There's little reason to root for the Hawks to stumble into the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot and get hammered by the Celtics four times other than the spectacle of such a poorly run franchise participating in the playoffs while a 48+ win Western Conference team sits at home might inspire the NBA to adopt a more sensible playoff system.
The Hawks, a team that cares not a whit for their head coach, lost last night to a team that actively dislikes their interim head coach. The Bulls played harder, smarter, better and with no tangible reason to do so other than pride and personal responsibility. I don't think the Hawks players necessarily lack those attributes. I think those attributes have been beaten out of them through their involvement in a dysfunctional organization run by losers.
I still believe this team could have made the playoffs with some dignity intact had it employed a competent head coach. Al Horford didn't have a good night by his standards but there was no question he was one of Atlanta's three or four best players last night. He was not treated as such in regards to playing time.
Marvin Williams, he of the 3-14 shooting and two turnovers (and it looked much worse than even those numbers suggest), played more minutes than Horford and repeatedly had plays called for him perhaps just so we could learn that every player on the Bulls' roster can guard Williams one-on-one. Horford didn't receive the ball (other than after grabbing an offensive rebound) in a position to score until the game's 43rd minute.
Let's run through the Horford's +/- in the second half, keeping in mind that he didn't even play well. The Hawks opened the second half with a two point lead.
- Horford played the first 5:55 of the third quarter during which time the Hawks were outscored by 8 points.
- Horford sat for the next 3:25 during which time the Hawks were outscored by 8 more points.
- Horford played the next 10:25 during which time the Hawks outscored the Bulls by 11 points, pulling within three points.
- Josh Smith (a despressingly representative -14 while on the court at that point) replaces Horford with 4:15 left in the game and the Hawks are outscored 11-5 during the remainder of the game.
Al Horford is a better player than Marvin Williams at all times. Al Horford was a better player than the obscenely sluggish Josh Smith last night. Al Horford was the only one of the three to sit on the bench in the final four minutes of a close game.
Joe Johnson is allowed to play 48 minutes. Mike Bibby can fail to contain the possibly clinically depressed Kirk Hinrich for 42 and-a-half minutes. Horford (who, on a bad night still has as many offensive rebounds as missed shots) and Josh Childress (8-11 FGA, 1-1 3PTA, 5-5 FTA in just over 27 minutes--easily Atlanta's best player last night) don't get as much playing time as Smith and Williams while the latter pair combine to go 9-26 (many of those misses coming on terrible shots) and play poor defense.
Would you be fueled by pride and personal responsibility to get your team into the playoffs if your playing time was distributed in such cavalier fashion?