The Atlanta Hawks dropped their third consecutive game this time at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks 108-91. For the second straight game the Hawks rocketed out of the gate building a 14 point lead early and it looked like they might run away with it. Then much like in the Orlando game, coach Drew subbed in the bench and the spark was gone. This time not even putting the starters back into the game could right the ship as Milwaukee got on a roll and didn't let up. The Bucks outscored the Hawks 67-33 over the second and third quarters including a 9-1 run to start the third that pretty much erased any thoughts of a come back by the home team. The lead approached 30 and the Hawks never threatened to make the game respectable until it was garbage time.
More after the jump.....
Maybe worst of all, the Hawks stayed down once they got down. "That’s a big concern because I’ve always looked at this team as when it gets a little tough, we have a tendency to hold our head down," L.D. said. "Anybody can go through stretches where they play well and they win and everybody is high-fiving. When it gets tough, that is when your character really gets tested. When it gets a little tough, I don’t want to see guys hanging their heads. I don’t want to see guys giving up."
It is that tendency to hold their head down that in my opinion is the reason this Hawks team is not taken seriously by national writers. Sure blow outs happen to every team over the course of 82 games and it is very possible that this loss to Milwaukee is an aberration of sorts. Effort still goes a long way and lack of it isn't easily forgotten. There have been many times, like this past Sunday against the Suns, where the Hawks have overcome large deficits. Yet those instances are forgotten when effort is completely abandoned in a game like last night's or in the playoffs last season.
"He wasn’t the only one," L.D. said. "The one thing I don’t want him doing is I don’t want him displaying it. There is a place for it. Certainly we don’t want him doing it out on the floor where the whole world can see he’s upset. We talk about doing it during huddles or at halftime but we don’t want to display it out on the floor. If you get upset, dig your heels in and play a little bit harder."
Normally the last two seasons this is where I pile on Josh Smith after a loss like this but I am not going to do it today. What I saw from Josh Smith was him not getting touches early and never essentially getting into the flow. In the midst of Milwaukee's run Josh was visibly frustrated. He didn't get a couple of calls at the rim but I did see him lay out on the floor for loose balls. I just didn't feel like Josh mailed it in during this game the way I have seen in the past. Sometimes when Josh is frustrated he will take bad shots and seemingly try and put the team on his shoulders to bring them back. Not too often has he been successful but I am not going to nitpick effort and I felt that Josh was giving effort last night.
"We got off to a very good start," L.D. said. "The minute I started subbing, we went dead in the water. That’s probably the third game that has happened. I have got to find a better substitution patterns or find better combinations. Our energy was the most disheartening thing because when we go to the bench I expect us to be a very high-energy team."
I really don't know what to make of the struggles of the second unit. They were key in many of the six wins the Hawks accumulated to start the season. Over the last two games in particular they have been dreadful. Perhaps it is because of being without two small forwards and perhaps that is forcing guys out of their comfort zone. I don't know the answer but for two games in a row I have seen this group come in and not defend at all. That to me is a lot worse than coming in and not being able to score. There are some shot selection issues on that second unit as well but many times opponents are getting wide open shots with no defender even in the area. Those kinds of breakdowns can't happen. Perhaps it is time to look at the substitution pattern and maybe the Hawks need to try and avoid playing the bench as a unit.
As you may have well noticed there was no talk of stats in this recap. That was on purpose because the problems in this game go much deeper than stats. Sure one could point that anytime a team turns the ball over more than your opponent and are out rebounded on both ends of the court they are going to have a hard time winning. What we had here last night was all about effort, intensity, and pride. In the grand scheme of things this loss was just one of eighty two games over a long regular season. It may not mean much at all at the end of the season. For someone like myself that has defended this team numerous times though it leaves that little bit of doubt in my mind. There is a lot of change happening on this team, the offense is different, the defense is different, and they are having to deal with injuries. To overcome those things they have to come together and play as a unit defensively and offensively. That in opinion was most what was missing last night.