The Atlanta Hawks won a lot of fans and hearts with their performance against the Boston Celtics in this first round playoff series. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the fairytale finish that they would have hoped for didn't eventuate as they were crushed in game 7, 99-65 and eliminated from the playoffs, 4 games to 3.
It's hard to figure out exactly why it took the Celtics seven games to close out the Hawks. In the four games in Boston, they thumped Atlanta by 23, 19, 25 and then a massive 34 points in game 7. The average margin of victory at home being a tick over 25 points. But the Hawks fought just as hard on their home court and won all 3 games & by doing so, forced this series to go the distance.
According to the script, Atlanta were lucky to have even made the playoffs. Sure, they won 7 more games this season (37) than last (30), but they still entered the playoffs 8 games below .500 and a staggering 29 wins worse off than their first round opponent. As we know though, come playoff time, teams don't always read the same scripts.
Just ask the Dallas Mavericks. Somewhere between the end of the regular season and game 7 today, Atlanta borrowed a page from the Golden State Warriors playbook of last year and nearly caused as big an upset as the Warriors did to the Mavericks last season.
So what was it ? Were Boston looking ahead a little bit ? Were Atlanta actually a better team than their regular season record of 37-45 suggested, or was it simply a matter of being that this is the playoffs & nothing comes easy ? Probably, maybe and probably again.
Atlanta will hope that this was the start of something new for this franchise. After a lot of years of mediocrity, they finally have a young and talented roster that might be just starting to realise its potential.
So, while it took the Celtics longer than they would have liked, they now move on to the Eastern Conference semi finals where they meet Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs needed 6 games (as predicted here at The Daily Hurt) to get past the Wizards, who, for the 3rd straight season were eliminated by Cleveland.
Before the playoffs began, Wizards guard Deshawn Stevenson said that Lebron James is overrated. After seeing Lebron average 29 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists for the series, I wonder what Stevenson thinks of Lebron now. Of course, making a fool of himself is nothing new to Deshawn. He was also involved in a season-long beard growing contest with Chicago Bulls forward Drew Gooden. I hope Deshawn had more success against Drew than he did against Lebron.
This second round match up between Boston & Cleveland resembles something out of the movie, Superman II. In it, Superman (Lebron) has to fight off the three evil forces of General Zod (KG) & his co-conspirators, Ursa (Paul Pierce) & Non (Ray Allen). The villians then team up with another baddie in Lex Luther (Sam Cassell) and plot to take over the world. All the while Superman decides to become a normal man and relinquishes all his superpowers before realising how important he is to the world & he transforms back into Superman just in time to save the day.
Well, it's unlikely that Lebron James is going to turn off his superpowers anytime soon, but if the Cavaliers are going to beat the Celtics in this series, he is going to need more help from his supporting cast than Clark Kent got. Cleveland has a reasonable point guard in Delonte West, an ok big man in Zydrunas Illgauskas and an aging, playoff veteran with a championship ring in Ben Wallace. They also possess two sharp shooters in Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson. These players have shown that they can perform at different times, but they will need to bring it more consistently during this series.
We'll see if Boston are a better team than their first round against Atlanta showed us. They are desparate and being taken to seven games already should give them the wake up call that they need.
In the Superman II movie, Superman manages to save the day, but this series will have a different ending as the evil doers of Boston will prevail in 6 games.