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Monday, March 1, 2010
Health concern for Hawks

By John Hollinger

The Hawks managed to prevail at home against Milwaukee last night, but delivered another underwhelming offensive performance in the victory. The Hawks, who once rated as high as second in Offensive Efficiency, have dipped to fifth in that category.

While Atlanta fans reflexively blame an attack that’s heavy on Joe Johnson isolations late in games, one big reason Atlanta’s offense has gone sideways of late is because of Jamal Crawford’s shoulder injury. He suffered a partial left shoulder separation just before the All-Star break and has tried to play through it, but the impact on his shooting stroke has been clear.

Crawford, the Hawks’ second-leading scorer and the league’s likely Sixth Man Award winner, was 3-for-14 last night and went without a field goal against Minnesota two games earlier. In seven games since the injury he’s 26-of-84 (31.0 percent) from the field and is just 10-of-39 on 3-pointers.

Perhaps more insidious is that he’s become a more reluctant shooter -- Crawford took 17.7 field-goal attempts per 40 minutes pre-injury but only 14.5 since -- leaving Atlanta even more dependent on the “iso-Joe” offense.

Crawford has offered no excuses, and the Hawks can hardly play the woe-is-me card when they’ve been among the league’s healthiest teams this year. But if they’re going to prevail in the three-way race for the No. 2 seed in the East, they need that good health restored -- starting with Crawford’s shoulder.