Winning again in Boston shows the Hawks are just fine

Consider the Hawks. They’re on pace to win 53 games, six better than last season, and yet some among us are starting to regard them as a disappointment. Fight the temptation. The only thing disappointing about this team is that it’s not perfect, not that any team ever is.

The Orlando Magic finished 12 games ahead of the Hawks last season and added Vince Carter over the summer. Today the Hawks are a game out of first place in the NBA South. Yes, the Hawks have lost twice to the Magic, most recently a wipeout in Orlando on Saturday, but they’re about to emerge from an arduous stretch — eight games against Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, Denver, Miami and Phoenix in 3 1/2 weeks, five of them on the road — with their pride and standing intact.

Once the Hawks can slog through this month, they’ll find a kinder slate awaiting in February. And by beating Boston home-and-home, the Hawks have arrested the slide on which 2009 ended. They’re OK again. They’re better than OK. They’re just fine.

No, Boston’s Kevin Garnett didn’t play in either game. Too bad. This is pro sports. You go with who’s available. Fact is, the Hawks just whipped the aging Celtics twice in four days. After the latter loss, a reporter was moved to ask Glen Davis if the Hawks, now 3-0 against Boston, are in the Celtics’ heads. “Next question,” sniffed Big Baby.

Less than a month ago the Hawks were on track to win not 50-some but 60-some games, but that wasn’t apt to last. A team that didn’t add a starter — the Hawks last modified their first five in February 2008 — doesn’t jump from 47 wins to 60. But we’re again seeing clear and consistent improvement, and the Hawks’ success against the Celtics suggests they’ll again be a tough out come spring.

And that could well be your Round 2 pairing. The Hawks are fourth in the East; the Celtics are two games back of first-place Cleveland. Assuming both advance beyond the first round, No. 1 would play No. 4 in the conference semis. The Hawks are already guaranteed to have a winning record against Boston, which could be one reason the former Hawk Doc Rivers was so frazzled he got himself ejected Monday night.

I know it was no fun watching the Hawks lose back-to-back games to Cleveland before New Year’s or seeing the teensy Nate Robinson light them up for 41, but the NBA season is loooonnnngggg. Bad nights happen. The bottom line is that the Hawks are nearing the midpoint having had roughly twice as many good nights as bad. This isn’t the best team you’ve ever seen, but it’s the best bunch of Hawks any of us has seen in two decades.

144 comments Add your comment

Andre

January 12th, 2010
4:47 pm

ant banks

January 12th, 2010
4:51 pm

Football Ken

January 12th, 2010
4:54 pm

Mark,
You are correct! Hawks will and are fine, just hope that Coach Woody starts to play bench,(Teague) more before playoffs. Only weakness I see is Bibby’s defense or lack there of.

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
4:54 pm

Kudos, Andre. And nice try, Ant Banks.

ant banks

January 12th, 2010
4:57 pm

MARK,

the only problem that i have with the hawks is when they get blown out in orlando, by 30 pts, in two different games. and when we played orlando at home last month, we were up by 14 and lost by 14.

1.loss to hornets, without cp3
2.loss twice to ny
3. the loss to detroit, without their big two.

we could be 29-9 right now. these were games that we were supposed to win.

hawks need to fight hard. we need the 3 seed this yr. as a 4 seed, we would play clevland again in the 2nd rd and i don’t want that. as a 3 seed, we hopefully will play boston and we match up well against them.

Paul H

January 12th, 2010
4:58 pm

Indeed! And 5th!

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
4:59 pm

Hawks could have thrown Jeff Teague at Nate Robinson, IMHO.

Dap01

January 12th, 2010
4:59 pm

Mario would be a great defensive minded guard to be on the court with Jamal and Joe. He could definitely stop the ball, which is something Bibby can not do.

Teague does need to be worked enough to be developed.

Listening to the comments from Pierce, Boston knows that they are fading and ATL is a rising team.

Keep the ball movement and the Hawks can play with anyone, even Orlando.

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:00 pm

The Hawks have to win the South to be the No. 3 seed. Tall order. Possible, though.

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:01 pm

When I heard the Hawks were bringing back Mario West, my first thought was, “Nate Robinson.”

allan in texas

January 12th, 2010
5:03 pm

Should the hawks make a play for Jamison from Washington? Maybe Marvin Williams? Would it be a chemistry issue with the current roster? Thanks and have a good evening.

willie martinez

January 12th, 2010
5:08 pm

Mark, i think you’re getting a little cocky with the psuedo prognositicating. are you trying to kill the Hawks’ 2010 season?

willie martinez

January 12th, 2010
5:09 pm

uh, oh. did i get unduly censored?

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:09 pm

Antawn Jamison has a big contract — $11 million this season — with two more years to run. With Joe Johnson and Al Horford to retain, I don’t think the Hawks are in the market for that big a salary. Especially for a 33-year-old.

theZaZaGuy

January 12th, 2010
5:12 pm

Hypothetical question: What if Bron Bron gets injured and Boston continues to struggle with injuries. And the season ends with:
1.Orlando
2.Atlanta
3.Boston
4.Cleveland

What happens With the seeding? Would we be pushed to fourth? But we would still have home court as long as we don’t play orlando right?

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:13 pm

Yes, the Hawks would be the No. 4 seed. But they would have the homecourt edge against everyone except Orlando. Trouble is, they’d still play Orlando in the second round.

theZaZaGuy

January 12th, 2010
5:15 pm

I think Teague could have slowed down Nate Robinson as well. But, I think Woody has Bobby Coxitis. In pressure situations he goes with veterans. Like when he took out 98 mph throwing Mark Wohlers for 85 mph throwing Steven Bedrosian.

Gmack

January 12th, 2010
5:16 pm

Great article Mark. The playoffs is the real test. ECF is all that matter around here.

That will tell me if they are better or not.

They have closed the gap enough on Cle, Bos & Orl, where they should win a 7 game series against one of them in the 2nd round.

Greg

January 12th, 2010
5:17 pm

theZaZaGuy,
If we’re not ahead of Orlando we can’t be seeded higher than fourth.

mmgtfan

January 12th, 2010
5:17 pm

What do you think about Atlanta being named one of the host cities for the World Cup and how do you like the USA’s chances of getting Mark?

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:18 pm

You could almost have predicted that Teague’s numbers would go down the more the Hawks played. A coach starts out thinking he’ll play the rookie, but then the games begin and the same coach tends to shorten his bench and bank on experience. It’s not just Woodson — though that is Woodson’s M.O. — but a lot of coaches.

Gmack

January 12th, 2010
5:18 pm

theZaZaGuy

Bobby Coxitis? LMBO! to funny. I like that.

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:18 pm

I can’t imagine Atlanta wouldn’t be a host city, mmgtfan. And I think there’s a strong push internationally to bring the World Cup back here.

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:19 pm

Now, if Woodson turns to Greg Norton … that’s something else again.

Gmack

January 12th, 2010
5:24 pm

theZaZaGuy

What if JJ get injured? Do the Hawks still finish in the top 4 like Bos, Cle, & Orl.

The Hawks and Clevland are the only Eastern power teams that have not dealt with significant injuries this year. I won’t see Bos healthy. I don’t want no excuses if we see them in the playoffs.

theZaZaGuy

January 12th, 2010
5:31 pm

If Joe gets hurt, I think we finish 4th. Even without Joe we win most of the games in Feb and March. We did just fine last year without him.

I honestly think this team is on the cusp of greatness. They exude confidence. And because we’re so young, I think we’re less prone to injuries, unless a team resorts to thuggery like Miami did last year.

Sonny Clusters

January 12th, 2010
5:32 pm

We was in touch with Izzy last night talking about poor Russ, the Temporary Mascot and that painting he took. Izzy still has strong feelings about what is right and what is not right about dealing with a mascot. He said painting a little dog crosses the line. Not many people will remember Izzy was forced to work a tee shirt stand during the Olympics and almost missed Opening Ceremonies. He is still sore about that. We have put Russ and Izzy in touch with each other and they are trying to get things worked out so Russ can regain his self esteem and again venture out in public. Russ says it will be easier to show his face (a$$) when Richt finally hires some coaches. We was not sure when that might happen.

- Correspondent Sonny Clusters filed this report.

willie martinez

January 12th, 2010
5:33 pm

me thinks you’ve had more fun at greg norton’s expense than even mine.

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:33 pm

Don’t get me wrong. I’d like to see the Hawks step up and beat Cleveland and Orlando in the regular season just to prove they can. But I think they’re over the Celtics thing.

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:34 pm

Tossup, CWM.

BirdDawg

January 12th, 2010
5:34 pm

Mark,

I don’t think it’s so much that the team is regarded as a disappointment, heck no team that’s 12 games over .500 should be. I think it’s that this team isn’t as good as most people feel they should be. The Orlando and Denver game aside, all of the games this team has lost has been due to their own lack of intensity, execution down the stretch, or coaching. No one really thinks this is a bad team. Only an idiot would think that. What’s frustrating is knowing that if they didn’t shoot themselves in the foot so often, they could easily challenge for the best record in the NBA, not just the NBA South.

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:35 pm

Has anyone thought that the reason Georgia hasn’t hired some coaches is there might be a state-mandated furlough for January?

Dick Bavetta

January 12th, 2010
5:35 pm

Norton’s only good at walking, but that’s illegal in basketball.

Suckers.

Tabias Kelly

January 12th, 2010
5:37 pm

Good Job Hawks!!!!!!

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:37 pm

No team wins every game, BirdDawg. The Celtics have lost to the Pacers, the 76ers, the Clippers and the Warriors. Over the course of 82 games, some are going to be left on the table.

That said, the Hawks shouldn’t have lost twice to New York. Once, OK.

Steve Holman

January 12th, 2010
5:38 pm

theZaZaGuy: Well played, sir.

Sonny Clusters

January 12th, 2010
5:40 pm

We did a Google search for “coach” and may have solved Coach Richt’s dilemma. They is a Coach Outlet Store right here in Georgia! That’s right, here in Georgia. No need to go to Virginia or Louisiana, or Alabama or anywhere else. Would somebody close to Coach Richt please tell him?

Mark Bradley

January 12th, 2010
5:43 pm

I passed that Coach Outlet store last week, I think. In Calhoun, is it? Right off I-75?

theZaZaGuy

January 12th, 2010
5:44 pm

And Cleveland shouldn’t have lost to Washington without Arenas. Maybe it was Randy Wittman working his magic. But then Hawks guards who become coaches don’t do well with Magic as Doc proved. Why am I spouting non-sequitors that don’t go anywhere?

Anyway, I really hope we don’t lose to the Wizards. That would really bring down the price of my tickets on stubhub.

Sonny Clusters

January 12th, 2010
5:45 pm

The Coach Outlet Store may be just what Coach Richt and Coach Johnson need. Who would have thought? We was wondering if they have some Defensive Coordinators? If they was to get together and negotiate like buddies they might could get a deal on two coordinators.

All I'm Saying Is...

January 12th, 2010
5:45 pm

Hawks beat Celtics in Boston when Garnett was playing so we are clearly superior team. We should have another season of improvement (i.e. more wins than last year) and our team is showing some maturity which makes me a bit more comfortable that they will win a first round playoff series in less than seven games this time around. All of the preceding makes me a very happy camper and feeling better than I have since 1993 (prior to Wilkins for Manning trade) about the Hawks.

Now, all that typed…we were one of the top four teams in the East last year and that’s where we should find ourselves this year in the playoffs. Match-ups and adjustments will be key at that point and we’ll really learn something about the grey matter of our coaching staff. Obviously, we can beat the C’s but thus far we haven’t been able to beat the Magic or the Cavs so we must hope that a scenario plays out that has Cavs and Magic meeting in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs while we play the Celtics. And if that were to occur and we beat the Celtics to advance to Eastern Conference Finals to play the winner of the Magic vs. Cavs (assuming everyone’s healthy, what a series that would be, huh?), then anything could happen. Exciting to contemplate. So let’s say a prayer that the Hawks win trend continues, we stay healthy and hungry the rest of the way, we win in the first round and then match up with the Celtics in the second round. Meanwhile, enjoy the regular season folks because it really is a great time to be a Hawks fan!

LET’S GO HAWKS!

Mickey

January 12th, 2010
5:47 pm

Regarding the World Cup. Did you happen to get caught in the downtown traffic when Mexico played Venezuela at the Dome? More fans than I’ve seen in Atlanta in quite some time.

BirdDawg

January 12th, 2010
5:48 pm

You’re right, Mark. And it is rather unrealistic to expect them to be 37-0 at this point. You even expect them to lose a game or two that they should win, every team does. But the way that they are losing is cause for concern. The effort just isn’t there at times and those games that they are giving away could really hurt them at the end of the season, especially if they don’t correct their shortcomings. Top to bottom, I think this team is more talented than Cleveland, but Cleveland will always be more successful because the play hard night in and night out, every minute. If the Hawks ever get to that point in terms of effort, they wouldn’t be considered a wild card, they would be the favorites to win the East.

Justin

January 12th, 2010
5:49 pm

Don’t you think the more likely scenario to see the Celtics in the 2nd round is if the Hawks beat out Orlando for the 3 seed and Boston gets the 2? I just don’t see Boston finishing with the best record because the injuries and losses are beginning to mount again, just like last year. Something’s just not right for Orlando this year, unless they’re playing the Hawks.

theZaZaGuy

January 12th, 2010
5:49 pm

It was also crazy when we had a Braves game and Milan vs Club America at the same time…

Mickey

January 12th, 2010
5:50 pm

That Clusters, always the Gem

Sonny Clusters

January 12th, 2010
5:51 pm

Clusters never shopped at outlets because we was afraid the merchandise might be defective or maybe returned because somebody spilled soup on it or in it. Spilling soup on a Coach wouldn’t hurt him any. Most coaches have some food spilled on ‘em somewhere at all times of the day. Coach Richt might be a little neater than Coach Johnson based on what we’ve seen on television.

willie martinez

January 12th, 2010
5:54 pm

1 nice pair of shoes will last longer than 2 cheap pairs. i’m just sayin…

theZaZaGuy

January 12th, 2010
5:55 pm

Mark,
Are you allowed to drink on the job? I know the A-town dancers can’t (or wouldn’t with me) Even when they visit a bar.

The thought of getting into a game free if you’re a journalist is really cool, but I don’t see myself having fun if I’m not being a little obnoxious. Those of you who sit near Josh’s Mom know what I’m talking about.

willie martinez

January 12th, 2010
6:02 pm

Mark, why do so many people think you are tight on the job?