Hawks, Drew rue lost chance, lack of energy
By GUY CURTRIGHT Special to the Sun-Times May 6, 2011 11:52PM
Hawks guard Joe Johnson, upset after a turnover, struggled for the second consecutive game. | Kevin C. Cox~Getty Images
Updated: June 8, 2011 12:23AM
ATLANTA — It was billed as the Hawks’ biggest playoff game in Atlanta since facing Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1997, but Philips Arena was nearly empty as the teams took the court for warmups Friday night.
Barely half the seats were filled when the Bulls quickly scored off the opening tip, and before the first quarter was over the loudest noise was coming from Bulls fans chanting “MVP! . . . MVP! . . . MVP!” for Derrick Rose.
All of the sellout crowd of 19,521 — many delayed by traffic and extra arena security measures — eventually made it to their seats. But they left as early as they had arrived late.
The Hawks were blown out 99-82 as the Bulls went up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series and regained the home-court edge behind Rose’s 44 points and continued domination on the offensive boards.
“We had our moment to seize momentum, and we let it slip away,” the Hawks’ Josh Smith said.
“We wanted to come out fast. Instead it was the Bulls,” Marvin Williams added.
Hawks coach Larry Drew called a timeout 49 seconds into the game, and at the end of the opening quarter he again told his team, “You’ve got to give me more effort.”
So much for taking to heart the words of their coach. The Hawks fell behind by 19 points in the second quarter as things went from bad to worse.
“I saw an energy level that right away I knew we were in trouble,” Drew said.
“Whenever you have to call a timeout less than a minute into the game, it’s kind of disheartening,” said Hawks sixth man Jamal Crawford, who found the Bulls in control before he could even get into the game.
The Hawks were 3-0 at home in the first round against Orlando and felt good after took the first game in Chicago. But they fell completely flat in Game 3 and need a complete turnaround in effort for Game 4 on Sunday.
“We’ve got to get that playoff burn,” Drew said.
“We all have to look in the mirror,” Crawford said.
The Bulls grabbed 18 offensive rebounds in a repeat of their effort in Game 2. Four of them came in one first-quarter possession, with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson each bringing down two.
That Hawks can’t let that keep happening. They also need more than 17 combined points from Joe Johnson and Crawford, who together shot 7-for-19.
They had 56 points in the Hawks’ 103-95 victory in Game 1 in Chicago before dropping to 27 in an 86-73 loss in Game 2.
The Hawks’ leading scorer the last two games was Jeff Teague, their fill-in point guard, with 21 points each time.
The victory in the series opener at Chicago snapped a streak of 15 straight losses for the Hawks in Eastern Conference semifinal games. They hadn’t won since beating the Bulls in the first game of the 1997 series in Atlanta.
The Hawks came back from a 19-point deficit at home to beat the Bulls in early March, but there would be no comeback this time.
The Hawks do have a history of coming back from lopsided losses to win this season. One time was in the first round against Orlando.
“We can’t hang our heads,” said Smith, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds. “We have to come back on Sunday and play like I know we can. This series isn’t over just because we played a bad game. But we can’t go down 3-1.”