CLEVELAND– Atlanta Hawks fans are searching for answers after losing a close battle against the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-111 last night. The Hawks are down three games to zero and face almost certain elimination. What is the biggest flaw that plagues the Hawks? Was there a sign in the first round that the Hawks record and regular season accomplishments were a mirage of the team’s true level of strength? As mentioned in a previous article, the two losses to the Brooklyn Nets were a red flag.
Even the cardiac series against the Wizards was a sign of the apocalypse of the Hawks post-season run. A lack of physicality and bench depth are hurting the Hawks. It is more noticeable now against the Cavs as Cleveland shows the complete opposite image. The Cavs have depth all over the place. The Hawks rely on their stars to carry them. Jeff Teague is an example of a player the Hawks can rely on to hit clutch shots and keep them in the game. Teague scored 30 points last night in game 3.
Not settling down
The Hawks are very upset with Matthew Dellavedova. They blame him for playing dirty in Game 2 during a loose ball which resulted in Korver’s injury. Al Horford decided to send a message to Dellavedova last night after fighting for a loose ball. He elbowed Dellavedova above his shoulders which resulted in what some NBA fans consider a questionable flagrant two foul. Horford was ejected from the game.
Dellavedova received as much, if not more, criticism from fans as Boston’s Kelly Olynyk did when he injured Cavs power forward Kevin Love.
A plan for the future
The Hawks must think about getting better on defense next year and signing Jimmy Butler would really help. It seems too early to talk about next season but at this point, it won’t hurt to speculate on offseason ideas given that the Hawks will be fortunate to extend this series. Butler played aggressive defense against the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals and was a vital part of the Bulls offense. A player that can score 17-20 points a game and play solid defense is worth a look. He is a restricted free agent next year.
The Bulls have the option of matching any offer to Butler which means the Hawks must be ready for a bidding war if they want Butler. Also, luring Butler from Chicago will be tough as he expressed his desire to remain with the Bulls. He was interviewed on ESPN’s Sportsnation.
If the Hawks can sign bigger, more physical players they can be in a better position to rule the Eastern Conference. A smaller, faster lineup never helps when going against the number one overall defense in the playoffs. Whether the Hawks lose this series or make a miraculous comeback, the front office must learn from this experience. Butler is just one potential signing for the Hawks but such an idea provides a blueprint of success for a team that is in dire need of upgrading their defense.
Horford is 6′ 10″ tall but he’s going against Cavs center Timofey Mozgov who is 7′ 1″. That’s just one example of a mismatch in this series in favor of the Cavs.
The Hawks lack the superstar presence that the Cavs experience with LeBron James. Not only does James score 30+ points a game consistently in the playoffs but his leadership on the court and in the locker room gives the Cavs the edge over the Hawks. Atlanta must seek a similar player this offseason.
Perhaps LaMarcus Aldridge is just what the doctor ordered. No player on the Atlanta Hawks can consistently score 30+ points a game and carry the team to victory of many off nights. They need that type of player. The Hawks have several players that can score in double figures but they rely too much on overall team effort instead of one individual that can take over the offense if necessary. Aldridge is an unrestricted free agent so the Hawks may have a greater chance of signing him than Butler.