The Atlanta Hawks figured to have an easy time against a vastly undermanned Milwaukee Bucks squad. Suddenly, the Hawks are on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs and poised to descend into basketball hell.
The Bucks used a 14-0 run in the final minutes of Game 5 to beat the Hawks and take a commanding 3-2 lead in the series.
The Hawks are one of the more talented teams in the entire NBA, but also one of the dumbest. Their collective basketball IQ is similar to Vince Young’s wonderlic score.
Watching the Hawks attempt to score in crunch time is absolutely painful. The ball usually ends up in the hand’s of Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford, leading to 15 seconds of jab-stepping, dribbling, and a long jump shot. The Hawks don’t bother to set screens or move, they just play isolation basketball and hope for the best.
Then there is Josh Smith. He makes a couple “Oh my God” plays during every game, only to disappear for long stretches. He pouts when he doesn’t get the ball, complains when he is called for fouls, and loses interest in competing.
The Bucks are playing without their best player and relying on 76 year-old Kurt Thomas to hold down the paint. Brandon Jennings has dominated the Hawks’ guards, journeyman John Salmons has been brilliant, and goofy Ersan Ilyasova has even had his moments.
The Bucks certainly deserve credit, but much of their success has been because of the Hawks’ inability to play intelligent basketball.
Jennings has had tons of open looks throughout the series. The Hawks aren’t running at him to get the ball out of his hands or taking advantage of his tiny frame on the defensive end. Since exploiting the Bucks interior defense early in Game 1, the Hawks haven’t gotten the ball inside consistently–that would require actually making entry passes.
Mike Woodson has made matters worse by failing to make adjustments.
Woodson will most likely be the scapegoat for the Hawks’ failures, even if they manage to escape the first round. Although the Hawks have reversed their fortunes under his direction, there have been no talks to renew his contract, which expires after the season. He was on the hot seat last year and has clashed with Josh Smith, who could soon become the face of the franchise.
Johnson, the current face of the franchise, is an unrestricted free agent and probably won’t be back. The Hawks haven’t drawn well despite their success, and aren’t in a position to spend any money in the offseason.
It’s now or never–or at least not for a long, long time.