Let’s start this post with the rightful, and righteous, congrats to our home team Atlanta Hawks. Let’s highlight just how strong a 47-35 record is. Let’s note that there was nothing flukish about that record, as the Hawks season-long point differential was as clearly fourth in the Eastern Conference as their fourth-seed finish.
And let’s not bother with the seemingly endless discussion of whether Billy Knight should be credited with this years’ success, or be held largely responsible for the fact that, with some fairly obvious alternative personnel moves, this kind of season has arrived several years later than it should have. Because Billy Knight is gone, and this season is about the folks who are here, now. This season is about the current players, coaches and front office, because at the end of the day you dance with the one that ‘brung ya’.
So now that we’ve dispensed with the well-earned platitudes, we need look no farther than the recent history of our Atlanta Braves to remember that no matter how well you end the regular season, the playoffs reset everybody’s record to 0-0. And the games will not be played on paper, but on a 94-foot long, hardwood court. To be honest, it’s more important that the Hawks be cognizant of this point, than us, the fans. Because the most we can contribute is a frenzied, screaming, sold-out Philips, but at the end of the day, it will be the rotation of players, on the court, who will have to win four games against Dwayne Wade and “the heat”.
That’s no typo, that’s just an accurate representation of our first-round opponent, like ‘Diana Ross & the supremes’.
Two weeks ago I posted one man’s opinion that the Hawks would rather see the Sixers than the Wade’s, er, Heat. Lot’s of folks weighed in, and only time will tell if that was a wrong-headed position. But since that post, Wade put up 55 on the Knicks, and Beasley (who a few folks were quick to scoff at, after I suggested he was a factor of concern) closed out his final five games, after my post, averaging 24.2 and 11.2, on 56% shooting from the field.
And while my opinion, as always (as frequently wrong as right, when it comes to game outcomes; though I’ll put my track record for draft options against anybody’s), was independently determined, I was not surprised to find that the Fox Sports’ NBA writer, John Galinsky (yeah, I know, who the hell is John Galinsky?), placed the Heat ahead of the Hawks (12th and 13th) in his final power rankings, with a prediction that the Heat would beat the Hawks in the first round.
So here it is, the Tough Call:
Heat pull off a mild (4th versus 5th seed, folks) upset, and defeat the Hawks in the first round.
I know, I know, Ando is a Hater, not a fan. And I can understand how some folks could mistake me in that fashion (though the members of the Hawks’ blog community, who know me personally, would most certainly support the fact that I am truly a fan; just prone to possibly unrealistic expectations and definitely a bit of a pessimist, by nature).
OK, then as a fan, why am I predicting a Heat upset?
Because there are more reasons, in my mind, to support that expectation, than a Hawks’ win. And those reasons, in no particular order (some of this will be redundant from my post two weeks’ ago), include:
1) Wade. He’s one of three superstars in the league who can single-handedly pull a “Jordan” on a second-tier playoff team like the Hawks. And as I touched on in my last post, there’s the “conspiracy theory” component regarding the NBA’s desire to see certain match-ups in the playoffs, from a TV/marketing perspective. Can the Hawks shut down such an individual talent? And will the officials make that task even harder by giving him every call? Guess we’ll see….
2) Beasley. Again, redundant, but less so since he followed my previous post, touting his potential impact, with the numbers I noted above. I don’t think any of our front court can cover him. And I think that the Heat have been holding him back for much of the season to develop his professionalism, far more than his on-court ability. But the Beasley that you’ve seen over the last few weeks is the real deal.
3) Chalmers. OK, so I’m now resting two of the first three points, supporting a Heat upset, on rookies. I’m either clueless or crazy like a fox. But when I look at Chalmers quickness, and his defensive/steals’ output, and I consider just how slow Mike Bibby is, I can’t help but flash back to last years’ Celtics series, and the way Rondo ran circles around Bibby. Am I the only person who sees a similarity between Chalmers and Rondo?
4) The Hawks. I can’t shake the sense (and I’ll be stuffing my face with a healthy heaping of crow if I’m just blinded by my ‘glass half-empty’ perspective) that some of the Hawks are entering the playoffs with a sense of accomplishment and entitlement. It’s cool to point out that some folks underestimated your upside. But, again, one has to only look as far as several of the Braves’ teams, of the last decade, to remember that the only thing that matters is the next four wins. And Boston is an even better example of what happens when a team enters the playoffs on cruise control, as these same Hawks took them to seven games last spring.
If the Hawks enter the first round with the same chip on their collective shoulders that they exhibited during the first six games of this past regular season, then they’ll dismiss the Heat in short fashion. But if they show up thinking about a second-round upset of Lebron ‘and the cavs’, then they’ll spend this summer wondering what went wrong.
As always, there’s a large part of me that unrealistically expects that any type of less than positive post, essentially my version of a challenge, will find its way to the players and coaches, and that they’ll seize the opportunity to ‘prove the Haters wrong’. I’ve said, in the near five years that I’ve participated in the AJC’s Hawks’ blog community, that I’d always rather see the Hawks prove me wrong, when I’m less than certain about their upcoming performance, than be right and see them fail.
Beat the Heat, Hawks, and expect this Hawks’ Hack to return, give credit where credit is due, and let all your fans enjoy your continued growth as a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference!