A furious comeback makes us take new notice of the Hawks

Don't know why he was so happy. Wasn't like he did much. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Don't know why he was so happy. Wasn't like he did much. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

To recap: I hated the Larry Drew promotion, wasn’t overwhelmed by the Kirk Hinrich trade and had been unimpressed by the games I’d seen the Hawks play this season. (I saw them blown out by Boston in November, saw them blow a 22-point lead against Charlotte last month.) And for 24 minutes last night I saw nothing to make me rethink.

The second half I saw a team worth watching. The second half reminded me why, not so long ago (meaning pre-Orlando sweep), I’d come to like the Hawks and the way they played. You can say it was just one game of 82, and you’d be correct numerically, but if this one game had become just another meek home loss we’d have been dismissing the Hawks altogether. But you cannot dismiss a team that surges from 19 points down without its third-best player to run down a big-time opponent at the end.

The first half was laughable, but the laughter ceased in the third quarter. The Hawks dug in and defended the Bulls in a way they haven’t defended anybody all season. Some of it had to do with the new man Kirk Hinrich’s ball pressure at the top, but that wasn’t nearly all of it. Damien Wilkins, Mr. 10-Day-Contract, entered and played significant minutes. Marvin Williams made the best defensive play — maybe the best play, period — of his NBA life, blocking a Derrick Rose dunk inside the final three minutes. Joe Johnson switched over to Rose at the end and kept him shackled. And Al Horford … well, about him you’ve already heard.

Said Drew: “After a game like that, they have to feel really good about themselves. They have to believe they can line up against anyone and beat anybody.”

If I told you I now believe these Hawks will go on to the NBA championship or even the Eastern finals, I’d be lying. I still don’t see that sort of potential. But I’m less inclined to dismiss this team’s postseason chances out of hand than I was 13 hours ago. The next six days — home games against Oklahoma City, New York and Kobe Bryant — will tell us more. But if you’re facing a month of key games, coming from 19 down to beat the Bulls was the way to start.

Said Jamal Crawford, standing in a giddy Hawks’ locker room: “You couldn’t have done it any better.”

By Mark Bradley

92 comments Add your comment

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

March 3rd, 2011
9:41 am

Mark Bradley

March 3rd, 2011
9:42 am

Kudos, SGDF.

clay

March 3rd, 2011
9:45 am

this is the kind of game that can turn the rest of the season around. hard stretch coming up though. from here on out this is now Al’s team.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

March 3rd, 2011
9:46 am

I am still leary of the Hawks ability to have this kind of Defensive every night but last night was a great game and maybe a sign of things to come.

pete

March 3rd, 2011
9:48 am

so to be clear this is only the third hawks game you have seen this season?

Ron ... Venezuela?

March 3rd, 2011
9:51 am

cantondawg

March 3rd, 2011
9:57 am

dap01

March 3rd, 2011
10:09 am

MB: Great article. Whether your team is the best or not, the most important thing for a fan is for a team to have heart and be competitive. We have athletes and now we have a PG that will provide leadership and defensive effort. PG’s are important to a basketball team. Heart is important. Al Hortford is a leader.

Even Marvin was valuable last night.

Jake

March 3rd, 2011
10:09 am

shawn

March 3rd, 2011
10:10 am

Great effort last night but let’s not fool ourselves that Hawks can beat Orlando or Boston in playoff…

tom

March 3rd, 2011
10:16 am

Horford showed last night he can carry a team on his back. The guy keeps getting better and better.

notty dred

March 3rd, 2011
10:16 am

With so many teams n the east having flaws the hawks have as good as chance as they ever had. Follow me on twitter @nottydred & also ATL’s #1 website for sports & entertainment http://www.TNSPsportsnet.com

Andy

March 3rd, 2011
10:19 am

They will still go out in the first or second round of the playoffs so what’s the point of talking about this? The Hawks were DOA before the season even started. Not trying to be a hater but we all know it’s the truth.

Freshfromatl

March 3rd, 2011
10:22 am

As big of a liability as Bibby was defensively, the Hawks were ranked 13th in defensive efficiency WITH Bibby. Replace him with someone who can actually stay in front of their man, and the Hawks go from decent to elite on defense.

Mark Bradley

March 3rd, 2011
10:22 am

No, pete. That’s not what I wrote.

smitty derf

March 3rd, 2011
10:26 am

Its interesting that they did this without Josh Smith who I believe is key to the hard decision that the Hawks have to make. Did Horford have his great game because Smith was out? Who could we get by letting go of Smith, a scoring short forward?

Mathias of the Wood

March 3rd, 2011
10:27 am

Pete, you know they don’t pay MB to watch the “lowly” Hawks play…they pay him to hear about it from ESPN and then give his opinions on what he heard from the Worldwide Leader.

Mathias of the Wood

March 3rd, 2011
10:28 am

I’m kidding of course; MB, keep up the good work buddy.

Mathias of the Wood

March 3rd, 2011
10:28 am

NewVegasDawg

March 3rd, 2011
10:32 am

“big-time opponent”….Chicago?? Really?? When’s the last time they won anything?

GoooDawgs

March 3rd, 2011
10:33 am

I was at the game last night – it was great. Good job, Hawks!

Gwalk

March 3rd, 2011
10:34 am

When the Hawks play badly, I’m one to blog on here and call them out. Well after their efforts in this game, I have to admire their efforts and “no quit” attitudes! These guys play a great game and it was fun to watch as a fan. Horford is a BEAST! Great game Hawks.

Kahle

March 3rd, 2011
10:39 am

Another good read Mr. Bradley!
I was quite impressed by the hawks second half defense…positive vibes to start a tough month! Go Hawks!

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

March 3rd, 2011
10:48 am

Is the goal to win the 5th playoff seed or to win a NBA Championship? I’m confused. Can somebody help?

The Real JC

March 3rd, 2011
10:49 am

@NewVegasDog – If you hadn’t noticed, Chicago is 41-18 this season and third in the Eastern Conference, two spots ahead of the Hawks. I’d say that qualifies as a “big-time opponent.”

blord

March 3rd, 2011
10:52 am

Nice job Hawks. I can’t wait to see if and to who this franchise gets sold to. Atlanta should be a place where everyone wants to come and play – it’s a great city. Unfortunatly, because of the ownership situation players want no part. If the Hawks can be owned by someone with deep pockets that cares then we really could have something. Pulling to hear something soon on this.

Mr. Mojo

March 3rd, 2011
10:55 am

Great Win last night! No Josh and JJ had a terrible game and we were still able to pull it out. Anybody here anything on Josh’s MRI? Hope its just a day to day thing.

The Real JC

March 3rd, 2011
10:56 am

@Nerds! – Sure, I’ll help! The goal is to make it to the playoffs, then if they accomplish that, their new goal is to win the majority of their games in the playoffs. If they do, they will make it to what is called the NBA Finals. Then, they will set the goal of winning the majority of their games in the Finals and they will achieve their ultimate goal of winning an NBA Championship.

The Real JC

March 3rd, 2011
11:00 am

If Horford starts at Power Forward .: Horford Dominates at Power Forward, then Horford always starting at Power Forward .: ?

Beast from the East

March 3rd, 2011
11:01 am

I have to admit that I was surprised to see them come back. I thought it was going to be another home loss that resulted in a blowout. They earned some respect last night and that was one of the most fun NBA regular season games I’ve seen in a while. Great game. Keep it rolling Hawks!

STRETCH

March 3rd, 2011
11:01 am

Can someone tell me about this Pape Sy guy???

NewVegasDawg

March 3rd, 2011
11:05 am

@TheRealJC – the Hawks were 3rd in the Eastern Conference last year and there was no mention of them being a big-time opponent for anyone. Furthermore, they had been to playoffs in previous years consecutively and won at least one round. So, excuse me if I still don’t see how a team, despite a 41-18 record, that has done anything lately (and hasn’t proved any worth when it counts….in the playoffs) is labeled a big-time opponent. I would say that label should be reserved for teams like Boston, Orlando, San Antonio, and Los Angeles (Lakers)….teams that have demonstrated something lately.

tyger

March 3rd, 2011
11:13 am

slow starts will be their undoing

GStateBen

March 3rd, 2011
11:14 am

And the Thunder without Kevin Durant who hurt his ankle last night. Let’s get it!

doc

March 3rd, 2011
11:15 am

yup mark, that was the team i liked to watch and it seemed to vanish before my eyes about midway through last season. at some point they have to respect each possession, and begin to play at playoff speed. the way they started is not how they finished, somehow someway they need to get after folks before they get down 20. it would also bring the crowd into the game which they think is the crowd’s responsibility to be in a game, even if they arent. sorry it works the other way around. hopefully gearon et. al will drive that message into them i guess when they learn it themselves.

anyway for one night, really special, that harkens back to playoff craziness of 2008 which seems so long ago. can they bring it every night? well in playoffs you have to and this run of games will tell them and us if they are pretenders or contenders. like the playoffs, there are no sloches. i dont expect them to win them all, just show up for every game and not turn into the wall flowers of a second series playoff in any game. if they do that, ill continue to pay my dime and yell loudly, otherwise, i will watch from afar and/or on my hands.

can capt kirk be a key along with getting damien into the rotation? can hilton be more than otheres before him? hadnt seen much of him but liked his body and energy. got to wonder why he hasnt made it thus far into bigger roles and why he couldnt be a better twin?

jerrywest

March 3rd, 2011
11:15 am

“We have top 20% defender in all 5 starting positions”
+Teague for ultra quicks, Twin for ultra bigs and Wilkins is great defender for all wing positions. (situation defenders)

The habit of playing with Bibby and Crawford has forced our other 4 defenders to be much much better than otherwise they would have been.

If only Craw knew how to defend. He almost cost us the game last night by losing that 70’s show guy who shot that open 3 at the end.

Real Talk

March 3rd, 2011
11:18 am

@NewVegasDawg
“big-time opponent”….Chicago?? Really?? When’s the last time they won anything?”

The Bulls have 6 Ships…How many do the Hawks Have? (Zip/notta)aka NONE

Buckeye

March 3rd, 2011
11:23 am

Good win for the Hawks last night. I liked how the team responded to Horford’s leadership and emotion.
For people who think that having a team with just Al, they are wrapped up in their own pipe dream. Where would this team be if they just let JJ go for nothing in return (see Toronto and Cleveland)? Trading Smoove would be short sighted. Smoove and Horford make a pretty good tandem at the 4 and 5 as they will be dominating the NBA in the next 2-3 years. I believe if Horford assumes leadership of the team, it will take some of the pressure off JJ. Remember folks, team cannot double team Horford because of Joe. Chicago went hard after Joe from the beginning. Tho he shot poorly, he got respectible rebs and assists, plus he is underrated as a defender.

Hawks need to validate this win with victories against the Thunder and Knicks. Don’t we have winning streak against the Lakers at home?

Mr. Mojo

March 3rd, 2011
11:28 am

Any word on Smooves MRI?

Katherine

March 3rd, 2011
11:28 am

What a finish! Very exciting game…good job hawks!

Mike

March 3rd, 2011
11:32 am

Kirk hinrich for all-defensive team!!!

Mr. Phil (not to be confused with "phil" or "Dr. Phil" or "Another Phil" or "Phil Joe" )

March 3rd, 2011
11:35 am

After having been so pessimistic on this team for nearly a year now, I must admit the defense I have seen the last few games has made me ….

Let’s just say I will continue to pay attention.

Benjamin

March 3rd, 2011
11:39 am

I’m still not sold on the long-term playoff potential of the Hawks, but that’s not a knock. I’m just glad we’re not staring at the Antoine Walker/Glenn Robinson days. :)

I’ll take a team that finishes several games over .500 and goes to the second round over those hopeless days of watching Walker jack up ill-advised three after ill-advised three.

jon

March 3rd, 2011
11:50 am

I don’t even think you can write a blog after just one come back win… C’mon Mark, you must not have anything else to write about. The only and i mean only thing that will matter is getting past 2nd round. That is it. PERIOD!

Atler (Ramblin Wreck )

March 3rd, 2011
12:06 pm

Let’s hope our Hawks can build on this win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Aw

Atler (Ramblin Wreck )

March 3rd, 2011
12:09 pm

Let’s hope we can build on the awesome comeback win!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fish Bisch

March 3rd, 2011
12:09 pm

Just think if Chris Paul was here playing we would’ve beat the Bulls handidly.

bob dylan

March 3rd, 2011
12:10 pm

I think its fair to say the offense runs a lot better without J Smoove on the court. For every poster dunk and highlight block he turns the ball over four times and bricks three 18-foot jumpers. Get rid of this guy he is THE MOST FRUSTRATING PLAYER TO WATCH IN THE NBA.

Gwinnett Fred

March 3rd, 2011
12:12 pm

In the 3 games hinrich has played since we got rid of Mike “No-D” Bibby, we are 3-0, allowing 80.7 ppg.

Sure, it’s only a small sample, but the philosophy is now in place and you advance in the playoffs with defense.

This is the best I’ve felt about the team all season.

Impartial coverage (LOL)

March 3rd, 2011
12:17 pm

Mark I see there still has been no follow up on the tech baseball player’s dui and subsequent refusal to submit to a drug test. The AJC drug their feet for a month before finally releasing a handful of lines about the incident.

Exactly how much does it cost GT to have the AJC and their intrepid band of ace reporters continue to ignore this? Since when is one of the most talented baseball players at atlanta’s largest trade school endangering untold numbers of citizens lifes not a story? When you add in the fact this homerun leader’s refusal to be tested for drugs and the fact gt barely gives the guy a slap on the wrist that seems worthy of several bloggers attention.

You do know the A in AJC stands for atlanta right? The north avenue trade school aka Ga Tech is located in atlanta Mark. Just thought I would give you guys a heads up.