The Hawks unleash one of the epic collapses in Atlanta annals

One picture. Worth several hundred million words. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Here's one picture. It's worth several hundred million words. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

This was the Falcons blowing the lead against Danny White and Dallas in January 1981. This was Mark Wohlers hanging the slider to Jim Leyritz in October 1996. Only it wasn’t. It was worse.

Those opponents were top-class. The Hawks just blew a 13-point lead and probably a playoff series to Milwaukee, which is a No. 6 seed missing its All-Star center. They trail 3-2 in a series they led 2-0. They face elimination on the road, a place they’ve won once in 11 tries over the past three postseasons.

Yeah, theoretically they could still pull this out, but how can you win in the Bradley Center when you can’t hold a nine-point lead inside the final four minutes with the series lead on the line? How can you put this colossal choke — I hate that word, but it applies here — behind you?

Up nine, and here’s what happened: Josh Smith missed a dunk by hitting the ball on the underside of the backboard; Jamal Crawford short-armed a layup, the first of his five misses down the stretch; the Hawks watched as Ersan Ilyasova grabbed every loose ball and Joe Johnson fouled out on a charge. Nine points up with 3:55 left, the Hawks saw the lead disappear in 116 seconds.

I say again: One hundred sixteen seconds.

There are no excuses for this game, this series. The team with the better players is the one with one foot out the exit door. The Bucks have two chances to win once. The Hawks are down to their final shot.

“We had control of the game,” Mike Woodson said. “We let it get away.”

Then this: “It’s still a seven-game series. We’re going to see what we’re made of.”

We may already have seen it. We may have seen a team of splendid resources hit its ceiling. The Hawks win because they’re talented, but talent hasn’t been enough against a smarter and more dogged opponent. If anything, talent has undone itself. The Hawks have played into the Bucks’ hands for three games now, and there seems no end in sight. The Bucks are now believers; the Hawks really aren’t sure what they are anymore.

“All winning basketball plays,” Woodson said of the two offensive rebounds claimed by Ilyasova that spawned five immense points, the final three coming on a corner trey by Carlos Delfino that put the Bucks ahead by four. But why can’t Woodson’s men make those plays? Why does everything always come down to Joe Johnson, and why, with Iso-Joe rendered inoperative this crucial night, did nobody have a clue? (Unless hoisting a jump shot is having a clue.) This isn’t supposed to be a one-man team, but right now it’s not playing like a team at all.

Said Milwaukee’s splendid Brandon Jennings: “When Joe Johnson went out of the game, I thought we had a chance.”

Nine points up, four minutes left. Four minutes from a 3-2 series lead. Four minutes that will live in infamy on the long list of Atlanta sports collapses. Four minutes that could lead to the dismantling of this roster and perhaps the dismissal of this coach. Four unbelievable minutes.

Really, though, how unbelievable were they? The Hawks blew a fat lead here against Dallas, nearly blew one against Orlando last month. They’re known as the team that can fall to pieces if you keep applying pressure, and on this wretched night they lived down to that sorry reputation. They wasted a lead that should have been safe and are positioned to lose a series that should already have been won.

Technically the Hawks haven’t yet been eliminated. But it sure feels that way.

414 comments Add your comment

D Hawks

April 28th, 2010
11:21 pm

I have seen epic losses in the 44 year history of Atlanta pro sports, but this is one of the worst. No way you can max out Joe Johnson and give Woody a multi-year deal after this one.

PlusSizeModel

April 28th, 2010
11:25 pm

JeJe

April 28th, 2010
11:26 pm

FIRE WOODY

82-79

clean up your yard

April 28th, 2010
11:26 pm

thirty-ninth

JeJe

April 28th, 2010
11:26 pm

THE ASG IS TOO POOR TO RESIGN JOE SO THEY ARE SELLING A VALUABLE 1ST RDER SO THEY CAN RESIGN A PLAYER WHO IS NOT EVEN A SUPERSTAR AND WHO WILL EAT UP CAP SPACE LOLOLOL

PlusSizeModel

April 28th, 2010
11:26 pm

I just saw the photo in the last blog of Joe Johnson shooting from the bench pre-game. I guess he knew he would end up there, but someone needs to tell him he can’t shoot from there during the game.

Keith B

April 28th, 2010
11:27 pm

the Bucks beating the Hawks and causing these ATL losses and they still get little to no credit for it

i’ll take the wins

wxwax

April 28th, 2010
11:28 pm

Tough loss.

If they lose this series, I shall, for the first time, sympathize with the Woody haters.

But they still have a chance to prove they have composure and balls.

Well coached

April 28th, 2010
11:28 pm

How bad is this loss? This is as bad a loss as a guy losing his wedding ring in his girlfriend’s bedroom.

On YouTube.

Turtsnap

April 28th, 2010
11:29 pm

Unfortunately, Atlanta sports has returned to the cesspool of Losersville again!

calico

April 28th, 2010
11:29 pm

Win or lose this series fire Mike Woodson please

Garrett Harper

April 28th, 2010
11:29 pm

I think that if the hawks do end up losing this series, there is no choice…. you have to fire coach woodson…. i love the guy but this story is getting old!

clean up your yard

April 28th, 2010
11:30 pm

I have a question- down by one and Joe Johnson fouls out. The next time down Josh Smith jacks up a brick for a three quickly and then the Bucks shortly convert a three and it’s a 4 point game and the game is history. Why would Josh Smith jack up a terrible three pointer when you are down by one and Johnson just fouled out? Please?

JeJe

April 28th, 2010
11:30 pm

FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY FIRE WOODY

calico

April 28th, 2010
11:31 pm

Avery Johnson needs 2 b the coach

D Hawks

April 28th, 2010
11:32 pm

It takes more than talent to be successful in the playoffs. It takes intelligence under pressure, and a desire to win every possession. The Hawks lack both. I don’t think the coaching staff’s message is getting through, and I think they’ve hit a threshold. Winning a lot at home is nice, but what makes anyone think that this team will get appreciably better on the road with it’s current leadership?

PlusSizeModel

April 28th, 2010
11:32 pm

“Why would Josh Smith jack up a terrible three pointer…”

Are you really surprised? J. Smith is one of the dumbest players ever. This is nothing new with him. You knew when he sank that long one with over four minutes left that the follow up idiotic shot was coming, we’ve seen it 100 times.

Beone

April 28th, 2010
11:32 pm

Pathetic = Woodson !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

cstin

April 28th, 2010
11:33 pm

WOW! The players and coaches complain about the fans supporting other teams when they come to town! This is why! This team coaches, and ownership has no backbone! There is no way they should be down 3-2 to the BUCKS!

Joe Johnson

April 28th, 2010
11:33 pm

You wrote “What if the Hawks lose to the Bucks” this morning, why are you complaining on what you are expecting? Hawks do not have a center their owner did not want to get one so these guys have maxed out on their effort. Hawks are not that good. They just work hard and now they are tired. When people work hard, they do get tired, understand?

Worm

April 28th, 2010
11:33 pm

Insert I hate the NBA here..Woodson should be fired before the next game..Hawks can’t play unless they’re Running..Their offense is PAINFUL to watch.

jose

April 28th, 2010
11:33 pm

Like I predicted, we may not make it to 2nd round. We’ve got the talent but we can’t use it. INCONSISTENT, INCONSISTENT, INCONSISTENT

sam

April 28th, 2010
11:34 pm

With the game on the line late, the Hawks were utterly lost on offense. It looked like playground basketball, and I’ve watched better quality at Grant Park. I commend Mike Woodson on the work he’s done to get the Hawks to this point, but he just lost his job tonight. I have never seen a team that looked as leaderless as the Hawks did tonight, in a game they had every opportunity to win. Pathetic.

Ed

April 28th, 2010
11:34 pm

Brutal, Brutal, Brutal. Don’t know how Hawks fans put up with it…

Archie

April 28th, 2010
11:35 pm

Hawks are soft. It’s that simple. It’s the worst you can say about a team. When things are going well, they can score easy baskets better than anybody. When things aren’t going well, they can’t get tough baskets. When a team is soft, the coach is the one responsible. Either Woodson’s message is to spot up low percentage jumpers in crunch time (which I doubt), or his message simply isn’t getting through. My guess is the second option. I like Woodson, I think he’s a good coach, but he simply isn’t getting the players to respond.

Larry

April 28th, 2010
11:35 pm

Wonder how may of us Season Ticket holders are going to continue on our 8-month payment plan now? I have some very serious doubts. $14K is a ton of $$ for baseline courtside seats with this type of basketball product being put before us. I saw THREE THINGS tonight: 1. Woody cannot manage a playoff game that is close, he will blow it every time; 2. Joe Johnson is a great player but for three years now, he is NOT the BIG TIME $$ PLAYER you need in the playoffs…WAY too soft and his jewels are just not big enough and 3. THis team has no COLLECTIVE HEART and SOUL about them and that comes from the Coach, Superstar on down. Just a bunch of over self absored whiners. Give me a Chuck Daily type coach and a DWade type Superstar and this team with ALL that talent becomes a BEAST!

oldmikey

April 28th, 2010
11:36 pm

Effort with no smarts. Not Woody’s fault. Can’t coach stupid.

Too Harsh?

April 28th, 2010
11:36 pm

Woodson strikes me as a coach with a low basketball IQ, his team doesn’t play smart consistently.

Brett

April 28th, 2010
11:36 pm

we didn’t just lose a 9-pt lead. we DID NOT SCORE from 4 minutes left to 19 seconds left.

Blow up the team-- start with the coach

April 28th, 2010
11:37 pm

This team and coach are obviously too stupid to be a real contender. Resigning JJ would keep them from ever taking that next step. Time to reshuffle the deck- we need a real leader (not JJ), a real center (Al is a PF, not C), and a coach that knows more about offense than just isolation plays and more about defense than to leave his bigs defending the fastest player in the league on the perimeter.

UGA

April 28th, 2010
11:37 pm

Josh Smith is the problem PERIOD!!

Brian

April 28th, 2010
11:37 pm

I have been one of the staunchest Woody supporters this entire season.

The numbers speak for themselves when you look at our record over the last 5 seasons.

But after 5 games, the Hawks still don’t know how to defend the Bucks’ pick-and-roll, or how to quickly go to your backup guy when option #1 is well-covered. Those are coaching issues, not player issues. Add that to our inexcusable road record over the past few seasons (post-season or not), and I have to admit that maybe we should consider shopping for a new coach.

@ReanuKeeves

April 28th, 2010
11:38 pm

It’s just such a damn shame to hand over games to a team with such lesser talent. I think this is a perfect storm of poor coaching, poor resolve, and poor execution.

The series is over, and Milwaukee will get beat in four straight by an avg of 15 points. If we knew how to stick w/ a winning game plan (throw the ball into the paint–play defense) this wouldn’t be an issue.

Instead we got a humiliating first-round exit at the hands of a one-man squad–and that one man is a ROOKIE. Pitiful, shameful, beyond unacceptable.

A.W.

April 28th, 2010
11:38 pm

YES! FIRE WOODY! PPPLLEEEASSEEE!

oh yeah,

and the hawks are done.

ad one more “oh yeah”

bye bye Joe Johnson and Mike Woodson.

HEY! New York might not be so bad for Joe!

Avery

April 28th, 2010
11:38 pm

I really, really hate blaming officials for anything, but that B.S. charge on Johnson cost us the game. It fouled him out, took the crowd out of it, game over.

Keep your whistle in your pocket on an obvious flop with less than two minutes left.

The Boss

April 28th, 2010
11:38 pm

Seriously can anyone remember a worse NBA offence?
Disgraceful!

Angus

April 28th, 2010
11:39 pm

Well it was fun while it lasted (going from 13 to 53 wins).

Exit Woody, exit JJ, back to 30 wins.

bg3003

April 28th, 2010
11:39 pm

hawks have no leadership. how many times does a NBA COACH need to see the same screen and switch play before he relizes that the switch does not work? all last game they switched al onto jennings and that is a mismatch

GoBuckYourself

April 28th, 2010
11:39 pm

Someone wrote “the Hawks do not have a center” as one of the excuses for losing? Do the Bucks have a center? Oh yeah, he has one arm and is in a suit for the rest of the year.

SD Dawg

April 28th, 2010
11:39 pm

This team has been flawed for years. They have certainly gotten better over the years, but the same flaws continue to come up. I am a little surprised we have not been able to dispatch of the Bucks. But there was no way this team was going any further beyond this year.

Hate to say it, but they need to let Joe and Woody go. There is NO WAY this team, as it currently is, EVER competes for a championship. It’s just not there.

Plano

April 28th, 2010
11:40 pm

un- “leased”? is that what you meant (meaning something that hasn’t been leased)? how about un”leashed”, that would be English meaning unrestrained, to let loose. yo, just sayin, whatever

Iblameurparents

April 28th, 2010
11:40 pm

This team can win two game in a row against the Bucks!! However the reality is Woody has taken this group as far as he can take them. The gig is up!! Poor game management in play selection ( virtually no plays were run) defensive adjustments and personnel. No way you give this game away. The gig is up!

cole

April 28th, 2010
11:41 pm

I agree totally!!! That was a horrible display of basketball. I have followed this team through some awful years. But I have never witnessed a more gutless performance than what i saw tonight. Where do I begin.. We have an extremely atheletic team but we play as if we have a dominating 7 footer who could be unstoppable in a half court game!!! I am sooo freakin frustrated right now!!!

sm02180n

April 28th, 2010
11:41 pm

I grew up in MKE and moved to ATL two years ago. I’m still a Bucks fan. Some of the comments posted by Bucks fans on this site have been ridiculous. The vast majority of Bucks fans know what Hawks fans are feeling right now… we’ve had our share of bad breaks over the years. Most of us upper midwesterners take great pride in our friendliness and respect for others. That being said, the series isn’t over yet. And even if the Bucks win, the Hawks are young and talented. Future looks bright!

Bucks Pat

April 28th, 2010
11:42 pm

That Brandon Jennings kid plays like a seasoned veteran. Dang…

cstin

April 28th, 2010
11:42 pm

If you want to know what it takes to win, look at the Lakers and Boston! Winning starts with compontent leaders at the top who are willing to do what it takes to put a CHAMPIONSHIP product on the floor. The ASG are a bunch of idiots!

Joe Johnson

April 28th, 2010
11:42 pm

If we don’t win on Friday, we will still have a team next season so come and see us play, OK?

houstondawg

April 28th, 2010
11:42 pm

the other Van Gundy Coach is available, hurry before the sale ends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JON

April 28th, 2010
11:42 pm

SOMEBODY TELL ME WHY IS Jeff Teague still sitting on the bench at this very moment……it blows my mind that our quickest player is catching dust by sitting on the sidelines….Teague can keep up with Jennings…bring bibby on the bench and let tegue start………it just goes to show you that coaching is half the battle

A-ille Ranger

April 28th, 2010
11:43 pm

This team has reached it’s potential with the players and coaches it has.Woody sounded like Jerry Glanville shrugging off the pickering by players.