The Hawks’ run of late-season good fortune continues. Had Yi Jianlian made a baseline jumper at the end of regulation in Miami last night, the Hawks wouldn’t be playing the Milwaukee Bucks come Saturday. They’d have faced the Miami Heat in Round 1 again, and that would have been a much rockier path.
But Yi missed and his New Jersey Nets lost to the Heat in double OT — the league’s worst team had grown skilled at losing, doing it 70 times this season — and the Hawks got what they wanted: The Bucks as a first-round opponent.
Milwaukee has had a nice season, but it’s about end. It is working without its best scorer (Michael Redd, torn ACL) and its best player (Andrew Bogut, broken arm). The best remaining Bucks are John Salmons, who has played for four teams in eight seasons; Jerry Stackhouse, who’s 35, and Brandon Jennings, who’s 20.
This, folks, will end in five games. The Hawks will win the first two. Figure the Bucks take Game 3 in Milwaukee — Game 3’s are usually the last stands for overmatched opponents — but then lose Games 4 and 5. And the Hawks will strut into Round 2 in better condition physically and emotionally than they were last spring, when the seven games against Miami left them hurting and spent.
And there’s a chance the Hawks could get lucky again. Charlotte faces Orlando in Round 1, and the Bobcats could string that out to six games. (Larry Brown is a good coach, as you know.) And that would leave the local team more refreshed than the Magic for Round 2, which wouldn’t hurt matters one bit.
I say again: This is shaping up very nicely for the Hawks.