One of the major storylines of the early NBA season has been the steady success of the new look Atlanta Hawks (20-12), but back-to-back demoralizing losses has coach Larry Drew a little concerned about his team.
The first loss came Friday night on the road at the hands of the lowly Detroit Pistons (13-22). After struggling for the majority of the game, the Hawks found themselves down 83-66 about halfway through the fourth quarter. Atlanta managed to fight all the way back with a 16-0 run, but a Horford jumpshot, initially ruled as 3-pointer but reversed to a two, saw the Hawks fall 85-84.
Last night, the Hawks looked to put the tough loss behind them and came out smoking behind a 21-point first half explosion from Louis Williams. The Hawks were forced to swallow their second dose of heartbreak, however, after a complete collapse in the third quarter saw the Celtics battle back from a 19-point deficit and cruise to a 89-81 victory.
The Hawks have now lost three of their last four but still find themselves in the third spot in the Eastern Conference. With the Indian Pacers (20-14) breathing down their necks, Drew said he is concerned about the team’s mental toughness. He said he thinks the turning point in last night’s game was in the second quarter when Boston began to play more physical. As to be expected, Drew isn’t happy with how his team responded.
“I’m concerned because this is the NBA and you have to expect that,” Drew said. “When you play against teams that do smack you, you have to respond. It’s just the way it is. Everybody has to do it. Every team in this league has to do it. When you don’t’ do it you get labeled. You get a tag on you. That’s the last thing I want to happen to my ball club.”
This is the first time Drew has expressed concern about his team’s toughness, but he said the fact that the defeat came from a team that has given them similar problems in the past was even more frustrating.
“This is a very, very disappointing loss,” Drew said. “Probably, for me, the most disappointing loss of the season for the mere fact of playing against a team we have battled in the past and we’ve seen this type of scenario before where we have played well and then when it starts to get a little bit physical, when they start playing a little bit rougher, when they start make things a little more difficult for us, we don’t respond. That was clearly what happened tonight.”
Although Louis Williams has been impressive in his 8-game stint as a starter, the Hawks have struggled a bit to replicate his production off the bench. Over the last two games the Hawks have only mustered 23 points from their bench. The lackluster numbers, however, must also be in part attributed to injuries to Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow who both sat out Saturday night and DeShawn Stevenson who played limited minutes as he is recovering from an injury.
The Hawks will look to right the ship as the take on the banged up Minesota Timberwolves (15-15) Tuesday night in Atlanta.