Proud Hawks keep playoff streak alive

By Sekou Smith,

VIDEO: Jeff Teague talks about the Hawks clinching their playoff bid against the Heat

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — They did it with their best player sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle since Christmas, with a parade of journeymen and supposedly over the hill stars like Elton Brand filling in and playing huge minutes, with the likes of Pero Antic and Mike Scott, Cartier Martin and DeMarre Carroll playing vital roles.

Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver, fantastic basically from start to the near finish of this regular season for the now playoff bound Atlanta Hawks, can probably walk around the city without being rushed by fans for autographs. Would you even know Hawks All-Star forward Paul Millsap if he walked up on you in street clothes?

Perhaps … but probably not.

Reserve guard Lou Williams, in and out of the regular rotation all season, is arguably the most recognizable face on the roster for locals, and that’s mostly because he played his high school ball in the area at South Gwinnett High.

These Hawks are the poster child for the anti-tanking movement, a motley crew if ever there was one, bound for a first round playoff matchup against either the two-time defending champion Miami Heat (the team they beat Saturday to secure their Eastern Conference-best seventh straight postseason trip) or the struggling Indiana Pacers.

Instead of accepting their fate after All-Star center Al Horford saw his season end the day after Christmas due to a torn pectoral muscle, the Hawks survived and advanced to yet another trip to the playoff line.

Williams, who scored 18 of the Hawks’ 29 fourth-quarter points, including the final 12 Atlanta points of the game, admitted that the opponent Saturday night did not matter. The outcome was the sole focus.

“It doesn’t make a difference (who the opponent was),” he said. “That was our second time beating them this year. We gave them an overtime run earlier this year. It’s a team we’ve played well against this season. It was just satisfying to get a win and be in the groove that we’re in.”

As stubborn as they are fearless, Mike Budenholzer‘s Hawks finished the season series with a 2-2 record against the Heat. They had the same mark against the Indiana Pacers, the team they’d face if the playoffs began today. Whoever earns that No. 1 seed will be dealing with a No. 8 seed just crazy enough to believe they can compete with the best.

They could have packed it in and headed for the lottery, like so many others. Their fans wouldn’t have blamed them. The prospect of a higher pick in the lottery and the wistfulness that comes with it make for an easy sell. What could be is always a powerful elixir when you know there is no hope for a championship.

The hard work and dedication it takes to earn a playoff berth, even in a year when the Eastern Conference is historically weak, shows a level of perseverance that the Hawks should be applauded for showing. They knocked the dysfunctional Knicks (and former Hawks coach Mike Woodson) out of the playoff mix, ending Carmelo Anthony‘s personal playoff streak at 10 seasons.

Budenholzer is working with a much different talent base than Woodson did when he started the Hawks’ playoff streak. Horford, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Josh Childress, Mike Bibby and Zaza Pachulia comprised the core group. Hawks boss Danny Ferry hasn’t had the time to build a comparable core group, yet.

They backdoored their way into the No. 8 seed in 2008 and promptly scared the life out of the top-seed and eventual champion Boston Celtics with an epic seven-game series that was as entertaining as it was intense, considering one team finished the regular season 66 wins and the other with 37. (It was arguably the Celtics’ toughest series during their championship run, seeing as how they only saw one more Game 7 — against Cleveland — during their march to the Larry O’Brien trophy.)

“I’m happy that we get to play more games and I get to talk more about improving, and getting better each practice,” Budenholzer said after his team outlasted LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat before a raucous home crowd Saturday night. “We want to build something here. Miami has been in the Finals for three years in a row. There are a lot of teams that have had a lot of success. It takes time to build your habits. (Miami’s) habits are outstanding. We want to continue to build our habits and continue to improve. Our group has really fought hard and competed hard this year. I think they got what they deserved.”

The Hawks got exactly what they earned, which is at least four more games for this bunch to show that sometimes it’s hard to break a habit of winning your way into the playoffs.

VIDEO: Jeff Teague leads the way as the Hawks earn their seventh straight playoff bid


  1. ATL FAN says:

    The Hawks have always been a decent team. I feel that the Hawks will beat the Pacers and make it to the second round and they will be game for game with the Heat. The Hawks truly want to win. I applaud them for making the playoffs because weeks ago I didn’t think they would make it. The West is still a stronger competitor even for the Heat. The Heat will not repeat this year.

  2. Mike says:

    The Phoenix Suns’ season proves how much of a joke the Eastern conference is. I think the NBA should seriously reconsider its Conference format when a losing team like Atlanta (37-44) can make the playoffs and the Suns (47-34) miss out. When a team is called a “playoff team” it’s generally implied that they are one of the best teams in the league. Sadly, the Hawks will be remembered as a playoff team, and the Suns will not. Is this fair?

  3. Sundi says:

    I think the Heat lost on purpose. Who would you rather play the Knicks or the Hawks? Check out my blog @

  4. Jay says:

    I don’t get all of these people who act like making the playoffs is worthless. I get it is not the ultimate goal but it has been much more fun being a true Hawks fan the past seven years than it has being a Bobcats/Raptors/Wizards/Knicks/Pelicans(Hornets) fan, as these teams have made the playoffs sporadically (if at all). I was a Hawks fan when they were terrible in the early 2000s. It is much more fun as a fan for your team to lose in the second round of the playoffs than it is for them to win 25 games.

  5. CAVS FAN says:

    Sekou you need to check your information, or did you forget that in 2008 the Celtics played a 7-game series with the Cleveland Cavaliers in one of the biggest shootouts in playoff history

  6. Oldhawk says:

    As a long time Hawks fan I hate when the Hawks make the playoffs the first thing people say is “so what they’re not getting very far”. Ok fine but what about about the other 14 teams that are going home without the trophy. lets face it in the last 20 years only seven teams have won a championship, they don’t come that easy. So I say hats off to my Hawks for having the longest standing playoff run in the east

  7. thespectator says:

    first round exit regardless of who they basically they play for a few weeks longer, who cares?

  8. okc2014 says:

    No matter what everyone says about the Hawks, it was still nice to see them beat the Heat. LOL. I’m embracing that day!

  9. Kenn K. says:

    Sekou you are incorrect about your statement on the 2008 Celtics; Celtics they had a second Game 7 in the next series, where Pierce and LeBron dueled it out, with LeBron doing huge individual damage but ultimately not enough to win. That Hawks series is the one to remember for me though in terms of any of their series outside of the Finals

  10. franktown8 says:

    If heat had won they still would be the one seed, and the knicks would have had a chance to over take the hawks.

  11. DMVHAWKSFAN says:

    Our front office come from spurs who has the best record in the playoffs east or west the hawks have the worst the spurs system works no matter who is playing on either side of the ball this story is going to explode when we take down the 1 seed with the spurs system and with this fresh start in the playoffs we will ultimately get to the finals and beat the spurs
    coach pop is going to to get miyagied

  12. Sekou Smith covered the Hawks when he worked for the local paper; so it’s no surprise he would throw accolades to the Hawks for their postseason streak. But like Marlon Greeen stated—Atlanta never goes far in the playoiffs. And this has been happening for the last 4 decades. They may finally break their ‘never can get past the conference semifinal round’ wall this season–if the Pacers remain in the no. 1 spot; and if they defeat Indiana, the Hawks have a chance to dispose of the Raptors-Nets 1st round series winner.

  13. `Abdu'l-Karim Ewing-Boyd says:

    I don’t know why this story line develops every year, that people are surprised that the Hawks are in the Playoffs. ATL has been a solid, mid-level team for quite some time now. They’re not great; they’re not going to win the Championship this year or the next (or the next). However, they are going to play respectable basketball without big name stars every season. This is why they’re my squad and have been for decades (except for the Laettner years; I can’t like him. just can’t).

    Let’s Go Hawks!

  14. marlon green says:

    Who cares if the Hawks keep there playoff streak alive. What is the point of going every year and you never advance deep into the playoffs. Lets keep this real simple folks. The playoffs in the eastern conference dont start until the conference finals because thats when the Heat will play the Pacers and thats all that matters.

  15. PM says:

    Hawks need to hope they play Pacers in first round…tbh hawks can take pacers to 7, they will lose to heat in 5 imo but pacers are overrated and hawks are finally somwhat healthy they have potential to upset pacers. Hopefully thunder rest their starters and pacers can get number one seed and lose to hawks

  16. Fefe (Nets) says:

    I knew very long time ago that the Hawks were going to make the playoffs…

    Knicks woke up too late in the season & the Hawks have enough quality players to win important games and not loose every game.

    Good for ATL

  17. jdub455 says:

    hhehe… the heat just chosed the hawks over the knicks… its as simple as that… they eliminated the knicks even b4 the playoffs started…

    • mee(a)t says:

      The Heat lost 1st first seed by losing the Hawks…how did the Heat pick the Hawks if they are not gonna meet in the playoffs?

    • qqdq says:

      I bet youre a heat fan, for saying something so dumb, how can miami have chosen the hawks when they wont matchup against them since they lost?

      and why on earth would miami worry about the knicks?