As Hawks start playoffs, what’s acceptable to you?

Josh Smith and the Hawks had some big wins down the stretch. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Josh Smith and the Hawks had some big wins down the stretch. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Two years ago, we were happy just that the Hawks made the playoffs.

Last year, we were happy that they just won a playoff series.

What now?

What's an acceptable Hawks playoff run for you?

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The consensus expectations for the Hawks this postseason is that they will have an easy time against Milwaukee in the first round and lose to Orlando in the second. Looking at the standings and the rosters — the Hawks don’t have an answer for Dwight Howard — that’s understandable.

But two things from my perspective:

♦ 1) The Hawks were a strong team down the stretch. They proved something to themselves when they beat the Magic at Philips Arena three weeks ago, as well as the Lakers a week later. Prior to the win over Orlando, they had been 0-5 against the two Eastern Conference powers, the Cavaliers (0-2) and Magic (0-3).

♦ 2) While I believe the Hawks would have a shot against Orlando in the second round, I don’t think they need to win that series to validate their season. They just need to compete — and not get smoked in four games, like the Cleveland series last year.

The big key, I believe, is the play of Joe Johnson. In any sport, your team’s best players must come through at the biggest time. Johnson was strong down the stretch for the Hawks. Needless to say, this is an important postseason for him in terms of a potential ripple effect for contract negotiations. I’ll be posting something on Johnson later today.

For now, I want to know what you think. I’ve received emails all over the board, from, “This team will be lucky to win a round,” to, “They need to get to the finals.”

Here’s the question: What is acceptable to you? I’m not asking for a prediction. I’m asking what you believe the Hawks should accomplish in the playoffs, based on what you think of the team. I’ve put up a poll but, as always, I want to see your comments. I’ll check back shortly.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

105 comments Add your comment

Clay

April 15th, 2010
11:33 am

They are not as good as the Magic. I hope they win a couple of games, though.

Mr. Touchdown

April 15th, 2010
11:38 am

Atlanta has a basketball team?

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

April 15th, 2010
11:38 am

I will be happy as long as whoever knocks them out knows they were in a fight as long as we don’t exit in the 1st round, but when do you stop settling for just being there ? what if JJ leaves and this was the best chance for a title ?

Ted Striker

April 15th, 2010
11:42 am

Win round one, hold at home round 2.

El Bravo

April 15th, 2010
11:42 am

They must win 2 rounds to justify keeping this team together. This team is soon approaching their ceeling as currently constituted so if we are not a championship caliber team this year then we must make a change, coaching or otherwise….

Dee the Big Baller

April 15th, 2010
11:44 am

Don’t be Surprised if the Hawks make it to the Eastern Conference finals and loose in 6 games to Cleveland…this team is very good and the Key is Joe Johnson and Josh Smith..Joe has to play every game like the money he wants in the open market, and Josh has to stay under control, Al Horford will do fine and Jamal Crawford will definitely do his thing, he has held back a little because he know this is Joe team but his capable of getting 25+ everynight in the play offs.

D Hawks

April 15th, 2010
11:44 am

They don’t match up with the Magic because of the Big Atlantan, but they should be able to beat them at home and compete well on the road. I think it’s a 7 game series. If they go 6 or 7 with them and avoid the embarrassing road losses that we’ve become accustomed to in the playoffs, I’ll be satisfied for this season. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Larry Brown-coached Bobcats team give Orlando fits in the first round.

Eric

April 15th, 2010
11:46 am

I think we’re fortunate to face a weakened Bucks team. Should win handily now. Think the Majic series will be a great one, probably 7 games. Could go either way. I’m proud of the Hawks and their steady climb. It’s nice to be on the right track after so many dark (J.R. Rider, anyone?) days!

Aunt Esther

April 15th, 2010
11:46 am

Enter your comments here

Dee the Big Baller

April 15th, 2010
11:48 am

Remember you don’t have to be as good as the team that you are playing on paper, you have to rise to the occassion on that night and play above the bar for that series to move on to the next round, after watching the college tournament, I know anything is possbile on any given night, the HAWKS will play Cleveland in the Eastern Finals.

Aunt Esther

April 15th, 2010
11:48 am

Would like to see the Hawks make it to the ECF, but honestly, I’m not that excited about/interested in the team.

allan in texas

April 15th, 2010
11:52 am

I agree with El Bravo. This team as currently constructed has to win at least 2 rounds to justify keeping it together. I love JJ but he wants to be considered in the class of Kobe,Lebron or Wade, then he has step his game up higher in the playoffs.

D Hawks

April 15th, 2010
11:57 am

This is a pivotal playoff year for the Hawks on several fronts: the coach is a free agent, the star player is a free agent, several stars in the league are free agents, the team still doesn’t play consistently (especially on the road) despite making clear improvement in each of the past five years. The Hawks now must show us playoff improvement as well or this franchise could be in for a lot of off-season changes. I think that they will, but JJ must prove his max player potential in a playoff run.

Whopper Dawg

April 15th, 2010
11:59 am

I think they can beat Orlando, but obviously they have to play well, but also play well consistently in every game. They don’t seem to have the ability to do that, witness the head scratching losses they had this year.

They will not beat the Cavs if they get to them. LeBron cannot foul, charge or travel and if you breathe on him he shots free throws.

That Guy

April 15th, 2010
12:02 pm

If the Hawks want to keep this fan base excited they need to compete in the conference finals. A second round exit will only confirm that this team has reached its full potential. Playing competitively in the conference finals would make this fan base believe that this team could indeed play for the title. Then it would make sense to re-sign JJ. Otherwise, it’s the same as it has always been when the Hawks field a competitive team. Good but just not good enough to beat Bird, Jordan, Howard or James.

EW

April 15th, 2010
12:03 pm

1st round loss- UNACCEPTABLE
1st round win and out- somewhat acceptable, but leaves us wanting more
Advancing past 2nd round– it’s all gravy baby

niremetal

April 15th, 2010
12:03 pm

$5 says that Schultz’s afternoon article talks about how JJ was a disappointment during last year’s playoffs (ignoring the fact that he was injured) and the year before (ignoring the fact that he averaged 20 ppg and pulled a Jordan in Game 4 on the league’s best defense).

Schultz watches the playoffs and the nationally televised Hawks games. That’s it. He posted more than 5 times as many stories about the Braves and college football during their offseasons than he did about the Hawks during the entire regular reason. He thinks that everything you need to know about basketball can be gleaned from box score stats and by parachuting in and watching a half-dozen games each year.

Leave the writing about NBA basketball to people who actually care about NBA basketball, Schultz. Stop making a fool of yourself.

Tech Sucks

April 15th, 2010
12:07 pm

Hawks will beat the Magic.

Dr. Warren

April 15th, 2010
12:11 pm

Hawks have not made it to the conference finals in 40 years. It’s about time they do it. Then they can complain about attendance problems.

Dave

April 15th, 2010
12:15 pm

They need to beat Milwaukee, and they need to do so convincingly. If they beat the Magic, they will be overachieving; if they get blown out, they will be underachieving. I agree with you, Jeff, that they need to compete in round two. Winning a game in Orlando would be a nice cherry for a very good season.

Freshmaker

April 15th, 2010
12:19 pm

Wow, why the venom Nire? I really enjoy your posts in the game blogs, both back when Sekou did em and now with MC. Usually you have really good insight(I always make it a point to read your posts and Big Ray’s). I just don’t get why you enjoy attacking Schultz and Bradley so much. It’s almost like there are two Nires…

Finchdawg

April 15th, 2010
12:19 pm

I agree with Ted Striker. Hold at home against the Magic, and make it a 6-game series

Freshmaker

April 15th, 2010
12:20 pm

On topic, though, I agree with Ted Striker. I don’t really expect the Hawks to beat the Magic. I’d just like to see them really competitive – take the series to 6 or 7 games. If we can do that it’ll have been a good season in my eyes. Really liked the performance from Teague last night – he just might turn into something for us.

ntrigue

April 15th, 2010
12:30 pm

Eastern Finals at least!!! But I think they can go all the way!!!

J

April 15th, 2010
12:32 pm

a competitive second round is success for me … but there is always that hope that the team can go further, and i don’t see why they couldn’t. We at least dodged a bullet by getting the Bucks First Round, so i’m hoping we take them out in 5 games and get some rest in. However, as i mentioned previously, you can’t count the Bucks out just b/c Bogut is out. It’s playoffs, anything can happen!

ptjackets

April 15th, 2010
12:34 pm

Who cares! Have not watched a game in years and don’t plan to start now. The NBA is a bunch of Tated Rich Thugs who all want to be Gangsters! I’m sure thats not true for everyone but most are.

JJ

April 15th, 2010
12:36 pm

Expectations:

1. Win the Bucks series convincingly. If they are really an “elite” team in the east, they should win in 4 or 5 games. None of this blow out at home / get blown out on the road and win in 7 crap they pulled last year against Mia. Win the dang thing quickly and convincingly.

2. Play with consistent effort. This is the playoffs. You’d think any team wouldn’t need this reminder, but the for some reason the Hawks always seem to need it. In some ways, this goes hand in hand with point one.

3. Face Orlando and don’t look scared or intimidated. Play consistent, unselfish ball and make it a series. Compete compete compete. Yes, Orlando is a better team. But they aren’t 20 pts better. The Hawks played piss poor against them in the regular season and used the “we don’t match up well” card as an excuse for it. NO MORE. Play consistently and compete for 7 games. Who knows, you may come out on top.

scott decker

April 15th, 2010
12:36 pm

forget about the Magic everyone…..if we get by Milwaukee, it’ll be the Cats that we have to deal with. Orlando had a great reg season, but trust me, Cats in 7

JuneBaby

April 15th, 2010
12:38 pm

people are in for a lot of frustration if they think the bucks will roll over for the hawks. it doesn’t work like that. the bucks are the most improved team in the eastern conf. record wise. those guys are professional players, they’re hungry too. although the hawks should win, it won’t be a cakewalk. the hawks own recent history should tell us that. when a hungry team can see the promised land, they fight even harder to get there. the bucks had a very good home record, so i’ll say the hawks in 6.

JuneBaby

April 15th, 2010
12:47 pm

D Hawks@11:57am…, maybe if attendance was better the hawks could afford some players like l. james, d. wade and others. if your revenues are small you can’t afford all the high priced talent needed to put you over the top. that’s why ticket prices are going to be a lot steeper next season. if the regular core of people continue to attend after the rise in prices, maybe the hawks can compete on the free agency market.

That Guy

April 15th, 2010
12:50 pm

I think the Hawks are fortunate that they made it into that 3 seed ahead of the Celtics. I don’t care who you are, playing Lebron and Co. in the second round has proved to be a near impossible feat. I do think the Hawks have better guard play than the Magic, and could possibly steal a game or two on the road. I expect to see Joe Johnson step up and play like the superstar that he needs to be. No more excuses. Conference finals.

Give the man some credit

April 15th, 2010
12:53 pm

Having seen over 60 of the games this year, success for this season comes when the Hawks show up to play consistently. Yes, there have been stretches where they appear ready to make the leap from second rounders to competing for the Conference title.

But there have also been stretches where you could not justify advancing them past the first round. That being said, the Hawks are a playoff team for the third straight season. This, by itself, is a success. In accordance to steadily increasing wins and overall dangerousness, this season is a success.

The playoffs are another story. We all know how the past two post-seasons have gone for the Hawks. This year has a new feel to it (a certain swagger, if you will… and I hope that you will). These Hawks have risen to the tops of their games and competed against the best of the best.

All things considered: these Hawks should take care of Milwaukee rather smoothly. [Not easily, but smoothly] Assuming that they do, and assuming that Orlando takes care of Charlotte (which they should, but are not guaranteed to) then we are left with the matchup that I want. Orlando VS Hawks. I want the Hawks to show up each and every game. (Maybe slap Matt Barnes around a little bit in the process, because I think he is a scrub/thug) If we actually show up to play, then it is a success.

No blow-outs on the road. Hold down the fort here at home. Take it to 6 or 7 games. Perhaps even steal the series.

coachx

April 15th, 2010
12:59 pm

I expect a 1st round win and a very competitve 2nd round. Another 2nd round sweep, like last season, means we might as well let JJ walk in FA but hope for a sign and trade so he is not lost for nothing in return. No need to pay JJ and go into the luxury tax for team that is not even competive in the 2nd round. Teams in the luxury tax should be competing for championships and its time for JJ and the Hawks to prove they are ready for that.

I want to see a 7 game series vs. the Magic and may the best team win game 7. That would satisfy me.

Now if the Hawks prove to be the best team in fewer then 7 games that its all gravey baby ! Atlanta’s first every Eastern Conference Championship series would be beautiful !

GO HAWKS !

Michael

April 15th, 2010
1:02 pm

I’m with you Jeff. Obviously I’d like for them to beat Orlando, but I’d be happy as long as they at least make it a respectable series against them. Getting swept in the second round again would be a big disappointment. Other than that, I’d be happy.

D Hawks

April 15th, 2010
1:04 pm

JuneBaby, good points on the attendance and revenues. I wasn’t implying that we would be in the market for the Big 2 guys because more than just revenues plays into that, but I was pointing out that the general power balance of the conference could shift considerably this off-season if most of the top 5 or 6 potential free agents were to leave. I presume that the Hawks have put aside max money for JJ if he proves it on the court during the playoffs, but JJ may decide that he wants to go to a different situation like a Chicago. Also, since teams can re-sign their own guys regardless of cost, I predict that the Big 2 will stay right where they are now.

Rick Sund

April 15th, 2010
1:07 pm

As hawks GM, my expectation is that we PROGRESS which means all this team has to do is win ONE GAME in the second round. That is much better than last year. What most fans must realize is that with the POTENTIAL of this team we will be CONTENDERS for years to come. As I have said many times, we have already received that ELITE STATUS because we won 50+ games. Being an elite team is based on the REGULAR SEASON not the PLAYOFFS. Now that our SUPERSTAR Joe Johnson has gotten more rest this season, he will be ready to CARRY THIS TEAM ON HIS BACK. He has plenty of help with guys like JOSH “PURE SHOOTER” SMITH, MIKE “THE DEFENSIVE ARCHITECT” BIBBY and Marvin “UPSIDE WILLIAMS. Last but not least, Woodson with all of his BASKETBALL SAVVY and ability to USE HIS BENCH will certainly be the final piece to us doing something in the playoffs. Honestly, REAL FANS shouldn’t worry too much about the playoffs because they have to realize that there can only be ONE CHAMPION and at the end of the day it’s all PROGRESSION. Rome wasn’t built in a day. SEE ya Saturday for a special CHIK FILA FAMILY NIGHT. GO HAWKS!

JSS

April 15th, 2010
1:14 pm

The key is not Joe Johnson, his playing at a consistently high level (like Lamar Odom did last year in the playoffs) makes things so much easier! There are two keys, road defense, matching the intangibles that other teams always seem to have when the Hawks play Orlando and Cleveland. Matt Barnes, David Anderson, Lewis, Bass or whomever can not go off for huge numbers… Key two (and call me crazy if you like), Bibby and Marvin Williams can not go Casper on us… No one is asking them to carry us, but they MUST show up from minute one!!!

Jeff Schultz, stay away from the Hawks!!! Said with love and respect by the way!

Atlanta rise up!

Now you see em, now they burnt off!

April 15th, 2010
1:15 pm

What’s acceptable to me would be for the coach(Mr Potato Head) to have his eyebrows fully grown back by the time the Hawks season is over. The timing of this would be in June when Jason Collins is holding the championship trophy, and Randolph Morris is finals MVP.

lakers are in town

April 15th, 2010
1:19 pm

i will take the bucks in 6 games the hawks are sorry and will not be able to handle pressure as the three seed.

JSS

April 15th, 2010
1:22 pm

Niremetal…
Fresh must have missed the 4 years of our columnists saying this team “will never win!” You are just saying what most long suffering Hawks fan have said since the run Woody and Joe out of town campaign took place… Leave the Hawks alone!

Blake

April 15th, 2010
1:23 pm

I think If the Hawks got past Orlando and won a least two games against Cleveland I would be satisfied.Are they capable,yes.Will they,I don’t know!That’s what Is great about the playoff’s anything can happen!

lee

April 15th, 2010
1:25 pm

they have the talent to get to the conference finals so I will be disappointed if they don’t make it to that point.

S.C.Smith

April 15th, 2010
1:32 pm

Conference finals or at least 7 games vs. Orlando.

NBA JH

April 15th, 2010
1:34 pm

Anything less than a competitive 6 games conference semifinals loss is unacceptable.

sidewalk74

April 15th, 2010
1:42 pm

When is it going to be about winning titles? The Hawks won 50+ games. If you do that you should be shooting for the Championship ! Not talking about losing in the Conference Finals before the season even starts.

heartofdarkness

April 15th, 2010
1:48 pm

The Hawks played better team offense at the outset of this season. Maybe getting into the gym together and the increased importance of a game plan during a series will resurrect some of the ability to get high percentage shots by the Hawks offense. Howard gives the Hawks fits because Atlanta doesn’t run much offense through the high post, which would make the big,mobile forwards more effective. If Orlando can’t pack their defense in the paint, they will be much less effective. It will be interesting to see how Larry Brown plans to win this series. He might give Mike Woodson a tutorial, or be his opponent.

In some ways, Milwaukee without Bogut will be a faster, more transition oriented team. Atlanta could get faster with Teague in the game, but he hasn’t been prepared this season to play in key situations, and its doubtful he will be asked to do more than relieve a foul plagued starter before the end of a quarter.

howie

April 15th, 2010
1:50 pm

The Hawks have been a good team this season and have played as well as any reasonable fan could expect. Ownership carried out their duties as well by resigning the key free agents and bringing in new faces, particularly Crawford.

A series against Orlando will tell us where this team stands in the NBA hierarchy and it should be an interesting off season with Joe J being a free agent. We would like him to stay but if he bolts it will give the Hawks some interesting options. What about the coach? I am not sure why we would not rehire him but what about Doc Rivers?

I am looking forward to the playoffs and the off season….hopefully the off season is still a few weeks away.

BRAD

April 15th, 2010
1:54 pm

The Hawks have proven that they are one of the best teams in the NBA @ home. The question is can they win a game on the road. Last year they won a road game in Miami when they had to. Can they win in Orlando, Cleveland? This team should make it to the conference finals.

Arthante Lafleur

April 15th, 2010
1:58 pm

I completely agree that if we can STAY COMPETITIVE with Orlando we will have made another stride, continuing the franchise’s laudable upward trend over the past few years.

I don’t think 7 games w/ Orlando is necessary–6 would be an accomplishment considering they ream us out on the regular. If the stars aligned and everyone was at their best, and we caught Howard on a few off games, we could have a shot at advancing to the EC Finals (but I’m not holding my breath).

From a practical and a realistic standpoint, I’m overjoyed with where this franchise has progressed and the excitement and passion the team has injected into itself. I’ll certainly be there like I always am, screaming my lungs out. This is truly one of the most exciting –and probably the MOST exciting–NBA teams we have ever had in this city.

GO HAWKS!!!!

NC Braves Fan

April 15th, 2010
1:59 pm

The team was prone to letdowns, shoddy defense and a loss of focus during stretches of the regular season, and so how they acquit themselves in the playoffs will mean more to me than how far they actually get. With that said:

They should get out of the first round pretty easily.

They should probably lose in the second round in 6-7 games.

Anything less than that will probably be disappointing (unless injuries are the culprit). Anything more than that is gravy given their talent, youth and the teams they’re up against from round 2 onward.