The numbers say it all for the Hawks.Hold teams under 100 points and more often than not, they win. Allow teams to run wild and score at will, the chances of being successful decrease dramatically.
The Hawks are 21-5 this season when holding opponents to 100 points or less. They're 3-11 when teams score more than 100, making Mike Woodson's job easy when he has to remind his team to stick to its roots.
"It's glaring," said Woodson, whose team will square off against Chicago Tuesday night at United Center. "We've won games this year in the fourth quarter just based on sheer defense, locking people down. And we're just not doing that now."
He pointed to the Hawks' Friday night loss at Golden State as the most recent example.
"We took a four-point lead with three minutes to go and we can't finish it because we had breakdowns from a defensive standpoint," Woodson said. "I don't care who played. It doesn't matter who was on the floor. These guys have to understand that if you're on the floor in crunch time or any other part of the game, your job is to defend."
His players offered little in the way of defense.
"There might be widespread panic on blogs and stuff like that but that's not the case for us," Josh Smith said. "What we have to understand is that we're still in a good position right now. Yeah, we've lost a couple of games. But you saw what the Boston Celtics did, they lost a couple of games and you saw how they bounced back and are winning again.
"We have to do the same thing. We have to get back to making a point of locking teams down and hold teams under 100 points and win games. That was the case early on this season and for the past few games it hasn't been."
HAWKS 87, RAPTORS 84: Win with what you've got.
That's the message Hawks coach Mike Woodson made sure his team understood before they hit the floor, understaffed, against Toronto Monday.
And despite a slow start, plenty of bumps along the way and a whole lot of resistance from the Raptors, that's exactly what the Hawks did.
Joe Johnson scored 28 points, including a key jumper with 12.5 seconds left, and Mike Bibby added 23 as the Hawks rallied from an 11-point deficit for the 87-84 win.
"We are a little shorthanded right now," Woodson said. "And that's what I preached at practice. Guys have to step up. We have to withstand everything until guys get back. When that is, I don't know. But we assembled 15 guys on our roster, and you can't play everyone, but when your opportunity knocks you have to take it."
Since they played without frontcourt starters Marvin Williams and Al Horford, Josh Smith had to carry the load. And he had one of his best games, finishing with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Horford was out for the fifth straight game because of a bone bruise in his right knee. Marvin Williams was absent after sustaining a concussion in Friday night's loss at Golden State. But even without two starters, the Hawks were able to dig out the win late.
Two free throws by Bibby gave Atlanta an 85-84 lead. A missed jump shot by Jamario Moon with 33 seconds left set up Johnson's key fall away jumper.
"With guys out," Smith said, "I think we matched the intensity of the game when it got close. We didn't stray away, we didn't back down."