One big step for these Hawks, one giant leap for Atlanta

The franchise that didn’t draft Chris Paul and saw its owners sue another over a trade with Phoenix; the franchise of the wayward bird mascot and Cliff Levingston’s running lefty hook; the franchise that hadn’t won a Game 7 since it was based in St. Louis and a best-of-seven series since 1970 …

That franchise stands among the NBA’s elite eight.

Admit it. You laughed at these guys. Heck, we all laughed. But go ask the preening Pat Riley and the illustrious Dwyane Wade how funny it is to play these reborn Atlanta Hawks. Because they’re different. They’re the kind of team we Atlantans don’t see very often. They’re the kind that rises to its moment.

“This has been the kind of situation in which Atlanta has traditionally had trouble,” said Michael Gearon Jr., a lifelong Hawks’ fan who’s one of the team’s many owners. “And not just us. Other teams, too.”

Well, yes. From Lonnie Smith dallying in the Metrodome to Eugene Robinson getting arrested on Biscayne Boulevard, we’ve grown accustomed to the cosmic letdown. But this Game 7 wasn’t that. On the contrary, it was a beatdown. The better team won, and the better team calls Atlanta home. How nice is that?

“It feels good,” said Josh Smith, the Atlantan who scored 21 points and took nine rebounds in Game 7. “It feels like the monkey’s off Atlanta’s back, not just this team’s.”

Said Al Horford, who worked 32 1/2 minutes on a sprained right ankle: “It’s big. People are really starting to look at Atlanta and consider us a basketball city.”

People should. Forget that Philips Arena wasn’t quite sold out for Game 7. What matters is that these guys spent a year saying they wanted a Game 7 at home, and when they got it they made it sing.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Joe Johnson, the flashpoint of that Phoenix trade in 2005, had a terrible first quarter but owned the final three, finishing with 27 points (on 19 shots), four assists and five steals. Zaza Pachulia did his Hercules-unchained bit again, the Heat’s Udonis Haslem growing so frazzled he finally threw Zaza to floor and got ejected for his excess. And Mike Woodson – yes, Mike Woodson – had a moment that changed the game.

Game tied, first quarter, 10 seconds left, Heat ball. Woodson — whom I’ve sought to fire a half-dozen times — called for his men to give a foul, which Zaza did. And Woodson inserted Mario West, who harassed Wade into a lousy crosscourt pass that Mike Bibby intercepted. And James Jones fouled Bibby, who made a pair to give the Hawks a lead they’d never lose. Great coaching.

The rest was highlights and laughs, Johnson hitting and Smith dunking and Zaza hitting the floor. The lead would reach 29 points before Woodson began giving his starters curtain calls, which were richly deserved. They had stared down D-Wade. They had won a Game 7. They were the Same Old Hawks no longer.

Said Smith: “To go from 13 wins [in 2004-2005, his rookie season] to this is just a blessing. This is a wonderful team.”

No, it isn’t the NBA’s best team. But it now gets to play the best. LeBron and his Cavs will probably win. But we Atlantans again have reason to watch.

121 comments Add your comment

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May 3rd, 2009
5:54 pm

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Observation

May 3rd, 2009
5:54 pm

Hawks looked real good today. The final score was not indicative of all about how resounding of a victory this. Hawks utterly dominated the Heat today.

Observation

May 3rd, 2009
5:56 pm

Also have to give big props to Joe Johnson for stepping up and having a big time game that you expect out of your go to guy and star player. When the hawks needed him the most, he stepped up, so good for him as I was a bit critical of him for being the invisible man during the playoffs.

Doug

May 3rd, 2009
6:03 pm

Josh Smith is going to be REALLY GOOD. He does a topn of things that don’t show in the stat sheet as well as fill up the pts, rebs, assist, and blks columns. If this man gets a jump shot while he still has those hops and defensive intensity, the sky is the limit for this hometown kid. I love his mean streak, he just has to control it. Lock down LBJ smoove!

Whopper Dawg

May 3rd, 2009
6:04 pm

Well done Hawks. Nothing is a given and you produced. Congratulations. Play the Cavs hard and who knows what will happen, that is why they tip it off!!!

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
6:09 pm

Isn’t it odd? People want Josh to develop a jump shot but cringe when he takes a jump shot.

Me, I’ll take him just the way he is.

devildog

May 3rd, 2009
6:11 pm

Wasn’t sure I’d live this long. Been following the Hawks since Joe Caldwell–1968–and I was 31. I’m 70, still alive and so are the Hawks. Miracles CAN happen.

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
6:15 pm

Hear, hear, DD.

Jumpin’ Joe — what a player. One of the most underrated NBA guys ever.

mountain_jim

May 3rd, 2009
6:15 pm

Mark you got this column out fast! Good one!

I was yelling ‘where’s Joe’ all over the place, then he hit those 2 treys – and the game was never close again. He made sure of it. He has to play like that for us to have any chance in next series.

That was fun.

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
6:17 pm

I think we all were saying that, Mountain.

And I might not be any good, but I am fairly fast.

Baracked the vote!

May 3rd, 2009
6:19 pm

The difficulty in the NBA, like most pro sports, is taking the step from a playoff team to an elite team. The hawks do not have the one “great” player to take them to the next level. don’t get me wrong, i am not complaining. heck, miami has wade and they are gone. JJ had a heckuva game, bibby has added stability to the PG position and Josh Smith can score and block shots. ZaZa has impressed me and Horford plays beyond his years. i just remember when Moses Malone and Reggie Theus were supposed to be the missing pieces for a championship team and the Wilkins-Manning trade. more recently steve smith and mookie blaylock (yea, pearl jam should have stuck with that name) departing and the jim jackson and the isiah rider fiasco. i look forward to the cleveland series, but expect the hawks to lose in 6 which is nothing to be ashamed of. maybe the ownership question is finally settled, the team can pick up the missing piece.

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
6:23 pm

Getting to Round 2 was huge, Baracked. No question. To have lost Game 7 would have thrown all manner of doubt on this organization. But now the point’s moot.

lawton

May 3rd, 2009
6:23 pm

YAWN. wake me up when cleveland laces them up to meet the lakers. between the OBVIOUS fixing of nba games by referees suspect calls ( we all know they want cavs vs lakers), and the fact the hawks, according to charles barkley, have a “TURRIBLE” halfcourt offense, why even bother playing cleveland???

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
6:27 pm

Can’t believe I’m defending a corporate entity … but why, if the games were fixed, would the NBA have allowed Atlanta to eliminate Dwyane Wade’s club?

Brock D

May 3rd, 2009
6:33 pm

Lawton, if games were fixed wouldn’t it make sense to send D-Wade to the next round since he is a much bigger draw then the Hawks? Just a thought. Also, not seeing all the Mike Woodson nay sayers today. He did a great job today calling to’s everytime it even looked like Miami might make a run. He has improved every single year with a young inexperienced team. Kudos MB!

Brock D

May 3rd, 2009
6:34 pm

Just saw your post MB. Great minds think alike!

lawton

May 3rd, 2009
6:37 pm

Brock, the “fixing” in this series was the suspect calls wade was getting to KEEP the heat in the series. in the next round, lebron, with his patent travels that they never call, is gonna get the benefit of the “fix”. combine that with the hawks turrible offense, it might be a cavs sweep into the conference finals.

Baracked the vote!

May 3rd, 2009
6:38 pm

the most impressive thing I saw from the heat today was Haslem’s tattoo of FL on his back. with all the ink covering the NBA today, that one is still impressive. glad it is on his skin and not mine, though.

trey

May 3rd, 2009
6:41 pm

Now, where is that guy who was bashing Atlanta when the Hawks were up 3 games to 2? He said if he lost he would be on here taking his lumps on Friday.

loose hawk in the factory

May 3rd, 2009
6:43 pm

SIGN ZAZA LONG-TERM!!!

He obviously loves it in Atlanta (he’s a native Georgian, after all :) ), and he’s earned it!!!

King James, meet KING ZAZA!!!!!

rotterdam

May 3rd, 2009
6:44 pm

lawton, why are you posting here instead of the on Sacramento Kings boards?

Lost?

Brock D

May 3rd, 2009
6:45 pm

Lawton you are missing the point. If D-Wade is such a draw, why would they let him get eliminated in round 1? And yes Wade gets calls. Unfortunately that’s how the NBA, or all sports operate. Maddox gets the marginal strike call, Jordan gets away with traveling and if you brush up against Peyton Manning it’s roughing the passer.

Cairo

May 3rd, 2009
6:47 pm

Great Job Hawks! I am glad T. Moore was not here to write about it. Probably would have messed up the article and said they did not win by more points. Oh well. Life is good at the AJC again, I guess. Is it football season yet?

jg

May 3rd, 2009
6:50 pm

Mark,

I think there’s a time when we don’t mind Josh taking a jumpshot–that would be in the off season or in practice or heck even in a blowout…but not when Bibby has a wide open look or JJ or even Flip or Mo–he’s got to quit taking those shots! I love the guy and he can develop a 12 to 17 foot jumper similar to Haslem’s in the off season. Just please post up and drive instead of settling or dribbling. The man already is a force–but the great thing is he should only get better!

Great win today! I certainly had some doubts after Friday night–but I tried to keep telling myself that this is the Hawks I’ve watched all year and they would be all right–and that’s what happened. I’m so glad this one wasn’t close late in the game.

As far as the officiating went this afternoon–I believe we finally got a call against D-wade on the charge they called on him against Jsmoove..but that was the only we call we got the entire season. What was the technical on Zsa Zsa–what a joke!!!!!!

Finally, no I don’t see us winning a series against the Cavs and that’s good for me to think that–because every time I doubt this team–they prove me wrong and I love them for that! I’ve always considered myself an Atlanta sports fan since 1972 and the pecking order was always Falcons, Hawks and then Braves…but the past two years have moved the Hawks right up there with my Falcons. Win or Lose this series with Cleveland and the Hawks have made my basketball season a ton of fun. Thanks Hawks and all I ask is to play your butts off against the Cavs–YOU NEVER KNOW!!!!

JUST GO AHEAD AND REALLY SHOCK THE WORLD THIS YEAR IN THIS SERIES.

Great Job Today!

Chattanooga Hawks

Barry

May 3rd, 2009
6:50 pm

Hey Y’all:

Our Hawks are “IN IT TO WIN IT!!. This city has been starving for our Hawks to make the playoff and be successful once they got there. Well, here we are again. These nitty, gritty, young players are “ballers”. They know how to play the game. They are not young players without experience. They are veterans NBA players with game. The are
“THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK” in the NBA and the nation will now see the “NEW AND IMPROVED” version of these Hawks as compared to last year. Bibby has now been with the team for a full year and he is more than comfortable and creative in running the offense. Flip Murray is a quality addition to the mix with these Hawks and appears to love playing the game on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Mo Evans is also part of this process allowing our HAWKS to take “THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD”. These additions with the maturity and unity of our young guys like Joe, Josh, Marvin and the rest of the crew makes us a “VERY DANGEROUS TEAM” to play. We played “TOE to TOE” with Cleveland this year. And the Cavs know they are in for a battle with these Atlanta Hawks. THIS IS THE PLAYOFF. This team represent the heart and spirit of this city. They play aggressive in your face basketball and don’t back down from anyone. That is what the people of Atlanta and this city is about. I am more than confident they are going to “SHOCK THE WORLD!!!” when the nation see our Atlanta Hawks take it to the Cavs. Believe me. The Cavs are concerned about these atletic HAwks. The can run and gun witth the best of them. Just ask the Miami Heat who was goo preparation for our playing and beating these Cav’s. Therefore our Atlanta Hawks, “MAKE THE CITY OF ATLANTA PROUD” and we, as FANS, willcontinue to “MAKE THE PHILLIPS LOUD!!” WE ARE WITH YOU AND READY TO “SHOCK THE WORLD!!!!”

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

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a HAWK FAN!! TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

Najeh Davenpoop

May 3rd, 2009
7:02 pm

This was a phenomenal performance by the entire team. Great to see Joe Johnson finally play like the All Star we have grown accustomed to seeing.

As far as Josh Smith’s jumper is concerned, if he could become as automatic as Udonis Haslem is from 15 feet, he would be a nearly unstoppable offensive weapon. All it takes is a lot of hard work in the offseason.

By the way, this game would have easily been a sellout if the NBA didn’t stupidly schedule it at 1 PM on a Sunday.

David Smith

May 3rd, 2009
7:07 pm

Though i wish we would have finished the heat off within 5 or 6 games we needed a challenge like this to prepare us for another physical series we will face in cleveland. I hope marvin is healthy enough to play because we will need his offense and he defends lebron very well. I can see this series going to 7 games as well if we can win one game in cleveland, play with intensity on the road, and have joe step up to have an huge series. Another reason i want us to win is because the cavs are currently using the “rise up” slogan for the playoffs (we used it first in the 05-06 season) GO HAWKS!!!

JM

May 3rd, 2009
7:20 pm

Just to go along with Mark’s point about how rare this is for Atlanta, this is the first time one of the four major sports franchises in the city has advanced a round in the postseason since the Falcons beat the Rams in 2004-05 NFL playoffs. Since that time (until today) the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Thrashers made the playoffs just one time, and each lost in the first round.

It’s been a tough few years, but the Falcons and Hawks look like they may be giving us a lot to cheer about for years to come.

D-Whine Disposed

May 3rd, 2009
7:23 pm

Let’s all remember that Josh Smith is only 23 years ago. When compared age wise to 4 year college players, he’s just a rookie. To say he’s only now scratching the surface of his talent is a understatement. I don’t think he took any bad jump shots today to be fair. His were all wide wide open, or at the end of the clock, he just didn’t make them. When Josh develops his jumper just a bit more he will be a MVP caliber player.

I’ve seen alot of harsh comments about Joe on these forums too. Look, for sure his shot was off for most of the series, but still he played the role of facilitator perfectly even when his shot wasn’t falling. Drawing double teams, and making the right pass out of it every time. And like all great superstars, when the time came for him to hoist the team on his back, he did. Knew his slump was over when he just rose up over the defender and drilled that first 3, then minutes later came the 30 ft bomb. Joe will have a great, great series against the Cavs.

I don’t think this Cleveland team is anywhere near as good as a team as last year’s Celtics. We took that team to 7. Steal one in Cleveland, and anything can happen.

niremetal

May 3rd, 2009
7:32 pm

I loved this. Check out the Q&A at 2:06:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1dgp-lOoJE

D-Wade made a mental mistake, and he STILL blames it on the refs. One of many great plays by Zaza in the series. He knocked the ball out of bounds, burned 2 seconds of clock. D-Wade didn’t look at the clock when the ball was inbounded again. And he wants to blame it on the clock and the refs? Or is he saying “My bad” there and I’m just not realizing it?

Onto Cleveland.

SlimG

May 3rd, 2009
7:46 pm

I told you guys to stay with Woody. Finally, Mark, we get some insight into game calls. I thought he did a terrific job all series not doubling Wade and putting us at a disadvantage. Not once did we let anyone believe we had to double. All the so called experts on this blog kept saying to double, but Woody and myself knew we could win without such antics. We have a team and Miami has a vacation.

Oh yeah, who is going to guard Lebron? What’s Marvin’s status? How did Al’s ankle feel after the game? These are questions we would like answers to Mark.

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
8:03 pm

Al looked fine afterward. He obviously didn’t have his normal lift today, but he played tough.

And, as I mentioned on the live blog, esteemed colleague Sekou Smith believes Marvin will play against Cleveland. Not sure when, but at some point.

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
8:09 pm

I would imagine Maurice Evans will guard LeBron. He and Joe would be the only two possibilities, it would seem to me, after Marvin.

Robert Yates

May 3rd, 2009
8:09 pm

I actually haven’t laughed at them Mark. The only real stretch of games that I’ve missed since ‘90 was while I was in the Marines. Aside from those just starting to catch on there are some serious fans out there who have been hurting for a while. I’m seriously glad for all those who feel we’re almost gonna get some real recognition. We’re all on the brink of a nationally televised game a month, and I’m so glad Joe and the boys are shoving it in the face of the national media who only wanted to see Lebron vs. Dwayne. Thanks Hawks for the effort all season and all the work you’ve put in. It hasn’t always been pretty, but most of us knew where we were gonna end up. The season can now be considered a success, but can it now be amazing??? I don’t think we’ll win, but we didn’t beat Boston last year either. Make a good run and we’ll be the talk from coast to coast. Are you ready?

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
8:13 pm

I think if the Hawks take Cleveland to six games it will be a terrific run.

Heat Fan!

May 3rd, 2009
8:17 pm

OK Hawks here I am, I’m a man of my word (unlike Atlanta’s class-less fans: “hey hey goodbye” — how original!) All I’m going to say is that you’re lucky Zaza’s dirty play concussed O’Neal…. Good luck against the cavs, you’re going to need it.

Next year will be a different story.

Hawksgirl

May 3rd, 2009
8:24 pm

Dirty omg! Zaza is so not dirty. He is just a good player. Stop hating. This is seriously cracking me up because zaza wouldnt hurt a fly, just a guy with a red bullseye. lol

cavsfan

May 3rd, 2009
8:26 pm

Glad to see all the positive remarks towards the Hawks. I’ve been watching the NBA since 1969 and the ATL has had their moments ( like Tree taking a bite out of Ainge) but like my Cavaliers, those moments have been few and far between. Let’s have a great series. This may be the start of a real hot rivalry.

Jim

May 3rd, 2009
8:36 pm

Perhaps a prop for Billy Knight in all this. Yes, he drafted Shelden Williams, but he turned Shelden Williams into Mike Bibby.

RA

May 3rd, 2009
8:43 pm

First off, let me say that the Heat played a good series. When you look at the team that they had and the issues that they had, a person might wonder how they even got to the playoffs much less pushed a demonstratively better team to a game seven(sounds a little like the 2007-2008 Hawks doesn’t it?) Anyway, I think that they’ve got some good years ahead with Chalmers, Beasley, and a healthy Wade. I think that they’re a team that can contend sooner than later. They’re in a great city with great fans, and when those fans look at this season, I hope they’ll see it for the success that it was.

Now, as for my Hawks, didn’t see a minute of this game! I was at a religious assembly in Conyer’s GA! But when my sister called me on my cell and told me that the Hawks had won, I planted a big sloppy wet one on my wife right there in the parking lot in front of everybody! Now understand, I’ve been a Hawks fan long enough to see their future become ancient history, and the one thing that I can say is that this Hawks team is different. They haven’t won as many games as they could have this season, and God knows they haven’t won as many as they should have, but they’ve won when it mattered most and they’ve given us more to cheer about than we’ve had in a month of Sundays.

And on a personal note, my dad had to watch this series from a hospital bed. All season long, he’d hoped that the Hawks would give us all something special, like last year, and they did. Now, I don’t know if any of the Hawks or Woody actually read these things, but I do want to say, just in case you do, that you made my old man more happy and more proud than I ever could have, and I do thank you.

RA

May 3rd, 2009
8:47 pm

Heat Fan, you don’t have anything to be ashamed of, but neither do the Hawks. They won the series, there were rotten calls on both sides, but when the smoke cleared, the Hawks were still standing. Don’t cheapen that by saying that they played dirty. And if you’re looking for a Hawks fan that respects your team and the job they put in, you don’t have to look any farther because you’ve got one right here.

trey

May 3rd, 2009
8:53 pm

Heat Fan, at least you are a man of your word and I admire that, and hopefully the other fans of Atlanta do too, since you are grown to admit defeat.

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
8:57 pm

Well, yes. Billy Knight finally did find a point guard.

trey

May 3rd, 2009
8:57 pm

As the Braves fan started singing during the 95 World Series to the Cleveland Indians, which should have been sung today, Hit the road Jack, don’t you come back, hit the road Jack, don’t you come back no more.

Smitty

May 3rd, 2009
8:58 pm

Its great that the Hawks won. Game 7 at home was the difference maker as Woodson had been anticipating all along. Best of luck with the Cavs who should be too much for this team. But please people recognize the truth about Josh Smith. He is totally a two edged sword who is so athletic that he does incredible ,memorable things that can help the team win but at the same time so immature and stubborn that he does things that cause a loss. Mike Fratello said it, in game 5, after that ridiculous dunk attempt,” I WONDER IF HE(Josh) HE GETS IT AT ALL HOW STUPID THAT WAS!”

Mark Bradley

May 3rd, 2009
8:59 pm

Atlanta against Cleveland again. Where’s Tom Glavine? Where’s David Justice? Where’s Pedro Borbon Jr.?

trey

May 3rd, 2009
9:02 pm

Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more. Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more. Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more. Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more.

trey

May 3rd, 2009
9:04 pm

Haha, those were the days. Glavine, Justice and Borbon Jr, now we got the short end with Kawakami and Reyes, even though after the first few innings and last game I thought Reyes was starting to show a little promise.

trey

May 3rd, 2009
9:06 pm

Reyes just had to screw it up.

trey

May 3rd, 2009
9:06 pm

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