Hawks can’t back up their talk
BY GUY CURTRIGHT Special to the Sun-Times May 12, 2011 11:34PM
The Hawks’ Josh Smith struggles to get a shot up over Luol Deng and Derrick Rose. The Hawks shot just 36.5 percent from the field. | John Bazemore~AP
Updated: June 14, 2011 12:35AM
ATLANTA — Despite the prospect of elimination, the Hawks went into Thursday night’s game against the Bulls voicing confidence. It wasn’t just about staying alive in the Eastern Conference semifinals, either.
“We believe deep down inside that we can win Game 7 if we take care of business in Game 6,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said Wednesday. “We’ve won up there before. It’s not like it’s a tough task to do.”
“I feel like there would be a lot of pressure on them playing at home in Game 7,” added young point guard Jeff Teague. “I think we could come in there a little more free, just come in and play our game.”
Those words couldn’t ring more hollow now.
The Hawks never led and played like anything but a confident team in a 93-73 flop at Philips Arena.
“We’re very disappointed in this locker room,” Smith said afterwards. “We thought we had a chance to do something special.”
“You have to give the Bulls credit,” said Al Horford, named to the All-NBA third team Thursday. “They were the better team. Against them, you have to execute consistently, and we didn’t.”
The Hawks looked as bad as the Bulls looked good.
Hawks coach Larry Drew admitted a couple of hours before the game that his team is often perplexing.
“They are hard to read at times,” he said. “But I do think that they feel a sense of urgency.”
It wasn’t on display from the opening tip, though.
The Bulls led 27-17 at the end of the first quarter after shooting 63.2 percent and were ahead by 17 in the second quarter.
Things got worse when Teague, a surprise factor in this series, sprained his wrist and left to get X-rays.
But he returned later in the quarter and helped spark a 10-3 run to make it 45-35 at halftime.
That was as close as the Hawks would get, though.
The Bulls led 70-53 at the end of the third quarter, and the lead eventually ballooned to 26 points midway through the fourth.
The Hawks limped into the playoffs, having lost their last six regular-season games. But they defeated Orlando in six games and stunned the top-seeded Bulls in the opener despite having lost starting point guard Kirk Hinrich in the final game against the Magic.
Teague, seldom used before Hinrich’s injury, filled in and averaged 17 points through the first five games. But he was hampered by the sore wrist and had just four points in
Game 6 as the Hawks struggled mightily against the Bulls’ defense.
How bad was it? The Hawks were 1-for-11 on three-pointers while shooting 37 percent overall. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford were a combined 9-for-28. Horford made two of 10 shots and finished with seven points and four rebounds.
It wasn’t the way the Hawks wanted to go out.
“We gave them a pretty good series,” Drew said. “We’ve made strides. But we’re not satisfied. We still have things we need to address.”