Update Atlanta: The Ways Atlanta Loses (+ Reaction to Chris Sale)
It’s been a weird season for the Falcons. They have looked like borderline Super Bowl contenders at times, but then suffer ignominious losses like the one on Sunday (more on that in a bit). It’s also been a weird season for the Hawks. They started 9–2, but now sit at 10–12 after a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night (more on that in a bit, as well).
Neither one of these losses makes or breaks the season for either team. But they were both heartbreaking in very similar ways, and that makes for a very interesting parallel.
To start, the Falcons entered Sunday at 7–4, facing a very talented Chiefs team in the Georgia Dome. Although Atlanta led early, Kansas City stormed back through the next few quarters, and consequently entered the fourth with a 27–16 cushion. The Falcons fought back with their elite offense, and took the lead, 28–27, with 4:32 left on the clock.
Then, disaster struck. As Atlanta (reasonably) decided to go for 2, Matt Ryan threw an interception to Eric Berry, who returned the pass for a touchdown (and two points) that proved to be the margin of victory. Kansas City is a good team. There’s no shame in losing that game. But to lose any game like that is devastating.
Now, the Hawks. Atlanta entered Monday night with a 10–11 record, hoping that getting star forward Paul Millsap would be enough to stop the bleeding and finally get a win (they had lost nine of ten to that point) against the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, OKC, behind Russell Westbrook, led for most of the game and seemed to be pulling away during the second half. Just like the Falcons, the Hawks battled back, and got the margin down to three with seconds remaining in the game.
What followed next was a disaster.
Conti’s words proved to be prophetic, as Tim Hardaway Jr. lost control of the ball, and then (after nobody called a timeout) threw up a desperation heave that came nowhere near the basket.
So, both Atlanta teams lost games in the same, two-day span in almost identical ways. Both teams made impressive comebacks, and both teams made crippling mistakes that rendered these comebacks useless. These games are also interesting in the larger context of the teams’ seasons, though. The Hawks are desperate for a win, and badly needed one Monday. The team played much better than it had for the bulk of its losing-nine-out-of-ten slide, but at this point a “good effort” isn’t very encouraging. The Falcons are in much better shape, but now have to face an increasingly-tight division battle. They should make it into the playoffs, but playoff teams expect to prevail in winnable games like this one.
This afternoon, Chris Sale signed with the Boston Red Sox. This has little to do with anything Atlanta-related, other than the lingering trade rumors linking him to the Braves. Atlanta seemed to be moving in a different direction, anyways. Boston gave up an enormous haul for Sale. Whether he is worth that over the long-term or not is debatable, but it’s interesting to see what Chicago was willing to command for him. Undoubtedly, that was more than the Braves were willing to pay. It’s a good sign that the Braves weren’t willing to give up the farm for an ace pitcher. The best course of action right now is to stay the course, and it’s encouraging to see the front office doing just that.