For the first time in my memory, a Hawks game takes up two positions in the Daily Dime. Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball uses the second spot to describe how unusual it was for the Bucks to get to the line as frequently (or, if you prefer, constantly) as they did in the fourth quarter. Just below, I give an abridged description of the meltdown from the Hawks' perspective.
"We were terrible in the half court executing down the stretch."See also...
at Detroit on April 7th:
"We self-destructed again coming down the stretch. We’ve got to figure it out."at Cleveland on April 2nd:
"I wish I knew. I can’t say it’s been that way since the All-Star game, but it’s been that way against the Cavaliers. We’ve had close games against them, and we can’t find any offense in the fourth quarter."March 22nd in Milwaukee:
"We had our chances but we had a bad fourth quarter defensively. We gave up 31 points. We were solid on defense up until then. They got hot, made some shots. We matched shots but we couldn’t get stops when we needed top get them. We couldn’t control the dribble. Everybody just picked and choosed when they wanted to drive the ball."St. Patrick's Day in Toronto:
"I thought we played pretty steady throughout the ball game but coming down the stretch we just unraveled and didn't make the plays that we needed to make."March 8th in New York:
"We played well enough to win tonight, but we were our own worst enemies down the stretch."February 21st at Golden State:
"We just failed to execute coming down the stretch. We had a comfortable lead and we stopped doing the things that got us the lead. Defensively, we just shut down."vs. Orlando on Thanksgiving night:
"We can't predicate everything we do on making shots. I thought tonight we did that in the third and fourth quarter. We shut it down when we couldn't make shots. When you're missing jump shots, you've got to find a way to get to the free-throw line and we didn't do that tonight."Forgive me if I overlooked anything relevant.
Like, say, more from April 28th at home against Milwaukee.
"I thought we shot jumps shots and I thought we didn’t execute. We really had control of the game. Our composure down the stretch, we really just let it get away."Al Horford:
"We really weren’t getting good looks. We were forcing some stuff and got away from some of the things that were working for us earlier in the game. We kind of got exposed on the offensive end."Horford, looking forward:
"We’re going to go win. No question about it. That’s the bottom line. We have to bring it back to Atlanta."Joe Johnson's in a less positive frame of mind:
"We'll just have to go up to Milwaukee and see what we can come up with."Johnson, again:
"It was a terrible loss. It was embarrassing."Costly too, perhaps, in more than one sense.
"This is by far the biggest win of the season. We've still got business to take care of, so we've got to stay with it."Charley Rosen:
[T]he Hawks were a disgrace.Eric Freeman at The Baseline:
They rarely moved the ball from side-to-side, and were more interested in blocking shots than in playing solid defense.
And exactly how did the Hawks try to manifest their spectacular advantage in talent? By running an endless series of isolations — 42 to be exact, which accounted for nearly half of their 83 total shots. Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford, Iso-Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford all were allowed to dribble this way and that way until they could find what they believed to be an acceptable shot. All of these individualistic exhibitions produced 40 points.
Compare this situation with the Bucks, who ran 17 isos that generated only nine points.
Only Williams (8-10, 22 points) and Horford (11-21, 25 points) rose to the occasion. Otherwise, Mike Bibby was 1-5 and useless; JJ was 6-16 and was smothered by Salmons; Josh Smith was 3-8 with 3 blocks and was mostly AWOL, and Crawford had a John Starks-type performance, shooting a ludicrous 4-18.
Al Horford (25 points and 11 rebounds) and Marvin Williams (22 points on 8-of-10 FG) were productive, but the trio of Joe Johnson (13 points on 6-of-16 shooting and six assists), Josh Smith (seven points, nine rebounds, and three blocks), and especially Jamal Crawford (11 points on dismal 4-of-18 shooting) couldn't get it together. The offense struggled horribly late, full of stagnant one-on-one plays with little movement or chance for quality shots. Johnson fouled out on a pass-and-crash charge with 2:15 left, and the offense was noticeably directionless with him out, too.Michael Cunningham:
So it’s come to this for the Hawks: Woody invoking his days in Detroit, when the Pistons won a Game 6 at New Jersey and then clinched the series at home in the East semifinals. “We’re a long ways away from Detroit, I know,” he said. “But that’s how guys have got to think.”Mark Bradley:
They can think it, and maybe that’s all they have to go on right now, but it doesn’t make it true. That Pistons team was led by tough-minded veterans. They’d already been to the East finals. They played defense with zeal in a system they were committed to. They shared the ball on offense and didn’t have a star who dominated the ball.
The Hawks are nothing like that. They are facing elimination by a six seed missing its two best players and run by a rookie point guard. And they got to this point with a collapse that I’d call incredible except I saw similar Hawks folds so many times down the stretch.
This was the Falcons blowing the lead against Danny White and Dallas in January 1981. This was Mark Wohlers hanging the slider to Jim Leyritz in October 1996. Only it wasn’t. It was worse.The Human Highlight Blog:
Those opponents were top-class. The Hawks just blew a 13-point lead and probably a playoff series to Milwaukee, which is a No. 6 seed missing its All-Star center.
Guess the team never has quite learned those lessons from all the other games this year that this exact thing happened.Michael Hunt:
Guess those "meaningless" games in the regular season that the Hawks fooled around and fell out of love with winning really don't magically disappear once the playoffs come.
Guess that reporter after Game One who dared to ask Woody about this being a defining characteristic may have hit too close to home.
All over the league, critics are going to say that the Hawks, who may have the highest knucklehead-to-talent ratio in the NBA, have blown it. But that wouldn't be giving full credit where credit is applicable.At Bucksketball, Jeremy gives Kurt Thomas the praise he deserves:
It was Ersan Ilysova making hustle plays while the bewildered, outsmarted, out-coached Hawks stood around and watched, much as the Bucks had in the first two games at Philips Arena. It was Kurt Thomas, in foul trouble for most of the game, taking a charge in the closing moments, the defining moment of a season that got Joe Johnson, one of the Hawks' most dangerous scorers, off the floor.
How does a man end a game with a +21 +/- while attempting just one shot and going scoreless? Well, it’s actually a two part answer. Part one is he plays terrific defense and part two is his backups play generally horrible. That’s the story of Kurt Thomas on Wednesday. Al Horford may have scored 25 points, but just nine of them came with Thomas on the court. Horford wasn’t able to back Thomas down and get any easy looks the way he did when any combination of Primoz Brezec, Dan Gadzuric, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute were on him. His defense on an otherwise dominating Horford will deservedly take a backseat to the monster charge he drew on Joe Johnson, but it was a huge relief for everyone rooting for Milwaukee when he checked back in to slow Horford in the fourth quarter.Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk:
Folding up late in games is not some new thing for the Hawks, it's a season-long trend. Their execution goes away, their play calling is poor and/or ignored. At some point, that responsibility has to fall on coach Mike Woodson. He has not made an adjustment to counter Milwaukee's destroying the Hawks switch on the pick and roll. That play and the Hawks late game play combined into one big disaster late.HawkStr8Talk:
Early in the game the Hawks tried to exploit their advantage and size inside -- and it worked. Marvin Williams was attacking, dunking and hit four of five. Josh Smith and Al Horford were getting good looks. The only thing that kept the Bucks in it was Brandon Jennings, who kept going around the pick, getting a Hawk big to switch on him them blowing by for a layup, or hitting the jumper over him. Jennings started 5 of 7 while the rest of team was 4 of 14 in first quarter.
Late in the game, it was John Salmons doing the same thing off the same plays for the Bucks, and he had eight points of their 14-0 run.
Late in the game Hawks stopped going inside, they stopped making good passes into the post. They went to isolations, and the result was help on drives where the Hawks missed layups.
I know I've spent my entire HawkStr8Talk blog career trying to explain why this isn't an organization that has been committed to making championship moves, employing a championship strategy, and having championship heart. But it doesn't feel good to be right about anything.At Peachtree Hoops, Drew dubs this "rock bottom":
Is the series over? No. The Hawks still can win two in row easily. The drastically disappointing thing about this whole series is that our team could win the next two games quite easily. But it certainly feels over.I'll let Doc Funk take us out this morning:
And that is the sad thing. This team, this rebuilding process seems over (not done but certainly a chapter complete).