Posted: 8:33 am Monday, May 12th, 2014

How close were the Hawks to the Eastern finals? 

By Mark Bradley

Jeff Teague checks the Game 7 score. Doesn't like what he sees. (AJ Mast/AP)

Jeff Teague checks the Game 7 score. Doesn’t like what he sees. (AJ Mast/AP)

The history of the Atlanta Hawks is strewn with what-ifs. What if they’d kept Julius Erving, who played three exhibition games for them in 1972 before a judge ordered him back to the old ABA? What if they hadn’t traded Pete Maravich? What if Dominique Wilkins, as opposed to Cliff Levingston, had taken the last shot in Game 6 against Boston? What if — stop me if you’ve heard this one — they’d drafted Chris Paul?

Today we have a new one. What if the Hawks had closed out the Indiana Pacers in six games? Would they be sitting where the Pacers are — one game from the Eastern Conference finals?

The Atlanta Hawks have never won two playoff series in any year, nor have they ever reached the Eastern finals.(They did reach the conference finals in 1969 and 1970, when they were based in the West, but it took only one series win to get there. They lost in five games to the Lakers in 1969 and were swept in 1970. Game 1 of the latter series, played in Alexander Memorial Coliseum, remains a sore point in Hawks history. The Lakers of West, Baylor and Wilt shot 60 free throws to the Hawks’ 32. The Lakers won 119-115.)

The latest band of Hawks led the top-seeded Pacers by five points with three minutes remaining in Game 6 at Philips Arena. Had they won that night — or two nights later in Indianapolis, where they were routed — they’d have faced fifth-seeded Washington in Round 2. The Wizards had upset the Chicago Bulls, against whom the Hawks went 0-4 in the regular season. (Not that the Hawks were dominant against Washington, having gone 1-3 with the victory coming in overtime.)

The Hawks got a favorable Round 1 matchup because their spread-the-floor style rendered center Roy Hibbert, the hub of Indiana’s defense, inoperative. In Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson, the Bulls have more mobile big men. They wouldn’t have had the same issues defending the Hawks’ perimeter shooters the Pacers did. The Wizards aren’t as good defensively as either Indiana or Chicago, but their guards — John Wall and Bradley Beal — would have hurt the Hawks in a way the Pacers’ George Hill and Lance Stephenson did not.

I don’t know if the Hawks would have beaten the Wizards. (I’m reasonably certain they’d have lost to the Bulls.) That Indiana surged from 19 points down Sunday night to beat Washington and take a 3-1 series lead tells us little about how a Hawks-Wizards series might have gone. Hibbert did nothing against the Hawks over the first six games; the Wizards’ Nene and Marcin Gortat would surely have made the Hawks work harder underneath.

The longer Round 1 went, the more we saw why the Hawks were a No. 8 seed. The 3-pointers they made early in the series stopped dropping — they missed 59 of 79 treys over the final two games — and they had nowhere else to turn. The guess here is that Washington’s quickness would ultimately have undone the Hawks, who apart from Jeff Teague aren’t especially quick, but we’ll never know. Yet another what-if.

Oh, and before you ask: The Hawks would have stood no chance against Miami — this assumes the Heat will beat Brooklyn — had they reached the conference finals. They’d have done well to win a game.

30 comments
DamonH
DamonH

should have beat the Pacers, probably would have beaten the Wiz, would have lost to Miami (imo). Soooo the trade off of losing in the first round vs sending the Heat to the Finals ... I think I might be ok with that.

DHJohnson
DHJohnson

Blank took his nose out of Vick's jock and put it in Ryan's jock

WilSmith
WilSmith

What if we had drafted Chris Paul - the same thing that happened to New Orleans when they drafted him - we would have been a good team but I doubt we would have made it past the second round. How many times have Chris Paul-lead teams been past the second round?

Wilbo
Wilbo

Nothing is closer than Arthur Blank's nose to Matt Ryan's jock, but you could die getting between the schnoz of the author of this article and Chipper Jone's athletic supporter. Or Bobby Cox's soiled boxer briefs.



TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Closer than Arthur Blank's nose to Matt Ryan's jock strap!!

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

What if Billy Knight had never been hired.........

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

MARK:

You're bored right now, right???  This franchise will never get to "the next level" (whatever that level happens to be).

GGee
GGee

With Horford we win against the Pacers in 5 or 6. With Horford we play Washington pretty tough and MAYBE come out on top. Miami plays much more inspired ball in the playoffs so I agree that wed be lucky to win 1 or 2 games. Now without Horford we saw what occurred... No go to guy and no paint presence. Im excited about the direction were heading. Go Hawks! Draft well and kill it in FA.

PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

Good blog.  I was wondering the same thing just yesterday after Indiana won again.  If the Hawks had beaten Indiana in 6, they'd be a different team than the one that lost in 7.  The confidence was missing at the end.  My guess is that beating the top seed would have been a rite of passage for this team, especially Teague, and they would have taken the Wizards to 6 or 7 and had a 50/50 shot. Remember: we never thought the Falcons would have back to back winning seasons.  Despite the Hawks' losing record, this was probably the their best shot to make the seemingly unreachable conference finals since '88.  

Hoosier Fan
Hoosier Fan

You say that they would have been beaten by the Bulls, but you don't know how they would have fared against the Wizards, who drilled the Bulls. Makes no sense.


Of course, you called the Pacers a "fraudulent" 1-seed. Well, actually the 1-seed was earned over an 82 game regular season and they are on the verge of going to the Eastern Conference Finals. For the second year in a row. If the Hawks had done the same, you'd be measuring them all for busts in Springfield.

ReggieTheMailman
ReggieTheMailman

We weren't close at all actually. I think its time to put to bed the what if we drafted Chris Paul question. If we drafted Chris Paul then we most likely wouldn't have Al Horford number 1 and number 2 if we did draft Chris Paul we still had Mike Woodson as the coach so he would probaly been on the bench behind Speedy Claxton or Mike Bibby or Kirk Hinrich or any other veteran point guard he could find at the junk yard. The future is now its actually possible we may be able to land Chris this offseason if Donald is still in charge of the Clippers.

tyger
tyger

NBA Economics dictate Hawks future...


Hawks 3rd lowest attendance...

ATL Spirit takes on new owner...

Only team in playoffs w losing record...


How to save franchise?

Give'm slice of playoff traunche...

Say it aint so? Ask Tim Donaghy...


So, in sum, NO, Hawks not even close...

Remaining teams have Superstars...

Hawks have multiple 6th men...


Horford centerpiece but injury prone...

Horford 7 yr. vet; last two injured...

One year until  expiring kontract...


Hawks got to move... NOW!

Horford best player since Nique...

Danger of losing him w nothing to show...


Best pull the trigger...

Dont get caught holding limp biscuit





housebroken706
housebroken706

What if, instead of Jon Koncak in 1985, the Hawks had drafted Karl Malone? or Chris Mullin? or Charles Oakley? or AC Green? Or even Gerald Wilkins? or anyone other than Koncak?

Born2Buzz
Born2Buzz

It was a learning experience, I hope.  In a tight game with 3 minutes to play, the best teams make sure their best players have the ball and take the shots.  Had Teague or Millsap controlled the ball at the end of Game 6, instead of Antic and Scott, maybe we hold on.  Oh well.


And dammit, MB, I had finally washed the Chris Paul / Billy Knightmare debacle from my memory banks and you go and bring it up again.

MikeS777
MikeS777

The Hawks really needed Horford to be able to beat Indiana.  This was a short handed team that had to rely a lot on the 3 point shot.  Unfortunately, the 3 point shot is the lowest percentage shot in basketball.  Even the best 3pt specialists make maybe 45% of their shots.  Without Horford, the Hawks were limited in creating buckets inside the 3 pt line.

JackClemens
JackClemens

Fair analysis. Looking ahead to next season, Mark, what do you think Ferry  can, should and will do to improve their prospects?

CowbellHell
CowbellHell

With Big Al in the lineup we smoke the silly pacers 4-2 and give Miami fits.  I love the direction of the team and look forward to next year.

harworkinman
harworkinman

Coulda, woulda, shoulda. It's the story of Atlanta sports teams over and over and over again. I've lived here my whole life. After 40 plus years, you just get tired of the "we just fell short" excuses.



DonFromOverseas
DonFromOverseas

Hawks had the Pacers beat and let them off the hook. That is playoff basketball. It is very unforgiving. When you have a chance to close a team out, you have to seal the deal or it ends up biting you in the butt later (i.e. losing a winnable series on the road to an inspired home team or playing more games than you had to which can hurt you in later series). Hopefully, this Hawks team learned a valuable lesson that may help them in the future if they are fortunate enough to be in this position again.

4DaBirds
4DaBirds

What if someone had told Activ not to chuck up three's (that he always misses) followed by another turnover. What if after chucking up numerous threes that hit or didn't hit, the team actually tried to score in the paint, which was often there for the taking. This team gave that series away, even though they played with a lot more hustle.


I hope the same sort of up tempo ball returns next year, along with some good paint play.

Classof98
Classof98

What if the Queen of England had been born with male genitalia?

ConfederateFlagBurner
ConfederateFlagBurner

We need a more athletic wing that can create his own shot. 

Some good draft options;

KJ McDaniels my first choice

James Young

TJ Whitefield


and of course a big bruiser in the second round would be good as well.

PantherWin
PantherWin

Couldn't disagree with you more about our chances against Miami. We could take them to six games. Not saying we could win the series but they are nowhere near as good as last year. Their defense is very suspect and they are old at key positions. 

ReggieTheMailman
ReggieTheMailman

@JesupGeorge We got Deshawn Stevenson,Jordan Williams, Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro,Anthony Morrow...but most importantly of all...we got cap flexibility