You can knock off the little guys forever and no one will take notice. But if you want the kind of respect the Hawks seek, sooner or later you have to beat one of the big boys, and preferably when it matters most.Heading into Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Philips Arena, the Hawks are a paltry 3-12 against the top three teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences with games left against the L.A. Lakers, Boston (April 3) and Orlando (April 4) to be played.
"The thing is, you're not tricking anybody when you're talking about those upper-echelon teams," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "When you look at San Antonio, the Celtics and the Lakers and those types of teams, they are all excellent defensive teams.
"So there's no magical way to defeat them. You're going to have to execute your offense and be able to defend them at a high level to have success. And that goes for anybody in the league, at home or on the road."
With all they've accomplished this season the Hawks still have maddening bouts of inconsistency that even they find hard to explain, like the defensive meltdown against the Spurs Wednesday night that cost them their eight-game home winning-streak.
"There are still times when we don't play together on both ends of the court," Hawks point guard Mike Bibby said. "And it showed. The Spurs made their runs at those times. We stopped helping each other defensively. And that affected us on offense.
"We kind of get to standing around too much and it goes on down the line. But I've always said, if we play together defensively, that ties into our offense and gets everything going. When we play together, we're a tough team to beat."
CELTICS 99, HAWKS 93: The Hawks picked a heck of a time to play some of their worst basketball of the season.
After dominating anyone and everyone that set foot on the Philips Arena floor earlier this month, the Hawks have suddenly run out of gas on their home court.
Boston schooled them 99-93 before a sellout crowd of 20,054 Friday night, handing the Hawks their second straight home loss and their third loss in four games overall.
Not even the Hawks' furious late rally from a 20-point fourth quarter deficit in the final minutes could wipe away the stain of this defeat. And they were within four points twice in the final minute, only to have Paul Pierce and Ray Allen finish them off with free throws.
"We got outplayed in the first three quarters of the game, really embarrassed, to tell you the truth," said Hawks forward Josh Smith. "We played Hawks basketball for the final eight minutes or so, but we were already down 17 points by then. Being down to a championship team, it's kind of difficult to win the game."
It was the right kind of effort but about 20 minutes late for the Hawks, who fall to 42-31.
The Celtics (55-19) played without All-Star power forward Kevin Garnett, who sat out the game with a sore right knee, the same right knee that recently cost him 13 straight games.
Friday night's humbling came two days after Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs, sans their All-Star big man Tim Duncan, dished out a similar beating.
But instead of being shredded by an All-Star like Parker, the Hawks were roasted by Garnett's understudy, Glen "Big Baby" Davis and a perfectly-executed game plan by Celtics coach Doc Rivers and his staff.
They vowed not to let Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson beat them and they didn't. They kept Johnson off balance most of the night with quick double-teams and forced the Hawks' offense into scramble mode from the start.