We're sure there will be a lot of folks who will take the result of the Hawks' 108-104 loss at Golden State and say how it doesn't mean much, it's one game, it's a long season, etc.
Certainly, Sunday night's loss won't cost the Hawks a playoff berth, likely not home court for the first round, etc--there won't be any long term ramifications as a result of this one loss to the Warriors.
Still, the blueprint and DNA of this loss is one that is marked across the franchise at this point, with these players, and these coaches. The refusal to play fundamental basketball and eschewing of what has proven to be successful even throughout the course of the single game that they are playing has served and will serve as their ultimate escort from the 2009-2010 season.
After three quarters, the Hawks led 90-73. ESPN, the entire THHB staff, and stray dogs were commenting how the Hawks, after playing loose basketball and settling for long shots, leading to what Golden State does best, run a bunch of guards in the open floor to get easier shots, finally took control of the game.
Don Nelson said as much during his post third quarter (which the Hawks dominated 38-22, with 24 of those points coming in the paint) interview with the Worldwide Leader, expressing how they were able to get the Hawks to play their way for the first half, but Atlanta used their size advantage well in the third to take control.
Apologists tonight might make mention of being in the third game of this West coast trip, and how fatigue might have set in, but THHB has to, has to, call foul on that. We're talking about (12) more minutes to play the same fundamentally sound basketball that was played the prior (12) minutes. The Warriors didn't get taller. The Warriors did nothing different defensively. It was the Hawks that applied the cruel poison to their own game by taking the game back out to the perimeter for their final bow.
Don't tell us how there was a possession here or there that didn't work in the paint, or through Al Horford, etc. We can fill a canyon full of possessions that don't work the way the Hawks insist upon doing their business on a consistent basis. They lost sight of what was working, lost their focus, and eventually lost the game.
Again, we realize that this doesn't make the Hawks a losing team. This outcome doesn't automatically invert their record or weigh more than the single stroke in the loss column. But, it does continue to color in the fact bubble that this team cannot be counted on to play consistently to the strengths that have led/will lead to their greater success.
The Hawks came apart mentally in the fourth quarter after being shaky throughout, save for that aberration that was the third quarter. They were scrambling, unsure of what, where, or how to get the ball in the basket. After taking (24) free throws through three quarters, they attempted merely (4) in the final quarter. Jamal Crawford lost his mind with an inexplicable technical foul in a tie game, on the road, after a play that led to the Hawks retaining the basketball with (35) seconds left to go in the game. Mind boggling.
Sure, statistically the Hawks look great. Al Horford had 26 and 11, Joe Johnson had 31 points, Josh Smith 14 points, 17 rebounds, and 7 assists. We're sure it feels as hollow to them as it rings empty to us.
We were going to say something nice about Stephen Curry, who is part of a marvelous renaissance of shooters in the league, with Kevin Durant leading the way, but we can't find the heart right now. Suffice to say, we love his shot, and his 32 points on 13-18 shooting was impressive.
Adding insult to the injury is the fact that the Warriors had eight men ready to play this game, health-wise.
To put the Warriors away, especially as short handed as they were, requires an offensive skill set that the Hawks don't have, both in the players and the coaching system. Teams like Golden State can be licked by moving the basketball from side to side, patiently moving without the basketball and getting the shots you want as a team. The Hawks, as we all know, prefer to dribble and let the defense rest a bit, and dare you to outdefend their isolatory skills. This is the case in the post, perimeter, whatever, it's what the Hawks do. There is occasional movement without the ball, set plays where the Hawks execute nicely, but nothing that resembles the drumbeat consistency of a team like Utah, who most recently beat the Warriors, in Oakland, by logging (32) assists.
The more the Hawks misfired from the outside, the more the Warriors ran and got easy shots, to the tune of (54) percent shooting to the Hawks (45) percent. The Hawks did exactly what it took for Golden State to win the game, and the hosts graciously accepted. The end.
Here are the highlights, if you can make it through them. Good luck.