Hawks sleepwalk their way to 97-86 victory over the Bucks

Chris Barnewall —  February 22, 2015

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.

Chris Barnewall


Shuttles are cool. College student at UCF. Twitter is @ChrisBarnewall where I talk about video games too much.

3 responses to Hawks sleepwalk their way to 97-86 victory over the Bucks

  1. i think you have the raw data to see the evidence if you put the big loss Bucks game, the Pelicans, the Grizzlies, the Boston game in 4 corners of your screen (if that were possible) and step through it. the pro level is mostly mental, because all are talented, so Bud has developed a kind of organized play which still relies on mental concentration to perform the recipe. I think there are preexisting patterns of action and re-action wiich some of the players have to concentrate against making a customary reaction, together with some physical issues which we don’t know about, . I mean think about it. when you start something you pay close attention to techniqe, which you have to practice over and over to get fluent, as you become more fluid/fluent, you begin to relax and believe that it is now “natural” but that ain’t so. Natural doesn’t happen in 1-2 years, natural is what you did for 10 years before learning Bud’s way (which to my mind is what all coaches want but rarely pay more than lip service to, excpet in Europe. Listen to the European soccer coaches talk about how they train, and compare that to the way American kids learn to be King James in their minds from Junior high. Or compare it to what I know from watching my kids practice baseball here in Japan. Bud’s way is what most of the world does! But this is relatively new again in the current NBA, IMHO) So the issue with the Hawks, based only on what I have experienced and what my kids have exxperienced, is mental, and it will take the fire of adversity, and a willingness to submit, to trust, and become aware of again. The adversity which they need to go through, MUST be done before the playoffs, obviously. If they are tring to act their way without truely submitting their egos for the sake of the team…in order to avoid losses, for ecsmple letting 1 or two players take a huge number of shots while everyone waits for the ball to fall, if they use this easily encouraged short-cut. I predict failure in the playoffs. Basically I am saying they need to lose, in order to get humble and realize they are not superstars like some of their competition, lied the Bulls. or toronto. or at a higher level Golden State. Right now Golden State would eat the Hawks lunch. We all know that. Toronto is probably a better collection of individual skill players than the Hawks. During the All-hawks weekend, they all mouthed the right words, but they lost belief. The Hawks are still too full of themselves from what the media and you and I have talked them out of their shoes. Let them lose 10 more games between now and the playoffs.

    • I agree with you, Joe, that the Hawks have at times lost sight of their identity. Their performance against Toronto was bazaar to say the least. I hope it does not take ten losses to refocus on the task at hand. When I coached I had a saying: fun, focus, finish. We are at the time when focus and finish must be a priority in order to perform to the maximum. Go Hawks

      • Of course I got carried away at the end. the point I was thinking of is that there is a greater fundamental message, for me at least, in sports and following the ascent of the Hawks, is the “life messages” which, just like “sharing the ball” coaches in recent decades mostly give lip sservice too. When I was young, it was so easy to get caught up in the here and now. the game, the practice before the game was all that mattered. However I was i”infected” with an identity compensation by identifying with a pro team that really had no connection to me (except psychologically). I think this is what I am repeating to myself in my talks to our kids and in my email above. Sports can be like sex, or any other growing obsession. But for black kids, they can easily think it is tbe the only way up. with the Hawks, it is the process of becoming,, the ascent which so attracts me, just like with the Braves in ’91. Afterwards, I wanted to shake myself of their appeal. time is precious as one gest older, there are too many other real things which need to be done, like studying Japanese.;-)