Having blown Game 2, Bizarro Hawks are in … good shape?

Don't dismay, Coach Drew! You've got 'em where you want 'em! (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Don't dismay, Coach Drew! You've got 'em where you want 'em! (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

As we’ve again been reminded, the Hawks are unchallenged masters of the cosmic flop. Less widely realized is this: Once the Hawks get their collapse out of the way, they tend to play some pretty good ball. Citing cases:

Game 5, Round 1 against Milwaukee, 2010: The Hawks blew a nine-point lead in the final 3:55 at Philips Arena in Game 5, handing the sixth-seeded Bucks their third consecutive victory and leaving the Hawks facing elimination in the Bradley Center. They won Game 6 on the road by 14 points — the intractable Mike Woodson even threw up a zone defense — and Game 7 by 21 back here.

Game 4, Round 1 against Indiana, 1996: With a chance to close out the higher-seeded Pacers at the old Omni — Round 1 was best-of-five then — the Hawks managed 11 fourth-quarter points and lost to force a decisive game at Market Square Arena. They fell behind 6-0 in as a loud a building as I’ve ever experienced, prompting me to tell colleague Jeff Denberg: “They’re gonna get murdered.” The Hawks won Game 5 by a basket behind the 3-point shooting of the legendary Matt Bullard.

Game 6, Round 2 against Boston, 1988: This one we know. The Hawks had taken games 3,4 and 5 and were poised to eliminate the mighty Celtics on a Friday night at the Omni. The home side played as if the game was too big for it, the end coming when a shot to tie was taken not by Dominique Wilkins or Doc Rivers but by the sub Cliff Levingston, whose touch was so deft he bore the nickname “House.” (Because he tossed up enough bricks to build one.) Everyone expected the Hawks to lose Game 7 by 30 in the Garden; they lost 118-116 in maybe the proudest moment in franchise history.

The Hawks in the spring are more difficult to handicap than the 3-year-olds running at Churchill on the first Saturday in May. This team handles adversity, much of self-inflicted, more adroitly than prosperity. If the comic-book Bizarro World — on which the credo is: “Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness!” — had an NBA franchise, this would be it.

Which brings us to current events. The Hawks had a chance to take a 2-0 lead on a night when the best Boston player was suspended. Being the Hawks, they blew it. As tempting as it is to suggest the Hawks have blown the series with it, they really haven’t. Josh Smith, hurt at the end of Game 2, figures to miss Game 3 but no more, and it would be just like the Hawks to win in Boston on a night when their best player doesn’t play.

Asked Wednesday how crushing the misdoings of Tuesday night had been, Marvin Williams — who has done nothing in the series, FYI — shrugged. “It stinks, obviously,” he said. “But it’s a seven-game series. You can’t get too high on the wins and too low on the losses.”

That’s boilerplate stuff, but it happens to be true. The Hawks aren’t out of this. They’ll need to blow three more games to be eliminated. (Wait. That didn’t sound right.) Their mission is the same as Boston’s was in games 1 and 2: Steal one and flip the home-court edge. The Celtics did the deed, but the Hawks are not incapable of winning at TD Garden. Especially when nobody expects them to win at TD Garden.

The Hawks could have packed it in when Al Horford was lost in the season’s 11th game. They could have slid to the No. 7 or No. 8  seed — although with Derrick Rose gone, being No. 8 doesn’t look so bad — and been content just to make the playoffs. They finished with the East’s fourth-best record, which was better than they did last season with Horford, and they’ve hung (relatively) tough even after backup center Zaza Pachulia hurt his foot.

The Hawks’ own Bizarro credo: They never take the easy way in, and they never take the easy way out. They confound supporters and detractors — at the same time! If you were among the few who liked the Hawks’ chances in this series coming in, you shouldn’t dismiss them now.

They did, let’s note, beat the Celtics with Rajon Rondo on the floor. It was only after he was suspended that they wobbled. They should have Smith back for Game 4 and maybe Pachulia for Game 5, and any Game 7 would still be played here. Even after the ritual collapse of Game 2, it would be no great shock if the Hawks won this thing.

Neither would it be a surprise if they didn’t. (How’s that for waffling?) Of the Bizarro Hawks, nothing is so deceiving as your most recent impression of them. Given that the last impression was horrid, better days must be ahead. It makes no sense until you remember that these are the Hawks, and then it makes perfect sense. Or not.

By Mark Bradley

87 comments Add your comment

PMC

May 2nd, 2012
3:56 pm

It stinks that Marvin Willams was ever drafted to come here. He has provided exactly NOTHING in his entire career.

He’s one of the worst draft picks in history.

dean

May 2nd, 2012
3:57 pm

Wow. 9 minutes and I’m first? Would that be a sign of apathy from the Hawks fans?

dean

May 2nd, 2012
3:58 pm

No I’m not. Work got in the way.

J.J.M.

May 2nd, 2012
4:00 pm

cant get far in the playoffs with a superstar point blank…joe will not carry this team anywhere he has no athletic ability to drive the ball and look for contact…hawks gave the big contract to the wrong person

Calibre Springs Dawg

May 2nd, 2012
4:02 pm

Good read. This could be applied to every sporting franchise in the city. I’m an Atlantan through and through…losing is the easy part;)

GT Alum

May 2nd, 2012
4:07 pm

I didn’t like the Hawks’ chances going in, and I really don’t like them now. I suppose Ivan will take Josh’s starting spot in game 3, which leaves the likes of Vlad Rad and Damp coming off the bench unless ZaZa can make a recovery.

This just seems to be a bad matchup for the Hawks, and I really just don’t think they have enough talent left to beat them in game 3 without Smoove and Horford. I’m not predicting a 5 game series, especially if Josh can return, but throwing away home court made an already tough task a lot tougher.

Blow It Up

May 2nd, 2012
4:08 pm

I’d love to start fresh and would rather have a couple of really down years prior to getting on track than to continue winning 0 or 1 playoff rounds and then calling it a season. As upsetting as losing was last night, anyone who follows this team wasn’t a bit surprised. I can’t think of another team in sports that before the season even begins, you know exactly how they’ll finish.

GT

May 2nd, 2012
4:11 pm

They froze while the ball was out of Teague’s hands. They kept choking it into Johnson’s hands when he was doubled teamed. You could see the offense dying. They cannot figure out how to use Teague or Smith who was hurt half the second half.

Section 303

May 2nd, 2012
4:16 pm

Mark, though I appreciate you being positive about the Hawks for a change, the team is finished. They will drop the next the next three and bow out like the losers they are.

Larry

May 2nd, 2012
4:22 pm

Coach Drew: “No worries Atlanta Hawks fans. I’m going to like a little, bitty, baby birdie on their shouders and whisper in their itty, bitty ears to please play hard for me sweet little basketball players…pretty please!”

What an absolute joke!

day old fries

May 2nd, 2012
4:24 pm

i named my dog marvin just so i could run over it in the driveway

only milicic, bowie and thabeet were worse #2 picks

Born2Buzz

May 2nd, 2012
4:27 pm

PMC, you are right, but don’t blame Marvin. He didn’t force the Hawks to take him with the #2 pick.
Still, it would be nice if the guy could at least be someone that the Celtics would have to guard.

Maybe Rondo being on the court actually helps the Hawks. Without him, the C’s relied exclusively on the high pick and roll with Pierce and Garnett, which obviously wore down Joe (since he is the only Hawk that can guard Pierce – see comment about Marvin) and just made things simple.

Of course the Hawks still have a chance. But we all know what to expect. Another disappointment for us ATL fans.

BS

May 2nd, 2012
4:34 pm

I would trade Marvin Williams straight up for Milliac in a second!!! Marvin is bow legged and needs to have butt reduction surgery!!

Dawg Haus

May 2nd, 2012
4:38 pm

I wish I shared your optimism, Mark. I’m not saying it’s over, but last night didn’t help.

LakeDawg

May 2nd, 2012
4:38 pm

I’m sticking with my original pick…Celtics in six.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 2nd, 2012
4:40 pm

Quit talking about yesterday like it was a collapse. They collapsed after their best player got hurt. Until then, they had blown a lead, but they did that in Game 1 and still managed to win. They very easily could have won if Josh had been healthy.

This isn’t like their playoff collapses of years past. This is just what happens when your best player gets injured. It is not something they can overcome until Josh gets healthy.

AlanFalcon

May 2nd, 2012
4:42 pm

A miracle is needed for the Hawks to be champions, they are lazy, don’t play the team game and exhibit selfisness, c’mon the Joe Johnson signing was a joke and if it wasn’t for a lot of luck they would’

Sage of Bluesland

May 2nd, 2012
4:45 pm

Please. The incompetence of this wretched organizations starts at the very top–and works its way down nicely.

I wish this forlorn basketball franchise would move. I’ll never subsidize this product; no-one else should, either.

What a sad, pathetic joke.

Rickster

May 2nd, 2012
4:55 pm

What the Hawks need is to be put on double secret probation.

That’ll motivate ‘em!

biz

May 2nd, 2012
4:55 pm

No great shock to you Bradley but it would have many others screaming “Im coming home Lizabeth!”

GT Alum

May 2nd, 2012
4:58 pm

Najeh -

So I take it you disagree with Bradley’s assertion that Rondo is the Celtics’ best player?

reebok

May 2nd, 2012
5:04 pm

The fact that the ‘proudest moment’ in team history is a LOSS in 7 games to a physically inferior Celtics team is all you need to know about this pathetic excuse for a franchise.

Reality

May 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

Good shape? No
Bizzaro? Yes

As Always

May 2nd, 2012
5:11 pm

The Hawks were finished as soon as the pairings were announced. The Hawks winning a playoff series against the Celtics? It has never happened. It will never happen.

Charlie Brown

May 2nd, 2012
5:12 pm

Nice try Lucy

BoBo

May 2nd, 2012
5:16 pm

Larry is such a sad person…

Pete

May 2nd, 2012
5:27 pm

You would have to be BEYOND delusional to believe this assembly of spare parts called the Hawks actually belong in the playoffs, let alone win against the storied Celtics.
The Boston franchise has forgotten more about winning than these pathetic Hawks would ever hope to know. All aound the national talk shows today they were actually laughing out loud at the prospects of the Hawks winning……………………..anything.

PMC

May 2nd, 2012
5:31 pm

The NBA should start thinking about retraction.

Braves fan who gets annoyed with Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2012
5:31 pm

The only thing “bazarro” is Mark Bradley who wrote a column about how the Hawks had an easy road to the championship because Rose went down.

The Bradley Curse

May 2nd, 2012
6:26 pm

The Hawks’ Game 2 task: Win when they’re supposed to win
Game 2 Result: … loss

Having blown Game 2, Bizarro Hawks are in … good shape?
Game 3 Result? As if you don’t already know that answer

“Josh Smith, hurt at the end of Game 2, figures to miss Game 3 but no more, and it would be just like the Hawks to win in Boston on a night when their best player doesn’t play”

no, in this situation, what would be just like the Hawks would be a huge blowout loss in game 3. They energized the Celtics, their fans will be pumped, they’ll have the same attitude the Hawks didn’t have in Game 2 (”if Josh isn’t playing this should easy, the rest of their teams stinks! Did you see their bench? Marvin? Joke Johnson?”) and they can back it up.

Bradley Curse

May 2nd, 2012
6:29 pm

“The Hawks’ Game 2 task: Win when they’re supposed to win”
loss

“Having blown Game 2, Bizarro Hawks are in … good shape?”
nope, blowout loss coming. Trust me, that would be just like the Hawks

Dooley

May 2nd, 2012
6:45 pm

Its Funny How Everybody Is Like Josh Is The Miracle Now……..But The Last Two Years Josh Has Been On Every Bloggers Trade Block And Was A Burden To This Team…..I Knew Josh Was The Best Player Then And Now…..I Always Took Up For Him Because If He Hurt Us On The Offensive End He Wouldve Made Up For It On The Defensive End….Im Glad You All Are Starting To See The Light

LakeDawg

May 2nd, 2012
6:59 pm

Najeh Davenpoop

It was a collapse. All you had to do was watch the game. It had already started when Smooove got hurt. He wasn’t doing anything. Until the collapse, the Hawks were pushing the ball and moving on offense. Then, inexplicably they reverted to 4 guys standing around while the guard tried to dribble around double teams in order to launch a bad, contested shot before the shot clock buzzer.

LakeDawg

May 2nd, 2012
7:03 pm

BTW The Celtics are WAY over the hill. I don’t think Pierce and Garnett knew if they were going to make it through the whole game at halftime. All the Hawks have to do is commit to playing hard and push the ball at every opportunity, but that won’t happen.

What the Celtics do have, however, is a lot more heart than the Hawks and a champions mentality. I will be pulling for them in the second round.

atlienforlife

May 2nd, 2012
7:20 pm

Najeh, I couldn’t agree more, say what you want about josh in the past, but this year he is clearly the hawks best player, and they come and go as he does. I have watch virtually every game this year and joe johnson couldn’t be more of a none factor, the hawks win when josh plays well, period. Furthermore, a lot of the close games the hawks lost was because at the end of games the hawks continue to go iso-joe a basically take josh out of the game. I pray the hawks use the amnesty clause on joe. I hated the idea that they resigned him, he is terrible.

Cedrick

May 2nd, 2012
7:48 pm

Hey Mark Bradley, this is the headline for your next article ” Will Joe Johnson show up?” I can truly say I liked the guy even though he got that crazy contract but this year has really turned my opinion of Joe J. The guy seems to have the worst timing for having a turnover or pulling up for a shot from the 3pt line. We were only down 2 points before Josh got hurt then our boy Joe immediately turned the ball over on the next possession then missed a pull up 3ptr instead of trying to set up the offense. Not to take any heat off Larry Drew for not getting the “STARTERS” back in the game at the beginning of the 4th qtr. When Boston had his starters in Drew should have done the same!! But now this is water under the bridge. I can say right now if J-Smooth does not play this series is O-V-E-R!!!!!!

CashIn

May 2nd, 2012
7:50 pm

maybe rondo or another good player will get thrown out again so the hawks can pull the upset!! Rise up!

SOS Hawks

May 2nd, 2012
8:06 pm

Cream rises to the top (Celtics). Crap sinks to the bottom (Hawks)—and (Braves, BTW).

Eb

May 2nd, 2012
9:04 pm

David McDavid and Steve Belkin are still laughing their way to the bank. McDavid was paid $200+ million for unfair dealings by Time Warner when he was negotiating to buy the Hawks and Thrashers and must believe he got the better end of the deal. Belkin is just happy to be out from under those Spirit bafoons and probably gets a good laugh from being right about that loser Joe Johnson.

atlhawks4lyfe

May 2nd, 2012
9:08 pm

I think the only reason I can agree with this headline is because I’m so rooted in ATL franchises that I have learned to block out the pains of the past and look optimistically ahead….as if doing the same thing every year will create different results……OH YEAH, THAT’S THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY!!!! Plus, I feel like routing for another city’s team is like treason!

Also, the ASG have sold us a dream that a Star (Josh Smith) along with a “good” player…definitely not a STAR or ALL STAR (Joe Johnson) along with a collection of decent 2nd/3rd tier players can actually have a chance to get beyond the 2nd round of the Playoffs! I mean I have really willed myself to believe this ish! Dang, I wish that deal to sell the Hawks would have gone through. I have never seen a quote where the ASG state that they are focused on building a Championship Team!!!!!!!!!

aldog

May 2nd, 2012
9:22 pm

Let’s see what Joe does Thursday night. Way too early to panic. And Ivan Johnson starting, the Hawks just might have found something.I really do believe this is our year.

ATLtodolavida

May 2nd, 2012
9:41 pm

Paul Pierce is the Celtics best player.

elroy

May 2nd, 2012
9:49 pm

bradley, please you moron! go ahead & say the hawks will lose the series. if you make that statement they will most likely win the series, you are a jinx in atl teams & ga teams.

NUNNA!

May 2nd, 2012
10:07 pm

Yall get off Marvin!! When u look at him and how he has played in games this season and he starts off on a roll and looked unstoppable,LD would send him to the bench and he would not go back to him the rest of the game..
Marvin is the most,and i will say it with caps,THE MOST COMPLETE PLAYER ON THIS TEAM!!

Inside,Outside,Offensive and Defensive rebounds,ball handling,perimeter shooting,3 point shooting,and yes, a lil shaky on defense but unless we open it up for him and tell him that he is the man,then we won’t see what we saw a few years back when Joe went down and Marvin was averaging 24ppg,8rb,and getting to the line..

He has always been a garbage player.Its time to open it up for him and jump on his back instead of Joe’s..Joe is what he is..

A great 3rd or maybe 4th OPTION!!

Lets make Marvin the go to guy!! And let Josh sit out till we come back home..

We will be ok..

beone

May 3rd, 2012
12:14 am

Sad, very sad this team of ours.

Dr. Warren

May 3rd, 2012
2:00 am

We should copy these comments and run them every year at this time. They’ve been the same since ‘09. And yes, the Hawks will lose Game 3.

sam'l

May 3rd, 2012
2:00 am

Dont agree at all, with either the premise of the article or any conclusions. Hawks are not in a good position and no ragged surprise solutions offered by Bradley mean anything whatsoever. We know the Hawks should have won game 2. like so many times in the past they didn’t show up to win. Apparently, Josh Smith was horrible to start the game. Why would this be so? Then, he gets injured. Why again would this be so? Joe Johnson with the ball and no movement, no cuts, no passes. Why ? Why would Paul Pierce do so much damage when you could assign someone stronger, faster and younger (Smith) or someone faster and quicker (Teauge) to get him out of his game?

It stings (not stinks) that the Hawks COULD have won this thing. I think Josh Smith knows the real reason why they didn’t. I don’t think Larry Drew knows, because he had the players who could pull it off and they weren’t coached to their ability.

There are no trick endings and no more silver linings.

What may happen is that the remaining Hawks who are well enough to play will be forced to reach into themselves for the strength to compete, and it may be that that focus will make the game close. But there will be no margin whatsoever for error.

Hardly Bizarro…..more probably easily explainable unprofessional behavior followed by fear followed by inability to create followed by loss. Bad article. Wrong take.

South ga boy in the atl

May 3rd, 2012
5:19 am

The Hawks are a laughing stock around the country. They have a career assistant for a coach. The owners spend pretty well on salaries. They have been top 6 or 7 in salaries the last 4 or 5 years but they go cheap on a coach. How stupid !!! And the players are viewed as immature and juvenile. Here we are, as Hawks fans, hoping Smoove can come back and play. LMAO. Josh, backward throw the ball over the goal Smith. And guys like Najeh are probably praying for his knee. Lol. Some Hawks fans just don’t get it. BRAINS AND MATURITY ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS TALENT. YES YOU HAVE TO HAVE TALENT BUT WE CAN’T GET PAST THE 2ND RD. BECAUSE OF SOME 9 YEAR OLDS LIKE SMOOVE. AND HE’S THE BEST WE GOT, LMAO, BUT PEOPLE LIKE NAJEH WOULD CRY A RIVER IF YOU TRADED HIM. BRAINS MATTER, BUT SOME PEOPLE THINK TALENT IS THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS. SOME OF THOSE FOLKS ARE HAWKS FANS, LOL

Trojan

May 3rd, 2012
8:13 am

Keep the ball out of JJ’s hands. Let him play off the ball coming off of screens. Let Teague run the offense.

The offense bogs down with JJ. The Celtic’s defense simply stiffles JJ and the entire offense as JJ dribbles down the clock and is too slow to actually break down a defense.

Trojan

May 3rd, 2012
8:16 am

Everyone rips on Marvin but Marvin is not pounding the ball into the ground on every possession and shooting 33% while eating up the entire shot clock.

Surely LD is not wanting JJ to handle the ball everytime down the court?