The Atlanta Hawks finally captured a win against a top contending team in the second half of the season, defeating the Toronto Raptors 105-99 .
A week ago, they dropped three games in a row to Cleveland, Indiana and Golden State. Granted, they were competitive in those games, but that doesn’t show up in the win column. Struggling against the elite teams at this part of the season is alarming with the NBA Playoffs around the corner. A win like tonight, even with Kyle Lowry out of the lineup, is a reminder to themselves that they are capable of much more than they showed over that stretch of those games.
“In a way, it does remind us,” said Thabo Sefolosha.” “We had three tough losses at home during the home stretch. We definitely wanted to get this one.”
“We lost some tough games, close games, but you have to keep playing,” said Kent Bazemore. “This was a big game for us as far as playoff seeding, capturing home court, so we had to get this one.”
In February, they did secure a win facing the rival Celtics and later against Houston, but in the same month they looked inept facing the Jazz allowing 120 points, and couldn’t buy a shot against the clippers shooting 40-percent from the field. As we draw closer to the Playoffs, there is no denying the importance of a win like tonight and what it does for a team still in search for an identity.
Nobody can’t deny the importance of heading into the postseason feeling like you belong and have a legitimate shot to make some noise. Your ranking has some involvement in that, but how you fared against the those elite ball clubs goes an even longer way.
Think of the 2006-2007 Golden state Warriors that upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. In the final 20 games of the season, they defeated the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons — all 50 plus winning teams that year — and there is no denying that those wins contributed to shocking MVP Dirk Nowitzki and the 1-seed Mavericks.
Yes, ranking does hold some sort of weight when it comes to a player’s psyche heading into postseason, but confidence goes a long way as well.
“I think a little bit of both matters,” said Sefolosha. “But we can only control what we can control. Confidence in everybody, feeling good and ready to go is the one thing we can control.”
The Hawks will not be the 8-seed going into the Playoffs, but at one point this season they were and have looked as such at times. Wins against team like tonight will factor into their psyche come late April and May as well as all that they’ve been through as a team. Strong character develops when you face the type of adversity they have and is immeasurable when the lights shine the brightest.
“We can compete with anybody if everybody is on the same page,” said Dennis Schroder. “If everybody is playing together and playing defense together. We have to keep getting better each game until the playoffs start.”