It’s weird to say that the Atlanta Hawks sleepwalked their way through a double digit win, but that’s sure what it felt like during today’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Hawks have been struggling ever since that huge win over the Warriors, and those struggles reached a head on Friday night against Toronto. Atlanta was completely thrashed by Toronto, and a lot of the same issues that led to said thrashing re-appeared in today’s win.
Atlanta started off the game not playing their typical style of constant ball movement. Constantly they allowed the ball to stick in one spot and let the Milwaukee defense set up against their offense. The Bucks have a fast, and athletic, group of wing defenders that can easily stay in front of the Hawks if they aren’t constantly moving the ball. Why Atlanta chose to let the ball stick so often throughout the game is a mystery in of itself, but the bigger question might be is do the Hawks have a problem?
A lot of the sluggishness early on can be explained away by this being a matinee game against a tough defense. Most NBA teams don’t look good in early afternoon games, and the Hawks are no exception, but throw a good defense on top of that and the basketball can get sloppy, and it can’t be stated enough that the Bucks have been a thorn in Atlanta’s side at times this season.
Of course, despite all of these complaints, the Hawks still won by double digits, and they still looked really good in the process. When the ball wasn’t sticking their offense was what fans have come accustomed to, and the defense remained top notch throughout the game. It’s not always easy to hold an opponent under 90 points, but the Hawks did that with relative ease. They might have held them to less had it not been for a scoring outburst by Milwaukee in the third quarter.
The Hawks came out of the half just as sluggish as they started the game, but this time their defense didn’t show up. The Bucks scored 29 points in the third quarter and brought the Atlanta lead all the way down to two points. After this, Atlanta stopped messing around and picked up their defense, but seeing the Hawks play so inconsistent like this was just really weird.
Even a look at the box score is a trip down the strange for Atlanta. Nobody played particularly well except for Al Horford, and even he needed 21 shots to get his 23 points. The Hawks shot a mere 40% from the field, and only connected on nine of their 30 3-point shot attempts. Korver made four of that nine, but he struggled yet again in a 4-for-11 shooting effort. Really, had the Bucks manged to knock down more than four 3-pointer, we might be talking about a much closer game.
So do the Hawks have a problem? At the moment it’s safe to say that no they don’t have a problem, but the lackluster play of late is worth concern. Today was a matinee game against a team that has given the Hawks fits before this season, and for them to struggle against the Bucks should have been expected. It’s just coincidence that it happened to come off a blowout loss to the Raptors, and a not so great finish entering the All-Star break. There’s no need to panic, or start comparing the Hawks to last year’s Pacers team, but it might be worth keeping an eye on how the Hawks finish out their February.