For the ever-improved Hawks, it’s time to win in Boston

The Hawks were playing  Boston when Tree Rollins bit Danny Ainge’s finger (1983) and again when they were outscored 36-6 in the third quarter of an elimination game (1986). They were playing Boston when they had a chance to oust the Celtics and Cliff Levingston hoisted the running lefty hook (1988), Boston yet again when the top-seeded Celtics were taken to a Game 7 by an opponent that wasn’t sure it could win one playoff game (2008).

And now the Hawks are set to meet Boston again. Officially it’s one game, one of 82. Actually it’s much more.

The Hawks are off to another fast start. They’re 6-2. But they were 6-0 last season when they went, inevitably, to Boston and played the champion Celtics off their feet. They led after 47 minutes and 58 seconds. They lost because Paul Pierce hit, as Paul Pierce does, a contested shot while off-balance. The Hawks of 2008-2009 would  finish 47-35 and win a playoff series for the first time in 10 years, but never again would they come so close to a significant road victory.

Against teams that finished with a better record, the Hawks were 2-12 on the road last season — and the two victories (over Orlando and New Orleans) came in the season’s first eight days. Even as the Hawks keep advancing, they still haven’t negotiated the essential step: They haven’t managed to wreak the same amount of havoc away from Philips Arena. If the Hawks are to get as good as we — well, I — believe they can be, they must travel better.

Friday night is an opportunity. The Celtics are 8-1 and looking again like the class of the East if not the whole wide league. (Orlando and Cleveland have already lost six games between them.) The Hawks have a chance to catch people’s eye if they do what they haven’t yet managed since they started to get good again — win at TD Banknorth Garden.

Mike Woodson said it a hundred times last season: “Boston taught us how to play playoff basketball.” Now the Hawks need to absorb another lesson: The Celtics (and the Cavs, and the Magic) showed the Hawks how to win on the road by taking games in Philips last season. For the Hawks to challenge the East’s Big Three, they must reciprocate. And this reconfigured team with its beefed-up bench has that capability.

NBA rule of thumb: Role players do disproportionately better work at home than on the road. The Hawks now have a second unit consisting of two guys — Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith — who’ve been more than role players in their time. And Crawford is the biggest single reason these Hawks have a chance to win not just 50 games but maybe 55: He’s a bona fide starter who doesn’t happen to start. Only the best teams have such a man.

After the Hawks surged from 14 points behind to beat the Knicks by 13 Wednesday, Woodson told reporters: “We’ve grown. The last two years we’ve been in some tough games. We’ve won some tough ones and we’ve lost. You know this team hasn’t quit these last two years and it’s a sign of the guys in that locker room. We’re all fighting for something. We’re trying to be better than a year ago.”

They are better than they were a year ago, and far better than in May 2008. These Hawks can win a lot of games. But for their growth to continue, they need to win one somewhere they’re not supposed to win. Because then we’d be able to say: “Know what? Maybe they are supposed to win.”

72 comments Add your comment

Spencer

November 12th, 2009
11:43 am

First!! Go hawks!!

Mark Bradley

November 12th, 2009
11:45 am

Kudos, Spencer.

Just A Fan

November 12th, 2009
11:55 am

They’ll win. So much depth this year. Fun to watch

brandon from warner robins

November 12th, 2009
11:56 am

mark your blogs is alot more interesting than college stats where im sitting as i type this. i think the hawks win a close onse in boston. good read too by the way, mark. nicely done.

Clint

November 12th, 2009
11:58 am

Great article. It’s time for the boys to make an announcement to the rest of the league that they are here and should be recognized. It’s going to be tough, but I like are team. If my man Josh Smith (who has been the best player on the team through the first 8 games) can continue his play we have a shot. Must play D and move the basketball. We can not stand around and dribble. GO HAWKS!!!! Once again great article.

Ric Roc

November 12th, 2009
11:58 am

Woody has got to GO as head coach for these Hawks if they want to take that next step. Woody has taken them as far as he can, but at this point, he’s just stunting their growth.

The Hawks compose one of the more talented rosters in this league, but constantly play up/down to their competition; that’s on coaching. Josh Smith continually hangs out on the perimeter and tries to play point-forward; that’s on coaching. Josh is not Lamar Odom, Hedo Turkoglu, or Scottie Pippen.

The offense looks disjointed in half-court sets and I’ve seen defenses rotate better and help better on college teams — literally.

P.S — You guys/gals scouring the web, looking for new blogs just to comment “first” are real losers. I pity that you have nothing more to look forward to in life.

Kevin

November 12th, 2009
11:59 am

Hey Mark,

Can you ask Woody for me if he thinks its important to develop Teague BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS??

brandon from warner robins

November 12th, 2009
11:59 am

i hate my the small buttons on my phones keyboard!

PMC

November 12th, 2009
12:00 pm

I can’t help but wonder though…how the Hawks would fare in the SEC East… or perhaps how they would do against Olympiakos……

Mark Bradley

November 12th, 2009
12:00 pm

I was a little surprised Teague pulled a DNP-CD in Portland. But not hugely surprised.

Mark Bradley

November 12th, 2009
12:01 pm

Thanks, Brandon. I can’t imagine anything I write would be more intriguing than a stats course … but I’m often wrong.

Rick The Ruler

November 12th, 2009
12:03 pm

I’m glad to see some REAL competitive NBA round ball back in the ATL. Love the Hawks. Always have. Gotta go to Bean Town and let the Celts know we’re here. Don’t back down Hawks!

Ree Roe

November 12th, 2009
12:03 pm

We’ll win ONLY if we come out the gate with a sense of urgency. I feel that the East is wide open for the Hawks, but the only way the Hawks can be in that conversation is if we win these types of games. ORL & CLE both look beatable, but can the Hawks rise up & take advantage? We’ll soon see

-REEcently Roe!

AthensSG

November 12th, 2009
12:06 pm

It’s gonna be a tall order, Mark. The Hawks have to play for 4 quarters for the first time this season, or it will be a repeat of the Lakers game. It seems they have to take a quarter off every game. This does prove, though, how much they have improved since last year that they can do this and still beat average teams.

Hawks73

November 12th, 2009
12:07 pm

Mark, I would like to think that these Hawks will put out a big road win, but my gut feeling is a blowout loss in Boston. I do agree that the Hawks have the tools to be a much better team (especially with the addition of Crawford), but their lack of defensive intensity will be their undoing. If they start out sluggish against the Celts, they will not be able to overcome a big deficit…Boston 105 – Atl 78.

Mark Bradley

November 12th, 2009
12:09 pm

I believe that’s where the second unit has to factor, AthensSG. The Hawks’ second unit is really good now. Providing Woody plays all five guys.

Drewcat

November 12th, 2009
12:09 pm

Mark,

Great point! The Hawks have to be a threat to the elite teams. ANd the only way to pose a threat is by stealing games on the road. If we can become more consistent at not only showing up for tough road games, BUT ALSO winning our fair share of these games, our mentality will be that of a championship caliber team.

The best can play well anywhere, and can win anywhere. Just look at how Cleveland went into Orlando last night and destroyed Dwight Howard and company. The early Cleveland doubters are now reconsidering because cleveland got a quality road win.

The hawks must do the same. I’m just concerned with Woody’s inability to keep his young guys focused on the road. This has been a recurring trend, and he should hols himself accountable for the team’s lack of consistency in big games on the road. THIS IS THERE CHANCE TO RIGHT THE SHIP. I’m happy with our 6-2 record, but in order to elevate our team to the next level, we must do one thing: WIN THE BIG ONES! This is definitely a big one! GO HAWKS

cdog

November 12th, 2009
12:13 pm

the hawks will kick the celtics old geritol butts friday night. they will control rondo, defense the rest, and run their old legs in the ground.hawks will annihilate the celts

CJ

November 12th, 2009
12:13 pm

The key is controlling Rondo…as deep as our bench is I don’t know that we have a defensive glove that can keep Rondo from getting to the lane. His ability to do that is why Paul Pierce is always so open for three, why Garnett is always able to take his scowl and curse words to the offensive glass or hit midrange jumpers all night, and for goodness sake why Shelden Williams of all people is able to get to the offensive glass to clean up what doesn’t go down. Gotta have someone lock down on Rondo, Bibby can’t, Crawford might, and we’ll never know if Teague can because Woody won’t play him.

In any case, go Hawks, let’s go get one and show the league we’re here.

Drewcat

November 12th, 2009
12:15 pm

Our second unit must perform tomorrow night as well. They will have to be huge for us, as Boston plays their reserves often. Give our starters a breather Woody! Believe in the bench (outside of Crawford) to play big minutes. Meaning more than 6 FREAKIN minutes for Joe Smith, and extended minutes for Mo in relief of Joe. I would like to see more of MArvin, as he never really got into a groove in NY last night.

Flappin' Hawk

November 12th, 2009
12:20 pm

As Head Chemist Woodson mixes and matches different court concoctions all the players seem to be finding their roles and getting more comfortable. That is, all but Marvin. Poor Marvin looks like a lost puppy wobblin’ around out on the court. Hopefully Marvin will find a comfort zone sometime soon. He has always seemed to be lacking in confidence. His beautiful jumper just aint fallin’ with any consistency yet. And his drives to the basket are wildly out of control. C’mon Marv, we need you!
Unfortunately the poor 1st half play by the starters forced the Head Chemist to fall back into playing Al, JJ & Josh major minutes (all over 40 minutes last night) which will not help as the tired Hawks travel to Boston.
Go Hawks!

Westurd

November 12th, 2009
12:21 pm

Hey Mark,
Teague DNP CD last night too. Whats up with that nonsense. Can you get the new Hawks beat writer to get on the case and get us some answers!

Thanks

j

November 12th, 2009
12:22 pm

the hawks can definitely beat boston. they are much better than they were two years ago.

the hawks will win going away. garnet is will be posterized.

j

November 12th, 2009
12:24 pm

jamal crawford will take over tonight. ray allen will be in trouble.

Decatur Native

November 12th, 2009
12:24 pm

They need to put teague on rondo just cause he has the speed to stay in front, if they get four GOOD quarters in we’ll win it, GO HAWKS!!!!!

EW

November 12th, 2009
12:31 pm

MB, enjoyed the article. I think we surprised Boston by taking them 7 games in the playoffs. Obviously we won’t be sneaking up on them this season. I look for Boston to play really really tough on D. The Hawks can do it, but it will take a COMPLETE game effort.

I also think it will be interesting to look back at this game later in the season. A lot of talk has been about the aging roster in Boston. If they beat us early I don’t know if it’s an indication that they will be able to sustain that level of play throughout the year. Big game for the Hawks, but a loss doesn’t mean we won’t contend for the East.

Brandon from Warner Robins

November 12th, 2009
12:36 pm

Mark, any idea/clue as to who will replace Sekou on the beat blog?

Go Hawks!!

Denver Hawk

November 12th, 2009
12:43 pm

nothing takes me back to those glorious Spring days of 1988 better than your phrase “running lefty hook”…. but if we just knew then what Paul Mokeski and the Bucks had in store for us the NEXT spring, we would have enjoyed that 7-game ride more…

O'Brien

November 12th, 2009
12:47 pm

Mark,

Teague almost had a DNPCD last night too.

Cleveland was up on Orlando by 20 last night (in Orlando). It would be great to see the Hawks put on a dominant performance like that. That being said, I would love to see a victory, but even if we lose, we need to keep it close for the whole game (unlike when the Lakers were up on us by 20 in the 3rd quarter earlier in the year). If the Hawks lose by single digits, I wont feel too bad…

AC35

November 12th, 2009
12:48 pm

Wow – love the Hawks’ fans enthusiasm. But to think it’s a “wide open” Eastern Conference as some of you put it is a joke. It’s Boston, Cleveland and Orlando with second tier playoff teams like Miami, Atlanta and the like mixed in. Make no mistake, Hawks are a solid team, but let’s not forget that even if Boston is older, they are definitely a far surperior team talent-wise.

FunkyBobbyJ

November 12th, 2009
12:52 pm

I think that the Hawks’ defense is way too weak for the Celtics. I am a huge Hawks fan, but after watching the first 8 games – I think the Hawks lose big. Rondo’s ability to get in the lane, the Celtic’s ball rotation, and the Celtic’s D – I hope that they have an off night. I have my fingers crossed – Go Hawks, pleeeeeease proove me wrong.

jim

November 12th, 2009
12:53 pm

you get an atlanta hawks boner!

Joe Smaha

November 12th, 2009
12:54 pm

You forget Evans who is also a quality sub, as a matter of fact he is playing better than Williams right now who as yet has not had a great game that he is capable of having.
Also, lay off Josh Smith, he is maturing fast and I have not seen the stats that show that he is shooting 3 point shots, on the contrary, his assists are up and you certainly cannot get the boards he gets each night without playing around the basket. Horford is also having a good first few games.

Show me state

November 12th, 2009
1:00 pm

First off i’d like to say Go Hawks!!!! and i love watching these Hawks play. Their my favorite team in all of sport.

Show me state

November 12th, 2009
1:00 pm

i meant in all of sports

Jt

November 12th, 2009
1:06 pm

Mark, I hate to say it but not much has changed. Woodson still does not trust his bench. Joe is logging long minutes. Crawford is getting a little more playing time than did Flip, but we are not seeing the reserves get enough playing time. I hate to say it, but it doesn’t look like Teague is going to get the opportunity to develop just like Acie Law didn’t. I may be wrong but it is a long season and I think you can afford to lose a game or two in order to give reserves an opportunity to play. Even Zaza is logging a low number of minutes.

TwizzleRizzlebrizzledizzle

November 12th, 2009
1:07 pm

the only teams that I feel the Hawks don’t match-up with are the Lakers and Cavs, other than that, I feel they can match up pretty well w/ about everyone else

doyle, winder

November 12th, 2009
1:17 pm

Mark, you are correct about the 2nd unit. But I really like when coach has Bibs, Crawford, Horford, Smith, and Joe playing together. Not a lineup against a team with big men, but most teams will get ran off the floor against these 5. And, like you, I see this team as much improved over the past 2. As I was telling my son last week, this is the 1st time in many years where I am going crazy to go to Phillips and watch these guys play. In 2 more years, think of Show Time days of the 80’s!

jamb

November 12th, 2009
1:37 pm

Why in the hell is Marvin Williams still starting? He’s got no game & no heart.

clarkekent

November 12th, 2009
1:49 pm

if joe johnson learns to pass out of the dbl team and come off the screen and shoot instead off beating the floor up with the basketball(dribbling to dang gum much)… the teams offensive sets will be better. pick and rolls /pick and pops with bibby and horford were lethal last night please run more of them. Josh Smith on the block going left looks to be a match up nightmare for any team. plus the lineup of bibby crawford joe josh and horford seems to work very well. the defense is still not there yet josh and AL are blocking and altering a lot of shots saving guys on defense. but it seems as if ..If josh plays well the hawks play well. if josh has a good game against the C’s the hawks will win.

All I'm Saying Is...

November 12th, 2009
1:58 pm

First of all, beating the Knicks whether its in Philips Arena, Madison Square Garden, or on the red clay court in my friend Roland’s backyard in the neighborhood where I grew up (with the backboard and goal nailed to a tree) means nothing because the Knicks are awful.

What WAS impressive was, despite falling apart in the 3rd quarter on the road versus the Lakers, the Hawks then came back on that same road trip against Portland in the Rose Garden after being down early to win (and, furthermore, took care of business against a bad Sacramento team again on the same road trip). That’s when I knew these guys had the makings of solid team and had some semblance of maturity.

I know they stumbled against Charlotte but we’ll chalk that up to being a trap game (last game before playing Denver at home) and due to them being a tired team (last game of the road trip).

Hawks will compete with Celtics and play hard and I think they can win it unless the otherworldly in terms of talent Rasheed Wallace shows up as opposed to his usual self.

What will be key, however, is whether or not we have someone to match up with, believe it or not, Rondo because Rondo typically drove the lane at will against us as he was too quick for Bibby or any of our point guards. If he does that and Pierce, Allen, Garnett, and Wallace are hitting their shots, it won’t matter how deep our team is because that will be too much to overcome.

LET’S GO HAWKS!

Glenn

November 12th, 2009
2:24 pm

Celts will fold down the stretch trust me . Not only are they long in the tooth but they have to many nut cases . First sign of trouble they will implode . Having Sheed & Garnett on the same team was a bad idea . Cleveland is the measuring stick in the east . Hawks are fun team though .

KD

November 12th, 2009
2:37 pm

Let’s Go Hawks!!!

KD

November 12th, 2009
2:38 pm

Hawks…..Are you Ready?…Are you Sure?…Well, Let’s Go Get ‘Em!

On Point

November 12th, 2009
2:43 pm

FYI Mark they renamed the place TD Garden. They took the Banknorth out during the summer.

@ Glenn, It’s obvious you DO NOT KNOW basketball. The Celtics folding! Please man the weapons on that team to go with the veteran leadship and savvy and depth will go unmatched. Please provide me with SOUND substance as to why having Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace on the same team was a bad idea and I do mean a SOUND BASKETBALL REASON! Too much defense homeboy, too much balance, too many matchup problems. The Celts got bit by the innjury bug to the most important defensive player in the league last season, that is why they did not win the title. Wake up homie study and learn the game. The first sign of trouble they will implode, huh? Do you see what your saying? Why am I even wasting my time with this but I really want to hear an attempted explanation to your unlogically statement.

blonju

November 12th, 2009
3:19 pm

amen to ‘on point’ for railing on Glenn – it’s as if Glenn has never watched an NBA basketball game – a win over the celts would be the best thing besides beating L.A. at this point – they are a heavy favorite in the east if healthy – enough said – OUR HAWKS, CAN, and WILL triumph in Boston, if we take the ball to the hole and play physical – falling in love with the 3 is a mistake on the road – we need to draw fouls and push people around in addition to hitting open shots in rhythm – GO HAWKS!!!!!!! RISE UP!

Diggity Dawg

November 12th, 2009
3:37 pm

Gilley

November 12th, 2009
3:38 pm

Great article Mr. Bradley!! I agree that this is a great opportunity to show the world on National TV that we are competitors in the East. For some reason we always seem to falter on National TV on the road but this is a great chance with our nucleus to show that we can compete for the East. That’s why we must start the game off the right way, with energy and passion and finish the game the same way. We can’t let them go on a run and not call a timeout or respond. That’s where veteran leadership comes in and they must anchor the ship and fight through the storm. let’s go Hawks. Put Teague in the game and let him go out there and wreck havoc!!! He can get to the paint and draw fouls.

Doug

November 12th, 2009
3:55 pm

Glee: Garnett is a nut case?? You are a delusional nutcase…He is one of the hardest working, leaders in the NBA! The Celtics are the class of the league, and this is from a non-Celtic fan…if the Hawks bring that isolation all the time crap they took to the garden the other night it will be 20 to 25 point loss….and JJ will again bemoan the selfishness and lack of ball movement while never recognizing the irony…Woody will look alternately puzzled and bored and this board will blame it all on Josh Smith

T.C

November 12th, 2009
4:17 pm

We finely have a team we can cheer for with confidence(hawks) in atlanta,because its sure not the falcons or braves.