If you completely ignore the Hawks magical Eastern Conference Finals run, and base your expectations solely on what has happened so far this season, last night should be the furthest thing from a surprise. Coming off back-to-back wins over a high-quality Bulls team and a solid Wizards squad, the Hawks had a chance to climb back to .500—a feat that’s been kryptonite for them this season and Monday night was no different.
Faced with another golden opportunity against the lowly Pistons, Atlanta failed to reach the .500 mark for the fifth time since December 16th.
That's the fifth time since December 16 that the Hawks had a chance to get back to .500 and failed.
— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) March 8, 2022
The problems were familiar ones. The effort from the jump was lackadaisical, particularly on the defensive end, where they let a Pistons team shoot over 46% from the field and over 36% from three-point range, which are both substantially higher than Detroit’s season averages. The Hawks made rookie Cade Cunningham look like a seasoned All-Star on his way to 25 points and 10 assists, but more importantly, when Atlanta needed to execute the most, they looked incompetent.
Trae Young had arguably his worst showing of the season, scoring just 14 points on 20 shots and turning the ball over five times. In a game the Hawks needed desperately, it’s brutal for him to turn in that kind of performance. But good teams find a way to win when their stars have off nights, and that’s something Atlanta has rarely done all season long.
To the Pistons’ credit, they’ve played very solid basketball over the last few weeks, winning six of their last eight. But with a playoff spot on the line and a significant talent gap on paper, this was a game the Hawks had to have. Sure, everything remains in front of them. They could earn their way into the big dance and probably give anyone in the Eastern Conference a run for their money. But with that being said, nothing they’ve shown us this season suggests this will change.
Every time they look to finally be turning the corner, they take several steps back. Monday night was another one of those occasions. Next up for the Hawks is the Bucks on Wednesday night. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they pulled off the upset on the road, only to struggle with the Clippers, Pacers, and Trail Blazers at home.
Photo: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire