After the Atlanta Hawks completed a soul-crushing 95-88 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 Thursday night, the phrase “Typical Atlanta” was trending on Twitter in our fair city.
Yes, the fans jumped headfirst into the Hawks hysteria, and they really believed something special was about to happen. The 38-44 Hawks, barely clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot, had the top-seeded Pacers on the ropes, one win from eliminating a team that was 18 games better in the regular season.
Then, the Hawks went all Atlanta on us and flatlined, late in the fourth quarter.
Flash back to June 25, 2012. The Hawks had just hired Danny Ferry as their new general manager, and he vowed to change a franchise that defined mediocrity.
“We’ve been a team that’s knocking on the door and I think we share the common goal,” he told the media. “We want to get to the next level and that’s going to be our focus.”
So Ferry brought in his own coach for the 2013-14 season, longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer. This would be the guy who would lead the Hawks for years and lift up the roster from the court level while Ferry built a winner from afar.
Perhaps that’s what Hawks fans saw this week as the team attempted to close out the Pacers. There was passion and fire, but most of all, there was competence and a roadmap to actually pull off something special.
But yet again, Hawks fans were duped.
Now, I understand the circumstances. The Hawks were missing their best player, Al Horford, who’s a pretty good force near the basket. Without him, the Hawks had to live and die by the three-pointer, which is not easy. I also understand that the Hawks were not supposed to win this series, and were clearly beaten by a more talented team.
Still, the Hawks had a chance to complete a franchise-altering accomplishment and, in true Hawks form, couldn’t do it. They would have played the Washington Wizards in the second round – another beatable team.
The Hawks realistically could have been in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1970. That’s the kind of stuff that gives a franchise momentum into the future as new blood tries to create something special.
But instead, the Hawks failed to make the important shot. They just couldn’t step on the Pacers’ throat and close out a series they should have won.