The Atlanta Hawks sure are looking an awful lot like the 2012 Atlanta Falcons, no?
You know, those Falcons that managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Those guys that tried real hard to lose to the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the NFL Playoffs, then finally managed to pull off the perfect meltdown late in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers?
All of a sudden, we have a basketball version of the football team that started hot but just couldn’t finish. It happened again Sunday afternoon when the Hawks had yet another come-from-ahead defeat at the hands of the Washington Wizards in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
(Also read: A well-known Atlanta mural is removed)
But there’s one stat line on which the Hawks have been truly putrid in nearly every one of their losses: uncontested shots.
In the Hawks’ three losses so far this postseason, they’ve made just 51 of 136 uncontested shots (37.5 percent), and they were just 16-for-50 (32 percent) when their shots weren’t contested in Game 1 against the Wizards. They’re a far better 48.8 percent in the four victories.
There’s good and bad to this anomaly. The good news is the Hawks aren’t being shut down by suffocating defense. Quite the contrary, they’re actually getting plenty of good looks.
But then there’s the bad news – these open-look shooting droughts seem to be happening frequently in the postseason, and if this team can’t find its shot for a full 48 minutes each game, they might not make it out of the second round.
It’s one of the reasons why they had more points in the first quarter of Game 1 (37) than in the entire second half (35). In the four quarters of Game 1, the Hawks scored 37, 26, 15 and then 10, in order from first to fourth. That’s a big difference from the regular-season Hawks, who tended to start slowly, only to turn it on at the end of the game.
Now, they’re playing good teams with big dreams. Their opponents aren’t just rolling over like those squads did in the regular season, and the Hawks have to realize that before it’s too late. They have no business losing to the Wizards, and maybe they won’t, but they certainly could.
There can’t be another meltdown like Game 1 against the Wizards, or else the Wizards might be moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals and the Hawks might be headed home for good. The shots are there; now, the Hawks just need to stop missing them.
Photo: AP/Frank Franklin II