It was all going so well. The Hawks had swept the Celtics in convincing fashion this year, beating them just about every way you can (at home, on the road, in box, with Jamal Crawford being a pox). They had managed to deliver a late season win over Orlando, at least providing some measure of confidence that they can beat the Magic, despite losing the season series 1-3. The Hawks aren’t looking to be the favorite this postseason, that’s unrealistic. But a win over the Cavs in Cleveland, getting the Hawks the last laugh against the Eastern favorites before the playoffs start, would give them confidence heading into the postseason.
And they were up two with 6:28 to play in the fourth! It was within reach
Then LeBron James happened. James was simply dominant, Mo Williams and Z chipped in, and then all of a sudden that’s a 13-0 run, and a series sweep for the Cavs.
But we know about the Cavs. What about the Hawks? We can throw out the usal prefaces about “the playoffs are a different animal” and “the regular season doesn’t matter” but matchups are matchups. And from the looks of it,the Hawks may have found their concrete ceiling. Better than Boston, almost able to beat Orlando, outmatched by the Cavs.
So, essentially, the 3 seed. Appropriate.
The Hawks’ athleticism is neutralized by the length and ability of the Orlando perimeter and wings, and the Hawks’ offense is marginalized by the Cavs’ experience on defense. Barring a marked improvement in the playoffs, the Hawks may settled into where they should be. Which isn’t bad at all, it’s remarkable considering the mess this team was in five years ago, and the future is bright.
But this year, not quite good enough.