The Hawks win a wild Game 3: They’re the better team, folks

That's how it's spelled: H-A-W-K-S. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

That's how it's spelled: H-A-W-K-S. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It’s not easy being an Atlanta Hawk. The whole wide world expects you to fail. Because you lost a playoff series by 101 points last spring. Because you spent much of this regular season getting blown out at home. Because your ownership promoted an assistant coach who was supposed to make you better and instead saw you slide from 53 wins to 44 with the same personnel.

But then the new season began, the one that matters, and you went to Orlando and took Game 1. Heck, you almost took Game 2. And what did the Magic’s Ryan Anderson tell reporters after those two games?

Why, this: “Atlanta’s a team that if things aren’t really going their way, they’re going to struggle a little bit. We’re different in a sense where if we’re down, we kind of know how to fight our way back into it.”

You’re an Atlanta Hawk, and you essentially got called heartless by Ryan Anderson. (Ryan Anderson, for Pete’s sake.) But it’s not just one Orlando sub who has come to doubt you. It’s pretty much the whole wide world. Because the Hawks’ way for a quarter-century has been to get people excited only to do something goofy. Like watch Cliff Levingston take the biggest shot in franchise history — Game 6 against Boston, 1988 — and miss the rim. Like trade for J.R. Rider. Like draft Marvin Williams. Like draft Shelden Williams.

But here’s the thing: To be an Atlanta Hawk now is to sit in a strangely sweet seat, after an 88-84 victory Friday night. Nobody expects you to win, and yet you’re gifted enough to beat anybody. Indeed, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy was asked before Game 3 on Friday about his announcer brother Jeff’s stated opinion that the Hawks are more talented than the Magic. “That’s of no consequence,” Stan Van Gundy said.

It isn’t, but it is. This is basketball. Talent does matter. At issue in this series is whether the better team can keep its head and hold its nerve. Because if that team does, the Hawks will be playing in Round 2.

Three games have been played in this series — a total of 144 minutes. The Hawks have won at least 100 of those minutes. They lead 2-1 on merit.

Will the Hawks win the series?

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They made Game 3 much harder than it needed to be, wasting a 14-point lead and falling behind with 11 minutes to play. They wobbled, but they didn’t fall. Jamal Crawford conjured up a four-point play to put the Hawks back in front. Al Horford, who had done little, drove the baseline for a reverse and then made a jumper. Zaza Pachulia drew a charge from Dwight Howard, then took a key offensive rebound.

Said Crawford, who would make a bigger shot: “We showed we could handle adversity tonight. We showed resolve.”

Ahead by eight, the Hawks again let the Magic clamber back. Pachulia fouled Howard, and then he got himself ejected for squaring off with Jason Richardson. Howard had two free throws to tie with 2:22 remaining. He missed one. The Hawks still led, if just.

Then Joe Johnson missed. Jameer Nelson stole an offensive rebound and hit to put the Magic ahead by a point. Johnson drove and got fouled, making both. Hawks again by one, now 1:22 left.

Hedo Turkoglu drove and fed Brandon Bass. Crawford drove and fed Horford. Hawks back ahead, 42 seconds to go.

Said Horford: “I struggled with my shooting tonight, but Jamal had confidence in me.”

Turkoglu hoisted a 3-pointer from the dead corner trey over Horford and missed.  Said Van Gundy: “Horrible shot.”

Crawford dribbled the clock down and, with 5.7 seconds remaining, banked home the clinching trey over the itsy-bitsy Nelson. Said Josh Smith: “Unbelievable shot.”

The team that couldn’t stay on the floor with the Magic 12 months ago had again taken a series lead. If you’re an Atlanta Hawk, you’re starting to make people wonder if they’d pegged you wrong. Said Crawford: “Thank God we won. That was probably the most important game of the series. The pressure’s on them now.”

Or is it? If you’re an Atlanta Hawk, the hard part comes now. You have to finish what you’ve started, lest your reputation as talented-but-heartless be cast in bronze for perpetuity.

And you’re capable. Orlando has been chasing you for 2 1/2 games now, and only in Game 2 did it catch you. You’ve outscored the Magic by 24 points from the floor in the series. You’ve held a double-digit lead in each game. You’re the better team. You need to take the wind from this pulsating victory and ride it into Game 4 on Easter Sunday. You need to ride it all the way into Round 2.

By Mark Bradley

140 comments Add your comment

soldierman

April 22nd, 2011
10:47 pm

soldierman

April 22nd, 2011
10:48 pm

Oh man finally after 2 years. My life is complete. The elusive first comment. It’s only downhill from here.

SteveW

April 22nd, 2011
10:51 pm

We can beat this team 4-1.

Way to go Hawks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

SteveW

April 22nd, 2011
10:51 pm

We better be ready to fight Sunday. I think Orlando will be

soldierman

April 22nd, 2011
10:52 pm

now to the article. Well said my friend. This is where we make our mark as a legit contender. Once we get josh to play team ball we will see the whole team blossom. Very excited for sunday,

No Woody for Me

April 22nd, 2011
10:55 pm

There was no team meeting. There was no formal announcement. But Josh Smith has officially become irrelevant to the Hawks’ offense.

He just stands at the 3 point line and watches the rest of the team play. And god forbid the ball rotates to him out there.

Bradley – any stats on what Josh’s plus/minus numbers are in this series?

Obama's Teleprompter

April 22nd, 2011
10:57 pm

Geez, very quick turnaround on the article… Something tells me you wrote it before the game started and just filled some of the plays later.

No Woody for Me

April 22nd, 2011
10:58 pm

Does Dwight have to sit out game 4, or does the max technicals per season reset when the playoffs start?

bsg3003

April 22nd, 2011
10:58 pm

okay right now forget anything and everything for a moment… HOW THE HELL DID JAMAL CRAWFORD MAKE THAT SHOT!!!!!!?????!!!!!!! (excuse the language)

Obama's Teleprompter

April 22nd, 2011
10:59 pm

Smith was +/- 0 today, +7 Game 2, and +6 in Game 1.

TC

April 22nd, 2011
10:59 pm

This was an epic win for the hawks and if we had competent ownership we would now be starting the search to trade JJ so we could keep Crawford. Crawford is the freakin man in the clutch…not lookin for a stupid iso…he will take on anyone…just needs the ball in his hands.

bsg3003

April 22nd, 2011
11:01 pm

crawford is just flat out dirty in the clutch….

51WTGW50

April 22nd, 2011
11:01 pm

51WTGW50
April 22nd, 2011
9:58 pm

I think the Hawks will win by 4.

ATLtodolavida

April 22nd, 2011
11:02 pm

Resign Jamal.

TC

April 22nd, 2011
11:03 pm

I know dude!!! I am amazed at him man…

Angus

April 22nd, 2011
11:03 pm

The Hawks definitely have the better collection of talent.

If the Hawks had a remotely decent offensive plan, this wouldn’t even be a contest.

ISO Joe, ISO Jamal, ISO Al, blah blah blah – luckily we have better players (obviously with Howard being the exception).

TC

April 22nd, 2011
11:04 pm

“Resign Jamal.”…..huh….

tt

April 22nd, 2011
11:05 pm

Dwight Howard is a chump!

51WTGW50

April 22nd, 2011
11:06 pm

I just watched a MMA fight and there were not as many good shot landed in those 3 3min rounds as the Hawks v Magic basketball game. AHAHAH THE TRUTH.

JOSH SMITH FOR 3!!!

April 22nd, 2011
11:06 pm

The Magic must have fairy dust in their eyes. Imagine that.

Seeing Dwight hunched over in defeat = WINNING!!!

TC

April 22nd, 2011
11:06 pm

There is no such thing as iso jamal…lol…he creates his own game…thats what I like. ISO JOE is what only exists because that the only way he can play his game. If you look at JC…that dude can just flat out score

Dawglasville

April 22nd, 2011
11:12 pm

Zaza baby. No fear. Josh has got to go. He is a coach killer. Somewhere there is a coach out there who thinks he is Henry Higgins and he can turn Josh into the bell of the ball. Dump him. New ownership. Get Dwight. We would have as good a shot as any team to win it all. Man, I’m glad we don’t have to watch Bibby getting beat everytime. They are in Howard’s head. Keep pounding him.

Oh, good read Mark. This game has me a little excited.

Mike

April 22nd, 2011
11:13 pm

But I think that we don’t know what to do about Josh Smith, his 3s almost killed the game for the Hawks, its looking that he need to be traded away or tell him to stop shooting 3s

Gary

April 22nd, 2011
11:14 pm

When you have no expectations, 2 wins in three games is a shock. I still think that each game the Hawks play, I have no idea which Hawks team will come on the floor. I had all expectations for the Falcons and you see where that went. So GO HAWKS!

The Falcon Jedi

April 22nd, 2011
11:15 pm

Im not impressed. This team wont get past round 2

J-Smoove

April 22nd, 2011
11:16 pm

No Woody – Very perceptive. It took less than two minutes to see that J. Smith is +19 for the series and he’s averaging almost 16 per game on over 50% shooting. Good call. Have you watched any of the games?

Pistol Pete

April 22nd, 2011
11:17 pm

Great Win, it’s really exciting to watch inspired, hardnose ball in Atlanta. After last year, watchin us play like this is extreme payback. We are gonna be hard to deal with. I love it!! Go Hawks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TC

April 22nd, 2011
11:17 pm

I am dreaming here but…..if we can play the kind of defense we are capable of playing with the clutch of JC….can we do it???? ala detroit pistons of a few years back…its a stretchhhhhh

blazerdawg

April 22nd, 2011
11:18 pm

LOVE the fight in the Hawks! Proving me wrong.

Dawglasville

April 22nd, 2011
11:18 pm

Josh wants no part of Howard. I don’t want to hear about their friendship. Their friendship didn’t stop Howard from cuing up on Josh’s head last year. In Josh’s mind he is like aluminum siding – He doesn’t need the paint.

Underground Atlanta

April 22nd, 2011
11:19 pm

…… Great shot CRAWFORD !

TC

April 22nd, 2011
11:20 pm

Seriously…jsmoove, pistol pete, blazerdawg, mike…what are your thoughts..

the ghost of John Battle

April 22nd, 2011
11:20 pm

Re-sign Jamal you idiot owners! WAY TO GO HAWKS

Blackoutanyone?

April 22nd, 2011
11:24 pm

Will someone explain to me why for the love of all that is right.. we can’t run an offense that keeps Josh Smith in and around the paint? Watching him hang around the 3 point line he just looks out of position.

Dawglasville

April 22nd, 2011
11:25 pm

Rodman bought into his role and he is a hall of famer. Why can’t Josh get it into his head? What can we get for Josh and Marvin? If he had Horford’s brain and heart he would be scary.

Timbo

April 22nd, 2011
11:26 pm

Good job Hawks.

savannah swamp rat

April 22nd, 2011
11:26 pm

jedi let’s get out of round one then this team will work on round 2. Go Hawks!

TC

April 22nd, 2011
11:27 pm

Blackoutanyone?….I have said it before and I agree..Drew wants him on the outside to get the ball and penetrate..not have his back to the ball…but the idiot decides to throw up the 30 footer…not sure why Drew hasn’t beat his ass for it

Coach D

April 22nd, 2011
11:27 pm

If the Hawks want any chance in the second round they’ve got to win this series quick. Am shocked that I am talking of beating the Magic in a playoff series!!! This ain’t your 2009-2010 Orlando Magic!!!! Thank goodness!

let's go hawks

April 22nd, 2011
11:28 pm

Zaza worked his butt off…dude’s getting beat up by Howard and keeps battling…Jamal is clutch…give the guy his $10M a year and re-sign him. Him, Kirk, and Joe out there is pretty nice….trade Josh for a nice piece and find a center who can score and demand a defender….we have a nice core…don’t need a slam dunk champion though who thinks he’s a 3pt shooter….that being said, let’s go Hawks!!!!!!

Pistol Pete

April 22nd, 2011
11:28 pm

TC, I think this team can be very dangerous, our players have stepped up in every aspect of the game. Playing Defense, getting rebounds and seriously getting in D. Howard’s head. Go Hawks!!!!!!

Mike

April 22nd, 2011
11:30 pm

My thoughts is that J-Smooth is better in the paint area or heck mid range jumpers but he is no 3-pont specialist, but he keeps on plant himself there. If he was the J-Smooth of last year, he would attack the glass more and less 3-pointers. Those miss 3s is going to get Hawks in deep trouble if that contiunes.

Bubba

April 22nd, 2011
11:30 pm

orlando is a 1 player team

Underground Atlanta

April 22nd, 2011
11:31 pm

Don’t give me any of that jazz.

JOSH SMITH FOR 3!!!

April 22nd, 2011
11:32 pm

Trade Josh, Joe, and Marvin for Dwight.

Tonight.

TC

April 22nd, 2011
11:33 pm

Pistol Pete…I just look at the Pistons teams of late and I see the same thing…great defense..not just with overall defense..but with ball control…and timely clutch shots…not saying the same will happen but wow I am impressed. When…and I say when we advance..our game plan will change because Drew seems to have had this game plan in place for years Woody just didnt want to hear it….but it will be interesting what changes.

Bubba

April 22nd, 2011
11:33 pm

Mike I agree but the situation is when we try to put a real center in Al moves to the 4 forcing josh to the 3 where hes on the perimeter. If he stayed in his 4 position hed be closer to the basket and play the Smoove who is a great defender, a very good scorer and a dish artist.

With Al you get a ball hog who has to be set up and plays no recognizable defense.

Bubba

April 22nd, 2011
11:35 pm

Drew is only using players Woodson did not have at center. Woodson did a much better job of coaching these hawks than Drew

Drew sucks.

MitchC

April 22nd, 2011
11:37 pm

Mark, wouldn’t you say this is a rather “boastful” column.

Granted, I didnt watch all of Game 3, just parts. I wasn’t sure who was going to win in the end. Back and forth, back and forth. Not until the Hawks made the final 3 pointer, did I have confidence.

All tonight really did it to put the Hawks in position to win this series. They can now win the remaining games in Atlanta, and lose Game Five in Orlando, and still win the series four games to two. In my gut, if the Hawks do win this series, I think that is what is probably going to happen.

Oh.. one more thing.,. isn’t it a bit.. I’ll say.. “overconfident” to say that this team can beat “anybody”? Do you think we can beat Miami, Boston or Chicago in the Eastern Finals, or Semifinals? Do you think we can beat.. the Lakers.. or San Antonio.. in June?

I say,. let’s focus on this round first.

We escaped tonight. :Let’s see which Hawk team shows up to play on Sunday.

Bubba

April 22nd, 2011
11:38 pm

Im not surprize the hawks are betting the magic. they are a one player team and the hawks grabbed big bodies just for Howard. I will be surprise if the hawks do well in the second round.