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Mark Bradley

The Heat-beating Hawks give us reason to believe

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Kyle Korver hit the clincher Monday. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Atlanta Hawks beat the Miami Heat 121-114 Monday and it wasn’t a fluke. This isn’t to say the Hawks are the better team — they aren’t — but this marks three very good teams (Indiana and Houston were the first two) that have been beaten in Philips Arena since Al Horford was lost for the season. This is no small thing.

The Hawks are building the San Antonio way, which is the way to build if you don’t have LeBron James, and at last check nobody but Miami does. They’re creating an identity while still in the process of fleshing out a roster, and the impressive thing about general manager Danny Ferry’s roster-building is how well everyone he has imported has fit the greater design. (Remember: Ferry didn’t import Josh Smith. But he did let him leave after one season.)

How many times in their existence has anyone been able to type this sentence — ”the Hawks are a very smart team” — and not be laughed out of court? How many times have the Hawks played this far above their talent level, as opposed to below it? How many times have you watched a game like Monday’s and believed, with some semblance of reason, that the Hawks were clever enough and coached well enough to figure things out down the stretch?

I’m not going to tell you this team is going to the NBA finals. Without Horford, it will do well to survive Round 1 of the playoffs. But I think the Hawks could soon be playing for the right to grace the NBA finals — provided they get the player(s) they need to transform them from Spurs Lite into the New Spurs.

Granted, that’s always the harder part. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m impressed with what Ferry has done and how smart coach Mike Budenholzer seems to be. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I feel better about the future of the Hawks than I have since the late ’80s, and maybe even then.

From myajc.com, our premium site: Beating the Heat shows the Hawks are building the right way.

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