by Micah Hart
As everyone knows by now, the compressed NBA schedule will force every team to play three games in three nights at least one this season (42 times in total). With only 66 games to stake a claim to a playoff spot or seed, how teams perform during these killer slates could have a large impact on how their seasons turn out.
With that in mind, we’re going to keep track of each of the 42 three-plays to see which teams take advantage and which teams fall apart. Up next, the Atlanta Hawks, who played three straight from Jan 5-7.
Before I get into the meat of the Hawks triumvirate of games, I should make note (for those that didn’t know) that I spent six years working for the franchise before coming over to NBA.com. I mention this because as far as I am concerned, these three games perfectly encapsulate what it’s like to root for them. They were the Hawksiest Hawks games I’ve ever seen.
Game 1: Heat 116, Hawks 109, 3OT - The Heat were without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and if you know these Hawks, you know that spells trouble. Missed free throws, missed opportunities, Hawks loss. They made history by becoming just the 10th team in history to go scoreless in an overtime period (the third), so there’s that. -2 points
Game 2: Hawks 102, Bobcats 96, OT - Atlanta always seems to struggle in Charlotte, and despite the Bobcats being one of the worst teams in the league, they nearly pulled out the home win. I give the Hawks credit for perseverance if not style. 4 points
Game 3: Hawks 109, Bulls 94 – Just when you are ready to bury the Hawks, they turn around and blow out the Bulls in Game 3, snapping Chicago’s six-game win streak in the process. Josh Smith had one of those games that makes you simultaneously gobsmacked by his abilities (25 points, five rebounds, five assists, six blocks) and depressed because he often eschews them in favor of low-percentage jump shots. 6 points
What to do with this team? Do you focus on the fact that they lost at home to a Heat team playing Chris Bosh and the JayVees? Or do you notice the squad that was talented enough to go up 30 on Chicago in the third game — especially impressive given they’d played almost an extra half of basketball the previous two nights thanks to overtime? Shoot, the Hawks were a few missed free throws away from going 5-0 last week, with four of the games coming against the reigning Eastern Conference finalists.
Yet with all my griping and complaining, with settled dust and cleared smoke the Hawks somehow managed to post a new high score for the three-play, putting up 8 total points. Go figure.
Up next: The Oklahoma City Thunder are right on the Hawks tails, with three games in a row Jan. 6-8: home and home against the Rockets, and tonight against the Spurs.