Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 5/7/12
Intensity and aggressiveness not having those two qualities in the sufficient amount were what spelled a dispiriting 101-79 loss for the Hawks in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series with Boston on Sunday, according to two-time All-Star center Al Horford. After tearing a pectoral muscle in January, Horford made his return to the court for the first time in four months on Sunday and he posted a respectable 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting while coming off the bench along with five rebounds in 20 minutes. You have to give them credit right from the beginning they jumped on us, Horford said of the Celtics. I think they were more aggressive. They got into us too much and we could just never recover after that. We need to understand that in the playoffs, you need to bring a certain level of intensity and we didnt do it. On Monday the Hawks tried to get to the bottom of what could have gone so wrong in a game in which they trailed by 37 points at one time in the second half and now have lost three straight to trail in the series by 3-1. They face elimination on Tuesday in Game 5 at Philips Arena. Coach Larry Drew said the days following a big blow-out loss can be a very trying day. Rather than have the team practice, with a number of players banged-up and wanting them to get treatment from the training staff, Drew held a discussion with the players. And I know from a physical standpoint, guys are a little tired, a little banged-up, he said. I understand that, but theyre more mentally beat up than they are physically and coming into today I knew that the guys from a physical standpoint, we cant get a whole lot done because too many guys banged-up. I really wanted to take some time and talk to the group and get a feel for where they are and get a feel for where I am and make sure they understand where we go from here. Certainly, theres disappointment in the way we played yesterday but its not a situation where its the end of the world. Its an opportunity for us to show what were made of and I have all the faith in the world with this team because weve overcome a lot of adversity over the course of the season and I see this no differently. Some of Drews thoughts circled back to that lack of intensity that Horford mentioned. Theyre a little disappointed, he said of his team. Certainly, they have reason to be. We didnt play very well. We didnt bring the intensity that I thought we would and we didnt respond very well particularly early in the game. The Hawks gave various reasons for such a disappointing showing: easy transition baskets for Boston, bad offensive possessions and defensive breakdowns all going on early. In addition, the Celtics could hardly seem to miss even on some contested shots as they finished shooting 51.3 percent but were shooting in the 60s for much of the game. It was ugly to be a part of and it was ugly to watch, said Hawks forward Joe Johnson. Johnson, the Hawks leading scorer, said he felt he was not getting enough touches. He made 4-of-8 field goals in 31 minutes for only nine points, fourth on the team. The point total was roughly half his playoff average. He said that the Hawks got away from their game plan on both offense and defense but he didnt think his number of touches had anything to do with how the Celtics played him. I dont think they (were) doing nothing defensively on me, he said. I think its basically just getting the opportunity to get the ball. Thats it. For his part, Drew assessed blame in a few directions. He said Johnson needs to be more aggressive but also that his teammates need to look for him more. I think Boston is defending him where at times theyre doubling him, at times theyre switching, Drew said of the Celtics defense on Johnson Theyre doing a number of things. Theyre crowding him and making it tough for him. We got to get him more shots. We go through all the things offensively we go through to where we do run a lot of things through him. Hes got to be more aggressive in working to get his shots but we have to be mindful that when he hasnt had a shot in one or two trips down the floor, weve got to get him the ball. Drew said that in some instances, he noticed on the game film that an extra pass would have gotten Johnson the ball for an open shot. There also was some suggestion that the team had a difficult time adjusting to Horfords presence in the lineup, that it changed the rotation and also some of the dynamic on offense. But Drew dismissed that, saying Horford is not a player who demands the ball much or through whom the Hawks run much of their offense. Horford also rejected the idea that perhaps Johnson did not get as many shots because of his return. I mean, Joe is our main guy, Horford said. We go to him at the end of games. He has to get us going usually offensively. He just needs to go out there and be an enforcer and make his presence felt. I didnt think my shots or Erick Dampiers shots or things like that are affecting him. I think if anything, Joe needs to be aggressive and needs to go out there and score the ball. Thats when were at our best out there. The Hawks have one more day to figure out. If they dont, they will have the entire offseason to.
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