If the Hawks win any of the next three games — their first chance coming Tuesday night in Orlando — they’ll upset the Magic in the first round of the NBA playoffs. I’m not an Atlanta native but I’ve lived here long enough to know postseason series (or game) wins are not the norm for the pro teams.
The Hawks were 9-2 underdogs to Orlando to win this series. The online sportsbook Bodog also had them at 30-1 to win in five games, 9-1 to win it in six and 20-1 to win it in seven.
Here are what I believe are the top four postseason moments/upsets. There’s room for No. 5, which we’ll get to shortly.
♦ 1.) Braves win the World Series (1995): Duh. Tom Glavine’s one-hitter and David Justice’s home run in game 6 against Cleveland gave Atlanta its only championship in the four major pro sports.
♦ 2.) Falcons go to the Super Bowl (1998): Morten Andersen kicks the field goal in overtime in the Metrodome to stun favored Minnesota and send the Falcons to their only Super Bowl.
♦ 3.) Braves go to the World Series (1991): The Braves trailed the NLCS 3-2 going back to Pittsburgh but won games 6 and 7, as Steve Avery and John Smoltz both pitched shutouts. I put this ahead of the 1992 NLCS also because it got the Braves to their first World Series.
♦ 4.) Braves go to the World Series again (1992): Another seven-game series win, this one capped by one of the greatest comebacks of all: a three-run ninth punctuated by Francisco Cabrera’s pinch-hit, two-out, two-run single to beat the Pirates, 3-2. (Yes, Sid slid.)
So let’s look at the four pro teams.
FALCONS: Other than 1998, their biggest postseason victory probably came in 2002, when they won the wild card game in an upset at Green Bay 27-7, with Michael Vick outplaying Brett Favre. The runner-up would be in 1991 when Jerry Glanville’s 10-6 team upset 11-5 New Orleans on the road 27-20.
HAWKS: As far as I can tell, they have won playoff series over a higher seed only twice in Atlanta franchise history: They were a No. 5 seed when they upset Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy and Houston in 1978-79 2-0 in a best-of-three-series. The bigger upset came in 1995-96 when they were a No. 6 seed and upset Reggie Miller and No. 3 Indiana 3-2 in a best-of-five.
BRAVES: Other than the three aforementioned series, their biggest series wins were: The 1996 NLCS, when they rallied from a 3-1 deficit against St. Louis with three straight wins to win take the pennant.
THRASHERS: They’ve never won a playoff series. Or a game.
So there are six choices, including this Hawks’ series.
What would be your choice for No. 5 on the list of best Atlanta playoff series wins? And if you disagree with the top four, let’s hear ya.
By Jeff Schultz