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Atlanta Hawks Send Note to NBA Teams: Lose Your Swagger, Play the Nets

John Boller@jboll0327Correspondent IJanuary 8, 2010

ATLANTA - JANUARY 06:  Jamal Crawford #11 of the Atlanta Hawks drives against Jarvis Hayes #22 and Trenton Hassell #44 of the New Jersey Nets at Philips Arena on January 6, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks got a win at the right time with a game against the right team.

The New Jersey Nets were just the opponent that the Atlanta Hawks needed before three big games in the next four days. It starts tonight at home against the Boston Celtics.

After two hard to swallow losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers on back-to-back nights to end December, the Hawks rolled into the New Year still without their swagger.

Following two late-quarter collapses against the Cavaliers, the Hawks’ late-game struggles continued with an overtime loss at home to the New York Knicks, 112-108.

It got even worse for the Hawks last Monday, an embarrassing 17-point loss on the road to the Miami Heat.

It was the same result but a different story. Instead of collapsing at the end of the game, the Hawks didn’t show up at the beginning of the game.

They trailed 30-14 at the end of the first quarter and were down 17 points at halftime. The Heat kept it even in the second half and held the Hawks to their lowest point total on the season, 75.

The Hawks desperately needed a win. Lucky for them, the New Jersey Nets were coming into town.

Atlanta wasted zero time in proving that they could still play basketball. They outscored the Nets 32-15 in the opening quarter and would later finally close out a game.

The Hawks outscored New Jersey 30-19 in the fourth quarter and left the Nets with a 30-point loss, 119-89.

Jamal Crawford continues to prove himself as an elite sixth-man in the NBA. He scored 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including four three-pointers.

Joe Johnson also found his shooting touch again. He finished with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting. He also nailed four from downtown.

It is perfect timing that the Hawks look like they have that swagger back. They play Boston tonight, the Orlando Magic on Saturday, and then travel to Boston to play the Celtics again on Monday.

Boston is currently still the Eastern Conference leader. They have a one-game lead over Cleveland and a three-game lead over the Magic.

Atlanta trails the Celtics by four-and-a-half games and is one-and-a-half games behind the Magic for the third spot in the East.

These three games are obviously critical for the Hawks. Not just because they haven’t been winning lately, but because of their records against Eastern Conference opponents and in their division.

They are only 12-9 so far this season against conference opponents and are below .500 in the Southeast Division.

Even the Miami Heat, at 17-16 overall, have a winning record in the Southeast Division and have just as many wins against Eastern Conference opponents as the Hawks do.

The Hawks have been impressive this year and are 10 games above .500 at 22-12, but they still need to prove that they can play consistently and win against the best teams in the NBA.

They are so close, and it really seems like with the edition of Crawford, they have all the pieces that they need to do it.

Only time will tell.

Good luck Hawks. GO GET’EM.

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