They tried a little harder. Maybe that will count for something when the front office looks at game tape and tries to determine who should stay, who should go, who looked like the only thing that really mattered was direct deposit.
They tried a little harder. A little late, guys.
There has been a sense of inevitability in this series since the Hawks looked comatose in Game 2, getting outscored 28-10 in the second quarter, 32-11 in the third and – well, everybody pretty much stopped paying attention after that.
That’s a problem. Playing in a home arena with empty seats and empty hopes, the Hawks lost to Orlando 98-84 on Monday night. That’s a wrap.
You were thinking if the Hawks played well, they could win one or two games in this series. If things went really well, maybe they could stretch Orlando to seven games.
Instead what you got was Orlando in seven days.
The Magic won by spreads of 43, 14, 30 and 14 points – an average of 25.2. That’s worse than the average 18-point margin in Cleveland’s four-game sweep in the second round last year. In fact, that’s the biggest deficit in NBA playoff history for a four-game sweep.
Forget the 53-29 record. Does 25.2 sound like progress?
Al Horford gets it. He’s one of the few on this team who gets it. Horford ripped into teammates for their lack of effort following the 105-75 loss in Game 3, when the Hawks should have played with desperation. He didn’t back off Monday.
“We had high
expectations,” he said. “We wanted to be the three seed and we felt things would be a little different matching up with them. But it didn’t work that way for us.”
What was the difference?
“Just watch and see [Orlando’s] level of intensity that they played with. That defines their team. They’re a championship caliber team. Just take that in and play like that for next season.
“It takes a whole lot of effort. It’s almost to the point where you have to make yourself feel uncomfortable out there. We didn’t have that this year. With some of our guys when fatigue set in, everybody kind of shied away from it.”
There’s your perfect post-game wrap-up.
Coach Mike Woodson, despite a 53-win regular season, seemed to lose his players’ attention.
Joe Johnson, despite a fourth straight All-Star appearance, seemed to lose any great desire to earn the respect of this city or his teammates.
Josh Smith, the occasional flash of brilliance, seemed to lose his way.
After so much improvement over the past few years, the Hawks just took a significant step back. They suffered of the most embarrassing playoff exits in Atlanta pro sports history. Good luck to general manager Rick Sund and Atlanta Spirit owners as they try to figure out which team is closer to reality – the team that won 53 games or the one that showed significant character and chemistry flaws in this postseason.
The Magic shot 74 percent in the first quarter and led by 11. That lead grew to 17 in the third quarter. The Hawks didn’t quit this time. They got it back to nine before the fourth. But when the Magic opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run, it was over.
Johnson was booed early in the game. Atlanta sports’ newest home villain said following Game 3 that he didn’t care if fans showed up or not. He repeated his own no-show act in Game 4. He made only 5 of 15 and finished with 14 points. In four games, Johnson went 17 for 57 (29.8 percent), with scoring totals of 10, 19, 8 and 14 (average: 12.7).
There’s a difference between being embarrassed and being disappointed. Losing a playoff series is disappointing. Losing playoff games by lopsided margins because of lack of effort is embarrassing. That’s not about talent. It’s about character, chemistry and coaching.
If ownership and Sund don’t make a coaching change, they basically are saying that getting pushed to the brink of elimination by an undermanned Milwaukee team in round one and getting waxed by a combined 87 points in three games against Orlando in round two was an aberration.
The bet here is they’ll decide otherwise. Woodson will be gone.
Woodson hasn’t endeared himself to the masses. The fan base is split on him. The players hardly leave the impression that they’re playing for his future employment.
This must is certain: The postseason shouldn’t have ended with such a bitter taste. Something has to change.
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