When Der Wife and I had half-season tickets for the Hawks in 2005-6, we went to roughly 18 games. As you might imagine, there were a fair number of lulls in action watching a 26-win team in a half-empty arena. I recall staring out into the vast expanse of Philips Arena on more than one occasion, typically after the euphoria of one section winning free burritos from Chipotle had worn off, and musing "man, I can't tell you how excited I'll be when the Hawks finally play a playoff game."
I thought about that sentiment on Sunday night as the Hawks got beaten around by the Celtics. The fact that Boston won came as no surprise. There is a reason why Boston finished 29 games ahead of the Hawks in the standings this year. If the Hawks take one game in the series and stay competitive in one or two others, I'll be reasonably pleased. What galled me about Sunday night was the manner in which the Celtics dispatched the Hawks. Boston didn't appear to have to shift out of third gear to win comfortably. Between Rajon Rondo eating Mike Bibby alive in the pivotal match-up in the game or Josh Smith hoisting up wild shots as a result of the Celtics' defense baiting him into playing out of control basketball, the product on the floor just wasn't very enticing. Moreover, the team seemed to lack excitement at the start of the game, which is not what I was expecting from a team with nothing to lose.
By the third quarter, Mike Fratello was astutely observing that Mike Woodson was going to be frustrated when watching the tape by the number of possessions that involved zero or one passes by the Hawks. What Fratello was surely thinking, but did not mention, is the fact that the Hawks have nothing approximating an offensive system, so Woodson will have to point the finger at himself for the wretched offensive performance. By the fourth quarter, I was watching Pretty Woman, consistent with my tradition of watching chick flicks when a sporting event is really disappointing me. (The Devil Wears Prada proved quite therapeutic during the fourth quarter of the Michigan-Oregon game this September.)
The only Hawks who acquitted themselves well in the game were Al Horford, who was by far the best Hawk on the court, and Josh Childress, who is the only one of the Hawks' swing men who appears to know what he's doing against a good opponent. It's not even fair to compare Childress's basketball IQ to that of Smith and Marvin Williams.
Game two is Wednesday night and if the Hawks can be within single-digits going into the fourth quarter, I'll be thrilled. Game three is at home against the Celtics on Saturday night. Der Wife and I will be in attendance, as we promised when we were two of the hardy souls in attendance at the worst game in NBA history. I'm hoping against hope that the Hawks show some fire on Saturday.