Why, it’s a birdbrain migration: The Hawks fly into Round 2

The series was there for the taking in Game 6. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The series was there to seize in Game 6. The Hawks seized it. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

They’d been the better team through four games, and then they lost Game 5 and folks started talking about how lousy they were. An Orlando Sentinel columnist called them the Birdbrains, which sounded a bit strange: If the Hawks were such plods, why were they still leading?

The same scribe predicted the Magic, having won one game in a row, would outsmart the Hawks and win the series. And maybe if this were “Jeopardy” they would have. But this is basketball, and at last check MIT hasn’t been to the Final Four lately. And Orlando won’t be going to Round 2 of these NBA playoffs.

The Atlanta Birdbrains will.

No, they don’t always appear to know what they’re doing, and there are times when they don’t appear to care. But in this series we saw the tenacity that was missing during the regular season. Yes, they were lucky in that they drew the one decent team they’d proved they could beat, but they took their break and ran with it.

They beat the Magic three times in one-possession games, which says much about their resourcefulness, and Thursday’s clincher came down to one tiny-but-gigantic play, a play we can only call … well, smart.

Inside the final 10 seconds, Hawks by a point, shot clock near its end. Jamal Crawford fed Marvin Williams on the left wing, and Williams launched a trey that looked good but clanged long. All the Magic, the team with the world’s best rebounder, had to do to steal this game was to grab the ball and hit a shot.

Then Joe Johnson stuck out his hand.

Joe Johnson has been criticized for just about everything — for not being LeBron James, for not being worth $120 million (as if anyone is), for not playing big in big games — but on this night Johnson not only played big but smart. He took and made good shots in the fourth quarter and helped the Hawks fight back the staple Magic rally, and when the game was there to be seized, he seized it.

Actually, he didn’t so much seize it as he punched it. Johnson smacked the rebound toward Crawford, who claimed it and got fouled and made two free throws.

Yet again, a game in this series came down to Orlando having a 3-pointer to win or tie. Yet again, the Magic failed. J.J. Redick missed one you’d have sworn he’d make, and Josh Smith swatted away Jason Richardson’s last-gasp cast.

Birdbrains prevail.

Said Smith afterward: “We came in after practice Wednesday, and there were sheets of paper at everyone’s locker. And you could see everybody’s expression as they were reading [the Sentinel column]. They called us ‘birdbrains’ and ‘dummies’ — that really got us going. We felt disrespected. We came out and tried to shut that guy up.”

We can carp that Game 6 was, as happened in Games 3 and 4, closer than it should’ve been. But how much carping can be done when the lower seed essentially dominates the series? In three games here, the Magic led for a total of two minutes.

Said Crawford, the MVP of this series: “We showed a lot of confidence, a lot of resolve. We beat the same team that took us out by 25 last year. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Before the game, Hawks coach Larry Drew was asked if his team was indeed as, ahem, mentally fragile as has been suggested. “When it’s time to step up and turn it on, they’ve done that,” Drew said. “We’ve got some quiet personalities, but they’re strong in their own way. Deep down within, we’ve got some strong personalities.”

So what if three of the Hawks’ four victories in this series were hairbreadth things? This is the NBA, folks. Games come down to the end. What matters is that the Hawks stared last-minute defeat in the face three times and won every time. Crawford banked home a trey. Horford poked the ball from Hedo Turkoglu. Johnson punched a long rebound to the right man.

Maybe they’re not the smartest kids in the class, but they can play a little basketball.  And now we get to witness a rare bit of migration. We get to watch these Birdbrains fly north for Round 2.

By Mark Bradley

140 comments Add your comment

Herschel Talker

April 28th, 2011
10:47 pm

FIRE MARK RICHT!!!

KEEP ROGER MCDOWELL!!!

J.J.M.

April 28th, 2011
10:52 pm

will the hawks mindset be “ok we beat the team that blowed us out badly in the playoffs last seaon now we can relax” or will it be “lets take it to the next level. lets prove all the doubters. lets go to the 3rd round”

Rob

April 28th, 2011
10:52 pm

Way to go Hawks! That Orlando columnist did us a favor – what an idiot!

Coach Dooley

April 28th, 2011
10:54 pm

the wizard

April 28th, 2011
10:55 pm

Turns out mike.bianchi will be watching the second round in jameer nelson’s living room.

Herschel Talker

April 28th, 2011
10:57 pm

MB:

I see you are a fan of noted Orlando Sentinel columnist with your blogroll link to “Open Mike.” After these events, will you be keeping that link in the blogroll?

HT

Bill

April 28th, 2011
10:58 pm

If the Hawks play with high energy, they can beat anyone. Can they put forth the effort to win 4 against Chicago? We’ll have to wait and see…

HawkinOrlando

April 28th, 2011
10:58 pm

Mike Bianchi is the man. Thank you

Coach Dooley

April 28th, 2011
10:59 pm

Congrats Mark- your Hawks did it. I still believe the Magic are better but half their team is not showing up. The trades most definitely did not work. I think the Bulls will win easily but we shall see. There are far too many times when there are not enough balls on the floor with this team when Joe, Jamal and Marvin are on the floor. Nobody on this team goes to the basket with regularity. Far too many jump shots.

MJC

April 28th, 2011
11:01 pm

“IN YO FACE!!! But naw, seriously, in your face.”

LOL, thank you Josh!

Mark Bradley

April 28th, 2011
11:05 pm

I like Mike Bianchi as a guy — he’s sitting next to me — and enjoy his writing. Just for the record.

tc

April 28th, 2011
11:06 pm

go hawks!!!!!

Mike Bianchi

April 28th, 2011
11:07 pm

This isn’t over, Birdbrains! I’ll see you out on Peachtree tonight. Me and Superman are gonna make you sorry you disrespected Mousetown. Gonna represent! You want a piece of me? See me at the concierge desk at sunrise, punk!

Mark Bradley

April 28th, 2011
11:07 pm

And for the record: I got yelled at by one of the Hawks’ owners for not giving his team any credit all year. Although I did pick them to win this series, which apparently doesn’t count.

MJC

April 28th, 2011
11:08 pm

@MB: Really? That is just a microcosm of our ownership, then,

Coach Dooley

April 28th, 2011
11:09 pm

If the owners all yelled at you I would take that as a feather in my cap. Those guys remind me so much of the Smith family with the Falcons when it comes to their ownership intelligence. I still think they are nothing but jock sniffers- all of them.

hawks fan

April 28th, 2011
11:09 pm

how are we going to defend Rose with Hinrich out? Still, we can find a way with Teague and Damien. It’s going to be a challenge. We are up for it. I told you so before this series.

merbertmoover

April 28th, 2011
11:10 pm

YES!!!! i told you guys (as did MB) that my hawks were gonna pull this one out!!!! yeah baby! rise up ATL!!! mmmmhmmmm

HawkinOrlando

April 28th, 2011
11:10 pm

MIke is a hilarious troll. I enjoy his writing even when he is trolling teams I root for.

Mark I hope you told that owner to shut up and sell our teams,

Mark Bradley

April 28th, 2011
11:10 pm

Yes. I’m not making that up. In the winning locker room, I got yelled at by an owner.

Though only one. Rutherford Seydel and I had a pleasant conversation.

BoricuaHawk

April 28th, 2011
11:11 pm

Ove your headline mark. Can’t wait for Mr. Bianchi’s blog tomorrow. Money on him not opening up the comments section!!!

merbertmoover

April 28th, 2011
11:11 pm

even though i know within the hour everyones gonna be all “hate hate hate” but im not a hater….im happy baby! yeah hawks make the ATL proud! bring on that ogre looking chi-town center…we gonna throw zaza right in his ugly face, mmmmhmmm!

Daniel Shaw

April 28th, 2011
11:12 pm

Bill, I hate to tell you this… but the Hawks cannot play with the likes of the Chicago Bulls. The Hawks won this series in spite of Josh Smith being the most talented underachiever in the league. The Magic’s main parts completely disappeared in this series. The Magic must blow up this team and start over. The trade that sent Pietrus and Gortat away was the beginning of the end. I still don’t know how the magic won 52 games. As for your Hawks, keep in mind how many games they lost in blow outs this year. Joe Johnson is prone to go AWOL at any time. The heart and soul of the Hawks is Horford and Crawford. But kudos to the Hawks, thet won the series and that is what counts. By the way, the Hawks team of announcers(tvand radio) are the worst I’ve ever listened to. They are the biggest cry babies in sports. Just call the action objectively and quit WHINING.

hawker v

April 28th, 2011
11:12 pm

mark this down: the hawks will upset the overrated bulls in 6 games. JJ will carry the team to the finals!

Mark Bradley

April 28th, 2011
11:13 pm

I’ve just read Mr. Bianchi’s column for tomorrow. He gives the Hawks their due.

JeJe

April 28th, 2011
11:13 pm

Horford had 6 and 7 in the game @Chicago

Jon Kontract

April 28th, 2011
11:13 pm

Way to step up Hawks…Orlando embarrassed us last year and now they are clearly a franchise on the decline. Why not keep going??? Let’s dump the Bulls, Heat and Lakers and bring some rings to the ATL….Am I getting ahead of myself? Why the heck not. Jamal, put us on your back and carry us. Let Zaza take care of your light work.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

merbertmoover

April 28th, 2011
11:14 pm

oh , and one more thing…ive been neutral on smoove for a long time, and i know he block the shot at the end and all, but he gotta go….i hate to say it, but he gotta go…..he a liability on offense, he just doesnt play smart bball….even though he saved us at the end, it shouldnt have even been close….when LB subbed in Smoove for Marvin i was like “whaaaaat?????” marvin played lights out tonite, yep….go HAWKS!!!!!!!

JeJe

April 28th, 2011
11:15 pm

It took us 7 games to knock off far inferior teams (Miami and Milwaukee) in Round 1 the last 2 years, but we beat Orlando, a higher seed, in 6

SMDH

Jason

April 28th, 2011
11:15 pm

Never understood why Orlando needs a professional sports franchise anyway. What, Disney doesn’t provide enough entertainment?

Mark Bradley

April 28th, 2011
11:16 pm

I do think Round 2 will be much harder. Just for the record

MickeyMouseIsProudofHisHardon

April 28th, 2011
11:17 pm

Dey ain’t smart but dey jes’ beat dem Magik. Go Hawks! One of the few NBA teams without a big superstar.

MickeyMouseIsProudofHisHardon

April 28th, 2011
11:17 pm

……………………………………Teamwork counts.

FullMetalJacket

April 28th, 2011
11:20 pm

Kudos to the Hawks. They have called my bluff. Now the rest of you who, like me, said they wouldn’t go see them unless they made it to the second round, have to suck it up and buy tickets. I may be late to the party at the Highlight Factory, but I’ll be cheering hard for the home team. Go Hawks! And Mark, your analysis of the Hawks (like that of Hewitt) has not always been flattering but it has been fair, objective, and generally spot on.

chem

April 28th, 2011
11:22 pm

“They used to run with Lakers and Celtics; now they can’t even hang with the Hawks” — Bianchi sounds like he was taking parting shots, not doling out praise.

smooth

April 28th, 2011
11:25 pm

The big question is how is Hinrichs’ right knee, he is very important on defensing Rose.

Time

April 28th, 2011
11:25 pm

Lost in the birdbrain celebration here is what’s the status of Hinrich? He’s got to be able to go in Round 2 for the Hawks to have a chance.

FullMetalJacket

April 28th, 2011
11:25 pm

It would seem that the Orlando Sentinel and Magic collectively could not summon the mindpower to avoid underestimating the Hawks. I haven’t heard the insult “birdbrain” used since about the second grade, and that was a long, long time ago.

Time

April 28th, 2011
11:25 pm

good thinking smooth..lol

Coach Dooley

April 28th, 2011
11:26 pm

I have not read his column but he most definitely should be passing out parting shots to the Magic team. They made those huge trades and virtually none of them have worked out. I would not be surprised to see Otis given his walking papers.

FullMetalJacket

April 28th, 2011
11:27 pm

Thankfully, the NBA playoffs are not a spelling competition.

FullMetalJacket

April 28th, 2011
11:32 pm

Biotchi Bianchi Baits Birdbrains Badly Before Being Beaten By Big Bad Birds.

Gwinnett Fred

April 28th, 2011
11:33 pm

Any word on Heinrich???

We have a nearly impossible task in round 2, but if he’s to hurt to give it a go to keep Rose in check – we don’t even stand a punchers chance.

Dr. Warren

April 28th, 2011
11:33 pm

Wait, I thought the Hawks traded their Game 6 win for Julio Jones.

Gwinnett Fred

April 28th, 2011
11:35 pm

Listening to the game on the way home – well actually while sitting in the parking lot going nowhere for 20 minutes, they mentioned both leg and calf on Henrich.

To me seems like he was massaging his elbow a lot tonight too. He was certainly an unsung hero in this series. He really set the tone tonight pestering Howard into at least 3 turnovers in the first quarter. Somehow I just don’t see Bibby D-ing up quite as well.

Ron in Vegas

April 28th, 2011
11:36 pm

As much as I enjoyed watching the Hawks advance, I have to say that the lack of imagination on offense is quite disturbing. This team has essentially been the same for the past two years and it does not seem like they can run more than one set play. It seemed like the state of basketball was set back 50 years during the third quarter as the two teams combined for all of about twelve points over the first ten minutes of the quarter. Just frustrating to sit through.

Mark Bradley

April 28th, 2011
11:37 pm

Mr. Bianchi is not kind in his appraisal of the Magic. Nor should he be. That team lost the exact same game three times in this series.

Game 3: Hawks 88, Magic 84.
Game 4: Hawks 88, Magic 85.
Game 6: Hawks 84, Magic 81.

And, if we return to March 30th: Hawks 85, Magic 82.

Mark Bradley

April 28th, 2011
11:38 pm

There’s no word on Hinrich, I should report. We’re not even sure exactly what he hurt.

shake&break

April 28th, 2011
11:48 pm

Where are all the JJ haters? JJ came up big in the 4th, had 10 boards, 4 assist and the Hakws beat the magic in 6 games. That is the problem with the Hawks fans. Quick to criticize and put their own players down, but never there to provide praise. JJ had one really bad game and you would think he was the worst player on the team. The odd thing is that the Hawks players always say he is their leader and compliment him, yet some fans always focus in his faults. The last time I checked Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, A. Kirilenko and Vince Carter did not even make the playoff, yet they make more money. D. Howard, Stoudemire, Melo, Kenyan Martin and Elton Brand who make similar or more than Joe are out the playoff.

Go figure why real Hawks sports fans don’t have much respect for the know it all Hawks sports fans and why Atlanta is viewed as a joke basketball sports town where fans cheer louder for the opposing team. Then the fake fans get mad when a player lashes out against them. Real fans know JJ was actually right.