The Hawks are watching the standings these days the same way they watch opposing teams pound them on the glass.But if they don't start attacking instead of watching, their apathy on the backboards will end up chewing up the small cushion they have over Miami (three games), Detroit and Philadelphia (four games) for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Friday night the Portland Trail Blazers pounded them on the glass, closing that gap in the standings in the process.
It's a connection that could cost the Hawks dearly if they're not careful.
"They were relentless on the glass," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said of the Blazers. "I don't think we were determined enough, especially on the defensive boards, I don't feel as if we were boxing out and being more determined them to get the rebounds. They were getting offensive rebounds and getting put-backs, that was it right there, that was the turn in the game right there."
If the Hawks aren't careful, it might turn out to be the turn in their season. At 32-23, the Hawks have to do whatever it takes to keep up the pace they set with a 21-10 start to the season.
It doesn't take a beautiful mind to figure out that they are two games under .500 since that hot start. And many of the struggles they have endured the past seven weeks stem from their inability to compete with teamS that tower over the Hawks in the frontcourt.
"We can't use any of that stuff as an excuse," said Hawks center Al Horford, whose 18 rebounds against Sacramento Wednesday night was a distant memory after Friday's loss to the Blazers. "We're not going to either. We have to find a way to get out of this funk and get back to playing as a team on both ends of the floor.
"That's the only way we shake ourselves out of this mess as a group, is to get back to playing together. We've gotten away from that in our losses and it's obvious that's what it is. So we have to regroup and get ready for Utah (Monday). And I think we'll do that and be fine."
BLAZERS 108, HAWKS 98: The Hawks are kidding themselves if they think they're going to beat a good team on their Western Conference road trip without rebounding the basketball with abandon.
For the second time in three games on this trip the Hawks were punished on the boards. And just like in Tuesday's loss at Los Angeles, the Hawks were disposed of by Portland 108-98 Friday night in the Rose Garden because they couldn't keep up the pace.
The Blazers finished with 21 second chance points and 18 offensive rebounds. Hawks starting power forward Josh Smith managed just three rebounds on the night. His indifference to rebounding has personified the Hawks' struggles on the glass and their shortcomings on this trip, where they are facing four of the Western Conference's elite -- they have remaining games against Utah on Denver.
"Give them credit, they played solid all the way through for 48 minutes," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We were hanging around and down just two at halftime. We were still in the game. But they made a big run that we just could never recover from and it was basically because of our defense.
"We did not defend and rebound the ball well tonight and that was the difference in the game. We settled for jump shots and they capitalized on it coming the other way. The second chance shots and 3-pointers they made coming down the stretch was the difference."
Mike Bibby had a huge game, leading the Hawks with 27 points to match Brandon Roy's 27. But it wasn't enough to lift the Hawks to victory.