Another Game 7, and this one’s at home. They’d better win.

They’d better win because they’ve worked 12 months for these 48 minutes. They’ve said it daily since May 4, 2008, same as Mike Woodson said it Saturday: “We wanted to have a chance to host Game 7.” Now they do.

They’d better win because to do otherwise would leave them where they were 364 days ago. They’d be just another team that made a bit of noise before taking its leave, just another Round 1 loser. They’d get to sit and watch while the big boys sort out the NBA championship, and again they’d have to ask, “When are we going to grow up?”

They’d better win because these Hawks are almost grown, or they should be. Joe Johnson and Mo Evans entered the NBA in 2001, Flip Murray in 2002, Zaza Pachulia in 2003. Mike Bibby was drafted in 1998. Even Josh Smith, widely viewed as the epitome of young and reckless, has been a pro since 2004.

They’d better win because they saw in Boston what it takes to win a Game 7. They saw the Celtics in all their focused fury. They saw the Celtics’ captain, Paul Pierce, score 22 inspirational points. They saw a proud defense that had yielded points on 17 consecutive Game 6 possessions limit the visitors to 24 baskets in 48 minutes. Woodson again: “They hit us in the mouth and we never responded. But we learned from that.”

They’d better win because they’ve let Dwyane Wade’s middling team linger too long, and you do that at your peril. As nice as it is to have Game 7 at home, it’s still a game that can be lost. This time a year ago, the famous Kevin Garnett was so nervous about an elimination game against the 37-45 Hawks that he stayed up all night, and the almost-as-famous Ray Allen was texting teammates at midnight.

They’d better win because any excuses would fall flatter than L. Frank Baum’s Kansas. Marvin Williams has a bad wrist, but the Hawks have won without him. Al Horford has a sore ankle, but that’s no alibi. (Said Horford: “The season’s on the line … I’ll be ready.” And Woodson plans to start him.) Jermaine O’Neal missed Game 6 and the Heat won by 26 points, and Jamario Moon was lost a week ago. Come the playoffs, you win with what you have. Or you lose.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

They’d better win because this is Atlanta and they’re the Hawks, and we’ve come to view them with skepticism ever since they lost a winner-take-all Game 5 against undermanned Milwaukee at the old Omni on May 7, 1989. We’ve spent the past 13 months warming to this team, but to lose a series after leading 3-2 would test our patience. And we Atlantans have no patience. Ever seen us drive?

They’d better win because, even after being outscored by 19 points over six back-and-forth weirdo wipeouts, they still seem the better team. They’re the fourth seed for a reason. Game 7 is here for a reason. “We’ve put ourselves in this position,” Woodson said, “and I like our position.”

They’d better win, and they will. Hawks 82, Heat 77.

Tune in tomorrow! I’ll be blogging live from Game 7 from my lofty perch alongside my new Twitter pal Spirit the Hawk. (Just kidding, but most of us press people are pretty high up.) We’ll get started around 12:30 p.m., and we’ll keep going until this strange series is finally finished. I invite one and all to join the theoretical fun.

82 comments Add your comment

DenverHawk

May 2nd, 2009
3:04 pm

can’t believe you brought up that Milwaukee debacle from 20 years ago – and my boss back then was a Bucks fan!

we’re gonna need to toughen up – any way to sign Kevin Willis to a 10-day contract?

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
3:12 pm

All they need to do is make sure Fred Roberts and Paul Mokeski and Ricky Pierce don’t show up. (I will, Denver, never ever forget that game. It was also on a Sunday afternoon, not to bring up bad tidings.)

HawkDawg

May 2nd, 2009
3:16 pm

I remember Kevin Willis sitting on the bench, nursing an ailment, during the playoff series with the Pacers in 1994. yes, I seem to remember getting the number one seed and choking it away in typical Hawks fashion.

Why should this year be any different? I remember the bad calls versus the Piston in 1987 and Larry Bird in 1988. Let’s not forget 1997 when we went to Chicago and stole a game on the road, only to come back home and lose the last two games at the OMNI, before losing game 5 back in Chicago.

Need I go on. Mark my words…..They will find a way to let us down.

JMar

May 2nd, 2009
3:29 pm

I want to win. But there is zero chance this team beats Cleveland, and I think the future is better if they lose. A win probably means they sign Woody to an extension, bring back Bibby, stick with the status quo, thinking the team will continue to improve. A loss puts Woody’s head on the block (they still won’t fire him, but maybe they also won’t resign him to an extension), forces them to consider moving on at the PG position, and hopefully makes Woody realize that what he’s doing isn’t necessarily working.

Hawks73

May 2nd, 2009
3:33 pm

Mark, very well put. The Hawks have been preaching from day one that they have worked all season for “home court” in a meaningful game. The truth is, the ending (no matter how it turns out) will be anticlimactic. The Hawks should have won this series in Miami and will now have to grind out a game seven with everything to loose.

They must “show up” in the first quater and get ahead early. You can write this down, whichever team leads in the first quarter tomorrow will win the game. I don’t have any hallucinations that this Hawks team will be composed enough to handle their business. Their tendency to take quaters/road games off is mind-numbly frustrating. Here’s to hope and extending my misery into round 2.

Ree Roe

May 2nd, 2009
3:33 pm

Mark,

Great article as usual, but it is a decidedly different attitude in this article from the one you had after Game 5. Has your confidence in the Hawks evaporated that quickly?

Personally, I expect the Hawks to win, but I wouldn’t be surprised by any result on tomorrow…assuming the Hawks do lose what changes do you propose the Hawks make this offseason?

-I AM Ree Roe!

Scot

May 2nd, 2009
3:34 pm

I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since that game. I was at that one as well as the Celtics loss when we were up 3-2 at home and Levingston (or Carr?) took that ill fated runner. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I swore off the Hawks after the Milwaukee game 5 and basically never went back. Last year’s Celtics series finally got my attention back and it looked promising again. But now I just think that series might have been bad for the franchise, because it allowed Woodson to keep his job and this team is just clueless most of the time. This series was a step back, win or lose. Like you have said, Mark, this should have been a 5 or 6 game series against a middling team.

eturn

May 2nd, 2009
3:37 pm

Hopefully we can win this game,but with Woodson coaching im not sure…Kinda like the Braves and Bobby Cox. Can get u you to the playoff and thats about it..Even tho Bobby did do it one time. What the Hawks need is a single owner who have passion for the game.such as A Blank. The spirit is a group of owners. Who only interest is money. Go Hawks

nunna yo bizznezz

May 2nd, 2009
3:40 pm

**i told you so!!!**
mike woodson wanted to lose friday’s game,i could tell how he had his injured players dressed,and his non-injured players in street clothes!!

A few facts that you all should know..
1st,rick sund was the gm who traded joe from phoenix for diaw and look at what diaw did to his game when others here didn’t know how to use him..so,don’t be shocked to see him in another uniform next season,especially if woody is out of here..sund would like to have his own coach in here,and i for one,don’t blame him one bit…

2nd,even though they didn’t win a championship,look at the talent he assembled on those suns teams,and he went out and got flip,mo evans,hunter,gardner,and morris as additions,and i bet they could play well as a unit against our,or any other teams 1st or 2nd,or even 3rd units today!! u might say,im nuts,And how do i know they would..well,i’d just ask you,how do u know they wouldn’t??
i go by one’s track record on assembling a team,and they would not be here if he didn’t bring them in to compete and make woody’s team….p.s.,when he traded joe from phoenix,the suns did not miss joe johnson…

woody is out of here regardless whether he wins sunday or not..
he has no control over josh smith..he plays his starters playoff minutes all season long..and everyone knows even if we drafted chris paul,he would be riding the bench if woody would have coached him..

woody does not know what he is doing..

gusman354

May 2nd, 2009
3:43 pm

YOU BETTER WIN PIGEONS, IF NOT ILL BE LAUGHING ALL WEEK LONG.HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

gusman354

May 2nd, 2009
3:49 pm

BUT DON’T WORRY YOU GUYS HAVE THE BETTER TEAM AND THE BEST PLAYER J-SMOOVE , D-WADE IS AN OVERRATED PRIMA DONNA . RIGHT,RIGHT?HAHAHAHHAAAAAAAAAAA

eturn

May 2nd, 2009
3:50 pm

nunna.. i agree Woodson gotta go..he have players on the bench the whole season and not give them a chance to play. He play his 1st unit way too much..but u know why? He is trying to keep his job.There is no half court game,no fluid movement of the team. Watching other teams.. they seem to flow alot better.And he seem to be out of touch with the players. Cant motivate them.

alsim

May 2nd, 2009
3:51 pm

If they lose this game Mike Woodson should be fired.

I said it a year ago and it still applies: IMAGINE HOW GOOD THIS TEAM COULD BE WITH A GOOD COACH.

.

gusman354

May 2nd, 2009
3:56 pm

If they lose this game Mike Woodson should be fired.

I said it a year ago and it still applies: IMAGINE HOW GOOD THIS TEAM COULD BE WITH A GOOD COACH.
ISAIAH THOMAS IS LOOKING FOR A JOB ARE YOU GUYS INTERESTED?

Hawks73

May 2nd, 2009
4:09 pm

nunna yo bizznezz – Dude, your first “fact”/statement is not correct. Rick Sund has never worked for the Phoenix Suns.

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
4:11 pm

When every game is a blowout, can we really say the series has come down to coaching? I mean, it’s not like somebody has been drawing up last-gasp plays to outsmart the other guy.

I think we can question Woodson’s decision not to double-team Wade in Game 2. I think we can question Spoelstra’s decision to start (and stick by) James Jones. But that’s really about it, tactics-wise.

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
4:12 pm

And Ree Roe, I do think the Hawks will win. But I didn’t sense the required urgency in Game 6, and the pragmatist in me believes you only get so many shots at closing out a series.

But they are the better team, and they are playing at home.

Joel in ATL

May 2nd, 2009
4:16 pm

As a native Georgian and non-Hawk Fan. For all the peoplethat say Mike Woodson is not the Coach for this team, PLEASE NAME SOMEONE ELSE WHO IS. QUite frankly the more people rip Coach Woodson the more respect I have for him. To those of you who don’t watch the NBA why does Woodson need to to go. ALl the “the teamis never perpared” stuff is kinda old, and really holds no wait becasue he could talk til he is blue in the face that isn’t going to do the trick 100%. Woodson continues to work, push and yes I’m really bout to stand u fro hi, but up with the “fairweather oh so spoiled Atlanta Market”. Woodson has already done more that Phil Jackson would have done with this team…Yes I said it, I’ve never seen Phil Jackson (with all due respect to him, Tex Winter, Jordan, Pippen, SHaq, and Kobe) build a team, have you…that’s what I though because he will not take on a rebuilding team. Lon Kruger couldn’t doit, nor could Terry Stotts so why in the HELL when you get someone who is showing you what it takes and is have successes in incremental amounts are you trying to run him out of town, it baffles me AND I’M FROM GEORGIA born an raise? And to those of you who feel they don’t stand a chance against Cleveland, that on paper, maybe true yet would you rather be a first round loser or a Semi-final participate? Am I saying they will win, no but they will bow out in 5 or 6 games and that is where a traditional #4 seed does bow out. The 3 things the Hawks will need to do regardless of what happens in Gm7 is to get deeper on the bench, find a solid post presence to compliment Horford, and make sure they get a PG that will keep the offense from getting stale in the half court (the Hawks main weakness) Yes the Hawks should win and if they don’t they still have room to grow, and Yes Mark they are STILL young when it comes to playoff experience overall as a unit.

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
4:20 pm

Nothing will be gained by losing tomorrow. On the contrary, much will be lost.

But here it is again: I think they’ll win.

MatthewH

May 2nd, 2009
4:26 pm

Hey gusman354: Isiah Thomas isn’t looking for a job anymore. He was named the coach at Florida International University which is in Miami.

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
4:29 pm

And he’s coaching the first season at FIU for free, Matthew H. Which sounds about right.

braveshater

May 2nd, 2009
4:30 pm

Joel, dont ever write in this blog again, you are the epitomy of moron. Did u just compare mike woodson to PHIL JACKSON. Come on dude, u cant even believe what u just said. Woody sucks, I havent seen him draw up a play all year except for the Josh Smith alley-oop play, and we havent even seen that in a while.

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
4:35 pm

How Joel be the epitome of moron when we all know I’m the epitome of moron?

Oh, and here’s a little nugget: On ESPN.com’s Daily Dime, the poll question is the same as on this page: Who’s going to win Game 7? And of around 4,000 respondents, 65 percent are going with the road team. The Wade Factor at work, if you ask me.

Mike Woodson

May 2nd, 2009
4:36 pm

I want my head on a platter if we lose Game 7. We can’t really use youth as an excuse. Bibby, Joe, Josh, Flip, Zaza and Mo have all been in the league for a while.

However, if when we win tomorrow, I want a long-term contract. I will obviously be the reason why we have advanced to the second round. I want to be paid accordingly.

singndablues

May 2nd, 2009
4:38 pm

Hawks probably lose. Why? Every playoff team needs a go to-guy and the Hawks go-to, JJ has been pathetic in the playoffs. Wade will elevate his game and JJ will shrink as he has been doing when his team really needs him. Besides the NBA would prefer to see a Lebron/Wade match-up so Wade will get all the close calls.

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
4:43 pm

Fun fact: The Heat has shot 21 fewer free throws in the six games than have the Hawks.

And let me note that LeBron James had 45 points in Game 7 against the Celtics last May — and the Cavaliers lost. And I don’t think Wade’s supporting cast is any better than LeBron’s was then.

woodie

May 2nd, 2009
4:46 pm

The Haws will lose. Why, because The ghost of Atlanta sports past will be court side with a grin on his face. Can we give front row seats to Dave Justice and Tom Glavine?

GOHAWKS

May 2nd, 2009
4:48 pm

The heat were 28-13 on their home floor. The hawks were 16-25 away from Phillips. So winning that game 4 was crucial. I kinda saw game 6 happening. That being said the hawks were 31-10 I beleive at Phillips and the heat were 15-26 on opponents floors. The stars don’t lie and as for all this negative criticism of everyhting the hawks do is RIDICULOUS. This is the most meaningful game that a pro team has played inside these city limits in something like 5 years. So let’s get behind them and burn Phillips down tommorow with all theenergy on the building. All this negative garbage shouldbe saved for the likes of other teams that are moredeserving I.e. Braves thrashers. What are your thoughts mark???

mykhalc

May 2nd, 2009
4:49 pm

this team has NEVER, EVER been nor looked prepared!! and that is a direct reflection on the BRAINLESS ONE…WOODSON!!! he needs to go even if the HAWKS would somehow win the entire thing!! the cat flat out sucks as a HC…PERIOD!!!

SouthAfrican09

May 2nd, 2009
4:51 pm

WHY IS NO ONE MAD ABOUT D.WADE SWINGING AT HORFORD’S NECK ON THAT PLAY THAT INJURED HORFORD?

WHY IS MARVIN ALWAYS F********IN INJURED?

WADE INTENTIONALLY HORF AS DID JAMES JONES [WHO?]

SouthAfrican09

May 2nd, 2009
4:52 pm

Mr. Bradley, are you getting annoyed with Marvin? every time this guy falls, he gets injured

Why did Bibby not shoot in the 2nd half last night?

Barry

May 2nd, 2009
5:03 pm

Hey Y’all:

IT S ON!!!! The Hawks are mad as hell after that loss. They played without Al Horford. They played without Marvin Williams. They played agaianst the media who was crying about Josh Smith’s dunk. Can You believe that considering all the crazy dunks Lebron and Kobie does when they are anihilating teams. These Hawks are making a stamp and the teams in the NBA and the media knows it. They are “THE KNEW KID S ON THE BLOCK” and the likes of Kenny Smith and Charles Barkely, and their negative comments about our team, can’t get use to it. They are old commentators and they can not get use to “CHANGE”. They comerade with their boys like Wade and others because they are in that click. That’s why these are our Hawks!!! These are our ATLANTA HAWKS!!!! THey are our “click” . We are going to break that “DAMN TNT Click” and have them all respect our city and our players when we step on the court. It is us against the world. Some of our local media guys, like Schultz, wrote an article today that was so stupid that it was unconcievable to believe knowing that he has to know that Al Horford, one of the hearts on this team did not play. He needs to go to Miami after this series and suck grapes with Wade on the beach after we end this thing. What a joke of a local media guy, especially when we are in this playoff. Bias. Hell yeah I want to here bias in our home town for our team. You hear it every other city when it’s playoff time. Therefore, “LETS GO HAWKS!!”, “LET’s GO HAWKS!!!”, and kick this butt on Sunday!! THIS OUR TIME! THIS OUR CITY!! THIS OUR TEAM!! THESE ARE OUR ATLANTA HAWKS!! And come tomorrow, we will show that we are here to o “SHOCK THE WORLD!!” WE AIN’T PLAYING WITH NONE OF Y’ALL!!!

LET’S GO HAWKS!! LET’S GO HAWKS!!!! LET’S GO HAWKS!!!!!!!!

SEE Y’ALL AT PHILLIPS!!!!!!

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a HAWK FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

……………………”ATLANTA HAWKS, BOOM-BYE-YEAH!!!…………..
………………………”SHOCK THE WORLD!!!!!!!………………..

Ringold

SlimG

May 2nd, 2009
5:15 pm

We’ll win in 7. Woody has been great this season and last. This guy has never had any experience and is growing on the job we handed him. And by the way, it wasn’t a great job to have. Give him some credit peeps. He has played the best first round playoff series without two starters and a real center. By best, I mean best records in the regular season. Ok, I agree he has a lot to learn, but who would have done a better job. He coaches defense and team ball which is rare in the era. It wins championships people! If we get a real center to help Al down low and a penetrating guard that can shoot plus handle the ball, we might have something to talk about.

Stat Man

May 2nd, 2009
5:30 pm

We need to get a 40+ year monkey off our backs – the Atlanta Hawks have never (as in zero) won a game 7.

That said, this is the year, I just got back from Phillips picking up my tickets and hope to see everybody there rocking the house Sunday!

DHD

May 2nd, 2009
5:45 pm

Josh…please drive the ball. You’re not 3 point shooter. Please?????

Kentucky Fried Hawks

May 2nd, 2009
5:48 pm

This team is a disgrace, and I won’t bother being disappointed again on Sunday. This whole situation feels too much like last year’s Game 7, where we once again got embarrassed.

New coach, new owners, new players = BUILD A REAL B-BALL FRANCHISE IN ATLANTA

Josh Smith

May 2nd, 2009
5:49 pm

Still the #1 shooting guard in the NBA!!

Seriously, stop passing this idiot the ball outside the arc!!

Terrence Moore

May 2nd, 2009
5:50 pm

This team stinks so bad that I quit the AJC, and I refused the buy-out money!

Oklahoma City, HERE I COME!!!!

TheAntiMe

May 2nd, 2009
6:26 pm

It is kind of funny how all of the Heat players just totally forget to guard Josh when he is more than 10 feet away from the basket. I wonder why that is?

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
6:28 pm

About Marvin: Maybe a little. But if you’re hurt, you’re hurt. (And let me point out that one of the things Billy Knight was supposed to do well was find guys who’d stay healthy. Like Speedy. Hee, hee.)

Mark Bradley

May 2nd, 2009
6:42 pm

The Braves last played an elimination game in Atlanta in October 2004 — they lost to the Astros. The Falcons last played a home playoff game in January 2003, but it was a quarterfinal against an 8-8 opponent. The Thrashers have played two home playoff games in their history.

So I’d say you’re right about this being the biggest game played in Atlanta in five years, GoHawks. Good observation.

Josh Smith cant read

May 2nd, 2009
7:09 pm

good luck next year Hawks fans…Dwade will proceed to drop a nice hot cleveland steamer on the Hawks logo after he drops 45 points in the game to win it…admit it guys Dwade is better then AL, Josh, and Joe put together…there is no one on the hawks who can match him or guard him, you guys have no shot

Could Careless this year .

May 2nd, 2009
7:34 pm

who cares about the Hawks and Braves ,im ready to see what the falcons do this year !

D Wade

May 2nd, 2009
7:38 pm

Why do I whine so much even when I get a lot of questionable calls my way every game? I guess I’m just a born whiner. Maybe I should check out some of the clubs in ATL tonight…bring my boy Stoney Beasley with me and show him how the vets party.

gusman354

May 2nd, 2009
7:44 pm

Mark Bradley ;Fun fact: The Heat has shot 21 fewer free throws in the six games than have the Hawks.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA THE REF FIX THE GAMES LOL

gusman354

May 2nd, 2009
7:48 pm

Mark Bradley :Oh, and here’s a little nugget: On ESPN.com’s Daily Dime, the poll question is the same as on this page: Who’s going to win Game 7? And of around 4,000 respondents, 65 percent are going with the road team. The Wade Factor at work, if you ask me.
HAHAHAHAHAHA ONLY THE PEOPLE IN ATLANTA SUPPORT THE HAWKS.WHY IS THAT?

Gman

May 2nd, 2009
7:51 pm

As long as coach Woody can not figure out how to set screens or picks for Joe Johnson and allows the opponents coach to dictate our offense by leaving Josh Smith alone to mislaunch 3 pointers,these Hawks will always leave us frustrated.Josh is a great player,UNDER THE BASKET,and Joe is a great player,WHEN HE CAN GET SET TO SHOOT.The Hawks can only win when the game is played like a fast break.If we play GREAT defense or the Heat can’t hit the barn door we will win,despite Woody’s remedial coaching!

gusman354

May 2nd, 2009
7:58 pm

LIKE I SAY TWO DAYS AGO IT’S NOT OVER UNTIL IS OVER YOU GUYS WHERE CELEBRATING AFTER GAME 5,NOW D-WADE IS PISS OFF AND THERE IS NOTHING YOUR TEAM CAN DO NOW

gusman354

May 2nd, 2009
8:04 pm

New coach, new owners, new players = BUILD A REAL B-BALL FRANCHISE IN ATLANTA
WOW THAT’S A GREAT IDEA,THE NEW TEAM CAN BE CALLED THE ATLANTA PIGEONS , WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK.

NCBravesFan

May 2nd, 2009
8:05 pm

Mark – after last night, I’m having a hard time thinking the Hawks have progressed this year. Sure, they won more games and had a better regular season – but this series seems to be suggesting to me that the Hawks have maximized their potential as they are constructed, and some “game changers” of one kind or another are needed after this season is over.

It also strikes me that a lot of the Hawks’ talk about how they’ve matured is just that – talk. Last night was a real disappointment, as you chronicled so well in this post.