Hawks’ Crawford on playoffs: ‘It’s up for grabs’


May 10

Of the last 12 NBA championships, 10 have been claimed by the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs or Boston Celtics. This season, all three teams have been sent home or are on the brink of elimination.

First, the Western Conference’s top-seeded Spurs went down in the first round. Then, the two-time defending champion Lakers were swept in the second round. The Celtics, who trail their series against the Miami Heat 3-1, could be next.

So how does what else has happened throughout the NBA Playoffs resonate with the fifth-seeded Hawks, who enter Game 5 in Chicago tied 2-2 with the top-seeded Bulls?

“It’s unbelievable, it’s up for grabs,” said Hawks guard Jamal Crawford. “Everybody sees that though, not just us. Everybody sees it is up for grabs and that makes everybody that much more focused at this time in the season. It’s amazing how much parity there is right now.”

Chicago hopes that parity is not on display when the Bulls and Hawks meet at the United Center as their best-of-seven games Eastern Conference Semifinals series continues Tuesday.

While the Hawks shocked the Bulls with a Game 1 victory in Chicago, the Bulls claimed Game 2 and improved to 2-1 in the series with a Game 3 win in Atlanta. And though the Hawks won Game 4 to even the series at 2-2, the series shifts back to Chicago, where wins at the United Center would ensure a date in the Eastern Conference Finals for the Bulls.

The Hawks, meanwhile, are hoping to carry the momentum over from their 100-88 victory on Sunday.

“It’s not very hard to duplicate at all,” said Hawks coach Larry Drew of matching their performance in Game 4. “We’ve done that throughout the season. We’ve had stretches of games where we have really played at a high level with a lot of energy. We are an energy team, but there are times we just come out and don’t play that way for some reason. We have the athletes, we do have the energy; it’s just a matter of us coming out and putting forth that energy, and I’m totally expecting that tonight.”

Though NBA MVP Derrick Rose recorded 34 points and 10 assists in Game 4, the Hawks were pleased that it took him 32 field goal attempts to do so. Heading into Game 5, Drew said the key for Atlanta will be maintaining their energy, as well as continuing to make life difficult for Rose.

“Our first series against Orlando, we knew Dwight [Howard] would get his [points],” said Drew. “It was just a matter of making it tough. The same rule applies to Derrick.”

Hawks guard Joe Johnson, averaging a team-high 19.2 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting through 10 postseason games, agreed.

“A guy of his caliber, every night he is going to get his points regardless,” said Johnson of Rose. “But he can’t be as efficient as he was in Game 3 where he is shooting great from the field. You have to make him take a lot of tough shots. In Game 4, we did that.”

Drew added he feels the pressure in Game 5 is on the Bulls.

“Certainly, I think if you look at where they are right now, they were one of the teams that were picked to come out of the East,” Drew said of the Bulls. “A win for us here puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them to go back to Atlanta, with us having a chance to close it out. So, yeah, I feel like the pressure is on them.”

Given that the Hawks have already won once in Chicago and the series in general has been more competitive than some expected, Atlanta’s confidence level is high.

“They know us and we know them,” said Crawford. “They’ll continue to do the things they were doing to be successful and we will as well. There will be minor tweaks and that’s just how the games go. But besides that, it’s pretty clear on what it is going to take to win.”

Coming off a loss for the Bulls, however, may not be a bad thing. Chicago suffered defeat twice in a row only four times throughout the regular season and never fell in three consecutive games. It’s a team that knows how to bounce back, which is exactly what Atlanta is expecting.

“I thought our energy level was up in Game 4 and guys were really on the attack,” said Johnson. “Josh [Smith] had a monster game and Jeff [Teague] has been great all series. Those are the things we’re going to have to continue to do, playing hard and having that effort.

“We understand that if we don’t play at a high level and outwork these guys, it’s going to be hard for us to win, especially here in this building with them feeding off their own crowd,” added Johnson. “But we’ve been pretty good on the road and I’m sure guys will come with their mindset that we have to do whatever it takes to win the game.”

Audio—Hawks coach Larry Drew at Game 5 shootaround (05.10.2011):

Audio—Hawks guard Jamal Crawford at Game 5 shootaround (05.10.2011):

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