The Hawks’ road flops: ‘Unacceptable’ and ‘embarrassing’

He's partly to blame for this road ineptitude. But only partly. (AP photo)

Mike Woodson is partly to blame for this road ineptitude. But only partly. (AP photo)

Milwaukee – There’s a belief within the Hawks’ organization — not a pipe dream, but an actual belief — that this is one of the half-dozen teams capable of playing into June. On talent, it is. But even now, in this third playoff run, there’s something missing.

Over the past 25 months, the Hawks have played 10 road playoff games. They’ve lost nine. As egregious as Saturday’s performance was here, it was the closest of those nine defeats.

That’s correct. An 18-point loss was, by Hawks standards, a tight road game. The average margin of those nine losses is 25.6 points.  Only by the loosest possible definition can such showings be called competing.

Granted, six of those losses — four in Boston in 2008, two in Cleveland last spring — came against the overall No. 1 seed. The Hawks were too raw to handle the champs-to-be Celtics on the parquet and too injured to match up with LeBron’s crew in the Q. But what was Saturday’s excuse?

The Hawks are demonstrably better than the Bucks, yet they let the home side be the aggressor. They invariably do. They were 19-22 away from Philips Arena this season; by way of contrast, the callow Oklahoma City Thunder was 23-18.

“We struggled on the road this season,” Joe Johnson said Saturday. “We’ve got to try to find a way to change that. It’s unacceptable to get blown out the way we did.”

The Hawks will win this series because they’re the better team and they have the homecourt edge, but they won’t have it much longer. And if you’re losing to the Bucks-minus-Bogut in Round 1, what happens when you play Orlando in Round 2? (Average margin of the Hawks’ two losses in the O-Dome this season — 20 points.)

Said Al Horford: “If we’re going to be one of the top teams and get where we think we’re going to go, we have to start handling our business on the road.”

Well, yes. But it isn’t as if the Hawks keep getting undone by last-second shots. They’re not close enough for the fourth quarter to matter. Even the one Hawks’ road playoff victory this century wasn’t a function of endgame precision: They beat Miami by 10 in Game 4 last year.

The easy excuse is to pin everything on Mike Woodson. It is, after all, a coach’s job to prepare his men. That said, those men have to follow through. There’s blame enough on both sides: Woodson has enough players to win, but all the strategy in the world counts for nothing if you’re down 17 after 12 minutes.

Asked why the Hawks settled for jump shots in Game 3, as opposed to scoring on the break, Johnson said: “We couldn’t get out in transition because we weren’t getting any stops. We were taking the ball out of the net.”

Why can't the Hawks win on the road?

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We can quibble with Woodson’s switch-on-every-screen defensive scheme, but the same defense works in Philips. His players simply didn’t switch fast enough in Game 3. When Josh Smith was slow to close on Ersan Ilyasova, who sank the Bucks’ fifth trey of the first 11 1/2 minutes, the Hawks’ coach mouthed one word. The word cannot be reproduced in a family publication.

Said Woodson, speaking before his team’s practice at Marquette on Sunday: “I said worse than that in our film session this morning.”

Say what you will about Woodson, but he has a feel for what winning in postseason requires. He was an assistant when Detroit took the title in 2004, and the Pistons had to win Game 6 in New Jersey to survive Round 2. “The good teams, they figure it out,” he said. “We’ve been a growing team, but we’re not where I think we should be. Knowing you can go get one on the road — that’s the next major step.”

Perhaps it will come Monday in Game 4. It needs to come soon. There’s no excuse for losing this badly this often just because the crowd is against you. And for what transpired Saturday, Woodson had another one-word verdict, this one printable but no less damning.

The word: “Embarrassing.”

120 comments Add your comment

Woodson must go

April 25th, 2010
12:38 pm

The hawks may win this series, but will go out quickly in round 2. Woodson–not a big game coach.

MannyT

April 25th, 2010
12:40 pm

There is something about the mental make up that needs a shock. It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to get blown out when the Bucks are missing Bogut.

The Hawks need to make a stand in Monday’s game to prove something to themselves and to stop the Buck’s momentum. Woody may need to shake things up in the 1st quarter. The team is getting whipped at the beginning of the game and then it gets worse.

Next addition to the staff–Dr. Phil :roll:

BWAF

Mark Bradley

April 25th, 2010
12:45 pm

I think they got a shock Saturday, MannyT. We’ll see what comes from it.

Section 303

April 25th, 2010
12:46 pm

Exactly, this is a player problem. No NBA team has ever had a bigger collection of headcases.

Mark Bradley

April 25th, 2010
12:47 pm

Actually, Section 303, many NBA teams have had bigger collections of headcases.

Jim

April 25th, 2010
12:51 pm

Smooth should have never said there was nothing to do in Milwaukee. It seems like get ready for the game should be enough to do.

Kane337

April 25th, 2010
12:56 pm

The Hawks have consistently played poorly on the road this year. To have a losing record on the road and earn the #3 seed is unbelievable. They lose to teams like Detroit on the road. Yet they play terrific basketball at home and dominate most games. I have no idea what the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome is all about in this team. It’s like some sort of curse.

Saint Richt

April 25th, 2010
12:57 pm

same old Hawks…..will be the same until they FIRE MIKE WOODSON……………when? please, when?

heartofdarkness

April 25th, 2010
12:57 pm

“The Bucks know they cannot hope to beat the Hawks by playing conventional basketball. “. I would be interested in Mark Bradley’s definition of “conventional basketball”. Seems the Bucks played a very traditional game for an undersized team with quicker guards than the opponent. Nothing prevented the Hawks from changing the way they were playing the pick and roll or slowing the game down and feeding the post, playing inside out or crashing the boards harder on offense and over-powering the smaller Milwaukee bigs.
I am willing to surmise there is a better than 50 percent chance the Hawks game four strategy will be: “Jennings and Salmons cannot shoot that high of a percentage two games in a row. Just keep doing what you have been doing.”

Mark Bradley

April 25th, 2010
12:57 pm

You see the Hawks at home, Kane337, and you think, “This team is for real.” You see them on the road and you think something else.

Kane337

April 25th, 2010
12:57 pm

I guess there was nothing to do in all the other cities they got blown out in. There have been many.

Mark Bradley

April 25th, 2010
12:58 pm

That’s a good point. They got blown out twice in Cleveland last spring.

Kane337

April 25th, 2010
1:00 pm

Mark, why is it so difficult for NBA teams to win on the road? Compared to the other leagues the NBA has the highest home winning percentage. Even the Thunder can win 2 at home vs the Lakers.

robdawg08

April 25th, 2010
1:15 pm

What should “Nothing to do in Milwaukee” have to do with winning a basketball game ? Do the Hawks play the game for the traveling nightclub life or to win a championship ? That is the question. They are paid to be athletes not club-hoppers.

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 25th, 2010
1:16 pm

perimeter d was non-existant.

S Uga Fan

April 25th, 2010
1:18 pm

Wow!!! Still afraid to blame the main reason!!! Fire Woody! Seems like everybody gets it except MB!

TheAntiMe

April 25th, 2010
1:19 pm

The Hawks must miss that home cookin’ when they go on the road.

Matt

April 25th, 2010
1:26 pm

It’s all about Josh Smith. He’s the emotional compass of this team. He was unenergetic, slow, and pathetic. He didn’t block out, he showed no initiative on offense, and he was slow to switch on defense. When the emotional leader is as pathetic as Josh sometimes is, the team gets their doors blown off. The Hawks are the only team that does this. Either Josh Smith has to grow up or this team will continue to be a one round and out team in this league, if they’re lucky, because JJ is leaving this summer.

Hawks2010

April 25th, 2010
1:30 pm

Maybe it is tougher because the fans are closer to the event which also can influence the refs more.
Way to bring it today, Mark.
You may be more passionate about basketball than other sports.

Hawks2010

April 25th, 2010
1:33 pm

Josh should keep his stupid mouth shut.
Real smart to walk into a town and insult them before the game starts.
Made the other coach’s job easy.
No trouble at all with motivation after that.

show me state

April 25th, 2010
1:36 pm

As long as i’ve been watching the hawks…they just don’t play with the same effort and passion on the road…..it’s like their lethargic sometimes on road games….the way they started on saturday just had da feel like it was gonna be a blow out….when they played against boston and cleveland on da road….they played with more passion….dats da type of effort they need…it really starts with josh, al, and marvin…if they can get it going…then it makes it easier on joe, mike, and jamal….and like joe said before, at home they do all the misc. things to get a win like….diving for loose balls, 2nd chance points, defensive intensity, and forcing turnovers…i seen it in spurts last night….but they got to do it for 48 minutes….basically the keys to winning game 4 is…Jump on them early by getting Josh and Al going early…Don’t be lethargic…(act like u want da game)…..Turn up the defensive intensity….(by not allowing Salmons and Jennings to do what they were doing)…Don’t allow second chance points…..Force turnovers to lead to easy transitional baskets….and last but not least just play Atlanta Hawks basketball on the road….The biggest key is da first one tho….get Josh and Al going….because we know what Joe, Jamal, and Mike can do…..Go Hawks 4 life………

Dawg Dominance

April 25th, 2010
1:49 pm

The Eastern Conference will be decided by who shoots the best 3 point percentage, there’s no mystery about it. Cleveland, Orlando, everybody’s doing it! It’s live by the 3 or die by the 3, the Hawks need to prepare with that type of mind set, or continue to be exposed, and embarrassed.

J.J.M.

April 25th, 2010
1:51 pm

the funny things is that im not shock that this happened last night…i mean its the same ol hawks that only scores off the home crowd

Deano

April 25th, 2010
1:51 pm

Jump shot, after jump shot, after jump shot. The Hawks have a size advantage at almost every position and yet they refuse to try and get the ball in the pain. Joe played a good game last night, but he’s as guilty as anybody, because he has to put on a dribbling expedition everytime he touches the ball. This causes the other players to stand around and become spectators, and then they get nothing going toward the basket, so they have nobody near the basket to rebound all these jump shots. But ultimately, it does come down to coaching, because he is the one who allows these guys to do whatever it is they want to do on the court instead of jumping on their asses about defensive effort and working the ball into the paint. It’s pathetic and embarrassing.

O'Brien

April 25th, 2010
1:52 pm

Mark,

If the hawks played the bucks at a neutral site, who do you think would win the series?

And although the players have to be willing to execute woodys game plan, I still wonder why 3 years later, he still can’t get through to them.

If the players are not closing out on switches, then maybe we should have defended them man to man.

I look forward to a much better effort tomorrow. In my opinion, its not about winning tomorrow. Its about giving a better effort, and giving ourselves a chance to win in the fourth.

MaryM

April 25th, 2010
2:04 pm

Isn’t it obvious that when you pay millions of dollars to lazy, semi-talented bozos, all you get are very wealthy bozos. These jerks only move their azzes when it’s time to collect their paychecks.

MaryM

April 25th, 2010
2:07 pm

I know of no other occupation other than professional basketball where people who are hopelessly inept and lazy make so much money.

cdog

April 25th, 2010
2:16 pm

THERE’S PLENTY OF FACTORS OF PLAYING ON THE ROAD.THE HAWKS SEEMS TO EXPECT TO GET BEAT.THEY ARE JUST LIKE THE BRAVES.WHEN THE GAMES START ON THE ROAD ITS LIKE THEY TELL THEIR OPPONENTS GO AHEAD, GET OUT OF THE GATES FIRST, WE’LL FOLLOW AND IF THE HAWKS GET OUT OF THE GATES THEY SEEM TO WAIT FOR THE OTHER TEAM TO MAKE THEIR RUN THEN WHEN THEY DO THE HAWKS NEVER RECOVER.HOW DO YOU CONQUER THIS? HAVING FAITH IN YOUR TEAMMATES AS A TEAM NOT INDIVIDUALS AND PLAY AS A TEAM.ITS NOT ABOUT ONE MAN BUT THE WHOLE TEAM.THEY PLAY AS A TEAM AT HOME BUT ON THE ROAD THEY SEEM TO BE WAITING CERTAIN PLAYERS TO GET GOING INSTEAD OF PLAYING AS A TEAM(5 ON THE FLOOR)THE TEAMATE WHO THEY LOOK TO NEVER GET GOING UNTIL ITS TOO LATE.THATS WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM ON THE ROAD.

NCBravesFan

April 25th, 2010
2:16 pm

I give Woodson credit for calling it what it is – a lack of commitment and focus. The players, on the other hand, seem to want to dance their way around the issue in their comments. That says a lot about where the problem lies.

cdog

April 25th, 2010
2:19 pm

IF WOODSON IS FIRED THE HAWKS WILL NEVER HAVE ANOTHER WINNING TEAM IN A LONG TIME TO COME.THATS RIDICULOUS TO KEEP SAYING THIS BUT ITS SOMEONE ONCE SAID, WHY TRY TO CONVINCE A FOOL, HIS MIND IS ALREADY MADE UP.

Shane

April 25th, 2010
2:25 pm

Go Hawks !!!!

and take the Braves with you …..

mark

April 25th, 2010
2:34 pm

it’s a wait and see playoff run in my opinion, i see a couple of things need to take place. i think woody has maxed out with this team, we need fresh ideas. to much talent to be so up and down. you can’t get rid of all the players. i don’t make sense when you have a major advantage inside and the opposing have no answer for it and you come out and play an entirely different game plan. see you later coach woody. he won’t be around after the playoof run ends.

Harpie

April 25th, 2010
2:34 pm

Woodson stinks! The Hawks were playing like idiots, 17 points behind, and he’s telling the interviewer, ” We’ll be all right…” He’s a complete idiot. We need a coach who knows what’s happening….

DawgNole

April 25th, 2010
2:55 pm

I’ve tried to post three times; none have shown up. This is a test.

All I'm Saying Is...

April 25th, 2010
2:59 pm

Getting blown out in the first quarter is the part that is embarassing and is the complete fault of the players. (Not being prepared for what the other team does would be a mistake due to poor coaching but that was not the case in this game).

We’ll see what the coaches and players are made of in Game 4 for if they lose that one then its a three game series. By the way, good, mature teams took care of business as Orlando and the Celtics won game 3 on the road. However, this didn’t happen with every team as even the Lakers lost game 3 on the road (but they are the defending champs and long ago proved themselves worthy of the benefit of the doubt).

I still believe in this team, our players, and our coach. Was hoping for a sweep but I’ll take winning in five.

LET’S GO HAWKS!

[By the way, MaryM: You are an idiot. They may have stunk up the joint against Milwaukee but the Hawks and NBA players are not 'hopelessly inept and lazy'---you don't get a job or keep a job in the NBA if you are either one of those two characteristics because there's so much money at stake and because there are so many people available to take your job.]

ATLFANSTUCKINTEXAS

April 25th, 2010
3:01 pm

Mike Woodson has never played a minute for the Hawks. So we can ONLY blame him for NOT taking Josh Smith out of the game if he is NOT going to give the team the emotional lift they need. The coach is responsible for making sure the right players are on the court to determine the outcome of the game. This is WHY Mike Woodson will be FIRED because he is STUCK in his Larry Brown self-centered coaching philosophy.

cdog

April 25th, 2010
3:07 pm

MIKE WOODSON IS NOT THE PROBLEM.HE IS THE REASON FOR THE HAWKS WINNING AND HAVING PLAYOFF TEAMS THE LAST 3 YEARS.IF WOODSON LEAVES, THE HAWKS WON’T HAVE ANOTHER WINNING SEASON FOR YEARS TO COME

Floze

April 25th, 2010
3:14 pm

For the life of me – I don’t know why we don’t use Rio when we have these lazy starts. That man will run through picks and will the team to a better effort.

DawgNole

April 25th, 2010
3:21 pm

I’m trying again–for a fourth time–to post successfully. No profanity or threats in previous tries. Not sure what the problem is. My “test” went through fine. Here goes:

“The Hawks are demonstrably better than the bucks . . . .”

“The Hawks will win this series because they’re the better team . . . .”
________________________

On paper, yes, Mark, but you know what they say: “You don’t play the games on paper.”

I respect your confidence, and I certainly hope you’re right, but I wouldn’t be so sure of victory here. Butt-kickings like last night’s have a nasty way of getting in your mind and undermining your efforts and goals. Championship teams respond with ferocity and determination; we’ll see how the Hawks respond.

In any event, unfortunately, they’re not likely to go much further–thus preserving their 40-plus-year tradition of NEVER (since moving to ATL) having made it past the second round of the playoffs.

DawgNole

April 25th, 2010
3:24 pm

Posts aren’t going through, Mark. Tried four or five times. Only the “test” (above) made it. Not sure what the problem is. No obvious reason for it to be snagged. Have to give up, I’m afraid, and that’s disappointing. Really wanted to join this conversation.

Bobby

April 25th, 2010
3:25 pm

I agree with “Matt” in his post… I grew up in the Phila area and we always had an enforcer on the road like Malone, Chamberlain, etc… Josh Smith had to come out big on the road and enforce the action for the Hawks to win… He is a big time game changer and has to show up especially after running his mouth…I would also have Teague in the game as Bibby cannot keep up with Jennings…. Woodson should have pressed some after what few baskets we did have so the Bucks could not just waltz up the floor and get easy transition Baskets…. Mark, Thoughts????

Steve

April 25th, 2010
3:25 pm

As much as I would like to blame Woodson .. the Hawks players just got beat. I have never seen such a change in players. The Hawks starters absolutely dominated the first half in both games here, then they go to Milwaukee and look like the Nets.

You can blame coaching for some of it, but the players need to get their head out of their collective rear ends.

I wonder … is this the Tiger effect? At home, they have more time for a little fun .. but on the road they have less time to squeeze in that fun and it leaves them lifeless. Maybe it’s just hanging out in the hotel playing video games, or cards, or maybe it’s far worse things that the shouldn’t be doing with a big game a day away .. clubbing and … cough cough .. Tiger Timin’.

DawgNole

April 25th, 2010
3:29 pm

I’m trying again–for a sixth time–to post successfully. No profanity or threats in previous tries. Not sure what the problem is. My “test” (above) went through fine. Here goes:

“The Hawks are demonstrably better than the bucks . . . .”

“The Hawks will win this series because they’re the better team . . . .”

On paper, yes, Mark, but you know what they say: “You don’t play the games on paper.”

I respect your confidence, and I certainly hope you’re right, but I wouldn’t be so sure of victory here. Butt-kickings like last night’s have a nasty way of getting in your mind and undermining your efforts and goals. Championship teams respond with ferocity and determination; we’ll see how the Hawks respond.

In any event, unfortunately, they’re not likely to go much further–thus preserving their 40-plus-year tradition of NEVER (since moving to ATL) having made it past the second round of the playoffs.

chris g

April 25th, 2010
3:34 pm

I am a big Hawks fan but they showed no heart. I wanted to strangle Josh Smith for walking up the court repeeatedly after everyone ran by for layups. Joe was the only person who seemed to care and it made me sick. We shot jumper after jumper instead of pounding it inside. It’s too late to start going inside when your down by 25. I’m convinced that if Bogut was healthy and Redd was good to go we would probably be down in the series. They have to have a killer instinct. The Bucks are not handicapped they are short handed. Don’t feel sorry for them because they are professionals that make alot of money and want to win just as bad. Grow a pair Hawks real quick or Barkley and Kenny are going to get the fishing poles ready. It’s just so frustrating because I have watched 99% of the games this year and there is no shortage of talent on this team. I see Oklahoma City just running past our progress and that raises alot of questions. Go Hawks prove me wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!

S Uga Fan

April 25th, 2010
3:37 pm

Cdog….. you have got to be kidding!!! I bet you are one of the people I see scrapping bumper stickers off your car now, too!

HRR

April 25th, 2010
3:46 pm

Where is Jamal Crawford, I have not seen him in the playoffs, his production haven’t been seen or heard. Honestly I had the Mavs and Hawks going to the finals but after what I saw yesterday, I really don’t know now.

Biggdawg33

April 25th, 2010
3:53 pm

I am so sick and tired of the Hawks looking like pigeons when they play. I guess the plane ride to Milwaukee was too much for them, so they decided to take the time off on the court. Don’t they realize that if they can go ahead and sweep this team they would get some more days off.

They have the talent to be a Lakers or Cavs. They just need to decide when they are going to give the effort and keep it up.

braves choke again

April 25th, 2010
4:11 pm

The problem is there is no player-leader. Someone has to snatch a knot in their a$$ and it has to come from a player, not Woodson. Woodson spent the past five years being patient with a young team as he should. Woodson can’t all-of-a-sudden do a 180 and go from patient father figure to butt chewer. It will backfire.They’ve shown progress each year, but to take the next step someone has to demand accountability/maturity.

LU

April 25th, 2010
4:15 pm

Joe will be gone after Orlando puts us out in a few weeks. Did you D Wade today. Bring that kid to the ATL..

[...] points. Only by the loosest possible definition can such showings be called competing. read more:The Hawks' road flops: 'Unacceptable' and 'embarrassing' | Mark Bradley __________________ We're not tough we're just crazy Terry Noonan in State of [...]