Live from Game 4: The Hawks have it going but can’t let up

It'd be nice if the Hawks didn't need another shot quite this outrageous. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It'd be nice if the Hawks didn't need another shot quite so outrageous. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Let’s not get ahead our ourselves. The Hawks must beat Orlando twice more to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals, and it’s possible the MRI on Derrick Rose’s ankle could show nothing beyond a sprain. But, as we speak, the playoff prospects of these Hawks are looking somewhat better than they did nine days ago.

Ten ESPN analysts picked the Magic to win Round 1. Four SI.com writers likewise tabbed Orlando. None of the watchers on either site took a flier on the Hawks, who are, let’s note, the No. 5 seed. The 4-against-5 series is usually a toss-up thing. (The Hawks needed seven games to beat Miami in one of those two springs back.) But the Hawks were playoff-picking poison when this postseason commenced, and now they’re halfway to a Round 1 victory.

Before tonight’s Game 4, Hawks coach Larry Drew was asked if his team’s sudden success was a function of playing better than it had in a disappointing regular season or a reflection of a specific matchup. “I’d say it’s a combination of both,” he said, and he’s surely correct. The Hawks were 6-16 against teams that won 50 or more games this regular season — but three of those victories came against the team they drew in Round 1.

Much of this has to do with Drew. Even if his players stopped heeding him against certain teams, they pay attention when Orlando’s in the house. “What we were doing against Dwight [Howard, the Orlando center] in the past wasn’t working,” Drew said. “It opened up two cans of worms.”

Meaning: In trying to double-team Howard, the Hawks weren’t denying him much of anything and they were absolutely clearing the perimeter for the Magic shooters. And by switching on every screen — a Mike Woodson staple — the Hawks were left in a never-ending lurch. They couldn’t handle Howard, couldn’t rotate onto shooters, couldn’t stop Jameer Nelson from driving. No wonder they lost a playoff series by 101 points.

The Hawks no longer switch on every screen. The switch only on what Drew calls “same-size” screens. No longer will you see Al Horford trying to shadow a little man like Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings — this actually happened during a late-game possession in Game 4 against Milwaukee last April — and looking lost.

It doesn’t hurt that the Magic shooters aren’t as skilled as they were a year ago. Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus might not have been capable of hoisting the Magic to a championship — that’s why they were traded in December — but they were better standstill shooters than the imported Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas. Better defenders, too.

The Hawks have been the better team in this series. They’re capable of winning it. They showed in Game 3 they were also were capable of wasting a double-digit lead. They won anyway, but subsisting on a banked 3-pointer at the end isn’t a diet for continuing postseason nutrition. The Hawks need to keep the Magic in backpedal. They need to win Game 4 and force Orlando into elimination mode. And if they get to Round 2, who knows how Rose will feel?

The Hawks have again caught our eye. They need to hold it this time. They need to win this series and see if they can carry Round 1 into Round 2 against the Bulls.

Game 4 will go some distance toward deciding who prevails in this one, and we’ll be here to monitor the doings. Please consider joining the online festivities. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.

By Mark Bradley

445 comments Add your comment

J.J.M.

April 24th, 2011
6:44 pm

3rd time in a row?

Ryan

April 24th, 2011
6:45 pm

J.J.M.

April 24th, 2011
6:46 pm

any news on what bigs will get playing time tonight?

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
6:49 pm

Kudos on your threepeat, J.J.M.

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
6:50 pm

Jason Collins is fit to play, if that’s the question.

J.J.M.

April 24th, 2011
6:52 pm

Etan Thomas?

JeJe

April 24th, 2011
6:56 pm

Must-win today

Whoever wins this game goes to the next round.

We gotta have a must-win mentality – none of this “the pressure is on them” BS

stevie zero

April 24th, 2011
6:58 pm

mark, thoughts on hawks chances against bulls? (should they advance, of course)

Greg

April 24th, 2011
6:59 pm

HAWKS! Show the world! Do it tonight! Atlanta is pulling for you!

This Gets Old!

April 24th, 2011
7:01 pm

Yeah valid points Mark but in the end you play to win the crown. If people are depending upon a Rose injury to advance to a Celtic/Heat whipping it’s still a sad commentary (not necessarily meaning your commentary)

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:02 pm

Etan Thomas is in uniform

stevie zero

April 24th, 2011
7:03 pm

great column mark. what do you think of hawks chances vs bulls? (should they advance, of course)

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:05 pm

If the Hawks could get to the conference finals, I think a lot of individuals around here would be very happy.

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:06 pm

Also on hand for Game 4: R. E. Turner. He once owned this team.

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:07 pm

Let’s defer the Hawks-Chicago prediction for a tad longer.

jwdog8

April 24th, 2011
7:08 pm

Lets go Hawks, and Braves..2 on, no outs, top 10

J.J.M.

April 24th, 2011
7:08 pm

no matter how far the hawks get I still think we will trade away someone this offseason

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:09 pm

honest_abe

April 24th, 2011
7:10 pm

so mr. bradley what’s the key to winning this oh so important game?

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:12 pm

Orlando turns it over the first two series.

So does Atlanta.

honest_abe

April 24th, 2011
7:13 pm

and after a minute of play we have our first fg attempt

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:13 pm

Hawks spring a press. Get a steal off it.

They lead 4-nil

jwdog8

April 24th, 2011
7:14 pm

The key to the series is Joe. We got to continue to get him good shots. And of course Josh going to his strengths.

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:15 pm

The other Richardson hits a triple

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:17 pm

Very loosely played game

jwdog8

April 24th, 2011
7:19 pm

2 run single by McLouth in the top of 10th to put Braves ahead.

rob

April 24th, 2011
7:20 pm

Thanks for the Braves updates jwdog8

TRADE JOSH SMITH AFTER SEASON

April 24th, 2011
7:21 pm

JOSH SMITH SHOULD COME OFF THE BENCH!

rob

April 24th, 2011
7:21 pm

And if the hawks made good decisions in transition we would be up 15-9

This Gets Old!

April 24th, 2011
7:21 pm

YOU brought Rose up.

Ryan

April 24th, 2011
7:22 pm

9-6 Braves!! Mac with RBI single

TRADE JOSH SMITH AFTER SEASON

April 24th, 2011
7:22 pm

AL THATS NOT YOUR SHOT

Ryan

April 24th, 2011
7:23 pm

Howard….2 fouls…nice

Ryan

April 24th, 2011
7:25 pm

Smoove with a sick pass!!

TRADE JOSH SMITH AFTER SEASON

April 24th, 2011
7:28 pm

WE WILL WIN THIS SERIES!

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:28 pm

Sorry. The WiFi quit.

Hawks up 16-9. Howard out with 2 PF. Redick has missed two open shots.

Not sure how long the Magic can allow Howard to be a spectator

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:29 pm

Good crowd again. Pretty much full. On Easter.

TRADE JOSH SMITH AFTER SEASON

April 24th, 2011
7:30 pm

todd grantham

April 24th, 2011
7:30 pm

Braves sweep Giants

Ryan

April 24th, 2011
7:32 pm

Orlando is tiny without Howard on the floor

TRADE JOSH SMITH AFTER SEASON

April 24th, 2011
7:33 pm

ANOTHER STUPID SHOT BY JOSH

Ryan

April 24th, 2011
7:33 pm

time to sit Josh. what the hell kind of shot was that?

AlpharettaGuy

April 24th, 2011
7:35 pm

Josh “Brick” Smith–Puleez don’t shoot outside!

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:35 pm

Hawks 25, Orlando 17. One quarter done

todd grantham

April 24th, 2011
7:35 pm

Mark, believe it or not Nate McL(out)h got the game winning hit for the Braves today.

jwdog8

April 24th, 2011
7:36 pm

That was a good quarter. Could have been better, but I’ll take it.

Ryan

April 24th, 2011
7:36 pm

Jamal may lead this team to something special. He is shooting with so much confidence right now.
.
.
.
.
Now pay him.

todd grantham

April 24th, 2011
7:37 pm

what are the lapel pins Chip and Joe are wearing?

Mark Bradley

April 24th, 2011
7:38 pm

Jamal Crawford is a different guy this postseason. He admits he was nervous last year — first time in the playoffs for him.

AlpharettaGuy

April 24th, 2011
7:38 pm

W/ dwight on the pines, collins can sit too, extending his life in this game. could work out well w/ zaza out