Posts Tagged ‘playoffs’

This just in! The 2008-2009 Hawks did OK for themselves!

We’ve kicked around the Hawks, sometimes pretty hard, these past few days, but amid all the discussions regarding who’s to blame — Woody? Joe? Red Auerbach? — a greater truth has been obscured if not missed entirely. So here goes:

The Hawks won more games than they should’ve and lost exactly when they should’ve.

They were 37-45 in 2007-2008. They improved 10 games without adding a starter. (And despite losing the Grecian earner Josh Childress.) They moved from the No. 8 seed in the East to the No. 4 seed. They won a first-round series over the No. 5 seed. They lost in Round 2 to the top seed. I’ve been a harsh critic of this franchise over the past quarter-century, but I’d say these Hawks gave good value for what they had.

And what exactly did they have? Well, according to the All-NBA team released Wednesday, not all that much. Joe Johnson finished 19th in the voting, which placed him among the honorable mentions, and no other Hawk received even a single vote. (Heck, Jermaine …

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Round 2, Game 2: Say goodbye to the Atlanta Hawks

Cleveland – It’s over, folks. More than just losing two games, the Hawks have lost players and heart. They’re undermanned. They’re overwhelmed. Soon they’ll be outta here.

This one has sweep written all over it. Yes, a certain series a year ago bore the same look after two distressing road games, and that one went the distance. But Al Horford and Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson weren’t injured then, and these are the Cavs and they’re even more driven than Boston was. LeBron James might not let his team lose a half, let alone a game.

And the Hawks who showed up at Quicken Loans Arena – or, more precisely, didn’t show up – pale alongside the spirited bunch that took Games 3, 4 and 6 from Boston, even alongside the polished crew that saw off Miami in Game 7. In three days here the Hawks managed the difficult task of hurting themselves while taking a dive.

“I don’t know who’s going to dress on Saturday,” Mike Woodson said afterward. And then: “We’ve got to get …

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Round 2, Game 1: A big night for LBJ, another no-go for Joe

CLEVELAND — They were here — well, not “here” geographically — last spring. The Hawks arrived in Boston at a time when Sports Illustrated was bannering the prospect of a Celtics-Lakers final on its cover, and they nearly gummed up the works. Now they’re on the shore of Lake Erie for what’s being billed as LeBron’s Coronation. So they know how difficult it is.

“It’s tough to steal a series,” Mike Woodson said before tipoff Tuesday. “I’ve seen it done in my 27 years in the NBA, but it’s very tough.”

The Hawks gave Boston all it could handle — in Atlanta. The games in TD Banknorth Garden were rather different and never close. The Celtics won by 23, 19, 25 and 34. And this Game 1, sad to say, tracked that regrettable path. The Hawks lost by 27 and didn’t lead after the first eight minutes.

True, they hung around for 2 1/2 quarters, whereupon the MVP left the visitors in his considerable wake. Credit the Hawks for making LeBron James work, but credit the man himself for …

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Live from Game 1: In the court of the wine-and-gold king

Cleveland — We come to you from Quicken Loans Arena, known locally as the Q. To enter the media door of the Q, you walk within 75 yards of the left-field foul pole at the Indians’ ballpark, which used to be known as the Jake (short for Jacobs Field) but is now, I’m guessing, the Prog (short for Progressive Field, which is the new official name).

If you’re looking for positive signs, that’s a pretty solid one. The only time an Atlanta-based professional team has won a title in one of the major North American sports, half the games were played at the Jake. The Braves lost two of the three, but without Pedro Borbon Jr. — remember him? — saving Game 4 of the 1995 World Series, our Atlanta-based professional teams might be 0-for-ever.

(About Borbon: The lefty reliever hadn’t worked in 19 days but was summoned by Bobby Cox when Mark Wohlers yielded a leadoff homer to Manny Ramirez and a subsequent double to Paul Sorrento leading off the ninth. Borbon struck out Jim Thome, struck out …

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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 …

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Live from Game 7: Looking for Mr. Good Game (finally!)

The Celtics and Bulls played seven overtimes over their seven games. The Hawks and Heat haven’t yet seen a second-half lead change. Think about that. Think about a series that has gone the distance but done nothing to stir the senses. (Unless you’re the sort who gets miffed over a missed dunk in a 20-point game.)

Fun with numbers: The Hawks have won three games, each by double figures, and have been outscored by 19 points in the series. They won Game 1 by 26 points and lost Game 6 by 26. (And let’s try to forget Game 3, in which the margin was 29.)

In sum, it has been a series to forget, but that will change today. Because somebody’s going to win this thing, and somebody’s going to remember it. Somebody’s going to be chasing LeBron James in Round 2. And I’m thinking, as I mentioned yesterday, it’ll be the Hawks.

Note the score I predicted. (Note also that, as most of you know, I’m never right about anything.) I said 82-77, which means I believe that finally — finally! — we’re …

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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’ …

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Game 5: The Hawks prove they’re too good for these guys

The wonder isn’t that the Hawks have again taken a series lead. The wonder is that they were ever behind. They’re so much better than the Heat it isn’t funny. And they won’t be laughing if Sunday arrives and they’re back here trying to close this out in a Game 7. This one should end Friday night in Miami.

We know the Hawks can play. What we need is for them to prove they can finish, that they can actually win a best-of-seven series, that they can dispose of a demonstrably lesser opponent and commence with the serious business of chasing LeBron.

The Hawks showed their steel in a first half Wednesday of hard fouls and key injuries, and when intermission arrived they led by 23 points. (They would win by 15.) Said Flip Murray, who scored 23 points and steered the Hawks through the choppy second half: “The game got physical, but I liked the way we kept our composure.”

A year ago in Boston, the Hawks couldn’t do that. Four times the Celtics hit them in the collective mouth, and four …

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Live from Game 5: We’ve got Spirit … uh, no, we don’t

Weird series. The Hawks win by 26 and lose by 29. The Heat win by 15 on the road but lose by 10 at home. Joe Johnson underwhelms. Dwyane Wade hurts his back. Marvin Williams hurts his wrist. Zaza Pachulia cements his reputation as the greatest playoff performer since Jim Leyritz. James Jones has two four-point plays in the span of 11 seconds, and still his team loses by double figures.

And me, I’m corresponding with a bird.

As some of you know, Spirit the Hawk, who went rogue at the start of Game 2, has pecked out a presence on Twitter. (He’s SpirittheHawk, if you care to follow.) Via this online mechanism, he and I — I’m told Spirit is indeed a “he” — have established a dialogue.

It began Friday. Spirit tweeted me at 9:43 a.m. — that’s verb of choice for Twitter — saying, “Keep hope alive. Look for me in Game 5.”

Given that Spirit’s pregame flights have been grounded by Hawks management, I wasn’t exactly where and when I should look. So I tried, politely, to dig. On Monday I …

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Don’t look for D-Wade to d-rail the Hawks in Round 1

The Hawks will face the world’s third-best player in Round 1, and it was only three seasons ago that Dwyane Wade willed the Miami Heat to a championship. Do the Hawks worry he might pull a Dallas-in-the-finals on them?

Said Al Horford: “Yeah, I do.”

Said Mike Woodson: “Sure you worry about that. The great ones find a way. That’s something we think about quite often.”

Said Josh Smith: “He’s one of the game’s greats, but I don’t worry about that. I don’t think that way.”

As majestic as Wade can be, the Hawks have one of the world’s best dozen players themselves, and Joe Johnson tends to rise to most moments. In the first three games against Miami this season, Johnson scored only 16 fewer points than the league’s leading scorer, and he did it while taking eight fewer shots. And Johnson’s team won two of the three.

“It’s a challenge,” Johnson said, speaking of playing against the exalted likes of Wade and Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. “We play pretty …

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