Williams, Lorenzen Wright, Bautista (I miss that guy), Acie Law, Salim Stoudamire, and a bunch of popcorn. Oh, and Mike Woodson.

If Joe Johnson leaves, will we avoid looking like Clippers East if we manage to keep Mike Woodson? Why assume that one leaving means the other leaves? On second thought, of course Woody should leave if Joe does. Joe leaving would expose him (as if that playoffs haven’t done that).

Show me a game 7 win, followed by a truly competitive series against Orlando. Then I’ll believe that Woody is the man, and that this team has improved. Otherwise, you cannot escape this:

Last year, we got pushed to 7 games by a team that featured a top tier NBA superstar. THIS YEAR, we got pushed to 7 games by a team that is missing it’s starting center/best player, with nary an all-star level player on the roster. Are we supposed to see this as improvement?

Blame Sund and praise Woody if you want. Or be reasonable and give credit and criticism to both.

JeJe

May 2nd, 2010
9:51 am

Ya done been told

May 2nd, 2010
10:29 am

Ya done been told what would happen with this team at the beginning of the year.

Second round exit.

Ty B.

May 2nd, 2010
11:13 am

Wishin i had some tickets for this game tonight.. hopin for a sellout to finish dem Bucks n send them packin!!!

Jeff D.

May 2nd, 2010
11:44 am

Jeff, are you bringing your Hawks winning karma (3-0) to the live blog? If you and Bradley tag team at least the Hawks have a 50/50 chance. We just can’t trot Bradley out there by himself.

[...] After a dizzy ride, Hawks have a chance to move on [...]

Snowman

May 2nd, 2010
7:33 pm

Thanks Russ for your comment and support for coach!!! “Give me a break” you just got your game 7 blowout and now onto Orlando…by the way, GREAT WIN COACH WOODSON AND THE HAWKS!!! If you think these Hawks have tuned coach out you are all crazy…they listen and they listen well. Two great wins!!! By the way, the Pistons were down 3-2 against the New Jersey Nets the year they won it all. They won game 6 in NJ and game 7 in Detroit. They then went on and won the title that year. Coach Woodson was the #1 assistant on that team.

Coach has done a fantastic job and deserves a new contract, period!!! Your success and steady improvement should be rewarded and a “model” for other bad teams in the league. I for one hope coach and Joe are back next season!!! Scott Skiles was runner up for coach of the year and who Woody out coached in the last two games of this series?

C’mon Atlanta show coach some love and critics at least for the day…take tat in the face!!!!…Great win, great win, great win!!!!

Gary

May 6th, 2010
1:18 pm