For a little while, the Atlanta Hawks seemed to be treading water without their best player, Al Horford, having gone down for the season with a complete tear of his right pectoral muscle. But a disappointing two game road trip has left them searching for answers.
The Bulls had been reeling since losing former MVP Derrick Rose with a meniscus tear, and were without Carlos Boozer for Saturday’s matchup. But behind Mike Dunleavy, Jr.’s 20 points off the bench and a decided Bulls advantage on the glass, the Hawks were stifled in the Windy City 91-84. It was an offensive slog for both sides, as Chicago’s 40.7% shooting barely bested the Hawks’ puny 37.2% mark. No Hawks player shot better than 50% from the field and the long range ball could not save them either, as they only shot 8-28 (28.6%) from long range.
Two days later, the Hawks traveled to Brooklyn with a matchup of old buddy Joe Johnson and the rest of the Nets. If you had not heard, the Hawks own the rights to swap first round picks with the Nets in this and the next drafts, meaning Brooklyn’s collapse this year could result in a lottery pick in June. Even without Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, however, the Hawks were unable to mount any sort of dangerous offensive attack, falling to the short handed Nets 91-86. The shooting story was similar to the last, as the leading scoring trio of Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver combined for 10-32 shooting. Atlanta finished 27-70 (38.6%) with 18 turnovers for the game. The only real reason that the game was even that close was the impressive 24-26 (92.3%) shooting from the free-throw line for the Hawks.
There is real cause for concern with the Hawks offense going forward, and it does not get any easier with the stonewall lineups of the Indiana Pacers coming to Atlanta on Wednesday, followed by the explosive offensive attack of the Houston Rockets. Averaging 85 points per game and sub 40% shooting will have the Hawks watching even weak Eastern foes shoot past them in the standings. Though it looked like Paul Millsap could fill the void of Al Horford’s absence, clearly he alone cannot replace a top 20 option in the league. Coach Bud will certainly demand more consistency from Jeff Teague and others, as this young teams goes through inevitable bumps throughout a brutal 82 game schedule.
Despite high expectations for both coming into the season, injuries have left the Bulls and Nets with a combined record of 27-39 and have virtually taken both out of championship contention. And though the Hawks were basically destined for that same fate coming into the season, it would behoove the Hawks to begin to show improvement towards possible contention in the coming seasons. Injuries are only part of the excuse, and as the trade deadline horizon begins to come into focus, there may be repercussions for an extended slide.