March 2, 2021 –
BY DAN MATHEWS
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – It’s up to the Hawks players now.
Just a week ago, I offered the defense to keep Lloyd Pierce as the Hawks head coach.
The last couple of games served as a microcosm of why Pierce was in trouble. They were two losses that could have (should have) been wins and exposed fourth quarter issues. These are two things that playoff teams eventually have to cure.
Like I pointed out, Pierce has dealt with injuries to key players all season. Even without players like Bogdan Bogdanovich, DeAndre Hunter and Rajon Rondo for much of the season and still should be better than their 14-20 mark.
Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said that it was evident that a move needed to be made at the head coaching position. Will it lead to better results in close games this season? We’ll see.
Like I said last week, certain players also need to step up. Veteran Danilo Gallinari is one of them. He’s shooting below his career average of 42.6 percent from the field, with 39 percent this season. He also hasn’t shot below 40 percent from behind the three-point arc, since he hit 32 percent of his three-point tries in 2017-18. He’s shooting 38 percent at the moment.
Trae Young has to be Trae Young, if this team is going to reach the playoffs. Their last two losses have seen him score 17 and 15 points. He’s shot an average of 27 percent from the field. That has to get better. Their last three wins have seen him score 40, 35 and 33 points. He has to be Trae, if they’re going to win. POINTS! They’re needed… A lot!
If the Hawks start winning, it’ll be looked at as a credit to interim head coach Nate McMillan for being a fresh new voice. If they continue down the same inconsistent path, more changes will likely be coming.
The truth is, Lloyd Pierce is gone because this team is headed on a path of missing the playoffs. Fair or not, it looked like that conclusion would be their fate. That is no longer an excuse for this team. The players must will this team towards that goal.
The goal for the 2020-2021 season should have always been to make the playoffs. It’s still there. Now, the players need to find that extra level of play and make the final games count towards that achievement.
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