Inspired Hawks still less than splendid Celtics

Whatever the Hawks are now, and whatever they will become during their sometimes uneven dribbling from goodness to beyond over the next few weeks, months and years, they owe it to a new enemy who will always be their old friend.

Keep this between us, OK? Doc Rivers wears green as coach of Boston’s famous basketball team, but he still has the Hawks flying around his heart.

“Always,” said Rivers, the former Hawks standout, acknowledging Friday night that he isn’t exactly displeased that Philips Arena has evolved into a noisy and lovely place this season for the Hawks with a mighty assist from his Celtics.

Rivers eyes danced with joy as he returned to the 1980s, while comparing the Hawks’ splendid past with their promising present and future. “I told some of our (Boston) guys, ‘Man, the way it is now is the way it used to be around here with Dominique (Wilkins) and Spud (Webb) and Mike Fratello, and they went, ‘Get out of here,’ ” Rivers said. “When people say this city doesn’t support its teams, I’ve long said, ‘Oh, no. I know they do. I saw it.’ You just have to give them something to believe in, and they have something to believe in now.”

They do, courtesy of Rivers’ Celtics, still the NBA’s best until the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Los Angeles Lakers prove otherwise in June. This time, the Hawks sought to use their extra giddyup whenever they see shamrocks these days to grab a deeper hold on one of those home-court-advantage slots in the playoffs.

It’s just that the Celtics have their Big Three of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Even with Garnett and his sore right knee missing this one, the Celtics survived the Hawks’ impressive sprint down the stretch for a 99-93 victory with their Big Two and everybody else. The Celtics were just bigger, better and deeper than the Hawks. While Glen Davis used his 290-something pounds to bang his way to a slew of rebounds, Eddie House left the bench to join Pierce and Allen in clobbering the Hawks from outside.

The Hawks aren’t there yet. You can see as much since they just finished the middle portion of their murderers’ row against recent world champs that began with a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, and the ugly stretch will continue on Sunday at home against the Lakers.

Against the Spurs, the Hawks lost their defensive intensity. Against the Celtics, the Hawks just lost.

Even so, there was last season when the Hawks nearly ruined the Celtics’ march to a world championship in the first round of the playoffs. Then came two Atlanta-Boston thrillers earlier this season to inspire the Hawks to prominence against others.

“They’re not far away from being elite,” Rivers said. “They’ve got the right core. They just need some little fringe pieces. The biggest thing for a young team is to get all of them — to a man — to sacrifice.”

The Hawks do, but only in spurts. The Spurs, the Celtics and the Lakers sacrifice all the time. That’s the difference.

20 comments Add your comment

Ric Roc

March 30th, 2009
1:00 pm

Terrence,

I agree whole-heartedly with your comments concerning what we learned about the Hawks during this three-game stretch against the NBA’s elite.

The two losses to the short-handed Spurs with a gimpy Manu Ginobli and Celtics sans Garnett are far more telling about where this team is from a coaching and talent point-of-view.

Kudos to the Hawks for the win against the Lakers to save face, but at the risk of selling the Hawks short, it was fairly obvious who wanted the win more.

Now the Hawks coaching and scheme for the Laker game could have led to the victory and overall look of lethargy from the Lakers than I’m willing to attibute it to, but with the way the Lakers played Sunday, they, too, would have lost to those same San Anotonio and Boston teams.

Against San Antonio and Boston, the Hawks looked out-classed and showed that still are not ready to be mentioned in the same breath as those upper-echelon teams, as if we weren’t already aware of this fact. They’ve had a full season to dive into those ranks and have steadily maintained their perch in the lower-tier by holding on steadfast to the fourth spot in the East and never challenging for a spot higher since the season’s third week.

If we don’t get out the first round of the playoffs, I need Woody’s head on a stick…

Mitch

March 29th, 2009
9:42 am

These Hawks have turned into a very good team, and should win between 45 and 50 games. The problem is, they seem destined to be what the Knicks were in the 1990s, or what the Hawks teams were in the 80s, and mid to late 90s, a good team that might do some damage in the playoffs, but not be able to get to the parade down Peachtree St.

The losses against San Antonio and Boston were frustrating. I dont expect a win today against the Lakers, either.

The Hawks need something. Another big inside man, an explosive scorer off the bench, more consistent play during games, something.. to take them to the next level.

I hope they hang on to the fourth spot in the East. Psychologically, whoever they play in the first round, it would be good to have four of the seven games at home. I think that the Hawks have a good shot to win their first round series, with home court advantage, which, if nothing else, would be another step forward.

Maybe this will be the type of team that will build block by block. One year, the playoffs, each year after, another step forward in the playoffs. After that, if they can get another scorer, who knows?

Considering that they were the laughingstock of basketball for ten years, the Hawks are now a solid, good team. As for how far they go after this, we will just have to wait, and see.

Mitch

tbones

March 29th, 2009
6:53 am

Bibby is good on the offensive end, but gets punished on the defensive side by a lot of guards in the league. I would make a run at Ramon Sessions in the off-season or try to trade for Kirk Hinrich. Both are good long term solutions. Law played 4 years of college ball and he’s in his 3rd year and he still looks like garbage. He’s not even a backup PG as fas I see it. Josh Smith needs to work on perfecting low post moves and 15-18ft jumpers, also, raise his FG%. Hawks also need to make a run at one of the Clippers big man, either, Camby, Kaman, or Jordan, or, make a run at Pryzbilla.

chemdawg

March 28th, 2009
4:05 pm

1.) Bibby and Flip can score in spurts but they need to play better defense against other guards that can score. 2.) Josh Smith needs to work on his outside shot like Marvin has done. He has the ugliest looking shot from outside the paint (and free throw line). 3.) Acie will not be a good point guard in this league. He can drive the ball, but lacks the situational awareness to be a high assist point guard.

Barry

March 28th, 2009
1:25 pm

Hey Y’all:

All these pessimistics, so-called fans. Boston comes in here and win a game and then you revert back to as if the Hawks have not won a game all season. If you have not noticed, this team is in the “hunt”. Yeah, they made a few mistakes in losin games during this homestand, but we have a lot of more basketball to go where they will prove themselves. If anything, it is great that they loss to these teams now to learn about these teams from their losses. These individual losses will be advantageous to them if they happen to meet in the playoff. Which we will. GFolks, these Hawks are forereal. Do not let these losses demoralize you from a great season these guys are having. Stan behind them. THEY WILL MAKE YOU PROUD AS THEY DID LAST SEASON.

GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a HAWK FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“HAWKS, BOOM-BYE-YEAH!!!!”

“SHOCK THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!”

JM

March 28th, 2009
12:07 pm

Unfortunately, I think spotts is right on. These Hawks will likely be what the Hawks of the ’90’s were. A solid team that wins 45-50 games a year and in the top 5 or 6 but won’t ever seriously challenge for a title. The unfortunate truth about the NBA is you need a bonafide superstar to win the title. Garnett, Duncan, D-Wade, Shaq, MJ, Hakeem, Isiah, Bird, Magic…the list goes on. This year either the Lakers, Cavs, Celtics or Spurs will win the title, and all have a legitimate superstar on their roster.

The Pistons in 2004 with Chauncey Billups or Rip Hamilton as their best player have been the one outlier over the last few decades. As much as I love Joe Johnson, he’s just not the kind of guy who leads a team to a title. Josh Smith and Marvin Williams are good and should be big parts of our success for years to come, but aren’t the kind of guys you builld championship teams around.

I hate to sound defeatist, but that’s why I’ve had a hard time getting really excited about this season. Yeah, it’s a helluva lot better than 13-69, but let’s be honest, this team has zero shot of winning the title or even advancing beyond the second round.

spotts

March 28th, 2009
11:32 am

I don’t see how we’re going to take it to the next level. The Hawks are good, but have shown they’re nowhere near the elite in the NBA. We’re not gonna get a good draft pick. Management’s suing each other. Woodson reminds me of Derek Zoolander when he goes “Who’s winning the match?” And there’s no way we’re going to sign LeBron, Wade, etc. when they hit the free agent market.

Fred

March 28th, 2009
11:31 am

eddie dawg

March 28th, 2009
9:25 am

I am surprised Terrence didn’t say what the Hawks are lacking is more white players. Oh wait a sec…..

Brad in Jasper

March 28th, 2009
8:45 am

Ed, you beat me to the punch. I don’t know if there’s a better “fringe” option than Woodson available – but he sure makes me wonder sometimes. Then again, Rivers has taken a lot of flak from his own fans in Boston at different times.

A few thoughts from a casual fan – I am trusting a few reserves waaay more than I did early on. Is it just me or do you really enjoy watching Flip come in the game. Mo E. has put some quality minutes in as well. Tired of watching Josh Smith make inept moves/shots approaching the basket. He has certain skills that would rival any pro player – that is not it.

With home court advantage in the playoffs first round (assuming they hold on to 4th), the Hawks should be a handful for anyone. In the second or possibly even conf championship – I just don’t see it happening against a Boston, Cleveland, or Orlando with a possible four games away. Those three have really separated from the eastern herd this year. But then again, that’s why we watch, eh? (witness last year) Go Hawks!