Friday night’s loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers followed a pattern that has become all too familiar for Hawks fans. After falling behind early, Atlanta fought back in the second half to cut the lead down to three before finally losing in the final minutes. It was a great effort from the team against an elite opponent, but ultimately fell just a little short.
The Hawks will need that kind of effort over the next few weeks. March always loomed on the schedule as a much more difficult month of games than January and February, and the Hawks have looked good so far against a higher level of competition than they have seen in a while. The team will need to keep that level of effort up through this week and the rest of the month.
Last week, Atlanta beat Boston on the road, Dallas at home, and lost to Cleveland in Friday night’s memorable matchup. The Boston win was particularly impressive, as the Hawks’ defense completely shut down a high-powered Celtics attack in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks game almost got out of hand down the stretch, but Atlanta was able to keep that game as a victory with a nice clutch performance. And, of course, the team turned in a good effort on Friday despite ultimately coming up a little short.
Perhaps the biggest loss from from the week was Mike Budenholzer to a one-game suspension. The NBA levied the penalty against Budenholzer on Sunday morning, referring to a third-quarter incident where Budenholzer made contact with an official during Friday night’s contest. This is far from an ideal situation for Atlanta, but at least it will only affect the team for a game.
All in all, the Hawks have played well against better competition this month. Hopefully that trend will continue, as the schedule this week is particularly difficult. Atlanta plays Indiana today, Golden State tomorrow, Brooklyn on Wednesday, Toronto on Friday, and Memphis on Saturday. Even though all of those games (except the Grizzlies matchup) are at home, this is a pretty difficult stretch. The Hawks will come off a back-to-back both times they played the Warriors this season, hardly an ideal way to match up with the best team in the league.
In terms of the roster, Atlanta picked up Jose Calderon this week from the waiver wire. Calderon will finally give the team a third point guard, and his veteran experience will be a nice asset as the team gets ready for the playoffs. This news comes on the heels of Mike Dunleavy’s indefinite absence, so adding more depth is always a good thing.
The Hawks haven’t played many games yet in March, but the results so far have been encouraging. Playing well against an increased level of competition is always a good sign, and the team will look to keep that going this afternoon against the Pacers and tomorrow against the Warriors. The playoffs are getting closer and closer, and Atlanta is gearing up for another run.