Sunday , May , 04 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Can the Atlanta Hawks Do the Unthinkable?

Can the Atlanta Hawks Do the Unthinkable?

The 2008 Atlanta Hawks have already done many things no one thought they would do this season, including making the playoffs at all and taking the best team in the NBA to 7 games. Very few people thought the Hawks would make the playoffs, even in an extremely weak Eastern Conference, but the team played well down the stretch and managed to slip into the 8th spot. Then, matched up against the Celtics, no one even thought the Hawks would win 1 game, let alone 3. Most people would only give Atlanta a game for a pity victory in case all the Celtics fell off the earth. But here are the Atlanta Hawks, heading into Boston with a chance to shock the world in game 7, that is if there’s anyone left to shock…

The craziest part of the series is how completely different the teams look at home and on the road. In Boston, the team in white and green can’t manage to miss a shot and players like Sam Cassell and James Posey and Leon Powe look like All Stars. In Atlanta, the team in white and blue has energy, plays defense, and actually converts on offense. So do these teams really play that much better in white? Does the answer have something to do with the home crowd? The court? The refs?

Energy may be one of the biggest factors in the difference between Atlanta at home and on the road. When the young Hawks are confident and energetic they are a much better basketball team, running the floor, playing defense and knocking down shots. On the road, they just look confused and disoriented, committing turnovers and trying to do everything individually. When Atlanta is moving the ball around and spreading the defense and taking open shots, they shoot better and score better. In Boston they don’t pass the ball as well and don’t take good shots. It makes the Celtics defense look better and the Hawks offense look dismal. I’m not saying Boston doesn’t play good defense, but Atlanta sure makes it look a whole lot better.

So the question now is can Atlanta actually win a game 7; on the road? The way the Hawks have played so far in this series in Boston, I’m not sure how anyone could believe they would actually win. Of course they can win, but I don’t see how they actually will. Winning in Boston would require a huge game from Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby and/or Josh Smith, because the Celtics will take Johnson out of the game. Coach Woodson has said Williams is the key to this series, but his injury and youth may prevent him from being who they Hawks need him to be on Sunday. As a fan, I really really hope that Williams has a coming out party and I know that with one good game he can silence all of the critics who didn’t believe he should have been the second overall pick in the draft.

One big problem is that Atlanta has trouble making runs in Boston. In Atlanta, the Hawks get on a roll, the crowd gets into it, the team gets confidence, and they look unstoppable. In Boston, the Celtics get up by 10 and that’s it; the young birds can’t get back in the game. It is difficult to play from behind on the road. Somehow the Hawks manage to barely survive at home, but on the road it is an entirely different story.

I do not expect the Hawks to win this series, but I am more than happy with the way it went. I’m not sure any Hawks fan on earth can be disappointed with the way things have turned out. No one gave this young team a chance going into the playoffs and they turned everyone’s heads. The only series going to 7 games is the one in which the baby birds came out and shocked the world. At the very least this team has gotten some confidence, gained some experience and learned what it takes to not only make the playoffs but to win some games. So no matter what happens on Sunday, this team has my loyal support for the rest of my life.