What Happened to the Regular Season Hawks Come Playoff Time
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On Tuesday night, the Atlanta Hawks were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the Eastern Conference Finals. This happened after a fantastic regular season in which the Hawks went 60-22 securing the first seed. However, throughout the playoffs they struggled, leading up to their eventual beat down by the Cavs.
In the first round, the inconsistent Brooklyn Nets were able to take the Hawks to six games in which all of the games were relatively close, besides Game 6. In the following series against a red hot Washington Wizards team, they were able to sneak out in six games. An important side note to that series is the fact that John Wall broke several bones in his hand during Game 1. Despite Wall’s injury the Wizards were able to keep every game besides Game 2. Then as we all know; Lebron James and the Cavaliers were able to man-handle the Hawks for the series sweep.
Now, what led to these Hawks playoff struggles? Well much like the Eastern Conference first seed of last year, the Indiana Pacers a late skid occurred. Last year the Pacers started out 46-13 but finished the year 20-22; the Hawks started 49-12 while finishing the year 19-18. Both leading to playoff struggles and then being eliminated by none other than LeBron.
The first crack in this Hawks team came when Thabo Sefolosha went down with a broken leg on April ninth. Now yes he only averaged five points a game with four rebounds, however, he was a leader defensively and a veteran voice. His loss was immediately seen in the Hawks overall play as they ended up losing three of their last four games. In the playoffs the main struggle that surrounded this team was the play of Kyle Korver. Korver in the regular season was vital to this Hawks team, averaging 12.1 points per game while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and a ridiculous 49.2 percent from three. However, come playoff time Korver was mostly a non-factor averaging 11.1 points but shot just 39.9 from the field and 35.5 from three. This Hawks team seemed to be fueled all season on the high percentage shooting of Korver. When he struggled to get in a groove so did the team as a whole much of this postseason.
Against the Cavs, the Hawks had even more issues, including the season-ending injury to Korver and the Game 3 ejection of Al Horford were. The injury to DeMarre Carroll was the final dagger. Carroll was unable to play the type of ball he played all season and all postseason. Before the Cavs series Carroll had double-digit points in 10 of 12 games, against the Cavs just one of those games. This drop in scoring, with the other injury to Korver were too much for the Hawks to overcome.
If there’s one thing the Hawks can take away from this season, it’s that they are a lot closer to being a contender than they were a year ago. If this core stays together and a few pieces are added, the Hawks very well may become the Spurs of the East.