The last time I wrote about the Hawks, they were rolling. They were 16-6 with 12 games left to play before the All-Star Break.
I wondered whether they’d be able to continue surging with tougher opponents on the schedule in February, or was it was all a mirage? That was answered for me — the Hawks won just four of their next 12 games.
So they’ve gone from 16-6 to 20-14, falling from a tie with the Miami Heat for the Southeastern Division lead to seven games behind and the No. 6 seed in the East. They have lost seemingly every game against decent teams, and I think I know why.
I know it sounds like an excuse, and that’s because it is. But we’re not the only fanbase making excuses. Take, for instance, the Boston Celtics, who have been decimated by injuries, and they’re a measly 16-17 coming out of the All-Star Break. Are they a mediocre team? No — but injuries have made them one.
Same goes for the Hawks.
They lost Al Horford for the season, who is their heart and soul. Joe Johnson has missed time, and that’s just the beginning with the injuries. Jamal Crawford isn’t here anymore, and it has made a difference in bench production. They’re the oldest team in the NBA, and they’re only getting older with every trip to the waiver wire they’re forced to make because of another hurt player. In a shortened season, you can’t afford to have the injury bug bite your roster.
But the injury bug has feasted on the Hawks in 2012.
Was it the NBA Lockout that made the Hawks so soft? Is it because they weren’t training as hard as the other players in the league to prepare for the most grueling season of their careers? All I can say is maybe.
Maybe this is my fault. Maybe I’m making too much of the Hawks’ highs, and then making too much of their lows. I guess I could take a step back and understand that it might have something to do with the fact that the Hawks’ schedule hasn’t been very balanced in the last month or two — they played all the bad teams first, then the good ones most recently.
If that’s the case, it’s not going to get any easier for the Hawks in March. After three home games, they’ll leave town for a six-game road trip, three of those games being played on the West Coast.
If the Hawks needed a chance to take a breath and heal up, the All-Star Break was that opportunity. Their five-day break might have saved the season, and maybe they will prove that I’m overreacting about the pitiful February they just played.
Or maybe this season is just more proof that you can’t get excited about a hot streak from the Hawks.