Greetings! It was a rough week in Hawks land, as the injuries mounted, and the win-loss record suffered as a result. Let’s take a look at what transpired.
Hawks vs. Cavs — Monday, April 1st — Win (102-94)
This was a simple, pleasing victory. The Hawks had four players with 16+ points, led by 25 points and 7 assists from Devin Harris, and they managed to win despite allowing 50% shooting to the Cavs, thanks to a rare free throw disparity that saw Atlanta attempt 26 shots from the line. Defensively, it wasn’t a fantastic effort, as the Cavs were able to get some easy baskets (keyed by Marresse Speights going for 23 and 8 off of the bench), but Atlanta did manage to force 14 turnovers, and capitalized with 23 fast-break points on the night. Beating a Kyrie Irving-less Cavs team is no giant feat, but this was a “take care of business” performance and any win, even at home, is valuable during a playoff push.
Hawks @ Knicks — Wednesday, April 3rd — Loss (95-82)
The Hawks ran into a mini-buzzsaw here. Carmelo Anthony followed up a 50-point game against Miami with 40 points on Wednesday night, shooting 17-for-27 from the field, and generally doing everything he could to bury Atlanta in Madison Square Garden. While it seems simple to say that Anthony was the difference, it’s unquestionably true, and his performance transcended the rest of the action. For Atlanta, Kyle Korver had a big game, knocking down 6 threes and finishing with 25 points and 6 rebounds, while Jeff Teague added 15 points. On the downside, Al Horford and Josh Smith each had rough nights, with Horford failing to reach double-figures (9 points, 7 rebounds) and Smith shooting an abysmal 0-7 from the line in route to 10 rebounds and 8 rebounds. This is one of the not-so-rare nights in the league where it pays to have a legitimate superstar and the Hawks were on the wrong end of this one.
Hawks vs. Sixers— Friday, April 5th — Loss (101-90)
Here’s where the week went off of the rails. Losing to a Philly team that came into the game with an 8-27 road record by double-digits is pretty brutal, and when you remember that the “Big Three” of Smith/Horford/Teague all played in the game, it becomes even more inexplicable. Philly knocked down 9-16 from three-point distance, dominated the glass, and won the free throw battle (with some help from Atlanta’s awful 17-27 performance) in the win. Al Horford led the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but shot just 8-for-19, and Josh Smith posted a team-worst -20 on the night. This is a microcosm of every bad Hawks performance in that a) it wasn’t a back-to-back, b) “energy” (copyright, Larry Drew) was non-existent, and c) the Hawks beat themselves. I need to stop talking about this one.
Hawks @ Spurs — Saturday, April 6th — Loss (99-97)
In all honesty, this was a pretty impressive performance (albeit in a loss) from Atlanta. Josh Smith, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, and Devin Harris all sat out the game with various ailments, and Atlanta was in the game to the very end with the class of the West. Tim Duncan was the best player on the court in the win for San Antonio with 31 points and 14 rebounds, but the story for the Hawks was the bench explosion. Mike Scott had 22 points, Shelvin Mack added 12 points and 8 assists, and John Jenkins led all Hawks with 23 points including 3-3 from three and 6-6 from the free-throw line. Atlanta got destroyed on the glass (even though Johan Petro grabbed 15 rebounds in a rare start), but with the exception of that, the effort level was tremendous, and when you evaluate the on-court rosters, the Hawks had no business being within striking distance at the end of this game. Kudos to Larry Drew and company on a fine effort, even in defeat.
You never want to see a 1-3 week in April, but that’s the reality here. As the playoffs approach, every game is key and seeding is up for grabs on a nightly basis, so it’ll be important going forward to grab some wins. In any case, the week ended on a positive note in San Antonio, and maybe that effort will spring board things in the future.