Hawks Quit Before They Are Swept
ATLANTA -- When the Atlanta Hawks called time out with seven minutes and 39 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter Saturday night, the fans didn't flood the aisles to make last call at the concession stands.
They headed for the exit doors. The ones that stayed behind stayed to boo the home team. It was not a pretty sight.
The Hawks waited 12 long years to have another 50-win season like this one. Too bad it's ending in disaster.
It wasn't worth the wait.
These aren't growing pains anymore, a young team trying to find its way, a route these Hawks previously traveled. They look more like chemistry issues, a team that comes home for Game 3, and treats its paying customers to the biggest disappointment of the season.
"They (fans) deserve to be pissed off. The way we played, the fans deserve to be upset,'' said Hawks forward Marvin Williams. "If your team lost by 30 in the playoffs, wouldn't you be upset? If you get blown out like that, effort is always a factor.''
It was worse than the 105-75 deficit would indicate, leaving them one loss away from being swept by the Orlando Magic in this Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Their body language was bad from the start.
"I figured we would come home and really play at a high level, and make a series out of it,'' said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "We were so flat coming out.''
The Magic are good – defending NBA Finalist – but they aren't THAT good, spanking the Hawks on their home floor, just like they spanked them twice in Orlando.
"We really didn't compete,'' lamented Woodson. "And I don't know why.''
The Magic led by 10 after the first quarter. They led by 19 at halftime. They led by 24 after three, turning Philips Arena into the most uninspiring playoff atmosphere in NBA history.
The loudest noise Saturday at home was the booing.
"It's disappointing, but we brought it on ourselves,'' said Jamal Crawford. "We didn't come out and compete. For us to have that kind of effort, they have a right to boo and get down on us.''
Crawford, who won the NBA's Sixth Man Award, led the Hawks with 22 points, but the tone already was set before he entered the game late in the first quarter. There was no high-energy, revved-up emotional charge that was expected at the start. From Atlanta's perspective, it felt more like one of 82 regular season games.
The Hawks, No. 3 seed in the East, came into this series after a surprisingly competitive seven-game series against a mediocre Milwaukee team. They have lost to Orlando by 43, 14 and 30 points. They could lose Game 4 on Monday by 50.
"It (the booing) is unfortunate (for the Hawks), especially for a team that had such a great year,'' said Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy, who sounded like he was feeling for his opponent. "When you hear that (booing before halftime), you worry that they'll come harder in the second half.''
The second half was the same as the first, a lot of lackadaisical defense, lazy shot selection and no fight whatsoever.
When Van Gundy was making his way to the post-game interview room, a young Hawks fan told him in the hallway that if he had lost that game -- after leading by 30 -- he probably would have to retire.
"There is a future NBA executive,'' Van Gundy quipped.
And that's how bad the Hawks were.
Much of the responsibility for the collapse has fallen on the shoulders of Joe Johnson, the Hawks' All-Star and best player. Johnson has been mostly awful in his last four games, failing his team.
He hit just three of 15 shots for eight points Saturday. In the last four games -- including that Game 7 against Milwaukee when the Hawks won despite him -- he has hit just 16 of 57 shots and averaged 11.2 points.
"This team looks to me for guidance, but with me playing like this, it's almost impossible for us to win,'' Johnson said. "The energy, it's killing us. It's unfortunate.''
Johnson said he heard the booing, but that it didn't bother him, even though it obviously did.
"We couldn't care less if they showed up or not,'' he said. "It's about the guys in the locker room.''
The Magic, meanwhile, are looking for their second consecutive sweep after blasting Charlotte in the first round. A victory Monday would make them just the third NBA team since 2004 to sweep its first two series.
They have won 13 consecutive games (including their last six in the regular season), and they are peaking at just the right time.
"We have so much talent on this team, and we've tried to work on the killer instinct,'' said Magic forward Rashard Lewis, who led his team with 22 points. "It's the playoffs, so every game, every possession counts.''
Obviously, it doesn't count for the Hawks.