How does Ersan Ilyasova will himself to dominate the final four minutes of an NBA playoff game?
“Just a lack of concentration,” Jamal Crawford said afterward.
But how do you not concentrate with a season on the line?
Said Crawford: “I honestly don’t know.”
I don’t, either. And neither does Mike Woodson or Rick Sund or James Naismith. It’s the great imponderable of a series that beggars belief. The Milwaukee Bucks are playing without their MVP; the Hawks won seven more games in the regular season and have all hands on deck, and they’re 48 minutes from elimination and perhaps a coaching search.
I keep wanting to believe the Hawks can still win this series, but I no longer have any basis for it. Game 5 was the worst moment in Hawks history since the loss — also to an undermanned Milwaukee team, also in Game 5 — at the old Omni in 1989. I was on hand for both, and the one of 21 years ago was the beginning of the end for Mike Fratello. For Mike Woodson, this Game 5 could be the end, period.
I remember that loss to the Bucks in 1989. It was the most frustrating loss that I can remember as a Hawks fan. The Hawks had staved off elimination in overtime on the road in Game Four and then blew the series at home in Game Five with the Bucks running some sort of bizarre weave that the Hawks couldn't stop. The loss in 1989 was the end of an era for the team, as they dismantled the group that had been pushing the Celtics and Pistons for several years. Last night's loss could be the same in terms of a sea change. Does Joe Johnson really want to come back to a team that has colossal mental lapses like this one does, especially when he can be a second fiddle to LeBron or Wade?
Peachtree Hoops also smells the end:
So yes, there are real coaching issues with this loss that point back to prior problems we have seen all season long. There are player performances that raise questions about team building blocks and ceiling. And there are actual blogging points to discuss as the team moves forward in a series that is far from over. But tonight? Tonight I mourn. I mourn 13 win seasons and player development. I mourn a free agent from Phoenix that took a chance on a city and a seven game series that made that city come alive. I mourn unlimited upside and player development and I mourn coaching question marks and franchise players. Because for this set of players, the unknown is over. The ceiling has been reached. And no words or box scores or analysis make that easier to take. Because it is just sad, but you can know I am sad right there with you.
Last night was definitely the end of something for me. I went to the draft party when the Hawks took Marvin Williams over Chris Paul. I went to ten games the year we won 13 and 20 games the year we won 26. I watched this team grow from the worst in the NBA into a 53-win team. If the Hawks would have hit the ceiling against LeBron or the Magic, I would have accepted that Knight and Sund had created a very good team that couldn't quite get over the hump. I have a harder time accepting losing to a demonstrably inferior team because a core group that has been together for years can't keep their heads together in the biggest games of the year.