Are the Atlanta Hawks Stuck In Reverse?

John Boller@jboll0327Correspondent IJanuary 4, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 18:  Michael Beasley #30 of the Miami Heat against Joe Smith #32 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 18, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It’s official. The Atlanta Hawks are off to a bad start in 2010.

After ending 2009 with two collapses in back-to-back nights to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Hawks appear to still be in a hangover.

They opened 2010 with a New Year’s Day loss to the New York Knicks. Atlanta had an 80-67 lead at home against the Knicks on Friday going into the fourth quarter. However, the 13-point lead was washed away as the Hawks defense gave up 32 points, allowing the Knicks to force the game into overtime.

In overtime, the Hawks didn’t reach double-digits and had to watch as New York stole one in front of the Hawks faithful, 112-108.

Atlanta let Nate Robinson go for 41 points after missing his last 13 games because of disagreements with Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni.

Joe Johnson, Al Horford, and Josh Smith each scored 20+ points. Johnson led the team with 28 points, Smith had 24, and Horford had 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting to go with his 19 rebounds-11 defensive and eight offensive.

Along with Robinson’s 41, Wilson Chandler had 24 points for the Knicks.

The loss to the Knicks gave Atlanta its first three-game losing streak of the season.

Tonight against the Miami Heat, they were never in the game. The Heat outscored the Hawks 30-14 in the first quarter. The Hawks were down 17 points at halftime, and the Heat made sure to leave the door closed on any attempt by Atlanta to make a comeback.

The Heat defense did a great job of swallowing up Joe Johnson. Atlanta’s leading scorer finished with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

Jamal Crawford was Atlanta’s leading scorer with 23 points. Crawford continues to come off the bench for Atlanta and produce night after night. He has been Atlanta’s second-leading scorer all season long and is currently averaging 16.5 points per game.

After Smith and Horford had such great games against the Knicks last Friday, they shot a combined 6-of-19 from the field against the Heat to finish with 8 points a-piece.

The Hawks shot a dismal 3-of-14 from the three-pointer.

Dwayne Wade led all scorers with 28 points and Michael Beasley had 22 points.

Crawford and Johnson were the only two Hawks to score double-digits.

In the Hawks’ last four games, they have averaged 16 points in the fourth quarter, while their opponents have averaged 25 points.

It has been a simple problem for the Hawks. In their back-to-back losses to the Cavaliers, and in the loss against New York last Friday, they had complete fourth quarter meltdowns. Simply put, they couldn’t finish.

Tonight’s game against Miami was a different pattern, but the same result with another loss.

In recent games the Hawks had been coming out ready to play basketball. Tonight was just the opposite. They came out flat to open the game and Miami was able to keep them from getting started.

The 75 points that the Hawks got tonight against the Heat was their lowest output of the season.

Atlanta is now a full three games behind the Orlando Magic for the third spot in the Eastern Conference. Their four-game losing streak is tied with the Washington Wizards for second-worst in the Conference.

They are 4-6 in their last ten games, just 11-9 in the East, and have a losing record at 2-3 against division opponents.

The “Big Three” in the East all have winning records in their division. Orlando and Cleveland are both 16-6 this season against the East, while the Boston Celtics are 16-4 in conference play.

The Hawks return home on Wednesday against the New Jersey Nets. A team they put 130 points on back in mid-December.

Hopefully a game against the Nets will help the Hawks get their swagger back.