The Atlanta Hawks are close, but they’re just not there yet

The Atlanta Hawks can find themselves in a deep hole if they can’t get over the hump this season.

Getting “over the hump” is a universal phrase used when it seems like you’re close to getting somewhere, but you just don’t have enough to make it.

In the urban dictionary, the meaning says, “over the most difficult part of something.” In sports, and the NBA specifically, there are many teams we can say that haven’t been able to get over the hump.

The Chris Paul/James Harden led Houston Rockets. The Kyle Lowry/DeMar DeRozan led Toronto Raptors. The Paul George Indiana Pacers. The “Lob City” LA Clippers. To be generous, you can even throw in the Atlanta Hawks of the past decade.

These teams had another superior team that stood in the way of them reaching their ultimate goal.

The Hawks are today’s NBA team that can’t get over the hump this season. The only difference is that it’s not the opposing team that’s getting in their way, but it’s themselves that’s been stunting their success.

We’ve seen teams in the past that couldn’t get over the hump. The Atlanta Hawks look like they could heading down that same path.

The Hawks are currently 11-14 and are sitting at 10th place in the Eastern Conference. They also could easily be 17-8 and be at the top of the conference.

In six of those 14 losses, the Hawks had the lead going into the fourth quarter. As soon as the last 12 minutes came onto the scoreboard, the Hawks became a different team.

For the first three quarters, the Hawks look like they can get any shot they want on offense. They’re locked in defensively. During the last 12 minutes of the game, however, it seems as if they have the hardest time getting a bucket while stopping the other team from getting one. This has a big thing to do with Lloyd Pierce and his rotations.

In the loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Pierce sat Young to start the fourth quarter. Instead, he had Rajon Rondo on the floor, who has struggled so far during the season, and Bruno Fernando, who nowadays only sees the court during garbage time.

The Lakers then built a 10-point lead with around eight minutes left in the game. Pierce finally called a timeout and reinserted Youn. The Hawks fought back to make it close, but they shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with.

“I feel like we had a chance to win the game,” Young said after the game.

Some of these losses have not always been on the coach. In the games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks, the Hawks below multiple double-digit leads. The lack of urgency and effort from the players was shown in those games, and it followed them into the next two games against the Charlotte Hornets, both losses.

The Hawks had a comfortable lead against the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks the second time they played them, and the defense in the fourth caused them to falter late. Again, they fought back in both games, but it was too late.

This is where the “hump” gets more specific. Once the Hawks get back in the game to make it close, it’s one play that takes them right back out. Whether it was the wide-open missed dunk from John Collins against the Cavaliers, the bad shot Young took at the end of the Blazers game, the late turnover against the Lakers, or the non-call against Young at the end of the Mavericks game.

One play can change the entire game.

These are self-inflicted wombs that this team is putting on themselves, and if they don’t become more disciplined down the final stretch of games, the hump will only get bigger. As that happens, the Hawks will find it harder to win games, and that’s when big changes will be made, especially if the goal is to make the playoffs this season.