If Hawks lost and avoided Boston, would that be so bad?

Would the Hawks be better off avoiding another playoff series against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics? (AP photo)

Would the Hawks be better off avoiding another playoff series against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics? (AP photo)

After losing at home by 16 points to the lottery-bound Toronto Raptors one night and then body-slamming the very same team by 22 points the next, it’s less certain that the Hawks are a serious playoff threat right now than they are a case study for an abnormal psychology class.

Then again, every team is a little psychotic this season. This is the byproduct of a post-lockout schedule that allows for water breaks roughly every 27 quarters. Even the Chicago Bulls, the league’s best team, just lost at home to the 14-46 Wizards. (The box score now hangs in the Smithsonian, adjacent to a picture of Stonehenge.)

But let’s try to apply a little bit of logic here: The Hawks have clinched a playoff berth. They have five regular-season games remaining. They probably will finish fourth or fifth overall in the Eastern Conference. That would set up a likely first-round match-up against Boston.

If the Hawks play poorly down the stretch, they could tumble below Orlando into sixth place and play No. 3 Indiana, which doesn’t seem nearly as daunting.

So I must ask: Would a late-season skid be so bad?

“Skid” is a much nicer four-letter word than “tank.” But there’s such a shell game going on among the league’s coaches and general managers this season regarding injuries that it’s difficult to know which ailments are truly debilitating and which ones require only “rest” for players until the really important games begin in two weeks.

The Hawks are playing without center Al Horford (who had his first “contact” workout Tuesday since suffering a torn pectoral). They also are without Zaza Pachulia (sprained foot). Coach Larry Drew is somewhat evasive on Pachulia’s future. He said he expects him to miss at least the next two games. But he also said, “He’s day-to-day.”

Could Pachulia play if this were a playoff situation?

“He’d be a game-time decision,” Drew said with a laugh.

I get the sense a lot of players are game-time decisions these days. Orlando’s Dwight Howard is out “indefinitely” with a herniated disc. We’ll find out how hurt he really is when the playoffs begin. It follows that it just doesn’t pay for the Hawks to play Pachulia right now. If they lose most or all of these last five games, it’s really no big deal. It might even be a benefit.

What looks better: A potential home playoff series against Boston or a road playoff series against Indiana? At the very least, it’s close.

There’s blatant tanking, which should never happen, as in Jeff Teague turning to an opponent and saying, “Take my pass — please.”

Then there’s something more subtle: a team not taking any risks with its lineup.

The Hawks are 0-2 against Boston, losing one by three points and the other by two in overtime. They struggled on offense in both games. The Celtics are old, but they’ve reached the finals in two of the past four years (winning one title). Also, there’s something about a veteran team in the postseason.

The Hawks are 2-1 against Indiana. Their offense flows better against the Pacers. Indiana is hot, winning nine of its past 10. But the franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004-05, which was Reggie Miller’s final season.

Predictably, Drew expressed no preference of opponents.

“I don’t think our guys are concerned, no matter who we play,” he said. “We haven’t played our best against Boston, but I don’t know if that’s been about us or them. What I’ve told our guys is Boston did a better job of taking advantage of our mistakes. Veteran teams can do that. But we were in a position where we could’ve won both games.

“I know everybody looks at the season series and says we match up better against Indiana, but I really don’t feel that way. If we have our bodies in the lineup, I like our team no matter who we play.”

He would like it even more with Horford, who went through contact drills Tuesday. Drew said, “It’s probably wishful thinking,” that Horford could play some minutes in a regular-season game. But he also left the door open to that possibility.

“It depends how he feels and he progresses,” he said.

This isn’t the time of year for definite answers, in lineups or results. The settling effect will begin in two weeks.

By Jeff Schultz

72 comments Add your comment

Vito

April 17th, 2012
3:44 pm

will we sign somone 2 a 10 day contract

Najeh Davenpoop

April 17th, 2012
3:45 pm

It’s not like the Celtics have blown out the Hawks, like the Pacers have.

The Pacers are probably an easier opponent at a neutral site, since they don’t execute down the stretch the way the Celtics do. But I’d rather play Boston with home court than Indiana with no home court. And more importantly, I’d rather play Chicago in Round 2 than Miami, and to do so the Hawks have to draw Boston in Round 1.

biz

April 17th, 2012
3:57 pm

Got to beat the best to be the best. Bring on those vile celtics.

merbertmoover

April 17th, 2012
4:12 pm

I’d take the C’s at home for realz….it’s always fun to play those fools, even though they nasty

Tootsi

April 17th, 2012
4:23 pm

Jeff,

I think you are mistaken by no fault of your own when you say the Hawks will finish either 4th or 5th. We can’t finish 4th unless Boston leap frogs Indiana, which is unlikely since they now have a 2 game lead on the 3 way tie behind them. Instead, we would finish 5th and hopefully have a better record then Boston thus getting the home court due to the NBA’s stupid rule.

In any case, this team hasn’t been nearly as good at home this year as they have been in the past, but I would still take that over a road series any day.

Frank the Tank

April 17th, 2012
4:25 pm

Lets get Phillips rowdy, bring on the hated Celtics. Otherwise another boring series with the Pacers. As much as I love the hawks, they arent getting past the second round anyways.

doc

April 17th, 2012
4:29 pm

problem with boston it is a home and home for them because of their avid fan base here. it was awful when they were here with pp waving his hands to create a frenzy. ugly.

if horford pays any meaningful minutes he should get a tough guy award for his rehab from this serious injury it takes up to 9 months to recuperate from.

terrell

April 17th, 2012
4:29 pm

Tootsi, why is that a stupid rule to award the team with the better record homefield? The Falcons went through this against the Cardinals. That year Atl went 11-5 and the Cards with 8-8 but because they won their division they got homefield which didn’t play out well for us. I think it’s fair that the team with the better record get home court.

Bobo is Not the Problem

April 17th, 2012
4:30 pm

Good grief. What a dumb headline. What’s the difference if we avoid Boston in the first round? We have to beat Boston, Miami, and/or Chicago to get to the Finals, which should be the goal. So what is the point exactly in winning in the first round when we are afraid of the next round’s foe?

Ben

April 17th, 2012
4:32 pm

I want to knock out the Celtics big three once and for all, would love nothing more!

Tootsi

April 17th, 2012
4:32 pm

The stupid rule is that they still give Boston the 4th seed, even though it means nothing since we still have home court as the 5th seed.

tom

April 17th, 2012
4:52 pm

either match up is tough. indiana would rather face the magic or knicks if i had to take a guess.

Bravesfan79

April 17th, 2012
4:55 pm

IVE BEEN SAYING THIS FOR 3 DAYS NOW ON THE HAWKS BLOG! Ill take our chances against Indiana over the Celtics anyday!

Bravesfan79

April 17th, 2012
5:05 pm

My 3 favorite teams in the NBA the past 5 years or so are Atlanta, Pheonix (nash), and Boston (ray allen). Id rather my favorite teams be on the opposite side of the bracket so i have plenty of games to watch that im interested in.
Besides, Boston is a team built for the playoffs. How many future hall of famers does Indy have?

Buddy Greene

April 17th, 2012
5:12 pm

“So I must ask: Would a late-season skid be so bad?”

ask the Braves….

or what about the Falcons getting lucky and drawing Arizona?Green Bay?New York Giants…

Paddy

April 17th, 2012
5:24 pm

Braves fan79, ………maybe the Hawks could sign Clyde Petite or “Easy Ed Sharman”. Its baseball season lets go with a winner. NBA is a joke, just look at the home attendance figures (paid) for the Hawks! Nobody goes there anymore. And its not because its too crowded!

Mash

April 17th, 2012
5:35 pm

This is absurd. Do you even follow the NBA?

Indiana is currently the hottest team in the league, and have been the hottest team in the league since the all star break. Adding Barbosa at the trade deadline was a great addition to their team philosophy and made a good team even better. Sure Boston has been a little resurgent in the past week, but come on, we match up better with Boston.

Our wins over Indy were either earlier in the season or on the 4th night of back-backs. Those wins don’t really tell us much. On the other hand, the two losses to Boston have both come down to the final shot, had some bad breaks against the Hawks and our guys just missing open shots to win the game.

Nobody in the league wants to face Indiana in the playoffs right now! NOBODY!!!

We’d be much better off taking our chances with the geriatric Boston crew.

Once again, Schultz has proven to be one of the worst sports columnists to cover a major metropolitan area.

Georgia muscle

April 17th, 2012
5:50 pm

Celtics- Took basically the same celtics team to 7 games in 2007 (although rondo is much better now) and the hawks are much more experienced now than 2007 but still much younger. I like our chances especially with home court.

Pacers- they have a 7′2 center and 6′10 sg. Not the best matchup for the hawks even though we did win 2 of 3. Also, we will not have home court which could be huge.

I’m sorry but the pacers are no push over either and and I see the hawks having a better chance to advance past the celtics, it will be tough either way hopefully a miracle will happen and the hawks get the 3 seed which would be a sweep against the magic

living outside the perimeter

April 17th, 2012
6:14 pm

what are the Hawks?

Delray Beach Hawk

April 17th, 2012
6:18 pm

Read the article and stop being so emotional. What he is saying is that regular season is regular season and THE PLAY-OFFS are THE PLAY-OFFS and experience counts. Hot young teams in regular season with no play-off experience do not do well the 1st time.

keepinitreal

April 17th, 2012
6:48 pm

What would make the Celtics such a tough matchup is that they’re a battle-tested team that can win anywhere. They know they can win on the road in the playoffs, so I don’t see home-court advantage as being much of an advantage at all against them.

And, yes, I’m aware the Pacers have a better road record than the Celtics this year, but the regular season and the playoffs are completely different animals. The current group Pacers have never won a big road game in the postseason. The Celtics have won plenty of them. That counts for a lot.

I think a strategy of stealing a road game and then holding serve at home (the formula the Hawks used to beat the Magic last year) against the Pacers is more doable than beating the Celtics in a 7-game grind.

Paddy

April 17th, 2012
6:59 pm

lving outside the……….The hawks are an NBA team that in no fashion resembles bsketball as we no it.

stevie zero

April 17th, 2012
7:28 pm

this team, as assembled, has a round 2 ceiling. period. nice little stretches mixed with confounding lack of focus…..just not top tier and no true leader. (maybe healthy horford)

phil

April 17th, 2012
8:13 pm

To answer Jeff’s silly question with a question, do you really think it matters?

johnm

April 17th, 2012
8:24 pm

dont be an idiot schultz. And dont act like the people did with the falcons praying wed get to play the giants. We dont want a one round team. whoever we play in the first well probably beat the problem is playing the bulls or haet in round two

Tom

April 17th, 2012
9:05 pm

I say we need to play our game and win as many as possible. We need momentum going into the playoffs.

Ellijay dawgcatcher

April 17th, 2012
9:43 pm

6 hours, 27 comments…the Hawks are a real popular item in Atlanta! The NBA…The “Who cares” league…

jason

April 17th, 2012
10:40 pm

they won’t beat miami or chi anyway so who cares

Ty

April 17th, 2012
10:43 pm

Problem is indiana would probably beat the hawks.

Joe

April 17th, 2012
11:37 pm

Maybe Shultzie has a column quota. It really doesn’t matter who the hawks play. Your play the cards your dealt. If it matters so much the hawks should have taken care of bidness when they were losing home games to the mighty Warriors and Raptors
And it is better to be in the hunt than not!

Justin

April 17th, 2012
11:57 pm

Boston hands down for a few reasons.
1) Indiana is hot, has a better record than Boston, and has a huge center, while our 2 best centers are currently injured.
2) The Hawks tend to underestimate teams like Indiana. Look at what happened with the Bucks a few years ago. The Hawks won’t bring the same intensity against Indiana, and won’t have home court advantage.
3) The Hawks would love to take out the Celtics. They see Boston as a rival that doesn’t respect them. They will bring their intensity.
4) The Hawks lost 2 games by a whopping 3 points and would have home court advantage. The Hawks didn’t lose 1 game at home to Boston a few years ago when Boston was a much tougher team. In fact they won the championship that year.
5) Seriously, if you would rather face the Pacers instead of getting a chance to knock off a long-time nemesis, you have no heart and don’t even belong in the playoffs.

Dr. Warren

April 18th, 2012
1:33 am

Justin has good points. We took Boston to 7 in 2008 when they had homecourt and easily the best team in the NBA. We are more playoff-savvy now, more experienced. If we can’t beat those guys with homecourt–if we get homecourt–then we don’t deserve our yearly 2nd round glory anymore. (And yes, the 2nd round glory part is sarcasm).

Whopper Dawg

April 18th, 2012
2:10 am

Jeff, do they think Horford can make it back by the playoffs? That could be a big boost even though obviously he will not be in “season” shape.

WG

April 18th, 2012
2:18 am

Hawks aren’t gonna do anything so I’d rather have a fun series against Boston!!!

pj

April 18th, 2012
3:03 am

1. I wish more people gave a dang about the Hawks. Consistent Playoff team with some truly exciting players and a nice arena
2. When Philip’s is full and loud – it’s as big of an advantage as almost any arena in the league. I remember reading Lebron saying that when he was with the Cleveland Show
3. Saying the Pacers are the better matchup is just ESPN hype talking. The Pacers are better than the Celtics. Either way – the Heat or Bulls will be waiting to destroy whoever gets out of round one
4. I live in Georgia – have all my life. Huge uga guy and a bravos man as well. What does it say about the state of the Hawks and their ownership, that I went to the NBA store online, got a Clippers shirt and watch as many Clip games as I can?

JSS

April 18th, 2012
3:58 am

It doesn’t matter, play who is in front of you! It is the playoffs!!! Stop trying to avoid something you’ll have to do inevitably, overcome an obstacle. The one team they don’t want to see early is Miami, simple as that…

Larry Drew needs to get realistic. Get ready, jock up and play ball!

[...] If Hawks lost and avoided Boston, would that be so bad? [...]

Bravesfan79

April 18th, 2012
5:11 am

pj: a clippers fan? blake griffin dosent have near the overall game that josh smith has! What a overrated team that will likely loose in the 1st round of the playoffs. Your better off being a Hawks fan man, at least they can make it to the 2nd round! Hawks will beat indy if they face them! Boston, they get alot of calls their way, and their playoff intensity defense is a concern.

Bravesfan79

April 18th, 2012
5:14 am

Hawks > Memphis > Clippers. Homeboy should of stayed in New Orleans. Griffin is probably the most overrated player in the league. And Lebrons dunk is dunk of the year (where he jumped over the other guard)… i dunno why they jck off griffins (throw in’s… not dunks).
He shouldnt of even won the slam dunk contest.

rk

April 18th, 2012
6:57 am

This article is proof that the hawks are not an elite team. Do you think Boston , Miami or Chicago are concerned about facing certain teams. If you are a real contender you don’t care who you face.

jfreak13713

April 18th, 2012
8:06 am

They won’t beat either team in a seven game series. If Horford was healthy I would say they had a punchers chance aginst the Celtics but no Horford no playoff advance. Better luck next year. Maybe Stan Van Gundy would like to come to Atlanta after forced out of Orlando?????

Americus Jacket

April 18th, 2012
9:22 am

Losers play to lose. Schultz is suggesting that we tank — but really don’t tank. You know, wink, wink, we just sit everyone and get some crummy guys to lose where we claim we tried. And if our crummy guys have fresh legs and start winning, we’ll get the coach to lay out a poor game plan. This will be super!

I say: Be men, play well, and win or lose to the Celtics with your head held high. Shultz has shown that sportsmanship is not in his thinking when writing about sports.

Ingun

April 18th, 2012
9:26 am

@Paddy – its funny to see you trash the Hawks. Did you see the 35,000 empty seats at the Ted last night? That is pretty much the norm for them. Outside of the home opener and when the Cubs are in town, the Braves are the clear winner in the worst supported team in town.

jebbery

April 18th, 2012
9:33 am

@rk…DUH. We don’t need this article to let us know the Hawks are “not an elite team.”

I went to Sunday’s game vs. Toronto and wow, what a pathetic display…does Joe Johnson even run anymore?

Hawks, I’ll always cheer for you but you are one and done this year…once again.

Eric

April 18th, 2012
10:06 am

Miami is the only team that can beat the Hawks at full strength in the Eastern Conference, remember how the badly the Hawks beat Chicago when they had Al at the beginning of the season. Celtics, then the Bulls, and the Hawks end up in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.

ASG Baffoons!

April 18th, 2012
10:22 am

You won’t see me at or watching a Hawks game until these ASG baffoons leave. No risk I’ll miss anything because these guys couldn’t get it right if they were handed the formula.

KH

April 18th, 2012
10:51 am

Anybody that would rather face the Pacers over the Celtics needs to have there head examined. The Hawks will not beat the Pacers without homecourt advantage. Regular season results matter people. The Pacers are one of the best teams in the NBA. Forget about the mystique of the big three and Rondo this team is not nearly as good as it has been and the Hawks would have the all important home court.

OAKS

April 18th, 2012
11:48 am

Just wondering how the Hawks could play the Celtics and have home court? Since the C’s would win their division don’t they automatically get a 4 seed bumping the hawks to a five regardless of their record? I’m just curious..

OAKS

April 18th, 2012
11:53 am

Just to answer my own question (just looked into it) It doesn’t matter what seed you are so the C’s would be a 4 seed, the Hawks a five seed, but the Hawks would get home court simply because their record is better.

PG

April 18th, 2012
12:03 pm

The team with the better record always gets home court advantage in the NBA (unlike the NFL). However if you win your division in the NBA, you are guaranteed to be no lower than the 4th seed in the conference. Being the 4th seed, however, does not guarantee you home court advantage. You need to have a better record (or equal record and win the tiebreaker) to have home court advantage over the 5th seed.

Also, as a huge Pacers fan and a Hawks fan whenever they play anyone else, the Hawks will definitely want to play the Celtics (assuming they get home court advantage). Unless Zaza and Horford are back and healthy, there is no one to defend Roy Hibbert inside. The Celtics haven’t thrown the ball into the low post since before the All star break.