After 82 regular season games and 12 more in the playoffs, this is the game recap that you absolutely don't want to write. It is the last one, at least for this season. Given the uncertainty of the upcoming CBA negotiations, it could be the last one for a long time. On that note, I feel conflicted about this Hawks team. On one hand I don't feel that I should be terribly surprised that their season ended with a dud at home. After all we have seen that kind of performance more than once this season.
On the other hand, I feel like I shouldn't terribly upset considering that Atlanta took the No. 1 seed in the East and the league MVP to six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They did regress in the regular season to 44 wins, down from 53 just one season ago but I have read in many places that the regular season doesn't matter and it is what happens in the playoffs that carries the weight. If you use that barometer then what to make of this Hawks team? Conflicted.
I agree with Jason's instant reaction post that you can pretty much look up any disappointing loss that this team has had at home and those same things apply to this Game 6 loss. Lets not completely short change how impressive the Bulls were though. They set the tone in the first quarter and then once again in the third. Instead of the offense being all about Derrick Rose, they made a concerted effort to get Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng involved in the game early. That paid off for Boozer who found a rhythm and it led to his best game of the series with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite how bad the game went for Atlanta in the first half, they were still only down 10 at the break. As is always important for a basketball team, Chicago came back out after halftime and grabbed control of the game right back. Chicago's defense was excellent the entire season and it was clear after Game 1 that they were not going to let Joe Johnson beat them in this series. Without someone else being able to divert defensive attention by playing somewhat consistently, then Atlanta really never had much of a chance. I am not going to throw the loss at the feet of any one individual player but the Hawks needed more for Al Horford and Jamal Crawford. Josh Smith played well at times but with so many jump shots mixed in you can't call him efficient or consistent.
Game 6 showed the same things that you have learned if you have watched this team the entire season. The Hawks too often are their own worst enemy. When Chicago needed a big basket, they had a set to run and there wasn't any doubt in what they were going to do. On the other hand, for Atlanta the same situation was met with uncertainty which usually led to a long jump shot at the shot clock buzzer. Larry Drew tried to take this team away from the iso heavy offense of the past but at crunch time it was very apparent that iso was the goto play. As the Hawks should very well know, that is a very difficult way to try and win a game especially against a great defensive team like Chicago.
The silver lining in this loss has to be the play of Jeff Teague. We will be talking about him a lot over the next few months. There are several unanswered questions about this team heading into next season but Teague's performance against the league MVP shows that he can be the point guard of the future for this Hawks team starting right now.