Woodson May Go Down as Hawks Slip
His team has improved its win total in each of the last five years -- showing slow, steady improvement -- but all that feel-good stuff is about to get lost in a surprising, first-round playoff series against the undermanned but more motivated Milwaukee Bucks.
Woodson, who becomes a coaching free agent this summer, has good reason to be nervous. The Hawks talked all through this 53-win season about finally arriving as championship contenders.
Today they are one loss away from being the victims of a stunning upset, trailing 3-2 after blowing a nine-point lead in the final four minutes Wednesday, losing 91-87 to the Bucks.
"It's a terrible loss, embarrassing,'' said Hawks star Joe Johnson, also a free agent this summer. "It's the same thing, effort, toughness, that's killing us. Everybody here should check themselves in the mirror.''
Milwaukee rookie Brandon Jennings dominated early, scoring 12 consecutive points in the first six minutes, then protected the lead in the final seconds with four consecutive free throws. He finished with 25.
Woodson now has real reason to Fear the Deer and fear his future in Atlanta.
After winning the first two games at home, the Hawks weren't too bothered by losing two at Milwaukee, knowing they still had the home court in a best-of-three finish. But it's panic time now in Atlanta with the series returning to Milwaukee for Game 6 and the Bucks hoping to win their first playoff series since 2001.
Without guard Michael Redd, who was lost early in the season, and center Andrew Bogut, who was lost late, the Bucks were given little chance in this series against the higher-seeded Hawks. They were given even less of a chance on Wednesday because the Hawks had won 14 consecutive games in Atlanta. But the Hawks failed to respond.
Jennings stayed cool. John Salmons outplayed Johnson. And Luke Ridnour came from nowhere to score 15 points for the Bucks. Dinosaur Kurt Thomas drew a charge leading to Johnson's sixth personal foul with just over two minutes remaining, leaving the Hawks without their leader.
They still led most of the second half, but they lost their aggressiveness in the fourth period when the Bucks took 18 free throws -- and they took none -- leaving Woodson to search for answers.
He should have gotten his contract extension last summer, when the Hawks advanced into the second round for the first time in 10 years. If they lose this series, and take a step backward, it doesn't look good for his future.
"It's a tough loss,'' Woodson said. "We just let this one slip away. We'll see what we're made of now.''