The Hawks beat Boston and say they still believe. Should we?

"We can beat anybody! (Except for those times we don't.)" (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

"We can beat anybody! (Except for those times when we get blown out.)" (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Admit it: You were surprised the Hawks beat the Celtics on Friday. But why should anyone have been surprised?

These same Hawks, give or take, beat the same Celtics, give or take, three times in six days at Philips Arena in spring 2008. Last season the Hawks swept the Celtics in the regular season. And the Hawks, as the Atlanta Spirit is forever reminding us, are still this Hot Young Team. Why, at this late date, should the sight of a youngish team beating an old one — an old one that played the night before in San Antonio, we must note — serve to shock?

Because we’ve stopped believing in the Hawks. Maybe those Round 2 beatdowns the past two postseasons induced us to say, “See there? Same old Hawks.” Even though they weren’t the Same Old Hawks. (Rewind to 2000, or 2002, or 2004, or even 2006 — those Hawks were wretched.)

Maybe we never truly believed in the first place. Maybe the civic skepticism that has surrounded this franchise since the failed Moses Malone/Reggie Theus experiment of 1988-89 has never been overridden. But the cold truth is that these latter-day Hawks took the champs-to-be to a Game 7 in 2008 and then won a first-round series in each of the next two seasons, and still we weren’t sure if we were seeing their best. Ownership gave basis to that suspicion when, last May, it fired the coach who’d made the Hawks a winner and promoted the assistant who’d been alongside for six years.

Even by Hawks’ standards, this has been a weird season. They’ve won some games, but not many you care to recall. They’ve lost 15 home games — they lost only seven at Philips last season — including six in the course of 18 March days. Three home losses have come by 30 or more points, two more by 20-plus. And now, because they finally won at home against two good teams, we’re supposed to believe anew?

After Friday’s victory, the excellent-as-ever Al Horford suggested the Hawks are beginning to “figure it out,” but this correspondent would be insincere if he suggested he saw much figuring. This team has no idea what it’s going to be from night to night: In Wednesday’s narrow victory over Orlando, Jason Collins had his game of the year; two nights later he didn’t play. To beat Boston, the Hawks banked on Zaza Pachulia, whose bullishness was the difference, and didn’t deploy Josh Smith in the fourth quarter. Yeah, it worked. But is that the formula for lasting success?

After Friday’s victory, Smith said: “We’re as good as anybody — when we put an effort to it.”

How will the Hawks fare in the playoffs?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

First: Do the Celtics ever feel the need to remind anyone how good they are? They just know. That the Hawks ascribed so much weight to two late-season victories tells us they still aren’t sure what’s what, and how could they be — on to Part 2 of Smith’s proclamation — if effort isn’t a constant? Do you know how hard it is for a team with a winning record to lose three home games by 30-plus points? In the history of the NBA, it had never ever happened. Until now.

We’ve stopped believing in the Hawks because we’ve stopped trusting them. This remains one of the NBA’s most gifted teams — on paper, it’s clearly better than the Magic, its sure-to-be Round 1 opponent — but then you check the numbers and you note that, after 76 games, the Hawks have outscored opponents by eight lousy points all season. What have they been doing?

We on the periphery don’t know, and the Hawks surely don’t, either. Sometimes they play hard, sometimes not. Often they get embarrassed, but sometimes they rouse themselves and make a stand. “Some reporters might write us off,” Smith said, “but we’re a playoff team and we know it.”

And there it was again, the reason we no longer believe in these Atlanta Hawks: Because they’ve gotten better at telling us how good they are than at showing us. Maybe they’ll make all of their skeptics look silly when the real season commences. Maybe, but I’m skeptical.

By Mark Bradley

92 comments Add your comment

coloradobulldog

April 2nd, 2011
11:31 am

Hard to believe… but will still pull for them.

bgdawg

April 2nd, 2011
11:33 am

Mark Bradley

April 2nd, 2011
11:33 am

Almost, bgdawg.

NagoyaHawk

April 2nd, 2011
11:34 am

Dang fourthers!

bgdawg

April 2nd, 2011
11:38 am

dang it… well do i get kudos for being the first person to use the voting thing?

phil

April 2nd, 2011
11:39 am

Exactly right, Mark. Credit where credit is due. When this team plays hard, they’re tough to beat. Problem is, when will they stop playing hard again? Next game? The one after? First round?

I’m tired of tuning in, only to be disappointed by a lack of effort.

If these dunderheads ever get it through their heads that DEFENSE wins these games, not 25 foot jumpers one after another, then they’ll pleasantly surprise themselves….

Do I think they’ll keep up the defensive intensity? Nope. We all know they won’t. And they know it too.

Go prove us wrong…. bet you won’t.

NagoyaHawk

April 2nd, 2011
11:42 am

I can’t tell you how many great lines are in this bud. I wanna quote the cool stuff and add what I think, but if did I’d be quoting the entire article, and what I would add would just be nonsense. I just voted that the Hawks will reach the NBA Finals cause I’m a joke just like this team. But I can’t stop watching them each night. And believing.

Nice writeup about this mess we got on our hands.

bgdawg

April 2nd, 2011
11:42 am

i’m more interested on how JC2 is doing over in washington than i am in this sorry run team. i mean why should i care? they are even more poorly run than woody’s team last year.

Ree Roe

April 2nd, 2011
11:47 am

Your skepticism is well justified Mark. This team gives us flashes of greatness when it WANTS to, but can’t put it together consistently enough. They CAN beat ORL, but then they might get blown out 4 straight times. SMH

-REEspect Roe!!!

biz

April 2nd, 2011
11:49 am

Its the embarrasing moments that turn off the want to believe fans. Why invest yourseld in a team that has embarrassed itself (and you as a fan) every time it matters but the afore mentioned Boston series of 2008. Get schooled 3 times in seven by the bucks. Get your ass handed to you by the magic. Did they even show up for those games? Get blown out on your own floor by 30 3times. Hire the assistant coach to replace the fired one. On and on.

Play hard every nght and act like it matters and maybe then the fans will act like you matter as well. Of note, the last falcons game was a wonderful embarrassment as well (up there with their lone superbowl appearance).

NagoyaHawk

April 2nd, 2011
11:51 am

Wow I write a meaningless comment and it gets past the detectors, but then a thoughtful one complimenting the integrity of it (the writing, not the Hawks) and it gets forwarded to Neverland.

Oh well. I heard JC2 had a double-double on the heals of a 39-point effort against the Heat. We flubbed that one too eh?

NagoyaHawk

April 2nd, 2011
11:53 am

I mean triple-double. Man.

TS

April 2nd, 2011
11:53 am

JC2 also had sportscenter’s #1 play on last night’s top 10. Look at his game logs on yahoo sports and you can pinpoint exactly when he got traded.

Mr. Phil

April 2nd, 2011
11:55 am

Since I spend so much effort bashing the guys,perhaps I should be the one to point out something good. The Hawks have been playing great defense(for the most part) this past month or so.

TS

April 2nd, 2011
11:56 am

Also, it’s pretty hard to justify a franchise-crippling contract for a player who not only will never sniff first team all-NBA, but also is not a leader at all.

bgdawg

April 2nd, 2011
11:57 am

To me, i stopped watching the hawks when they got absolutely eviscerated by the hornets

josh

April 2nd, 2011
11:59 am

Sorry these are the same old Hawks, and are not a threat or a contender. When your star player is Joe Johnson, then no one in the playoffs is going to take you seriously, sorry, thats just a fact.

check out the NEW ATL blog at http://www.atlantainsight.com

bgdawg

April 2nd, 2011
12:02 pm

joe johnson!! the 124 million, 19 ppg, man!

Woop thur it is

April 2nd, 2011
12:19 pm

Hinrich’s the reason why the team d has stepped up. He totally dismantled rondo last night. Gotta wonder though if the hawks traded away their best draft pick, excluding horford, since jason terry. Crawford’s tearin it up

Cousin Vicker

April 2nd, 2011
12:25 pm

If you blow up a perennial loser in order to start all over, why wouldn’t you blow up a team that has peaked and can’t get past the second round of the playoffs? Isn’t the idea to compete for championships. It’s not okay just to make the playoffs unless you are an expansion team, or the Clippers.

Time

April 2nd, 2011
12:35 pm

I still believe in them in the sense that if Joe and Crawford can get really hot, then yea, they can beat anyone on any given night. Maybe even push some of the other “elite” teams in a series, maybe even win a couple. But at the end of it all, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers will be the team left standing. As much as I hate to say it, everyone else, including the Celtics are playing for second. So, when you think about it, that really makes the Hawks no different that the rest of the “elite” teams in the NBA.

Willy

April 2nd, 2011
12:35 pm

When the Hawks win a big game there’s always a caveat because we know this team is soft. They’ve got talent but no heart.

Sam

April 2nd, 2011
12:42 pm

Mark, Ric Bucher (ESPN) said in his chat the other day, that word out of Atlanta is, without a strong second round showing, things would be very different in Atlanta next year…have you heard anything to that?

Denver Hawk

April 2nd, 2011
12:43 pm

Mark, I started making an ajc article scrapbook in 1988-89 because I was so sure a title was coming our way. Still have it. Its last chapter features Paul Mokeski. Think I could sell it on eBay?

James on Pharr Rd

April 2nd, 2011
1:02 pm

The measure of our beloved Hawk’s progress will be their ability to win games when they dont play well. That fine day should it come, can certainly translate into a deep playoff run, and maybe if the clouds align perfectly-who knows what?

honest_abe

April 2nd, 2011
1:27 pm

the hawks are inconsistent because they have no leaders not even the head coach. if they somehow find a way to motivate themselves they are capable of making noise in the playoffs. it’s kind of weird not seeing the opposing pgs get into the lane at will.

Mark Bradley

April 2nd, 2011
1:32 pm

I remember the Paul Mokeski game well.

doc

April 2nd, 2011
1:34 pm

mark ,what they have been doing the past two months when they win is to play exactly like they did last night and a way they couldnt as long as they had bibby. what is that? it is holding the other team to less than 90 points. they have only lost one time with that formula, against the cats when they made that huge comback that had followed a blowout win by the sixers. that precipitated a huge fade and slump and may have been what prompted the trade of bibby.

in the last 11 victories it has been that same formula that has been successful, not outscoring the other team. their wins were when they held the opponent to less than 90 only losing one while doing so. the only time they outscored the other guy was against detroit allowing them 96.

when they grind and play defense then they have a chance. when they sulk and let other teams go on runs and neither the coach or the team have a way to stop it, they lose. when they play that kind defense first protect the ball kind of play consistently, even though it is ugly, then i believe. when they become a singles hitter that hits one out then believes he can swing even harder and do it over and over again(let us rememeber furcal here), i lose faith quickly or maybe interest and dont put anymore of my energy into it since they arent. they have to realize their energy will dictate the fans energy.

it was fun having a quiet celt fandom at the end of the game and the op to gloat a bit rather than have to listen to them chant mvp at one of several possibilities. just win it one game at a time and one play at a time and respect each possession is the key. if they look like they are doing it then i believe. what i want to believe is josh will become finally j smash consistently instead of his other wimpy moniker. to that i have almost lost hope.

doc

April 2nd, 2011
1:39 pm

for some reason posts dont go through on your blog so i wil repost a though i had about what it will take for me to have faith and the real key to their successes:

since our winning and scorers slump began about february 5th after the sixers smoked us and the cats took one away from us and after blowing up huge numbers by jj and jamal in january we have won 11 games. in ten of those wins we have kept the opposition to less than 90 points. only one game did we lose against charlotte in keeping the other team below 90.

does anyone see a trend here? in only one win did the other team go above 90 and that was against detroit. we also had a win in early feb against the wiz where they went above 90. yes to win, we will have to win this way and it is not pretty. it was how the young hawks established themselves a few years ago and forgot by thinking they could outscore folks. i dont think jamal or jj is suddenly going to come back to life like the run they had in january and even if they do this is still the style they are going to have to play.

after reading the blogs recently it seems this way is bad. as far as is it bad, i dont think winning is bad. i would take every one of those lousy wins and trophies home that the spurs had over the years in a second. it is time folks quit complaining in how it looks and open your eyes to the big picture. it was a hard fought win against a very tenacious team that has a lot of pride and wanted very bad to intimidate us. zaza just wouldnt let them and the rest of the team picked up the pace. boston had no quit in them and neither did zaza. good game.

when josh becomes j smash consistently then i will really believe. until then, uh not so much. when is his walk going to follow his talk?

Najeh Davenpoop

April 2nd, 2011
2:30 pm

“it is time folks quit complaining in how it looks and open your eyes to the big picture. ”

The thing is, though, complaining about how it looks is about the big picture. How often are the Hawks going to win with Joe throwing up brick after brick in isolation and Zaza cleaning up the mess? It’s just not going to translate into winning consistently in the playoffs.

jfreak13713

April 2nd, 2011
2:43 pm

The Hawks beat a tired and old Boston team late in the season so no I don’t take anything away from this game. If the Hawks want to be taken serious win in the playoffs.

KBP

April 2nd, 2011
2:47 pm

I am sure LD is a nice guy and has paid his dues to become a head coach. With that said, Get Van Gundy or some other proven coach. How does Teague consistently get DNP’s? Hinrich ain’t all that. How does Collins get DNP’s? Teague, Crawford, Pachulia, Williams should be the second unit and play every game. Get Wilkins in when matchups allow. Shorten your rotation when your reserves are very inferior to the starters. That is clearly not the case with the Hawks. By the way, Sund gave up way too much for Hinrich! Najeh, holler at me on this.

doc

April 2nd, 2011
2:49 pm

najeh, in games like these it wont be pretty. at least some of those bricks were in close that allowed us to get them for offensive rebounds and the defense was tenacious. we wont be winning many more games unless we fight for everything. some of those bricks were due to the nature of the level of competition. they threw a few up there as well. it went both ways.

what i cant stand to see is everyone waiting at the trey line looking for a shot and when one goes up there is no one there to rebound. that is the big picture i am talking about. if you like that then okay but that has killed us in playing ld’s offense. yes, there has been ball movement and sharing of the ball in his system but not near enough body movement though a bit was seen last night. i wont go far as to say it should be part of the design for jj to miss as northcyde might have suggested or implied but it was a game where we did make some good effort in the paint on our end. crashing it by josh, jj or al is important, for some reason the big guys dont seem to want to do the dirty work anymore. interesting that some called al’s effort not so good last night when he was 16/15. huh?

as far as:

The thing is, though, complaining about how it looks is about the big picture. How often are the Hawks going to win with Joe throwing up brick after brick in isolation and Zaza cleaning up the mess?

well if josh isnt going to put himself in a position to do it then someone will have to. at this point of the season it isnt going to get better, that is the shots going in, nor at the level of competition we are seeing now, should we expect it. if he wants to let zaza do it and be a cheerleader then i guess it is what it is. somebody better be ready to clean up the mess or else we go home with our butts tucked once more but in the first round not the second. that is the problem, we dont have the guys to clean up the mess, no real bigs consistently.

Cedric

April 2nd, 2011
3:34 pm

26 teams passed on Jordan Crawford, but I was happy when we drafted him. However, we traded him because we have a player just like him. We needed an on ball defender at the point and we got one. Maybe we gave up a lot maybe not. He is only playing that much because of an injury and he has taken advantage of it. Jordan was not going to get any minutes here. Can we please stop talking about some guy who plays for another team. If you like him that much go buy a Wizards jersey. It is not like it hasn’t happened here before (Farve, Justice, Wilkins).

Cedric

April 2nd, 2011
3:36 pm

I just want the Hawks to continue putting up the effort on the defensive end. Glad to see Joe at least attempt to take over a game and get to the line as much as he did.

James on Pharr Rd

April 2nd, 2011
3:45 pm

My Real Hawk Analysts:

You follow this team pretty close-almost like a beat writer: why do you think we did not trade JC at the deadline? The possibilities could have elevated this team beyond a few foundational weaknesses. Also, it seems like this team to have two issues that almost all comments on this blog hit-we draft bad and we have terrible coaches.

But, aren’t those easy fixes?

51WTGW50

April 2nd, 2011
3:58 pm

HAHAHHA right. Now I am running to but Playoff tickets. Boston is on Cruse Control. They are relaxed playing games and the HAWKS are playing Hard to Win meaningless games.

andrea

April 2nd, 2011
4:01 pm

First …we don t have good coach……second…..we never ever make good trade….120 m. for jj???????? crazyyyyyyyyy so crazyyyyyy…..let him go….give time to Jc2 save all that money for a good pg or center when you found ….play off coming anyway but now 6 years i have to see jj shot like my mother and no salary space …..great situation ….

Doc

April 2nd, 2011
4:16 pm

najeh, blogmonster ate the response, happens frequently on this blog for me. in short at some ppint someone wilk have to do the dirty work. if it isnt josh as he did against the magic then zaza will do. this team and offense will not make it through tge playoffs inless they grind, use clock and penetrate to either acore or not. the perimwter game will not get tge second chances we need nor will it work the other team so they have less energy on offense having to play defense. there is ball movement in ld’s offense. where it fails as they run it is there is not enough bodies moving. iso plays at least get f olks headed to the basket to pick up dirty work buckets. we got ten points worth of trash hard earned put backs along with chances at the linein the second half last night which was the difference.

keeping the other guy below 90 has to be the target not setting up early in the clock for an easy miss early in the clock. i am tired of that type of play recreated by the starters as they fall behind.

StartZaZaNow

April 2nd, 2011
4:53 pm

andrea, JC2 was traded 6 weeks ago.

andrea

April 2nd, 2011
5:16 pm

Yea, and it is a smart move?? JJ 120 m smart move ?…LD is a good man but if he make assistant all life ther s a reason…….i follow Atlanta from 9 years hold and im 43 now i m living in thailand it mean sleep 4 hour for follow Hawks…every single match i don t mind win or loose when the put heart in game…but this year i don t feel that is my team…but can t stop to follow

doc

April 2nd, 2011
5:26 pm

najeh, two posts have not made it through. the gist is if josh wont do it then zaza will have to. at this time of year nothing comes easy nor is pretty. smash mouth, take it to the basket and hit or be hit is what i see having to happen to grow this team up to be a competitor for a championship.

if what i saw the last two games is a start then i am all for it. that has to go for jj who for years has moved away from contact. we need him willing to go to the line to get his points if he cant get it by better accuracy as the ball has to be in his hands for certain amounts of times in certain situations.

the standard they should shoot for is less than ninety, it will work better for wins and losses than your posts about teague and the w & l’s by his name. this sampling size of two months is large enough to come to a conclusion. capt kirk makes it plausible as we were not going to stop anybody with bibby, nor can we with our talent outscore teams either. i think that is what finally was the conclusion and why the trade was made. the initial success we had with him was by our defense rising to the occasion. many remarked about it then we lost our way. i think some players didnt think it had to be that was and went off on their own. it has to be a group defensive effort in the playoffs and that is what we saw last night.

Row ZZ

April 2nd, 2011
5:43 pm

No. When the Hawks were 33-18 I said to myself this is the moment. Since then they have been 11-14 against some decent opposition. Every team above them has a go-to guy. Howard, Bryant. Rose, James or Wade, Rondo. We have have great players but miss this piece. If Jamal comes back I could be wrong. I love the Hawks especially when they were 33-18.

Jeff P

April 2nd, 2011
6:23 pm

Spot on here. Unacceptable to lose so many blowout games at home – that is plain and simple lack of focus and effort. Horford is STILL the only one I trust on this team and still the suits (clowns) upstairs don’t have a clue that this team needs a PG and C to get to any next level.

Big Ray

April 2nd, 2011
6:54 pm

Should we believe? No.

We should hope.

The Hawks don’t even have a reason to believe yet. What they must do is go out and prove to themselves and to us that they can play the game the right way night after night, not just when the “spirit moves them.”

You can believe in something that has yet come to pass. What you can’t believe in, is something that has been promised, and then failed to deliver time after time.

The Hawks don’t need to believe they can do something. They need to go and do it. And so, we can’t be expected to believe they will until they do. They’ve let us down way too many times for us to be taken in again.

That’s NOT to say we shouldn’t support them. We should. But we shouldn’t be naive about it.

Not So Casual Observer

April 2nd, 2011
6:57 pm

Great Players? Please, there is not one “Great player” on the Atlanta roster. The Hawks beat an Orlando team that seems lost and a Boston team coming off a game 700 miles WEST the night before. Boston looked old and tired, but there will not be back-to-back games in the playoffs.

If the Hawks do not have the character to avoid a 30 point loss at home then the character to win a tough playoff series will not suddenly surface.

Cut Marvin Williams now and own up to a bad draft pick. Trade Josh Smith if he still has any value after all his petulant, half-hearted attempts.

moorman

April 2nd, 2011
7:55 pm

we have had over FORTY YEARS to believe in the hawks…………….

NorCalHawk

April 2nd, 2011
8:02 pm

Hard-nosed defense has made the difference in last 4 games. If they keep that going, plus find more
offensive consistency, they could be competitive in playoffs. I’m glad JJ can still make free throws.

fdsfds

April 2nd, 2011
8:32 pm

theres no way they will reach nba finals

papar bag hawk

April 2nd, 2011
9:44 pm

Mark, I don’t believe. I don’t think the Hawks will make it past the first round. What hurts is that we are mired in a state of stagnation with the way the roster is shaped and the coaching. Drew was supposedly hired to change the offense and actually develop talent. Well, Teague still sits on the bench, and that other guy we tossed in the trade…well, he is putting up numbers. Yes, people come on the blog and harp on “he’s not on the team; he’s doing it against scrubs”. It doesn’t matter. 39 points is 39 points. A triple double is a triple double. Yet we couldn’t find 10 minutes a night to at least see what we had? Its pathetic. I won’t even blame Sund. Had Drew actually used who we have, perhaps glimpses would have been shown so we wouldn’t throw the future away. Remember, we also gave away our first round pick. This is pathetic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ujqTGm9TUU

h