A night after the Atlanta Hawks‘ huge fourth-quarter keyed a critical road win over fellow playoff contenders in the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta suffered a defensive meltdown out of the gate against the Dallas Mavericks in allowing 68 first-half points. This left the Hawks’ head man searching for answers on defense following a loss that dropped his team within a half-game of the Chicago Bulls as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We didn’t guard,” coach Larry Drew said after the Mavs finished shooting 57.3 percent, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We had no defensive presence whatsoever. I don’t care what the strategy was or what the game plan was, if you allow teams to shoot 60 percent you are not going to win. We couldn’t keep them in front of us. They were beating us with Basketball 101 stuff.”
The 127-113 loss to Dallas, oddly enough, halts Atlanta’s three-game winning streak, a run during which the Hawks allowed fewer than 95 points in each game. It also freezes a five-game streak without allowing triple-figures, including stingy efforts against Kobe Bryant‘s Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James‘ Miami Heat.
Regardless of what kind of lineup shuffle Coach Drew makes next, the Hawks will feature Al Horford and Josh Smith down in the post to make it hard for opposing teams to attack the rack. Horford is playing the best basketball of his life and Smith is playing out an expiring contract so, who knows, perhaps the implosion against Dallas was just an off-night at the end of a back-to-back.
Perhaps Atlanta is more primed than ever to win a playoff series with this nucleus, just before it dissolves.